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Has Nigeria’s ruling party brought ‘power to the people’? We fact-check electoral claims

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has ruled for 16 years since Nigeria returned from military to civilian rule. Has it set the country on a path to progress, as it claims?

Researched by Tolu Ogunlesi, Adewale Maja-Pearce and Aminu Abubakar

Nigeria has been ruled by the same political elite since military rule ended in 1999. The current government of Goodluck Jonathan has faced mounting criticism over its record on corruption and security, with billions of dollars of oil revenue unaccounted for and an Islamist insurgency raging in the northeast. More recently, as crude prices drop and the currency depreciates, its economic management has also been called into question.

For the first time, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is facing a major challenge from a cohesive opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), which was formed in 2013. The PDP has lost its parliamentary majority as a result of a wave of defections over the past 12 months. State governors have also decamped, leaving the ruling party in control of 23 of the country’s 37 states.

Despite declining momentum, its campaign is centred on claims that Nigeria is on the right path and this should not be derailed by a shift in leadership. Has it brought, as its motto states, “justice, unity and progress” to Africa’s biggest economy?

In this – the first of two reports ahead of a presidential vote on 28 March – Africa Check investigates the truth behind some of the party’s electoral claims.

Promises

The claim: “I have fulfilled all my promises.”

Our verdict: This claim, which Punch newspaper reported Jonathan as saying at a campaign rally, is false.

The president was allegedly referring to the promises made in his 2011 inauguration speech, which ranged from tackling corruption and maintaining security to building a stronger fiscal framework.

For the purposes of this report, Africa Check cannot investigate each one. However, Jonathan’s failure to keep just one of those promises disproves his claim to have honoured each. We looked into his vow that “[We] will avoid… boom and bust cycles, and mitigate our exposure to oil price volatility”.

Since June, oil prices have plummeted as low as $50 per barrel, placing huge strain on an economy that is reliant on the commodity for the majority of its export earnings and government revenue. The government has had to recalculate its budget, and the country’s central bank has been forced to depreciate the currency.

There is little indication that Nigeria’s rulers have built better measures to cushion against such shocks. The Excess Crude Account (ECA), a rainy-day savings pot which pre-dates Jonathan’s rule, has been depleted to less than $3-billion. There was $40-billion in the account in 2007. It has been at the centre of several corruption scandals. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation recently promised to remit a missing $1.48-billion, following an audit catalysed by allegations made last year by the central bank governor Lamido Sanusi. Jonathan sacked him after he argued that as much as $20-billion was missing from oil coffers.

A sovereign wealth fund, designed to save and invest oil revenues, has been hamstrung by politicians and failed to grow beyond $1-billion.

Jobs and manufacturing

The claim: “Leading vehicle manufacturers such as Nissan, Hyundai, and Kia, have set up factories in Nigeria and are employing thousands of our people.”

Our verdict: It is true that factories have been established, but Africa Check was unable to verify if “thousands” of jobs have been created.

This claim refers to an automotive policy launched in 2013, which sought to discourage the importation of completed cars. The policy forms one component of a five-year plan to boost manufacturing’s share of GDP from 4% to 10% by 2017.

The National Automotive Council website has an undated list of the 23 new car assembly plants it says the new policy has helped kick-start. Going by the list, only Hyundai Motors and Basco Nigeria Limited have started assembly. The rest are still building their factories.

But local press has also reported that Nissan and Kia have produced cars in the country. Africa Check contacted Nissan to find out if their factory is running full-time, but did not receive a response.

Kia’s response suggests the claim is somewhat misleading. It points out that its factory is not an independent operation. A spokesperson for the company clarified that “we do not have a wholly-owned factory in Nigeria”, adding that it operates partial assembly with a local partner to avoid punitive taxation. He said the company is not employing anyone directly in the country.

The National Automotive Council did not respond to a request for comment on the recent status of those factories, as well as employment figures. It is therefore not possible to verify the claim that “thousands” of jobs have been created.

Food

The claim: “In the past three years… food import cost drop[ped] from N1.1-trillion to N635-billion and three million farming jobs [were] created.”

Our verdict: There are conflicting figures as to how much Nigeria spends annually on importing food. But evidence suggests the food import bill is rising at present, making the claim misleading. We could find no evidence to support the assertions on job creation.

World Bank data of Nigeria’s food imports – expressed as a percentage of merchandise imports – shows a steady decline from 31% in 2011 to 18% in 2013 (which is still higher than the 10% recorded in 2010).

However, in the last year there has been significant pressure on the import bill. The Central Bank in September 2014 highlighted “low agricultural output due to insecurity in the northeast” and expressed concern that the Boko Haram insurgency “was forcing a switching from domestic to imported food to meet domestic shortfall with huge impact on external reserves”.

Rice imports are said to have reduced over the past three years, because of increased local production. However the United States Department of Agriculture suggests that the claims of a significant increase in domestic production (and a consequent decrease in import spending) might be exaggerated. It notes that rice imports have been increasing again, after dropping by 200,000 tonnes between 2011/12 and 2012/13.

