FACT-CHECK: How true were claims made by Atiku, Obi at #TheCandidates?

PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and his vice, Peter Obi on "The Candidates". [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of Peter Obi]
PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and his vice, Peter Obi on "The Candidates". [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of Peter Obi]

On Wednesday, the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, featured on The Candidates, a live television town hall hosted by Kadaria Ahmed.

He was joined by his running mate, Peter Obi.

Mr Abubakar, former Nigeria’s vice president, and Mr Obi, a former governor of Anambra State, made several claims at the event as they canvassed support for the crucial election due in two weeks.

PREMIUM TIMES highlights some of the claims made by the candidates, and checks how factual they were.

CLAIM 1: 21 million Nigerians are unemployed

While speaking about Nigeria’s unemployment challenge, Mr Abubakar said 21 million Nigerians are currently unemployed.

VERIFICATION

In December 2018, the National Bureau of Statistics in its latest report said Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased from 18.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 to 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018. According to the bureau’s unemployment report, the economically active or working age population (15 – 64 years of age) increased from 111.1 million in Q3 2017 to 115.5million in Q3 2018.

The report said the total number of people classified as unemployed, which means they did nothing at all or worked too few hours (under 20 hours a week) to be classified as employed, increased from 17.6 million in Q4 2017 to 20.9 million in Q3 2018.

VERDICT: True.

CLAIM 2: Agriculture offers largest employment in Nigeria

Speaking on the state of the economy, Mr Abubakar said the agriculture sector employs the most people in Nigeria.

VERIFICATION

Although the informal nature of the sector makes it difficult for researchers to gather accurate data on the number of people employed in the sector, it is generally believed that the sector employs the largest number of people in the country.

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In 2016, a General Household Survey of the World Bank said that the agriculture sector is the largest employer of labour and income-generating activity in Nigeria. According to the organisation, work in a household non-farm enterprises and external wage employment account for the rest kind of employment in Nigeria.

VERDICT: True.

CLAIM 3: Anchor’s Borrowers Programme is ‘fake’

In his attempt to criticise the Nigerian government and its flagship agricultural programme, Anchors Borrowers Programme, Mr Abubakar suggested that the programme was “fake” and there were few rice farmers benefiting from the scheme.

VERIFICATION

In 2018, a PREMIUM TIMES’ extensive fact-check showed that the programme has benefited quite a number of local farmers across the country, although it is bedeviled by numerous allegations of fraud and other anomalies.

The report revealed, however, that a model adopted by the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) has recorded appreciable level of success. For RIFAN, instead of giving cash to farmers, farmers are supplied inputs such as seedlings, fertilisers and herbicide. They also have their land prepared for them. The report showed that although there are numerous areas that could be addressed, the ABP could not be said to be ‘fake’.

VERDICT: False.

CLAIM 4: ‘In Adamawa, I lifted 45,000 families out of poverty’

While trying to establish the basis for his desire to contest election and fix Nigeria’s poverty challenges, Mr Abubakar said he lifted 45,000 families out of poverty in Adamawa state. He however did not explain how he arrived at the figure.

VERIFICATION

It is not the first time the PDP candidate would be making this claim. Speaking at a Presidential Nomination Media Chat, organised by the United Nigeria Group in Abuja in 2018, he made the same claim, adding that he achieved the feat through support given to people by a micro-finance bank he established.

He added that he instructed the bank to give 80 per cent of its loans to women “in the belief that empowerment is the best way to bring a family out of poverty’’.

Although Mr Abubakar is reputed to be one of the biggest employer of labour in his state, PREMIUM TIMES checks showed that there are no verifiable data to affirm that indeed 45,000 people have been lifted out of poverty by his intervention, through his micro-finance bank.

VERDICT: Unproven.

CLAIM 5: Nigeria’s GDP growth was about 6 per cent when APC came into power.

Still on the nation’s economy, Mr Abubakar lampooned the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and said the present government dragged Nigeria into recession. He specifically said the GDP growth rate was “about 6 percent” at the time the present administration came into power.

VERIFICATION

The gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the important indices used to determine the status of a country’s economy. It represents the total value of goods and services produced over a specific time period. The present government was sworn into office on May 29, 2015, a month to the end of the second quarter of 2015.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in the Second Quarter of 2015, the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 2.35 percent (year-on-year) in real terms. This was lower by 1.61 percent points from growth recorded in the preceding quarter and also lower by 4.19 percent points from growth recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2014. Quarter on quarter, real GDP increased by 2.57 percent.

During the quarter, aggregate GDP stood at N22,859,153.01million (in nominal terms) at basic prices. The Nigerian economy can be more clearly understood according to the oil and non-oil sector classifications. During the period under review, Oil production stood at 2.05 million barrels per day (mbpd), 5.9 percent lower from production in Q1 of 2015. Oil production was also lower relative to the corresponding quarter in 2014 by 7.3 percent when output was recorded at 2.21mbpd.

Should the argument be pushed forward that the present government had already spent a month in office by the end of Q2 2015, figures from Q1 of the same year still revealed that the claim was inaccurate. In the opening quarter of 2015, the NBS said Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 3.96 percent in real terms, year-on-year. This was lower by 1.98 percent points from the preceding quarter, in Q4 2014. The growth rate was nowhere near 6 percent.

VERDICT: False.

