Nigerian presidential candidates make false claims at town hall debate
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Ahead of Nigeria's February 2023 presidential election, local broadcaster Arise TV organized a debate with the leading candidates, including Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian People's Party and Peter Obi of the Labor Party. AFP Fact Check randomly checked the claims of the various competitors.
The so-called "Town Hall" debate, held on November 6, 2022, brought together leaders and representatives from various political parties in hopes of persuading millions of Nigerians going to the polls on February 25, 2023 to nominate a new president, governors and Governors elect legislatures.
Filmed in front of a TV audience in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, the moderated roundtable covered issues including security, fuel subsidies and the economy for more than two hours. The audience was invited to ask questions.
Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the main opposition People's Democratic Party, was represented by his running mate and governor of the southern delta state, Ifeanyi Okowa.
Meanwhile, the ruling All Progressives Congress' candidate, Bola Tinubu, was absent. His campaign spokesman, Labor Minister Festus Keyamo, said Tinubu would not attend events other than those organized by him or his party.
With Tinubu and Abubakar absent, Obi, Kwankwaso and Kola Abiola, a presidential candidate from the opposition People's Redemption Party (PRP), argued why they both deserved to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari next year.
But not all of the claims they made were true.
National Security Council meetings
Abiola, who is contesting an election for the first time, claimed Nigeria's current security challenges have been exacerbated by the failure of the National Security Council (NSC) since 1999.
Upon learning that the NSC had met, Abiola doubled down on his position, arguing that the Nigerian constitutional mandated membership had not met since 1999.
Section 25 of the Constitution states that members of the Council must include the President, Vice President, Chief of Defense Staff, Secretary of the Interior, and Secretary of Defense; Secretary of State, National Security Advisor; the Inspector General of Police "and such other persons as the President may appoint at his discretion."
But AFP Fact Check found that Abiola's claim was false.
On June 22, 2012, former President Goodluck Jonathan called an emergency Security Council meeting after returning from a trip to Brazil. Jonathan called a similar meeting on May 10, 2013. Further meetings of the NSC also took place in April 2014 and April 2015.
The NSC also met under Buhari, most recently on July 28, 2022 and October 31, 2022.
A screenshot shows a Channels TV report of the July 28, 2022 NPC meeting, taken on November 17, 2022
Best Nigerian Governor in Healthcare?
Obi, who is among the top three candidates in the race, has demonstrated his accomplishments as governor of Anambra state in southeastern Nigeria from 2006 to 2014.
“In terms of health, I was number one. I won the Bill Gates award," Obi said.
This is misleading.
Contrary to his claim, multiple media reports published on July 13, 2013 stated that Obi received an award and cash prize of 120 million naira (about US$76,300 at the time) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as the top-performing governor in eradicating Polio in south-east Nigeria. The region has only five states.
A screenshot shows a report of Obi's award taken on November 17, 2022
The foundation has yet to respond to AFP Fact Check's request for comment.
National debt Kano
Kwankwaso, the New Nigeria People's Party's presidential candidate, claimed he left Kano State in northern Nigeria debt-free in 2015. Kwankwaso said he paid off huge foreign debts in 2011.
"I left in 2015, Kano had no debt, we never borrowed in the eight years that I was governor," he said during the event.
Kwankwaso served as Governor of Kano from 1999 to 2003 and from 2011 to 2015.
But his claim is wrong.
Data from the Debt Management Office (DMO) shows that as of June 2011, when Kwankwaso took office for a second time, Kano State had an external debt of US$63.94 million - money issued by one government from a borrowed from a foreign source. This reduced to $59.79 million as of June 30, 2015, a month after he resigned as governor.
A screenshot showing Kano State's foreign debt as of June 31, 2011
A screenshot showing Kano State's foreign debt as of June 30, 2015
Kano also had domestic debt of N5.86 billion as of December 31, 2011; This rose to N65 billion by December 2015.
A screenshot showing Kano State's domestic debt as of December 31, 2011
A screenshot showing Kano State's domestic debt as of December 31, 2015
Domestic debt represents the money that the government borrows locally from banks, individuals, and corporations through the sale of government securities, including Treasury bills and bonds, among others.
AFP Fact Check has debunked several false and misleading claims related to the 2023 election. You can find our reporting here.
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