John Litwack of the World Bank adds that “due to higher tariffs and levies in recent years, more food is smuggled into the country and not recorded”.

Africa Check could not find data to support the claim that three million farming jobs have been created in three years. It sounds implausible. While Nigerian job statistics are highly unreliable, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) suggest that 2.48-million jobs were created between July 2012 and June 2014. At an average of 1.24-million jobs a year – spread across all sectors of the economy – it is unlikely that agriculture alone can account for an average of one million jobs per annum.

Access to water

The claim: The PDP “improved nationwide access to potable water from 57% in 2010 to 70% at present”.

Our verdict: The claim, made in Goodluck Jonathan’s New Year speech, appears to be inflated. Conflicting statistics from government agencies and NGOs make it impossible to assess if Nigeria has made progress in water supply.

A mid-term review from the water ministry said that “before the inception of this administration [2011] access to water was 58%”. Since then, the minister of water resources, Sarah Ochekpe, has claimed that access to clean water rose from 58% in 2012 to 67% by 2014.

That differs from the estimates made by the National Bureau of Statistics. In a 2014 report, it declared that Nigeria’s potable water supply rose to 62.2% in 2014 from 57% in 2012.

In April 2014, the permanent secretary of Nigeria’s water resources ministry, Baba Faruk, put the figure at much less. “Only 40% of the population have access to safe drinking water”, Faruk said.

Either way, it appears that less than 70% of the population is benefiting from clean water. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) says the lack of accurate data makes it “impossible to determine whether Nigeria is making progress in the WSS (water supply and sanitation) sector”.

Late last year, the country launched a water and sanitation data survey, aimed at improving data collection. “All the efforts made so far in establishing water supply and sanitation data, which have resulted in different figures, need to be harmonised… to enable us have a common platform for reporting the progress of the sector,” Ochekpe said at the time.

Life expectancy

The claim: “Nigerians have……a record increase in life expectancy… Maternal mortality has dropped by more than 50%.”

Our verdict: This claim, made by PDP’s national press secretary Olisa Metuh, is broadly correct.

Nigerian men live on average to 53 years, and women two years longer, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics dated from 2012. The World Bank put life expectancy at 52 years in 2012, up from 51 years in 2010.

Because the data is backdated, it is difficult to establish whether this government, in office since 2011, has presided over a “record” improvement. Dr Ike Anya of the Nigerian Health Watch says an increase from an estimated 47 years in the past decade has been “the largest… since independence”. He adds that this is “part of a global trend and largely accounted for by improvements in maternal and child mortality”.

Yet it appears the government is trying to inflate its achievements. Jonathan has claimed in the past that life expectancy was 47 years in 2010; a statistic that’s belied by the World Bank figures. The organisation’s data shows that Nigerians’ life expectancy in 2012 was 4 years lower than that for sub-Saharan Africa in general.

For maternal mortality, too, most data is backdated, making it hard to ascertain the outcome under this government. Nigeria has seen significant decreases. According to the WHO, the maternal mortality ratio has improved from an estimated 740 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005, to 560 in 2013. That is a drop of less than 50%, over a longer time period than this government’s tenure.

Nigeria still accounts for 14% of global maternal deaths. The country will fail to meet the Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015.

Employment

The claim: “Millions of fresh employment opportunities were created for our people.”

Our verdict: It is hard to reliably quantify this claim, though it appears to be broadly true.

The NBS only started recording job data in 2013, and the figures that circulate publicly are conflicting, casting doubt on their reliability. Available evidence suggests that more than one million jobs have been created. But most have not been generated by the public sector.

In October 2014 Nigeria’s central bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, said 1.2-million jobs were created in 2013. About 91% of these were by the private sector, he said. A further 500,000 jobs were created in the first half of 2014, he added, with 40% as a result of business expansion.

But Nigeria’s finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala claims 1.6-million jobs were created in 2013.

Separately, the NBS said 2.48-million new jobs were created between July 2012 and June 2014. Around 1.41-million of those were in the informal sector. The formal sector created 903,804 jobs and public institutions 160,591. But “these statistics raise some methodological questions”, the World Bank’s Litwack said.

Government schemes have seen limited success. In April 2014, the finance minister said that the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria scheme had created only 27,000 jobs. The Subsidy Reinvestments and Empowerment Programme, an internship setup, has reportedly created 120,000 jobs.

The Centre for Democracy and Development West Africa last year called these “grandiose white elephant projects”, adding that they “are not only inadequate in tackling the teeming unemployment but also fail to reach the end user.”

Nigerians seem as unconvinced by the statistics as ever. In a recent letter to the finance minister a forum of unemployed graduates demanded evidence for the existence of the purported new jobs. A central bank official said last year that 70% of Nigeria’s 80-million youths are unemployed.

Edited by Eleanor Whitehead 

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