More Fiction than Reality: Anambra’s Purported ‘Golden’ Finances and Grand Legacy of the Obi Era, By Fidelis Nwangwu
…it cannot be a true claim that former Governor Peter Obi left a N75 billion cash surplus for the administration of his successor, Governor Willie Obiano. The truth of the matter is obvious in that he refrained from paying contractors and ended up bequeathing a N127 billion debt for Obiano. He rather saved about N35 billion, which properly ought to have gone into paying his contractors…
On March 17, 2014, former Governor Peter Obi handed over the mantle of leadership of Anambra State to Obiano who he campaigned for and convinced Ndi Anambra to vote for in the November 2013 elections. He also set up a handover committee which deliberated on his handover note. As a succession within the same party, the transition between the two governors was reasonably and professionally done.
However, as evidence of some sort of falling out, barely three months after the handover, Obi decided to commence a campaign to tarnish the image of the newly installed governor. His pronouncements were a shock to all and called for a lot of tact from Obiano, given that Obi was not only his predecessor but was also from the same party, and had indeed campaigned for Obiano. All efforts to mend the relationship and make it remain cordial failed. It is alleged that the fractious relationship came by as Obiano had gotten under Obi’s skin by refusing to throw Anambra State into further debt by releasing the N7.5 billion demanded by Obi as his refund for the campaign expenses which brought Obiano into the government house. Could this be the source of the intrigues and lies that has riven these two apart? Maybe there is need to examine some of the issues involved as we go into the election season in the state, in order for the electorate to be adequately informed and avoid falling for political shenanigans and thereby making erroneous decision on the election day.
In terms of the purported N75 billion bequeathed to the Obiano Administration, some of the issues have been unpacked, as laid out below:
- In terms of the finances, the Obiano administration has it on record that the previous administration left liabilities in excess of N127 billion for it to settle, hence unfairly burdening the newer government as against the information of surplus being put out in the past several months. A key part of the campaign was what the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) called the 3Cs. One of the Cs is Continuity and another is Completion, while the last is Commencement. In other words, Peter Obi had committed that Obiano would continue his projects and complete them on resumption of office. In line with this, Obi left 101 roads uncompleted, several unfinished power projects, hotels, etc. If we use just these three classes of projects, we will find that Obi left net liabilities of well over N100 billion;
- Road works worth over N127 billion were left (originally N185 billion, of which he had only paid N58 billion), made up of 101 roads, of which Obiano has completed 51 within three-and-a-half years and progressed to between 60 and 75 percent on the remaining 50 roads.
- Hotels, shopping malls and power projects Obi started but failed to complete have gulped an additional N5 billion from the current administration in the spirit of continuity;
Table: List of investments handed over totalling N75 billion (largely non-cash and some are investments older than the Obi administration)
|S/N||LOCAL CURRENCY INVESTMENTS||AMOUNT||CLARIFICATION|
|1.||Nigeria Independent Power Projects||N9.0 billion||This programme was conceived in 2004 by the Obasanjo administration. The Federation account was charged to fund this initiative. This is a independent investment with no individual consent whatsoever required from the Anambra State Government.|
|2.||Orient Petroleum Resources Plc||N4.0 billion||Land resources of Anambra State Government, valued at approximately N2.23 billion and cash investment of N1.77 billion.
Specifically, Dr. Chris Ngige invested N100 million in this project and issued a C of O for the land acquisitions. H.E. Virgy Etiaba invested N1.17 billion in the project, while H.E. Peter Obi disbursed N750 million and converted the above-mentioned land into shareholding in Orient Petroleum Plc.
|3.||Onitsha Hotel, Onitsha||N1.0 billion||N1.0 billion was paid to the contractor on this project by the past administration as at handover in March 2014.
The current administration concessioned the project to a reputable real estate development company, Cardinal Developers. The company will complete the Hotel, build a 2,000 seater convention centre and luxury apartment estates. Current economic realities and the naira devaluation have heavily impeded progress on this development.
|4.||Agulu Lake Hotel, Agulu||N1.0 billion||N1.0 billion was paid to the contractor on this project by the past administration as at handover in March 2014.
The current administration has settled certificates totaling N2.55 billion till date on this project. The government has also secured a partnership with a world-class operator, Golden Tulip, to manage the operations of the hotel. The hotel is scheduled to open for business in November 2017 (later this year).
|5.||Awka Shopping Mall, Awka||N0.9 billion||N0.9 billion was paid to the contractor on this project by the past administration as at handover in March 2014.
