President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, 29th May 2018 addressed the nation in commemoration of the 19th year of Nigeria’s democracy and the 3rd Anniversary of his administration. In his speech, he made a number of claims which may or may not be true, false or just plain exaggeration.
CLAIM 1: N200 BILLION HAS BEEN SAVED FROM ELIMINATION OF GHOST WORKERS
“The Treasury Single Account (TSA) has realized Billions of Naira being saved from maintenance fee payable to banks. N200 Billion has also been saved from elimination of ghost workers in public service.”
This claim has been made severally by the government, even though there is no publicly available documentation to support the claim. As a result, we have already sent Freedom of Information letters to the Ministry of Finance to demand details of the amount of money that have been saved from the elimination of ghost workers in the public service.
Until we are able to get the official figures from the Ministry of Finance, this claim remains UNPROVEN.
CLAIM 2: 30% OF THE 2016 BUDGET WAS ALLOCATED FOR CAPITAL EXPENDITURE FOR THE FIRST TIME
“In 2016, Government executed an expansionary budget and developed the Strategic Implementation Plan. For the first time, 30% of the budget was earmarked for capital expenditure which represents an upward review when compared with the 2015 budget. The SIP was followed by the development of a comprehensive medium-term plan – the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017 – 2020.”
It is worthy of note that this is not the first time the president will make this claim. In 2015 while he was presenting the 2016 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly, President Buhari said “for the first time in many years, capital expenditure will represent 30% of our total budget”.
However, according to the Budget Office of the Federation, in at least three years since 2008, there had been more than 30% budgetary allocation for capital projects in Nigeria.
In 2008, under Umaru Musa Yaradua’s government, capital project allocation was actually 35% of the total budget size, a figure which is 7% higher than the 2016 capital expenditure budget.
Also in 2013, the capital project allocation of the budget was 31.7%.
It is also worth reiterating that the 2016 budget, as approved by President Buhari has an aggregate expenditure of N6,060,677,358,227 (N6 trillion) and the total release for capital projects, according to the Accountant General, was N1,219,471,747,443 (N1.2 trillion) which then translates to only 20% actually spent on Capital Projects.
To remove any element of doubt as to the clarity of the President’s statement, we also checked to see if he meant “the first time in his administration” which would refer to 2015-2018. If that is the case, the statement would still be FALSE as even though the 2018 budget was passed by the National Assembly with a total expenditure of N9.1 trillion out of which N2.8 trillion (30%) would be set aside for capital projects, there had actually been an instance of 30% allocation during his administration.
In 2017, a total expenditure of N7.44 trillion was passed by the National Assembly, out of which N2.99 trillion was for non-debt recurrent spending, while N2.36 trillion was budgeted for capital expenditure, the figure which represents 31% of the entire budget.
Therefore, the claim that the 2016 or even 2018 capital expenditure is the highest is not only FALSE but also misleading. More so, although 30% was allocated, the government did not actually spend up to that amount on capital projects.
CLAIM 3: THE ECONOMY GREW BY 1.95% IN 2018
“The National Bureau of Statistics reports that the economy grew by 1.95% in 1st quarter 2018, which is a good performance when viewed against -0.91 in 1st quarter 2017 and -0.67% in 1st quarter 2016 respectively.”
According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 1.95% (Year-on-Year) in real terms in the First Quarter of 2018. This shows a stronger growth when compared with the First Quarter of 2017 which recorded a growth of -0.91%, indicating an increase of 2.87% points. Compared to the preceding Quarter, there was a decline of -0.16% points from 2.11%.
By the First Quarter of 2018, Aggregate GDP stood at N28,464,322.01 (28.4 million) in nominal terms. This performance is higher when compared to the First Quarter of 2017 which recorded a Nominal GDP Aggregate of N26,028,356.03 (26 million), thus, presenting a positive Year-on-Year nominal growth rate of 9.36%.
As documented by the National Bureau of Statistics, the president’s claim that the economy grew by 1.95% in First Quarter 2018 is TRUE.
CLAIM 4: THE SOVEREIGN WEALTH FUND HAS INCREASED BY ADDITIONAL US$650 MILLION
“The Sovereign Wealth Fund project portfolio has been expanded with an injection of US$650 million so as to strengthen its investment in local infrastructure, power, health, re-construction of Abuja-Kano road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, East-West Road (Section V) and the Mambilla Hydro-electric Power project as well as the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge.”
