FACT CHECK: Did Tinubu leave over $1bn foreign debt behind as Lagos Governor? | Dailytrust

FACT CHECK: Did Tinubu leave over $1bn foreign debt behind as Lagos Governor?

Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Bola Ahmed Tinubu

A spokesperson for the Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign, Daniel Bwala, has alleged that former Lagos State governor and presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, left behind a foreign debt of over $1bn when he complete his tenure in 2007.

In a tweet via his Twitter handle, @BwalaDaniel, Bwala over the weekend said, “Let’s face it, if you take out colonial, FGN infrastructure and investments, and FDI agreement with Nigeria to invest in Lagos, Peter Obi did better than Tinubu as a governor; at least he saved billions, whilst Tinubu left a foreign debt burden of over $1B behind. Go and verify.”

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The tweet had garnered over 1,000 likes and had been retweeted more than 700 times.


Information from the Debt Management Office (DMO) showed that the federal and state governments’ External Debt Stock as of June 30, 2016 was $11,261,887,684.00 with the Federal Government’s share of the debt portfolio standing at $7,607,500,252.76 while that of the states was $3,654,387,431.24. The three most indebted states were: Lagos with $1,431,474,719.70; Kaduna with $225,277,020.12 and Edo with $179,519,864.02. This was just the foreign debt profile.

This prompted the then Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, to explain that the foreign debt owed by the state government at the time, was inherited from previous administrations before his tenure which began in 2015.

Ambode who made the disclosure during an interview, said that despite the numerous infrastructure the state government had planned to develop, the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) did not seek foreign option for financial support.

He also noted that during his four-year tenure, his administration never took any foreign credit facility to run state activities.

“Talking about Lagos State having the highest amount in terms of foreign loans, truth is that I have it on record that in my four years, I never took any foreign loan. So, whatever it is that they are saying about having $1.43 billion is an accumulation of loans that have been taken by successive governments,” he said.

Recall that Ambode had two predecessors; Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who served from 1999 to 2007 and Babatunde Raji Fashola who was governor between 2007 and 2015.

As of 31 December, 2018, statistics from the DMO showed that Lagos State’s total external debt stock stood at $1.43bn. The external debt comprised of $1.28bn from multilateral sources and $143.83 million as bilateral, sourced mainly from the African Development Bank. Comparing both data, one could easily see that Lagos’ foreign debt did not rise between June 2016 and December 2018.

However, data compiled by the DMO showing both federal and states’ external debt stock as of December 31, 2007, revealed that Lagos State owed a total of $243,283,449.01 which is approximately as against the figure quoted by Bwala.

It should be noted that at this time, Tinubu had handed over to his successor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN). The debt was from multilateral sources alone.


Available records showed that Bwala’s claim that Tinubu left behind a foreign debt of over $1bn as Lagos State governor is false.

Did Peter Obi save billions for Anambra State?

Bwala also claimed former Anambra State governor and presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, saved billions of naira foe the state before he left.

In January last year, a claim emerged on Twitter that Obi handed over N72bn in cash and $150m in Anambra Generational Fund to his successor, Willie Obiano.

But investigations revealed that there is no publicly available data or document to show that Obi handed over N72bn in cash and $150m in Anambra Generational Fund to Obiano.

While addressing journalists in 2015, Solo Chukwulobelu, professor and secretary to Anambra State Government, stated that the rumour that Peter Obi handed over N75bn to Obiano was far from the truth.

Chukwulobelu stated that what Obiano’s administration inherited from Obi was N9bn cash and N26bn near cash.


While it is true that Peter Obi saved billions of naira while he was governor of Anambra State as claimed by Bwala, his assertion that Tinubu left a debt burden of over $1bn for his successor is false.

Data obtained from the website of the Debt Management Office showed that as of December 2017, Lagos State had only accumulated a foreign debt of 243 million dollars.

This fact check was produced in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)

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