About N1.0 billion in contract certificates has been settled by the current administration till date. Project design was also amended to include a cinema in the shopping mall. The State, while finalising agreements with Genesis Deluxe Cinemas and Spar to serve as anchor tenants, is exploring PPP options to complete the mall and manage its operations.
|6.||Nnewi Shopping Mall, Nnewi||N0.6 billion||Amount paid to contractor as initial mobilisation for shopping mall construction.
About N860m in contract certificates have been settled by the current administration till date. The State is finalising agreements with Spar and Dubai-based entertainment companies to serve as anchor tenants while simultaneously exploring PPP options for completion and management of its operations.
|7.||Onitsha Shopping Mall, Onitsha||N1.0 billion||It is pertinent to note that Africa Capital Alliance is the financial investor on this project.
The previous administration contributed the former Anambra Broadcasting Service land to the project’s special purpose vehicle in exchange for a 25 percent equity stake. No actual cash was invested by Anambra State in this project.
|8.||Intafact Beverages Limited||N3.5 billion||Till date, Anambra State has invested N1.9 billion in the company. The last administration invested about N1.4 billion.
While the current administration invested N540 million as part of a rights issue exercise to finance expansion plans in April, 2014. No further investments were made by Anambra State Government in Intafact Breweries. This figure is said to be a discrepancy and that needs to be revised to N1.97 billion.
|9.||Onitsha Business Park I||N300 million||During the last administration, ANSG via the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Commerce built a commercial real estate development in Onitsha at a cost of N300 million.|
|10.||Onitsha Business Park II||N300 million||During the last administration, ANSG, via the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Commerce, awarded a contract to build another commercial real estate development in Onitsha at a cost of N300 million. This project has been completed during the current administration.
|11.||Anambra State Independent Power Generating Company Limited||N250 million||The sum of N250m was paid to the project developers, Denca Resources to serve as ANSG’s investment in a proposed 400MW project in Ogbaru, Anambra State.
After numerous attempts to engage representatives of Denca Resources, the Company eventually honoured the State’s invitation to the Executive Council briefing. The project is under review by ANSIPPA and its execution is currently experiencing significant delays as a result of the slowdown in the economy.
|12.||E-Force Limited||N126m||During the last administration, ANSG via the Ministry of Agriculture paid N126 million to E-Force Limited. This sum represents 20 percent of the cost of 100 tractors from Belarus. E-force Limited provided remainder 80 percent.|
|13.||Emenite Limited||N750 million||Emenite Limited is a leading manufacturer of fibre cement roofing and ceiling products. Dr. The Hon. M. I. Okpara, erstwhile Premier of the Eastern Nigeria, invested in Emenite Limited in October, 1961. In 1993, during the creation of States in Nigeria, 16.5 percent equity stake was allocated to Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Imo states.
No additional monies were invested by the subsequent administrations.
|14.||Quoted Investments Portfolio||N350 million||Current value of the equity portfolio is approximately N300 million given the current decline in stock prices on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.|
|15.||NSIA Anambra State Contribution (State and Local Government)||N1.5 billion||This programme was conceived in 2010 by Musa Yaradua’s administration. The Excess Crude Account (which forms part of the Federation A/c) converted into the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund. The Federal, all 36 States and 774 Local governments are shareholders of the NSIA.
An involuntary investment with no individual consent whatsoever required from the State.
|16.||Investment with Bank of Industry to Support SMEs in Anambra State||N500 million||Counterpart funds (with BOI) for SME facility. Ministry of Industry, Trade & Commerce.
Not an Investment.
|17.||Investment to Support Micro Credit Bank in Anambra State||N500 million||Counterpart funds (with BOI) for SME facility. Ministry of Industry, Trade & Commerce.
Not an Investment and 0 percent chance of recovery given the disbursement structure and criteria.
|18.||Investment with Bank of Agriculture to Support credit to Anambra Farmers||N480 million||Counterpart funds (with BOA) for Anambra Farmers facility via the Ministry of Agriculture.
Not an Investment.
|19.||Commercial Agriculture Scheme||N1.0 billion||Funds borrowed from the Federal Government for on-lending to farmers in the State via the Ministry of Agriculture and All Farmers Association of Nigeria (ALFAN), Anambra Chapter. Not an Investment and 0 percent chance of recovery given the disbursement structure and criteria.|
|20.||Foreign Currency Investments (US$155 million)||N26.5 billion||During the final months of the last administration, the State invested a total of US$155 million (N26.5 billion) in Eurobonds and other foreign denominated securities held with Access Bank, Fidelity Bank and Diamond Bank. Given the loss in market value incurred between 2014-2015, the current administration appointed a reputable investment banking firm, Afrinvest West Africa Limited, to professionally manage the entire investment portfolio.