The Sovereign Wealth Fund, set up in 2012 to save and manage excess money made from the sale of crude oil, is managed by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority. The funds are separated into three namely: the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund which has 40%, Future Generations Fund, also 40% and the Stabilisation Fund which is 20%.
Last week, the Managing Director/CEO of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Mr Uche Orji confirmed that the transfer of $650 million to the NSIA as seed funding for Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) had been approved.
Therefore, the claim by president Buhari that the Sovereign Wealth Fund project portfolio has been expanded with an injection of US$650 million is TRUE. Nevertheless, we cannot confirm whether the money will be used for the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge or other projects as disclosed by the President.
CLAIM 5: FOREIGN RESERVE HAS SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVED AS OF MAY 2018 AND INFLATIONARY RATE HAS DECLINED SINCE JANUARY 2017
“Our foreign reserve has improved significantly to 47.5 billion USD as of May 2018 as against 29.6 billion USD in 2015. The inflationary rate has consistently declined every month since January 2017.”
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria’s external reserves (which consists of official public sector foreign assets used for financing payment imbalances and exchange rate regulation) is steadily growing and currently amounts to US$47.5 billion.
Data from the Central Bank of Nigeria also shows that the inflation rate in Q1 of 2017 was 18.72%, the highest in Buhari’s administration since May 2015 when the inflation rate was recorded at 9%. Prior to 2015, the inflation rate hovered around 7 to 8.6% for 4 Quarters. In February 2017, the rate fell to 17.78% and ever since the inflation rate has been decreasing and in Q1 2018, it dropped to 13.34%.
Both claims are therefore TRUE!
CLAIM 6: RICE IMPORTATION HAS BEEN REDUCED BY 90%
“Under agriculture, Nigeria continues to pursue a strategic food security programme built around self-sufficiency and minimization of import dependency. As a result, rice importation from other countries has been cut down by 90% which has a direct impact on foreign reserves.”
There is no documented evidence to back up the president’s claim that Nigeria’s rice import has reduced by 90%. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Nigeria consumes more rice than any African country and is one of the biggest producers and importers of the grain on the continent.
In 2015, the Nigerian government through the Central Bank of Nigeria imposed import restrictions on rice and introduced a borrowing programme to stimulate local rice production while reducing the country’s food import bills, available data from Index Mundi and the United States Department of Agriculture states that rice imports increased from 2.1 million tonnes in 2015 to an estimated 2.5 million tonnes of rice in 2016, 2.6 million tonnes in 2017 and 3.0 million tonnes in 2018.
Also, according to the International Grain Council, rice imports in 2016 was estimated to be 2.1 million tonnes and 2.7million tonnes in 2017. It is estimated that Nigeria’s rice import will be 2.8 million tonnes in 2018.
Therefore, the president’s claim that Nigeria’s rice import has reduced by 90% remains UNPROVEN.
CLAIM 7: THE SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMMES (SIP) HAS RECORDED WINS
“The Social Investment Programmes (SIP) has been created as a means to graduating our citizens from poverty through capacity building, investment and direct support…The SIP programmes and projects include: Home Grown School Feeding Programme – About 8.2 million pupils are currently being fed from 24 States of the Federation with over 75,000 Catering Staff engaged under the programme, the Conditional Cash Transfer has so far recorded over 297,000 caregivers and being trained by 2,495 Community Facilitators in 21 states… N-Power Job creation Scheme – is targeted at providing jobs for unemployed young graduates and has so far recruited 200,000 youths…”
Due to the unavailability of information, DUBAWA has sent a letter to the presidency to request for details of the implementation of the Social Investment Programme. This report will be updated once we obtain sufficient details. However, we have verified the claim that the government is engaging 200,000 youths under its NPOWER programme. Information available on the website of the scheme states that only 200,000 Nigerians have been enrolled so far in the scheme.
So while other claims are unproven, the president’s claim on NPower engaging 200,000 youths is TRUE.
(This report will be updated as new information arises)
Akintunde Babatunde is a program officer with the Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism. A dedicated researcher, channeling his skills towards the unveiling of political propaganda and demystifying the secrecy associated with government projects. A diligent and hardworking intellectual, he holds a bachelor’s degree in educational management and mathematics.