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Nigerian presidential aide wrongly claims inflation has fallen during Bola Tinubu’s first year in office

The secretary to the government of the federation, Dr George Akume, claims inflation in the country has reduced due to economic reforms. The data says otherwise.

On 29 May 2024, Nigerian president Bola Tinubu marked one year in office. 

During a ministerial press briefing to mark this, Dr George Akume, secretary to the government of the federation, said Tinubu had made significant progress in several areas.

One of the notable ones was that Nigeria had seen a reduction in inflation. 

“Government has implemented significant economic reforms, aimed at stabilising our economy and fostering sustainable growth. Key among these are the introduction of policies that have attracted foreign investment, reduced inflation and boosted job creation across various sectors,” he said.

The claim about inflation comes as the country's economy has been in the spotlight, with protests over the cost of living. But is this the case? We took a look.

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Inflation in first year under Tinubu

Inflation measures how the prices of a basket of commonly used goods and services have risen over a period, usually a year. It is defined as a general increase in the price level.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) keeps records of the monthly inflation in Nigeria. In May 2023, when Tinubu became president, the inflation rate was 22.41%, up from 22.22% in the previous month.

According to the data agency, the headline inflation rate was 33.69% in April 2024, the most recent data available when Akume made his claim. In March the rate was 33.2%. 

Since Tinubu took office, the data show that inflation has risen steadily. The secretary appears to be out of tune with official data.

Tinubu’s predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, also oversaw inflation rise. At the start of his term in May 2015 the rate was 9%. At the start of Buhari’s second term in May 2019, inflation was at 11.4%, rising to 15.63% in December 2021 and 21.34% by the end of 2022.

How the National Bureau of Statistics measures inflation

The country’s data agency measures core inflation, food inflation and inflation on all items, or what is often referred to as headline inflation.

Core inflation is the change in the cost of goods and services, but excludes the food and energy sectors.

Food inflation is the rise in food prices, while inflation for all items, including volatile commodities such as food and energy, is headline inflation.

According to the NBS, the Consumer Price Index measures the average change over time in the prices of goods and services consumed by people in their daily lives. 

The bureau says it uses the services of 10,534 informants spread across the country to provide monthly prices of goods and services. The NBS also uses 740 goods and services to arrive at its final figures on the rate of increase of regularly purchased items in the country.

‘Nigeria isn’t producing’ says economist

No one needed an economist to tell them that Nigeria doesn't produce anything except the crude oil it exported, Prof Sola Olorunfemi, who teaches economics at Adekunle Ajasin University in southwestern Nigeria, told Africa Check.

“Even in agriculture, we are not ready to go to the farm. When a country’s production base is low the inflation rate will automatically rise. If you look at the different sectors of the economy in Nigeria, there is no productive sector. That’s the problem we are facing. Until we can increase our production, we will continue to experience inflation,” he said.

“We depend too much on foreign goods and there is nothing we are doing in exchange for that in terms of exports.”

Nigerians most affected by food inflation

Prof Gafar Ijaiya, an economist who teaches at the University of Ilorin, said that regardless of the type of inflation referred to in the claim, core inflation, food inflation and inflation on all items had not reduced. 

According to the NBS, core inflation, which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural products and energy, was 26.84% in April 2024 on a year-on-year basis; compared to 19.96% in April 2023.

“Even if they say there is a reduction in inflation, how much has it reduced because you cannot have a reduction of 1% and say the inflation rate has reduced? Nobody can tell us that the inflation rate has dropped.”

Ijaiya noted that of the three types of inflation, the most critical one that Nigerians were experiencing was food inflation.

The NBS said that the food inflation rate in April 2024 was 40.53% on a year-on-year basis, which was 15.92 percentage points higher than the rate recorded in April 2023 (24.61%).

“Food inflation, for instance, means people won’t be able to eat well and this leads to malnourishment, especially in children,” he said.

On the impact of headline inflation, Ijaiya said that workers were also on the same salary, citing his experience as a university lecturer living on the same salary for 15 years while inflation continued to rise.

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