Fact-Checking Atiku’s Claims on Nigeria’s Foreign Debt, GDP Growth Between 1999 and 2007

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, claimed Nigeria paid off her external debt between 1999 and 2007. Mr. Abubakar also alleged that Nigeria maintained 6% GDP growth within the same period.

The claim that Nigeria paid off her external debt between 1999 and 2007 is false. Nigeria’s debt records, according to the DMO, indicate the country still had external debt of $3.65 billion as at December 2007.

However, the claim that Nigeria maintained 6% GDP growth between 1999 and 2007 is mostly true, according to the data from the World Bank, IMF, and BudgiT.

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On Friday, October 2, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, claimed that Nigeria paid off her entire external debt and maintained 6% GDP growth between 1999 and 2007.

The former vice president’s claims were contained in a viral tweet posted via his verified Twitter handle @atiku.

The tweet reads: “Between 1999 and 2007, Nigeria paid off her entire foreign debt while maintaining an unprecedented 6% annual GDP growth. Those were periods of national restoration, and I am very proud of the work President Obasanjo and I did for this nation we care so much for. Facts don’t lie.”

Under the period in question, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo and Mr Abubakar served as Nigeria’s president and vice president respectively.

Though it was not stated in the tweet, the former vice president’s claims appear to be a response to President Muhammadu Buhari’s earlier statement blaming his predecessors for ‘near destruction of Nigeria’.

The former vice president concluded his tweet with, “Facts don’t lie.” But how factual or accurate are the two claims he made?


Claim 1: Nigeria paid off her entire foreign debt between 1999 and 2007.

To confirm the veracity of Mr Abubakar’s claim on Nigeria’s external debt between 1999 and 2007, checked the website of Nigeria’s Debt Management Office (DMO) for relevant documents.

The DMO is the federal government’s agency established to centrally coordinate the management of Nigeria’s debt.

According to a report published by the DMO on December 31, 2007, Nigeria’s external debt stock at the end of 2007 stood at $3.65 billion.

Nigeria’s external debt stock: 1999 to 2007

In 1999 when Nigeria returned to civilian rule, the country was owing $28.04 billion in external debt, according to the DMO. 

Further breakdown of the debt stock shows that out of the total external debt, $20.5 billion (about 73%) was owed to Paris Club, a group of official money lenders established in 1956 with its secretariat located in Paris.

By 2004, the external debt stock had risen to $35.94 billion.

Source: DMO

As the debt profile continued to rise, the Obasanjo administration embarked on a campaign for debt relief which eventually paid off in 2005 when “the Paris Club creditors announced the decision in principle, to grant a debt relief package amounting to about US$18 billion out of the US$30.84 billion outstanding as at December 31, 2004.”

This subsequently reduced the country’s external debt from $35.94 billion in 2004 to $20.48 billion in 2005.

By the end of 2006, the Obasanjo administration had cleared off the Paris Club’s debt.

Source: BudgIt

However, the country still owed $3.5 billion in external debt. Also, the debt stock slightly increased to $3.65 billion by the end of 2007 when the Obasanjo/Atiku administration ended.

Claim 2: Nigeria maintained 6% annual GDP growth between 1999 and 2007

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the total value of goods and services produced in a country in a specific period. It is used to measure how well an economy is doing at any point. 

According to Stears Business, GDP growth (or economic growth) is expressed in year-on-year terms, that is, how the economy is doing now compared to the same time last year.

To verify the claim by Mr Abubakar that Nigeria maintained 6% annual GDP growth between 1999 and 2007, pored over the data available on the website of the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS). However, the GDP reports available on the portal did not cover the entire period under review.

In absence of relevant data on the statistics agency’s website, consulted the World Bank’s data on Nigeria’s annual GDP growth. 

According to the data, Nigeria’s GDP growth rate in 1999 was 0.584%. The GDP growth rates for the rest of the years under review are as follow: 2000 (5.016%), 2001 (5.918%), 2002 (15.329%), 2003 (7.437%), 2004 (9.251%), 2005 (6.439%), 2006 (6.059%), 2007 (6.591%).

Source: World Bank

Going by the World Bank’s data, the average GDP growth between 1999 and 2007 is 6.9.

For further verification, reached out to Dataphyte, a media research and data analytics organisation.

The organisation cited the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s record of Nigeria’s Real GDP growth from 1980 to 2020.

According to IMF’s data, Nigeria’s GDP growth rates in the period under scrutiny are as follow: 1999 (0.5%), 2000 (5.5%), 2001(6.7%), 2002 (14.6%), 2003 (9.5%), 2004 (10.4%), 2005 (7%), 2006 (6.7%), 2007 (7.3%).

Mathematically, the average GDP growth rate during the period is 7.57%, according to IMF’s data.

Source: IMF

Also important to consider is the GDP growth report published by BudgiT, a civic organisation simplifying the Nigerian budget and public data for public access.

The data put Nigeria’s GDP growth rate in 1999 at 0.474%. In 2000, Nigeria recorded 5.318% GDP growth and 4.411% growth in 2001, the data further indicated. 

The GDP growth rose from 3.785% in 2002 to 10.354% in 2003 when the Obasanjo administration completed its first tenure.

The administration recorded the highest GDP growth rate in 2004: 33.736%. The growth was not, however, sustained as it dropped to 3.445% in 2005. It rose again in 2006 to 8.211% in 2006. 

The Obasanjo/Atiku administration left the GDP growth at 6.828% in 2007, according to BudgiT’s data.

Source: BudgiT

Considering BudgiT’s data, the average GDP growth rate between 1999 and 2007 is 8.5%.


Although the Obasanjo administration significantly reduced Nigeria’s external debt stock, it did not pay off the entire foreign debt as Mr Abubakar claimed.

Also, though there are at least three varying data regarding Nigeria’s GDP growth rate between 1999 and 2007, Mr Abubakar’s claim that Nigeria maintained 6% GDP growth within the period is mostly true.

The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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