Did Peter Obi Mean To Say N75 Million?
It was a tale that aroused curiosity each time it was told. Officially, Anambra State is not yet an oil producing state and thus, does not benefit from the 13% mineral derivation fund. Nor does Anambra belong to the premier league of federation account recipients such as Kano, Katsina, and Lagos – with lopsided number of local government areas and high population respectively.
Then given the low tone of governance and public service in the country, interest was stirred with the announcement that outgoing Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi was bequeathing an asset of N75b in cash and investments to his successor, Willie Obiano.
Even as Obi would qualify to be counted among the above average in Nigerian leadership, the unfortunate trend of predecessors in government leaving their successors piles of debt, somewhat sobered the reception of the Anambra N75b tale. A legacy of N53b local and foreign currency investment, complemented with 11.5b bank balance, as the story went, was impressive by Nigerian standards. And so, naturally, the glow of the subject invited closer attention. Anambra State long in the news for its brand of socio – political crisis was seen by critics not to have realized its potential for development in the eight years of Peter Obi’s governorship. The assessment tends to gain weight in the face of the N75 b claim.
If Mr Peter Obi could mobilize funds to the value of N75 b towards the tail end of his tenure, for the use of his successor, it naturally followed that the period of his active service would have witnessed greater liquidity. If this were to be the case, how come that the administration left Awka the state capital barren, impoverished and in tatters? Does it sound plausible that a regime that took pride in paying workers in the public sector – political appointees and career staff alike - minimal wages would elect to handover significant monetary assets? If the administration was financially resourceful as put out, it is legitimate to wonder as former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Chukwuma Soludo observed, that Obi was unable to leave any landmark project – except perhaps for Amaku Teaching Hospital - in all of his eight year reign.
Doubts over the N75 billion legacy have been substantiated with the revelations by the Secretary to Anambra State Government, Solo Chukwulobelu at a press conference on November 14, 2015. The submissions of the SSG were to the effect that the inherited cash balance of the state in March 2014 was N9b while actual investments by the previous administration stood at N35.5b. It is important to note that the template used by the present administration in defining the value of what was passed on to it at inception is exactly the provisions of former governor Peter Obi’s handover notes. Chukwulobelu, on behalf of the Obiano regime, merely presented its findings on the points of the handover notes. In other words, the Anambra State Government under Obiano re – presented Obi’s handover notes with comments on listed items, showing about N30b unaccounted for or without satisfactory explanation.
The response from the former governor’s camp initially consisted in restating correctness of the disputed handover figure, questioning the motive behind scrutinizing the document now and calling for a committee of accountants to wade into the issue. A second round of reactions seemed more deliberate, more calculated and designed to appeal to sentiments. In one breadth, there was an affectation of superiority that held in contempt the option of hurling bricks; a promise of statesmanship that pledged commitment to nurturing of the state and in another a resort to wild allegations intended to incite the people against the Government.
While on the face of it, the call for review of the contentious handover package by financial experts from Ananbra State sounds lofty, the suggestion is misplaced, unnecessary and diversionary. There are some specific issues in the handover notes that are irreconcilable to the doctrine of investment the outgone regime claimed to have made for the state. The status of these items in terms of their categories, definition and value are as clear as broad daylight that they do not require any further interpretation for comprehension. By largely ignoring these self – evident parameters that contradict the N75b figure in their reactions, the Obi camp betrayed the porosity of its defence.
What clarification is demonstrated in the divide in which it is stated clearly in the handover note that the state’s bank balances as at December 31 2013 stood at N11.5b only to declare at the unveiling of the documents’ deficits that N37 b was left in the treasury? No meaningful purpose is served brandishing supposedly bank statements on television when the declared balance and confirmed deposit say otherwise. Is the Peter Obi constituency owning up to the unreliability of the handover figures? This is true of the actual cash situation as it is of some other items because it is established that in the period from January to March 17, 2014, the stated N11.5b was drawn down to approximately N9b, the very sum inherited by the Obiano administration.
The sum of N3.5b quoted in the handover papers as investment in Intafact Beverages Limited, manufacturers of the Hero brand, is simply false. To date, Anambra State has invested N1.9b in the company, broken down to N1.4 by the Obi administration and N540m by the Obiano government. The status cum value of stock instruments is easily verifiable from the Registrar of Securities. No one needs a committee of accountants to confirm the standing of the investment.
There should also be no controversy about the ineligibility of including the Nigeria Independent Power Project valued at N9b in a document intended to list investments undertaken by the Peter Obi regime. The above named investment was initiated and executed by the federal government as a national venture involving the central government and the 36 states. The consent of the states was taken for granted. A proper handover note should have distinguished between other investments, carry – over investments and the investments initiated by the Obi regime. The underlining terms are the Obi administration’s investment handover notes. Anything to the contrary would be misleading as in the present case. For similar reasons, President Muhammadu Buhari for the umpteenth time criticized former President Jonathan’s handover notes as vague and unhelpful [The Nation, Tuesday, November 17, 2015.] The argument of the Peter Obi camp that the principle of handover admits voluntary and involuntary investments self defeats as the list is not exhaustive of the state’s equity holdings. Anambra State has stakes in Nigercem Company, Nkalagu and estates in Enugu, Lagos and Abuja. Why were these not included in the handover list in the standard of all receivables?
It amounts to playing on the intelligence of Ndi Anambra to say that the previous administration ploughed N1b into the Onitsha Shopping Mall when no such payment was made. What is being presented as investment of Anambra State’s funds is no more than the conversion of the state’s land to 15% equity stake. For the avoidance of doubt, Africa Capital Alliance is the financial investor of the venture.
In the peculiar world of Obi’s investment bonanza, loans advanced to farmers and small scale entrepreneurs by federal institutions such as Bank of Agriculture and Bank of Industry qualify to be declared as investment by his regime. The disbursements for these private schemes are approximately N2.4b. Is the state government entitled to a share of the profits therein? You wonder, we wonder.
The entries on Emenite Limited and Orient Petroleum Resources Limited are also misrepresentations of the facts on ground. In both cases, there is an unspoken ascription to the Obi regime of investments by other administrations. One need not highlight all the instances of misinformation.
The alarm on this disingenuous handover note was sounded very early at the beginning of Obiano’s tenure. Two advertorials, ‘Mr PETER OBII’s N75B LEGACY: FACT OR FICTION [The Nation, Tuesday, April 1, 2014] and ‘THE DUBIOUS DEMAND FOR REFUND OF N7B ELECTION EXPENSES [The Nation, Friday, April 11, 2014], were quite revealing. If it had taken the Obiano regime eighteen months to engage publicly on the subject, it means this is not a precipitate action or witch hunt. Governor Adams Oshiomhole is all set to initiate a probe of Lucky Igbinedion’s regime after seven years in office.