PETER Obi, a former Governor of Anambra state and Labour Party’s (LP) presidential candidate for Nigeria’s 2023 elections, had early this August engaged in a war of words with his counterpart from the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, over counter-accusations of spreading fake news and maligning his candidacy.
Tinubu Campaign Organization, in a statement signed by its Director of Media and Publicity, Bayo Onanuga, had called on Obi to rein in his supporters, who it accused of spreading fake news about its candidate.
But in a reaction, Obi absolved his supporters of spreading misinformation online, saying that the vitriol of ‘fake news’ attributed to ‘Obidient’ supporters is actually the handiwork of the opposition.
“As we approach the official kick-off of the 2023 election campaign, it has become evident that the opposition have adopted a negative strategy of trolling and insinuating fake news and misinformation in the social media space and blaming the Labour Party, its presidential candidate and their supporters of same,” Obi said in a Twitter thread he posted via his verified handle @PeterObi on August 18, 2022.
The Labour candidate is popular for quoting facts and figures while speaking about challenges facing Nigeria, alongside his plans and policy for the country if elected. However, when some of these claims were subjected to verification, quite a good number of them have been found to be inaccurate.
In this recap, The FactCheckHub highlights five times that Obi quoted misleading facts and figures while trying to drive home his points in public.
1. Claim about the number of Nigerian players at NBA
Responding to questions on a Channels Television programme, “Politics Today” aired on July 25, 2022, Obi claimed that out of 150 players playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA), almost 100 are Nigerians.
Obi said: “…proud, celebrating their talent. And this is what we have everywhere. If you go into American NBA, out of 150 players, almost 100 are Nigerians. These youths are so talented that they are where you need to focus to reach their talent and productive energy to turn around the country…”.
Founded in 1946, the NBA is a professional basketball league in North America. The league is composed of 30 teams (29 in the United States and 1 in Canada) and is one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. It is the premier men’s professional basketball league in the world.
According to NBA, about 109 international players registered for the league’s 2021-2022 season, and only five are from Nigeria.
The roaster published on its website also revealed that the league currently has 583 players in total as its international and domestic players.
The five players listed as Nigerians are Charles Bassey, who plays for the Philadelphia 76ers; Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves; Precious Achiuwa of the Toronto Raptors; Udoka Azubuike of Utah Jazz and Chimezie Metu of the Sacramento Kings.
Speaking in Umuahia, Abia State capital, on the 23rd of July, 2022, during a non-denominational prayer organized by the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia, the former Anambra governor claimed that Nigeria’s total export was less than 30 billion US dollars in 2021.
“Nigeria is a country with 923,000 square kilometres of land and a population of 200 million people. God blessed us with oil and other resources. We have over 100 million people living in poverty.
“But to show that we are not a producing country, last year, our total export, including oil, was less than 30 billion dollars; that is why we can’t find dollars today,” Obi said.
However, findings by The FactCheckHub show that Nigeria’s total export, including oil, was about $47 billion (U.S. dollars) – or precisely 18.9 trillion Nigeria naira based on the average exchange rate in 2021 – 403.5 naira per dollar; thus, making Obi’s claim FALSE.
A report by the National Bureau of Statistics titled “Foreign Trade in Goods Statistics (Q4 2021)” shows that Nigeria’s total exports amounted to 18.9 trillion Nigerian naira (NGN) in 2021 while total imports stood at N20.84 trillion.
Speaking at a debate put together by the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) which featured five running mates for the 2019 general elections, Peter Obi claimed that Nigeria had only two million vehicles, 10 per 1,000.
He said: “It [subsidy] is a waste… what are you actually subsidizing? Look at it. Nigeria has one of the low car ownership in the world. It is 10 per thousand. So, we have only two million vehicles, and you are paying almost a trillion when we have 87 million people that are poor.”
In 2018, The ICIR fact-checked the claim, and the findings show that it is FALSE.
According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s estimated vehicle population as at the second quarter of 2018 is 11,760,871, and the vehicle per population ratio was put at 0.06; as against Obi’s 0.01.
In 2017, commercial vehicles accounted for 53.8 per cent of the total vehicle population, private vehicles accounted for 44.5 per cent, government vehicles accounted for 1.65 per cent and diplomat vehicles made up for 0.1 per cent.
Speaking on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement during the debate, Obi claimed that as at 2018, African trade is less than 9 per cent and oil gives 80 per cent of our foreign exchange earnings.
“African trade today is less than nine per cent, and if we get it right, it can go as high as 30 per cent or 40 per cent. The foreign exchange you are saying today you’re now earning from oil, oil now gives you 80 per cent of your foreign exchange, when in effect if you do the right things, you can have twice than coming from manufacturing,” Obi said.
The ICIR fact-checked this claim as well, and it was found to be FALSE.
The 2018 African Trade Report developed by the African Export-Import Bank noted that intra-African trade is at 15 per cent (nearly double of Obi’s claim), compared to Europe’s 67 per cent, Asia’s 58 per cent, North America’s 48 per cent, and Latin America’s 20 per cent.
According to Brookings, in 2016, intra-African exports made up 18 per cent of total exports.
While answering a question on driving investments into the economy, Obi also claimed that bank loans are about 15 per cent of GDP and that China is using 250 per cent of its GDP as credits to businesses and private sectors.
“Your banks today, all the loans they have given are about 15 per cent of your GDP, when other countries are doing 50, 100 per cent. China alone is doing 250 per cent on their GDP as credits to businesses, to private sector,” Obi said.
The ICIR fact-checked the claim relying on data sourced from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and made available on TradingEconomics, which provides more than 20 million economic indicators for 196 countries.
In Nigeria, domestic credit provided by the bank sector as a per cent of the GDP for 2017 was 26.56 percent. For China, the figure stands at 215 per cent; thus, making Obi’s claim misleading.
Nurudeen Akewushola is a fact-checker with FactCheckHub. He has authored several fact checks which have contributed to the fight against fake news and other forms of information disorder. You can shoot him via firstname.lastname@example.org and @NurudeenAkewus1 via Twitter.