Both APC office-bearers sought to talk up the APC’s economic gains, particularly in Lagos state under former governor Bola Tinubu who is running for president in the February 2023 elections.
But they exaggerated the growth of the Lagos economy under Tinubu’s governorship and misled about the influence he had on revenue.
Lagos state is not the third-largest economy in Africa. Numbers on inflation in the country and abroad were also fudged.
Nigeria’s election campaign season only officially begins 28 September 2022, but political parties are already in top gear in the race to win over voters.
President Muhammadu Buhari will step down after February 2023 elections, having first been elected on an All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket in 2015.
The party has picked Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state and an influential APC member, as its new standard bearer.
In two separate media appearances in August 2022, the APC made its case as to why it should be re-elected.
First up was Kashim Shettima, who will be the vice president should the party win. Among the claims he made was that Tinubu improved the fortunes of Lagos so much that it was “now the third largest economy in Africa”.
Tinubu was governor from 1999 to 2007 and has remained influential in state politics.
A day later, APC campaign spokesperson Festus Keyamo was on TV where he also talked up the records of both the party and Tinubu.
Keyamo, who is the junior minister for labour and employment, challenged his host to fact-check him.
So we did, by taking a look at eight claims from both appearances.
Gross domestic product (GDP) is a commonly used measure of the size of an economy. It is the market value of all goods and services produced in a given period, usually a year.
Economists have told Africa Check that it is acceptable to compare the GDP of different geographical regions.
The most recent data from the World Bank shows Nigeria’s GDP was US$440.8 billion in 2021. This is the largest in Africa, a position Nigeria has held since 2013 when it “rebased” its GDP to more accurately capture economic activities.
Lagos, with an estimated population of more than 15 million, is Nigeria’s financial hub. But how big is its economy?
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) publishes quarterly GDP numbers. But they do not include figures for subnational regions like states.
For this data, Leo Sanni, a statistical information officer at NBS, referred us to the Lagos Bureau of Statistics.
In a report on its website, the Lagos bureau gave the state’s GDP as N26.6 trillion in 2021, having increased from N23.9 trillion in 2020.
Nigeria’s official exchange rate often varies. In 2021 it was between N379 and N413.9 to the US dollar. This works out to a GDP of between $64.2 billion and $70.2 billion.
At least eight African countries recorded a GDP higher than this in 2021. We therefore rate this claim as incorrect.
Shettima claimed that in 1999, when Tinubu took office, Lagos earned N700 million monthly as its own revenue, but this had now reached N50 billion.
Internally generated revenue is defined as what states earn, independent of the funds they receive from Nigeria’s federal government.
NBS data on this indicator goes back to 2010, when Lagos generated N185.9 billion, or an average of N15.5 billion monthly.
Using referencing clues from a 2014 journal paper that analysed internally generated revenue, we looked up statistical bulletin data from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Links for the 1999 and 2000 bulletins were broken. In 2001 Lagos earned N12.5 billion. This was the same figure as in a journal paper authored by two researchers working with the national assembly’s research arm at the time.
Their paper also gave internal revenue for Lagos as N11.6 billion in 2000 and N14.6 billion (or an average of N1.2 billion monthly) in 1999.
This is at least N460 million a month more than claimed. By starting from a lower base, APC exaggerated the growth in internal revenue.
The most recent data on the internal revenue of states published by the statistics bureau covered the first half of 2021.
It showed Lagos generated the highest amount, N267.2 billion, or an average of N44.54 billion monthly.
In December 2021, Lagos governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was quoted by the media saying the state has “grown its internally generated revenue from N600 million monthly in 1999 to over N45 billion monthly as of today, an astounding increase of 7,400%.”
There is no evidence the state now generates an average revenue of N50 billion monthly.
In his interview, Keyamo referred to Tinubu as “a wealth creator”.
Lagos governor Sanwo-Olu has credited Tinubu for starting revenue reforms in the state.
But the size of the revenue and the increase in funds is not due to any single administration, Sheriffdeen Tella, a professor of economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University in southwestern Nigeria, told Africa Check.
“Lagos has had good administrators as governors over the years but the increase in the state’s revenue cannot solely be the result of the effort of any government or administration,” he said.
Tella said the natural location of Lagos near the sea and increased commerce due to the large population were some factors responsible for the increase in revenue.
Successive governors had used the increased funds to expand the city, he added.
We rate the claim misleading because it creates the impression the state’s revenue increased only due to a single person’s efforts.
To support his point that Buhari’s administration had run the economy well, Keyamo said Nigeria’s economic woes should be viewed within the global context.
He then claimed that the country’s inflation rate had increased by only 5% between 2020 and 2022.
