BusinessSouth-East States Record $1.89bn External Debt, $261m Investment Inflow in Four Years

South-East States Record $1.89bn External Debt, $261m Investment Inflow in Four Years

July 07, (THEWILL) – Nigeria’s five south-east states accumulated a total of $1.89 billion external debt in four years, between 2020 and 2023; but recorded a paltry $261.6 million foreign investment during the period,

The south-east region comprises Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states.

Data from the Debt Management Office (DMO) and National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that the states’ combined external debt jumped by 14.1 percent from $428.3 million in 2022 to $489 million as of December 31, 2023.


Enugu state has the highest external debt stock of $494.72 million and recorded zero foreign investment during the period.

The reports showed Anambra in the second position of the zone’s external debt portfolio with $429.6 million during the review period. However, the state recorded a foreign investment of $51.48 million during the reference period.

Abia’s external debt amounts to $381.24 million, however, it recorded the highest foreign investment of $210.12 million among the south-east states during the four-year period.

The DMO data showed that Imo’s external debt position was $308.22 million but the state recorded zero investment inflow during the period. Similarly, Ebonyi which recorded the least external debt of $283.7 million had no capital inflow to the economy during the period.

A further study of the reports showed that Abia attracted its highest foreign investment within four months of Dr Alex Otti’s tenure as governor from May 29, 2023.

Although Abia is among the few Nigerian states that attract foreign investment to their economies on a fairly regular basis, the state never attracted capital inflow to the tune of $150.09 million within three months, as was the case in Q3 2023 under Otti.

By that outstanding feat, Abia came third after Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FTC) Abuja in capital importation destinations during Q3 2023.

The report further revealed that Abia and Anambra remained investment destinations among the south-east states, while investors shunned the other three – Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi.

That of Imo was most disappointing. Despite housing the largest natural gas reserves in West Africa, and significant crude oil deposits, Imo attracted zero foreign investment in four years, between 2020 and 2023.

The NBS reports showed that, after recording $3 million in 2019, Imo had no dime to its name by way of investment inflow to the state during the four years. Imo was also the only oil-producing state that attracted no foreign investment for the period. The situation did not change in the Q1 2024 report by the NBS.

Among the five south-east states, Anambra and Abia achieved a total of $51.48 million and $210.12 million, respectively in four years (Abia had received a cumulative of $60.03 million from 2020 to 2022.) .

Commenting on Imo’s potential energy wealth, former Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, said Nigeria has nearly 300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, ranking 9th in the world, with Imo holding the largest reserves amongst all.

“Imo state with 200 trillion cubic feet of gas deposits should be set for economic boom”, Sylva said during a visit to Governor Hope Uzodinma in Owerri in April 2019.

“Governor Otti is on a fast lane and has proved in practical terms that he has not come to tell stories like what his predecessors in office did. Matching words with action is the way to go. You will soon see Abia and Anambra ahead of the other south-east states” said Clifford Okoro, a Lagos-based investment analyst from Abia.

Governor Otti on January 18, 2024, inaugurated the Abia Global Economic Advisory Council, with a charge to evolve initiatives that are focused on identifying, capitalising and showcasing the state’s area of comparative advantage.

Speaking during the event, Otti said the calibre of individuals that make up the council speaks to the state’s vision.

The governor added that this development had sent a strong signal to potential investors that “Abia is poised to become the next big thing.”

The states have various mineral deposits in commercial sizes that could boost their economy if the enabling environment exists in the country, and the states show commitment to diversify their source of revenue.

Enugu is rich in coal deposits of a commercial magnitude that could transform it to a modern New Castle. The state also abounds in lead, zinc and limestone.

Anambra is an oil and gas producing state and harbours mineral deposits like clay, glass-sand, gypsum, iron-ore, lead/zinc, lignite, limestone, phosphate and salt.

Aside from crude oil and natural gas, Imo has calcium carbonate, solar wind power and zinc. Its integrated oil palm plantation and one of the largest in Nigeria, Adapalm Limited, has fizzled into a redundant facility due to mismanagement, corruption and ‘bad politics’.

In Ebonyi, granite, salt, limestone, lead and zinc are among the mineral deposits found in the area. The NBS reports showed little evidence of foreign investors’ interest in the zone despite the huge oil and gas and other mineral deposits in the area, which their leaders have flaunted as a unique selling point in their global throttle for foreign investors.

About the Author

Sam Diala is a Bloomberg Certified Financial Journalist with over a decade of experience in reporting Business and Economy. He is Business Editor at THEWILL Newspaper, and believes that work, not wishes, creates wealth.

Sam Diala, THEWILL
Sam Diala is a Bloomberg Certified Financial Journalist with over a decade of experience in reporting Business and Economy. He is Business Editor at THEWILL Newspaper, and believes that work, not wishes, creates wealth.

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