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‘Project Rescue Nigeria’: Fact-checking Oby Ezekwesili’s presidential manifesto

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On 16 February 2019, Nigerians will head to the polls to choose a new president. One candidate is Obiageli Ezekwesili, who has twice served as a national minister and had a stint as the World Bank’s Africa division head.

Ezekwesili is also known for her role in the Bring Back Our Girls movement and as a co-founder of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.

She is running on the ticket of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria. In Project Rescue Nigeria, her election manifesto, Ezekwesili made a number of claims. We looked closer at eight of them. (Note: We have contacted her campaign for the evidence used for these claims, but they are yet to respond.)


“ Singapore... got its independence five years after Nigeria [and] now has a real GDP per capita of $57,722, while Nigeria’s GDP per capita as at 2017 was $1,951.”



Ezekwisili drew a number of comparisons between Singapore and Nigeria in her manifesto. Singapore became independent in 1965, five years after Nigeria.

Obiageli Ezkwesili is pictured in 2007 at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa. The former Nigerian minister is gunning for the Nigerian presidency. Photo: AFP/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA
Obiageli Ezkwesili is pictured in 2007 in Cape Town, South Africa. The former Nigerian minister is gunning for the Nigerian presidency. Photo: AFP/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

According to the World Bank’s most recent data on the gross domestic product of countries, in 2017 Nigeria’s real GDP per capita was US$1,968 (having started off at $93 in 1960), while Singapore’s was $57,714, from $516 in 1965. Ezekwesili’s claim is therefore correct.

Real or constant GDP removes the effect on inflation on the value of an economy’s output. GDP per capita, or “per person”, divides a country’s total gross domestic product by the number of people living there.

When the different cost of living in the two countries – or purchasing power parity – is considered, in 2017 Singapore’s GDP per capita was $85,535 and Nigeria’s $5,338.  (Note: Nigeria’s most recent official population estimate was 193.4 million in 2016, and Singapore’s population was 5.64 million as at the end of June 2018.)


“Today, adult literacy in Singapore is 98%, while adult literacy in Nigeria is just 57%.”



The adult literacy rate is the share of a population aged 15 years and older who can read and write, and understand short simple statements about everyday life, according to Unesco, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

In 2017 the Unesco Institute for Statistics grouped Nigeria among countries with adult literacy rates of 50% to 59%, while Singapore was in the group with literacy rates of 90% to 100%. Unesco’s most recent specific literacy rate for Nigeria is 51%, in 2008.

The Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics’ most recent survey of adult literacy, conducted in 2010, used the Unesco definition.

It found adult literacy in the English language to be 57.9% and adult literacy in any language to be 71.6%. (Note: In 2010 Singapore’s adult literacy rate was 96%.)

But in this country-to-country comparison it is better to use Nigeria’s English language literacy rate, Olasupo Jegede, a professor of adult education at the University of Lagos, told Africa Check.

“The adult literacy rate in any language is bound to be higher because it could be in any of the over 200 languages in Nigeria,” Jegede said.  


“Unfortunately, more than 70% of Nigerians have pre-school children without access to Early Child Care Education.”



The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, conducted from September 2016 to January 2017, gives the most recent and reliable data on access to early childhood education in Nigeria. This is according to Oriyomi Ogunwale, head of Eduplana, an organisation that monitors education standards in Nigeria.

“Access to early childhood education is the percentage of the population, children five years old and younger, who are attending school. Basic education starts from age six,” he told Africa Check.

The nationally representative survey of  28,578 children found that 35.6% of those aged 36 to 59 months attended an early childhood education programme. The survey also interviewed 28,085 mothers and caretakers of these under-five children.

The share of pre-school children without access to early childhood education was estimated at 64.4%, not at more than 70%.   


“[The] mining sector contribution to GDP [is] below 1%...”



Ezekwesili was Nigeria’s minister of solid minerals in 2005 and 2006. The official statistics agency often includes crude petroleum and natural gas extraction, coal and metal ore mining, quarrying and other activities in the overall “mining and quarrying” sector.

Does this sector’s output make up less than 1% of gross domestic product?

In July to September 2018, mining and quarrying contributed 10.55% to GDP, according to quarterly data from the agency. Crude petroleum and natural gas accounted for nearly all (98%) of this contribution, but are not regulated by the ministry of mines and steel.  

Cyril Azobu of Pricewaterhouse Coopers in Nigeria told Africa Check that the country’s mining sector essentially referred to the extraction of solid minerals, and didn’t include the oil and gas industry.

“Nigeria’s mining sector is not big because there are no majors [big companies],” he said. “It is made up mostly of artisanal and small-scale miners, hence its little contribution to GDP.”

The statistics agency’s data shows solid mineral mining contributed 0.2% to GDP in the three months.


“With the nation's entire federal budget peaking at around $30 billion...”



Ezekwesili said Nigeria’s federal budget had topped out at “around $30 billion”.  The government budget increased from N7.44 trillion ($24.4 billion) in 2017 to N9.12 trillion ($29.9 billion) in 2018 based on the official exchange rate of N305 to the US dollar.

But this is not Nigeria’s largest budget in US dollars. In 2014, the federal government budget of N4.965 trillion was $31.04 billion at the then official exchange rate of N160 to the dollar.


“Less than 30% of the federal budget is allocated to capital expenditure.”



The candidate claimed that less than 30% of the federal budget goes to capital expenditure.

But in the budgets of 2017 and 2018, the allocation to capital expenditure was more than 30%. It was 31.7% in 2017 and 31.5% in 2018. (Note: This is a claim made frequently in Nigeria. Read more on our work checking it here.)


“From 1999 to date, all the projections made by successive governments to grow the supply of electricity to Nigerians to either 6,000MW, 10,000MW or 20,000MW have not been met.”



One of  President Muhammadu Buhari’s promises during his campaign for the 2015 elections was to “vigorously pursue the expansion of electricity generation and distribution of up to 40,000 megawatts in four to eight years”.

In 2003 then-president Olusegun Obasanjo, during the inaugural speech for his second term, pledged to produce 10,000 MW. We have not yet found when the 6,000 MW and 20,000 MW projections were made.

But the highest peak electricity transmission yet reached in Nigeria was 5,222.3MW, in December 2017.  

Official data - last updated in September 2018 - shows this historic peak has not been exceeded.  


“Nigeria currently has 187 policemen for every 100,000 Nigerians, the UN recommends a ratio of 300 police officers to 100,000 people.”



There’s no publicly available data on the number of police officers in Nigeria. Africa Check continues to seek this data from the Police Service Commission.

The UN ratio is also troublesome, as public officials in Nigeria and other African countries often use different numbers. For example, in May 2017 former inspector-general of police Ibrahim Idris in said Nigeria needed to hire “155,000 [officers] to police a population of approximately 182 million” so as to meet “the UN ratio requirement of one police officer to 400 citizens”.

Africa Check traced this “ratio requirement” back to 1945. But, the UN does not prescribe any policing ratio, as different countries have different needs.


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