Has Nigeria’s Total Debt More Than Doubled Since 2015? NO!

CLAIM: Nigeria’s debt has more than doubled from N12 trillion in 2015, to N24.9 trillion in 2019, says Atiku

CONCLUSION: FALSE, although the figure is close to N24 trillion


Nigeria’s ex-Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, on Friday, July 12, 2019 claimed that the country’s total public has grown more than double since 2015. 

This was two days after Nigeria’s Debt Management Office (DMO) released the nation’s total debt figures at the end of the first three months of 2019. Atiku Abubakar reacted to the N560 billion surge in the nation’s total debt to N24.95 trillion by claiming that the current debt burden was more than twice its 2015 figures.

The claim emanated from the official Facebook account of Atiku Abubakar and his official Twitter handle.

Nigeria’s debt has more than doubled from N12 trillion in 2015, to N24.9 trillion in 2019, yet we became the world headquarters for extreme poverty,” Atiku’s post on Twitter read.

Irresponsible borrowing results in unprecedented sorrowing. We mustn’t saddle future generations with debt instead of prosperity.”

Atiku was the major contender of the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Muhammadu Buhari, in the 2019 presidential election. According to Nigeria’s electoral umpire, Independent National Election Commission (INEC), President Buhari polled a total of 15,191,847 votes to defeat its closest rival Atiku who scored 11,262978 votes. The formal vice president is currently challenging Buhari’s victory at the presidential election petitions tribunal sitting in Abuja.

Atiku served as the Vice President for two straight terms from 1999 to 2007 under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Since Atiku posted the claim on Twitter, the tweet has been liked more than 7,400 times, shared over 3,500 times and attracted more than 800 divergent comments on Nigeria’s debt portfolio, while a similar post found on his Facebook wall has been liked more than 3,500 times and shared over 900 times with comments in excess of 1,300.

Verifying the claim:

Available data gathered by BusinessDay from the state-owned debt agency show that Nigeria’s total public debt stock stood at N12.60 trillion as at year-end 2015, comprising N2.11 trillion external ($10.71 billion converted using an exchange rate of N197/$ as at December 31, 2015, according to Central Bank of Nigeria) and N10.49 trillion domestic debt obligations. 

The total debt stock rose steadily to N17.36 trillion in 2016; N21.73 trillion in 2017; N24.39 trillion in 2018 and hit N24.95 trillion in the first three months of 2019.

If Nigeria’s debt had doubled between 2015 and the first quarter of 2019 as claimed by Atiku Abubakar, the newly released debt figures would be at least two times N12.60 trillion which gives N25.20 trillion.

Although the nation’s external debt has grown more than double from $10.71 billion in end-year 2015 to $25.60 in the first quarter of 2019, debt incurred to domestic sources only grew from N10.49 trillion to N17.08 trillion.

The DMO had said it was working on a debt management strategy to achieve a 60:40 debt mix for domestic and external debts by increasing the percentage share of external financing and reducing the proportion of its domestic borrowing.


According to the data from the Debt Management Office, Nigeria’s debt increased by N560 billion to N24.95 trillion in the first quarter of this year, bringing it close to but below N25.20 trillion which represents double of Nigeria’s 2015 debt figures. Hence, ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s claim that Nigeria’s total public debt has grown more than double since 2015 is FALSE.

This fact-check was done by a Dubawa Fact-checking Fellow in collaboration with BusinessDay, the leading medium for up-to-date news and insightful analysis of business, policy and the economy in Nigeria.

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