Presidential candidates of three political parties engaged Nigerians in a televised debate Saturday.
Although the debate was for five presidential candidates, three of them eventually took part in the debate.
They included a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressives Party (YPP); a former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Peoples Congress of Nigeria (APCN); and a motivational speaker, Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN).
The duo of Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) opted out of the debate.
The debate comes five weeks after Vice President Yemi Osinbajo took on the running mates of the same presidential candidates in a similarly televised presidential debate on December 14.
PREMIUM TIMES highlights some of the claims presented by the candidates at the debate.
Claim 1: 29.7 percent of young Nigerians unemployed
While discussing the state of the Nigerian economy, Mrs Ezekwesili said that 29.7 percent of young Nigerians are unemployed.
Verification: According to the National Bureau of Statistics, for Q3 2018, the unemployment rate for young people (15-35years) declined to 29.7 percent in Q3, 2018 from 30.50 percent in Q2 2018. This was, however, an increase from 13.7 percent in Q3 2015, the NBS said.
Underemployment within the youth population (15-35 years) during the same quarter declined from 27.2 percent in Q3 2017 to 25.7 percent in Q3 2018, the bureau added in its report.
Claim 2: Some 60 per cent of Nigerian women are poor
Speaking on the subject of poverty, Mrs Ezekwesili said “some” sixty per cent of Nigerian women are poor.
Verification: Checks by PREMIUM TIMES showed that according to the poverty and equity brief published by the World Bank for sub-Saharan Africa in April 2018, the population of females within the international benchmark for poverty line was put at 53 percent of the population. But the statistics were prepared with data and details obtained in 2009.
The report added that the last official estimate on poverty, between 2009 and 2010, due to slow growth rate amidst dwindling oil revenue, would have slightly increased by 2017. Ditto the nation’s overall poverty rate. “In recent years,” the report said, “low oil prices has a detrimental impact on the economy and growth decelerated significantly.”
Verdict: Largely true.
Claim 1: 108 million Nigerians homeless
Mr Durotoye, commenting on Nigeria’s housing deficit, said 108 million Nigerians are homeless.
Verification: Last December, Mustapha Shehuri, the Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, expressed concerns over lack of housing for more than 70 million Nigerians. Mr Shehuri told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that “the development was worrisome to the federal government.’’
But in 2017, the Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR) said the country has made “over 108 million Nigerians technically homeless.”
The bureau described the 100,000 houses built yearly in the country as insufficient, adding that it was time for stakeholders to join government’s efforts in providing affordable houses for the people by taking advantage of the ongoing Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) programme.
According to the global homelessness statistics, there are an estimated 24.4 million homeless people in Nigeria due to rapid urbanization, insecurity and poverty, according to data obtained from the UNHCR report in 2007. There are indications that the figures would have ballooned.
Development experts have always argued that it is near-difficult to have harmonised data on homelessness, especially in developing countries.
Claim 2: 60 per cent of Nigerian labour is in agriculture
Mr Durotoye also claimed that 60 per cent of employed Nigerians are employed in the agriculture sector.
Verification: As of 2017, according to World Bank indicators, employment in agriculture stood at 37 per cent.
The NBS’ last Labour Force report stated that at the national level, forty-eight million, five hundred and thirty-three thousand, three hundred and nineteen (48,533,319) persons were reported to be engaged in one form of economic activity or the other. The figure showed that agriculture, forestry and fishing sector had the highest number of persons employed with 14,837,693, representing 29 per cent.
It has been argued, however, that the informal nature of agriculture makes it difficult to capture farmers and others working in the sector into the labour statistics data bank.
Verdict: False. Not supported by verifiable data.
Claim 1: Rural Nigeria has about 53 per cent of the population
Verification: Commenting on the need to reach out to people in the rural areas in Nigeria, Mr Moghalu said “about 53 per cent” Nigerians live in rural areas. Trading Economics says that Rural population (compared to the percentage of total population) in Nigeria was reported at 51.4 per cent in 2016, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognised sources.
Claim 2: Nigeria spends N1 trillion on petrol subsidy
Verification: Commenting on how to cut waste in governance, Mr Moghalu said Nigeria spends 1 trillion naira on petrol subsidy.
In April 2018, the state minister for oil, Ibe Kachikwu, said the subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) stood at N1.4 trillion. The development came amidst revelation the present administration pays for subsidy, despite claiming the contrary and scrapping budgetary allocations for the payments shortly after it came into power.
In 2018, PREMIUM TIMES exposed how the federal government illegally diverted $1.05 billion sourced from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dividend funds to secretly fund subsidy payment on petroleum products. At N360 to a dollar, the amount translated to N378 billion.
But earlier in 2014, the Goodluck Jonathan administration which operated the subsidy regime had announced that about N971 billion would be used to subsidise the supply of petrol to Nigerians in 2015.
Mr Moghalu did not specify the regime he refers to, however.
CLAIM 3: 80 per cent of education budget on recurrent expenditure
Speaking on the state of education, Mr Moghalu lamented that about 80 percent of Nigeria’s education budget is on recurrent expenditure. He attributed the poor allocation to the rather poor state of the nation’s educational standard.
Verification: Checks by this newspaper show that in the 2019 budget proposal, of the total allocation of 620,503,169,028 to the ministry of education, the sum of 573,211,835,706 was allocated to recurrent expenditure while 47,291,333,322 was allocated to capital. This represents 92.4 percent recurrent and 7.58 percent capital allocations.
In the 2018 budget document, of the sum of 605,795,857,907 allocated to the ministry of education, 544,070,304,367, representing 89.9 percent was allocated to recurrent expenditure while 61,725,553,540, representing 10.08 percent went into capital allocation.
Verdict: Accurate, over 80 per cent allocated to recurrent.