Fact-check reveals Peter Obi understated Nigeria’s exports

Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, in two separate interviews  has claimed that the country exported less than $30 billion of goods and services in 2021, underperforming smaller African peers such as Morocco.

Obi generated mixed reactions on social media after he claimed that Nigeria was “not a producing country” and has a weak export base, causing dollar scarcity in the country. Meanwhile, the information is incorrect; official data shows annual exports from the west African country have exceeded $30 billion for well over a decade.

Obi is a two-term ex-governor of Nigeria’s southern Anambra state and is bidding to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s election as leader of the Labour Party.

He first made the claim during an hour-long interview that was aired on July 6, 2022, by Nigerian broadcaster Arise Television.

“Morocco is about 36 million, their export last year was over 50 billion dollars,” said Obi. “In our own [exports] with oil included, it’s under 30 billion [dollars] and we’re 200 million [people]. Morocco didn’t export any oil.”

About two weeks later, he repeated the claim during a visit to the country’s southern Abia state.

“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,” Obi said in the second interview.

“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.”

Nigeria is the largest exporter of crude oil in Africa. The commodity, which accounted for more than two-thirds of total exports in 2021, is the country’s biggest source of dollar inflows. However, oil output fell in the first five months of 2022, raising fresh concerns about the country’s economic output and currency stability.

Obi’s supporters, who identify themselves as “Obidient” and also by displaying the party’s logo on their profiles, have latched onto the claims and amplified them on social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

While it is accurate that Morocco is a smaller country with higher exports than Nigeria in 2021, Obi has understated his country’s exports.

Moroccan exports

Data on exports of goods and services provided by the World Bank revealed that Morocco’s exports in 2021 were $49.4 billion, close to Obi’s estimate.

There were no figures in the same year for Nigeria.

But using data extracted from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), AFP Fact Check found the country’s total exports were worth $46.69 billion in 2021, up from $35.9 billion a year earlier.

Contrary to Obi’s claim, Nigeria’s annual exports have remained above the $30 billion mark since 2008 when the central bank started keeping data. Exports reached a high of $99.9 billion in 2011.

A similar dataset from the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) also proves Obi wrong. According to their data on foreign trade, Nigeria’s exports were valued at 18.9 trillion naira in 2021, equivalent to $47.3 billion using the average official exchange rate of 399.6 naira.