CLAIM 6: GDP growth rate now about 2 percent

Buttressing his point on the state of the economy, Mr Abubakar said the GDP growth rate is now “about 2 percent”.

VERIFICATION

In December, the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, said the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 1.81 percent (year-on-year) in real terms in the third quarter of 2018.

Details showed that there is an increase of 0.64 per cent points, compared to the third quarter of 2017, which recorded a growth of 1.17 per cent.

VERDICT: Largely True.

CLAIM 7: Insecurity restricted to the North East during PDP era

Mr Abubakar also claimed that insecurity was restricted to the North East in the era of the PDP unlike what, according to him, obtains now in the present government.

VERIFICATION

Several media reports showed that Boko Haram registered its presence in the North East, North West and even the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, when the immediate past PDP government of Goodluck Jonathan was in power. In April 2012, THISDAY office in Abuja in the FCT was bombed in an attack. In 2014, about a dozen people were killed in an attack targeted at a mosque in Kano, North west Nigeria. Hundreds of people were also killed in several attacks in the north east within the same period.

VERDICT: False.

CLAIM 8: Nigeria’s HDI ranking now 157

Talking about the Human Development Index, HDI, Mr Obi said that Nigeria now ranks 157 in the global ranking.

VERIFICATION

HDI report often measures national achievements in Human Development Index in health, education, income and standard of living of the people. Last September, a report by the United Nations Development Programme said Nigeria’s Human Development Index rising by two points and life expectancy also rose by eight years.

The report showed that Nigeria’s HDI value for 2017 was 0.532; it was 0.530 in 2016, and it has shown a consistent increase since the measurement began in 2003.

But overall, Nigeria’s ranking was put at 157 among the 189 countries sampled, from 156 in 2017.

VERDICT: True.

CLAIM 9: China lifted 439 million people out of poverty in 15 years

Talking about the development pace of other countries of the world, Mr Obi said that China lifted 439 million people out of poverty in 15 years.

VERIFICATION

China’s success story in poverty reduction has for years dominated global discussion on development and poverty eradication. China is said to be the first developing country to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty.

According to reports, including the one by UNDP between 1990 and 2011, China lifted 439 million poor people out of poverty, contributing significantly to global poverty reduction. With continuous increase in grain production for 11 years since 2004, China has been able to feed nearly 20 percent of the world’s population with less than 10 percent of world’s cultivated land.

VERDICT: Largely True.

CLAIM 10: I never ‘deported’ anybody/beggars from Anambra

Clarifying widespread allegations that he ‘deported’ some Nigerians resident in Anambra to other states when he held sway as state governor, Mr Obi said he never deported any resident of the state as alleged.

VERIFICATION

At least two media reports claimed at the time that Obi’s administration, in 2011, deported beggars to Akwa Ibom and Ebonyi states. A report in Leadership Newspaper on December 4, 2011 claimed that 29 beggars were arrested in Awka and Onitsha and were repatriated back to their respective states of origin that include Ebonyi and Akwa Ibom states.

Similarly, a PREMIUM TIMES report documented the alleged ‘deportation’ with reports from these newspapers.

VERDICT: Not proven.

CLAIM 11: $16 billion spent on power by PDP is a ‘lie’

When speaking on the allegation that $16 billion was spent by the past administration of the PDP on power, without commensurate result, Mr Obi said the report was a ‘lie’.

VERIFICATION

In 2008, a House of Representatives Committee probe report alleged that $16 billion was spent on power. Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari restated the claim while taking a dig at former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

But a furious Mr Obasanjo promptly replied, saying the claim of ‘wasted’ $16 billion was at best a hoax. “A presidential panel headed by the then VP Goodluck Jonathan,” Mr Obasanjo said in his reply, “set up by the Umaru Yar’Adua government put a lie to this after the same administration had sacked one Engr F. Somolu the then Secretary of NIPP who first drew attention to the lie that $16b had been spent on power project.

“The Panel made up of so many actors, including CBN officials then found out that only $3.7 billion was disbursed out of the $10 billion budgeted and the balance was kept in an escrow account at the CBN.

The CBN confirmed this to the panel and it was published…It was then found out that Tanimu Yakubu then Economic Adviser to President Yar’Adua began the propaganda against former President Obasanjo and Engr. Somolu then with Yar’Adua wrote a secret memo inside the state house to correct the wrong notion about $10 billion.”

PREMIUM TIMES observes that the 2008 house report was not made public, despite calls by several civil society groups. It then remains unclear which of the claims could be considered the ultimate truth.

VERDICT: Not proven.

CLAIM 12: APC has not invested ‘1 kobo’ in power generation

Speaking on the power sector, Mr Obi said the current government has not invested ‘1 kobo’ in power, adding that what obtains are PDP investment.

VERIFICATION

The Nigerian government has consistently assured Nigerians of its resolve to fix the power sector. In November 2016, the government said it would spend on $150 million on rural electrification project. Last December, the federal government secured a $200 million loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to fund electrification projects in the country.

Through the Energising Economies Initiative (EEP), the government has also commenced the process of taking four big markets and major economic centres in Nigeria off the national grid, powering their activities with clean and stable electricity. The initative has been lauded in Sabon Gari Market, Kano; Ariaria Market, Aba in Abia State; and Sura Shopping Complex, Lagos.

VERDICT: False.

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