The State is said to have liquidated securities worth approximately N10 billion to settle certificates arising from inherited projects from the past administration.
|21.||FGN Approved Refund||N10.0 billion||This sum represents ‘Approved Refunds’ by Federal Government for State funds spent on Federal-owned roads across the State. Today, the figure certified by the Federal Government amounts to N43.8 billion incorporating road works done by the previous administration and the Obiano administration.
Extensive discussions are ongoing between the State and the Federal Government regarding a full or a phased out settlement of the N43.8 billion refunds.
|22.||Expected Bank Balances as at 31 December, 2013||N11.5 billion||December, 2013 balance. However, the State’s cash balance in March, 2014 (upon handover) was approximately N9.0 billion.|
|Grand Total Local and Foreign Investments, Refunds and Bank Balances||N75.0 billion||
Hence, from the foregoing it can be seen that the declaration of a cash surplus of N75 billion as funds bequeathed to the Obiano administration in the impression given to the generality of the public is not plausible and cannot be a fully true claim. The purported cash left by Governor Obi are investments made in shares, hotel projects, shopping malls, etc. Also, some of the items termed as investments were counterpart funding, such as that with the Bank of Industry (BOI) as a SME facility. In addition, some of the items routinely referred to were investments made even before Governor Obi was born, such as that in Emenite made by the Premier of Eastern Nigeria then. One then seems to wonder why anyone would consciously and continuously made claims that are more fictional than real, if not as a deliberate attempt to settle political point in a cheap and unethical manner.
Another aspect is that which seems to pertain to the issue of a $155 million bond. On the face of it, this appears like a very prudent thing to have done. However, a year after the Obi administration left office, the value of those bonds dropped below the value when invested. It would have been best if that government had made the investment with expert advice, which the current administration is said to have now done to help assure value from the investment. Having said this, the previous Obi government handed over more liabilities than this $155 million bonds/asset. A look at the balance sheet he left behind will show that he left the state in the red (if we were to ensure that the 3Cs strategy was upheld).
The focus on ensuring that many of the projects handed over were concluded, while others are still continuing means that bills and liabilities were actually inherited. And from Anambra State’s balance sheet, the State is actually in red, as there are now more debts to pay than the cash or ‘near cash’ left behind. Issuing from the foregoing, as such, even all the bonds left by the previous administration were sold, the funds generated would not be enough to pay all the present debt overhang on the roads, hotels, shopping malls, etc ., left behind. Even then, it was quite unfortunate that contractors were denied their pay to save money in bonds, which constitutes another level of mismanagement of public funds that needs to be examined more thoroughly to unearth the reasons for this.
Rather than complain about the huge liability left by the Obi administration, the Willie Obiano government appears to have taken the gauntlet by finding ways of paying the bills via increasing the State’s IGR to meet the liability left by Obi.
Finally, it would appear that former Governor Obi’s style of saving and spending own money cost the state a lot. The ability to attract other people’s money is a trait of an enterprising leadership, with Governor Obiano having attracted over $5.5 billion through private sector investments, while others never rose beyond the incestuous ‘productivity’ of drawing largely federal funds (FAAC), which required no thinking out of the box method of public financial management. Also, the monies saved by the erstwhile administration were meant to have been used to pay contractors or complete projects in a manner that injects cash into the state and grows the economy from the upsurge of activities, as is presently happening.
Anambra is noted to have grown at over 14 percent per annum in the first two years of the present administration, whereas the Nigerian federation grew at about 6 to 7 percent. Indeed when the country was in recession, the state grew at about 1 percent. This is noted to have come to pass as a result of strategies involving a pragmatic mix of spending on economic pillars with the private sector, on enablers aligned to the focused economic pillars and dramatic growth in the State’s IGR. More appears to have been done with less, and from the previous administration’s IGR of N17 billion, this has grown over 100 percent to about N40billion.
As shown in the foregoing, it cannot be a true claim that former Governor Peter Obi left a N75 billion cash surplus for the administration of his successor, Governor Willie Obiano. The truth of the matter is obvious in that he refrained from paying contractors and ended up bequeathing a N127 billion debt for Obiano. He rather saved about N35 billion, which properly ought to have gone into paying his contractors and expanding the fortunes of the Anambra economy.
When one checks the status of the State, there is indeed no comparison between the two administration, except where lies are told. For instance, the claim that Obiano abandoned all projects cannot be true, and indeed Obiano appears to have spent more on Obi’s projects. The Agulu Lake hotel on which Obi expended huge resurces, has gulped a further N2.55 billion from the current administration. Mr. Peter Obi is from Agulu. And, if a successor can spend so much on a hotel in his predecessor’s town, it goes to show that he is definitely focused on the good of the State and the 3Cs strategy. I believe he should be applauded for this, rather than having fictional tales circulated about him.
Fidelis Nwangwu, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.