But he seems to have mixed up a percentage point increase with a percentage increase.
Keyamo said inflation moved from about 13% in 2020 to about 18% in 2022. The difference between these is five percentage points, not 5%. (For more on this, read our guide to avoiding common statistical errors.)
Further, the data shows he compared two different indices.
In 2020, the monthly year-on-year inflation rate varied from 12.13% in January to 12.56% in June and 15.75% in December. However, the 12-month average change in December 2020 was 13.25%, which he apparently referred to.
For 2022, he referred to an 18.65% year-on-year change in June, while the 12-month average change for that same month was 16.54%.
Minister Keyamo said Nigeria fared better than countries like the US, Canada and Spain when it came to managing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. “Those countries are doing a seven to 10% increase in inflationary rate,” he said.
In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated 2020 annual inflation at 1.2%. In June 2022 it was at 9.1%, a sharp increase that has been widely reported on.
The difference between 9.1% and 1.2% is 7.9 percentage points, and not 7.9%.
That’s not the only problem with this comparison. Tella, the economics professor, said some factors causing inflation were local and others global.
“It is not correct to compare inflation in Nigeria with that of the US and Canada,” he told Africa Check.
This was because those countries had not had the same level of currency devaluation as Nigeria. They also had the capacity to produce more of what they needed.
“But in Nigeria, we are mainly importing. We also import inflation.”
Tella also cited factors such as increasing interest rates and insecurity as local factors causing inflation.
Felix Onah is a professor of economics at Godfrey Okoye University in Enugu, southeastern Nigeria. He told Africa Check it was flawed to compare the average annual inflation rate to the monthly year-on-year inflation rate as they are computed using different methods.
“The basis for comparison is not there. The composition of the items that are taken into account in finding the level of inflation may not exactly be the same in Nigeria and the US for example,” Onah said in response to our questions.
“The minister is part of the government. He is defending his constituency because no government will want to appear bad."
A debt crisis is when a country cannot repay its debt. It occurs when revenue earned by the country is lower than its expenditure for a prolonged period.
Thirty-nine African countries were included on a World Bank list of countries that were at risk or already in debt distress as of March 2022.
- 13 countries were classified as being at moderate risk of debt distress
- 18 were high risk
- Seven were already in distress
Therefore, 25 African countries were at high risk or were already in debt distress.
Nigeria was not on the list as Keyamo claimed – but this was only because the bank considered low-income countries.
Nigeria is on the next rung, classified as a lower-middle-income country based on its gross national income (GNI) per capita. These countries have a GNI per capita of between $1,086 and $4,255.
‘GDP does not pay debts’
Akpan Ekpo is a macroeconomics professor and a former director of the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management. He warned that Nigeria’s rising debt levels could be harmful.
“To assure Nigerians, the government says the debt to GDP ratio is within sustainable limits but GDP is just about the value of goods and services produced. GDP does not pay debts,” Ekpo told Africa Check.
“What pays debt is revenue. Take a look at Nigeria’s debt to revenue ratio and you will see that it is not sustainable.
“It is not bad to take loans. However, loans must be taken to fund projects that can ultimately repay the loans. Nigeria should not be taking loans to fund recurrent expenditure like salary and pension payments."
In May, the World Bank approved a $150 million loan to the Lebanese government to import wheat and keep bread prices stable.
While Nigeria has not borrowed to fund food imports like Lebanon, the government has received loans and grants to fund agricultural activities and enhance food security.
An example is $500 million in World Bank funding to improve livestock production. In July 2022, the African Development Bank approved a $134 million loan for the Nigerian government to boost food production.
In August, Nigeria’s agriculture minister Mohammed Abubakar listed six projects funded by international organisations to improve agriculture.
‘Nigeria cannot be said to have achieved food security’
“The definition of food security implies that a country has sufficient food supply for its citizens and the food must be generally agreed to be quality,” Jonathan Alimba, a professor of agricultural economics at the Ebonyi State University in Abakaliki, southeastern Nigeria, told Africa Check.
“The food must also be affordable. So food security is hinged on three things: quality, availability and affordability.”
“Nigeria cannot be said to have achieved food security. There are some instances where some food items are available in the market but citizens cannot afford them.”
There were also Nigerians who could afford food but not of the right quality based on the internationally recognised nutritional requirements for a child or an adult, Alimba said.
Insecurity was also partly to blame. “Farmers in some rural areas do not feel safe enough to go to the farms. If it isn’t attacks by bandits and insurgents, it is by herdsmen. The failure to secure lives and property has affected the country's food production.
“To transport food produced from the north to the south is a problem. Food may be available in the north but it is a challenge to bring it down south where it is needed."
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