May 12, 2022

FACT CHECK: Is the bag of rice now 42,000 naira as claimed by Reno Omokri?

Reno Omokri, former aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, made a series of assertions about the Nigerian economy, saying that in 2015 a bag of rice sold for 8,000 naira but now sells for 42 000 naira.

While some of the claims he made via his Twitter handle @renoomokri are true, Daily Trust Checks found others to be false.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Omokri said, “It was Nigeria in 2015: fuel was N87, now it’s N170. Bag of rice was 8,000 N (8,000 N), now it is 42,000 (42,000 N). The dollar was N199, it is now N580. The coke was N60, it is now N180.

He added that “bandits didn’t even exist under Jonathan. Today they have surface-to-air missiles. Before you can travel from Kaduna to Abuja by road is now a death sentence.

“Nigeria owed 12 trillion naira, now we owe 44 trillion naira. There were no unknown armed men, today the UGM is a reality.

“The tomato paste was N40. It’s now N180. NEVER FORGET!”

It is true that in 2015 the fuel was N87 but now sells for N170. In May 2016, it rose to N145 per lira, an increase of 66%. In 2020 it has been revised upwards to N162 per litre. In 2020, the product increased and started selling between N165 per liter and N200 per liter at various gas stations across the country.

Service stations in the major cities of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano sell the product at 65 naira per litre. However, other states in the federation sell the product for between N170 and N200 per litre.

However, Omokri’s claim that a bag of rice that was once 8,000 Naira now sells for 42,000 Naira is false.

In 2015, a bag of mostly Royal Stallion rice and other imported rice sold for N8,000-10,000. However, the price of rice started to rise during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was aggravated by the federal government’s statement on border closures.

A survey of rice prices carried out by this reporter at FCT’s Utako and Nyanya markets showed that locally produced rice ranges from N25,000 to N30,000 while foreign rice ranges between N30,000 and 35,000N.

Also, Omokri’s claim that one dollar was worth N199 but now trading for N580 is true. A breakdown of the naira devaluation by Daily Trust shows that in 2015 when President Buhari took office the dollar traded against the naira at 198 naira in the parallel market, in 2018 it was 306 naira for a dollar.

In 2019, it rose to N360 in dollars and finally reached N520 in 2021. From 2021 to date, one dollar in the parallel market trades between N560 and N600.

In another claim, the former presidential aide said Nigeria owed N12 trillion in 2015 but the debt now stands at N44 trillion.

However, checks carried out by Daily Trust have proven that the claim is not entirely true. In the first quarter of 2015, Nigeria’s outstanding debt stood at N12.06 trillion, accepting part of Omokri’s claim. The figure has now risen to over 39 trillion naira, a 215% increase over 7 years.

Data from the Debt Management Office showed that Nigeria’s total public debt increased by 20.2% to 39.56 trillion naira ($95.77 billion) as of December 31, 2021, from 32.92 trillion naira ($86.392 billion) in 2020, Director-General of DMO Ms. Patience Oniha had said.

The DMO said the figure also included the Federal Government’s new borrowing of N5.489 trillion, as contained in the Appropriation and Supplementary Acts of 2021 to partially fund the deficit.

Therefore, according to DMO data, Nigeria’s current debt profile stands at N39.56 trillion. As such, Mr Omokri’s assertion that the country’s current debt profile has reached N44 trillion is false.

That tomato paste that was once N40 is now N180 is also the truth on its head, although the cost of staple foods rose in March 2022, according to the latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The NBS reported in its March 2022 Selected Food Watch Price that the price of most food items has increased year-over-year and month-over-month. However, market research on the price of tomato paste shows that it has increased by 200% over the past few years, from an average of N50 to between N100 and 150.

This fact check was carried out in partnership with the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD).