Why Governor Obiano took on Peter Obi over disputed N75b handover

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Why Governor Obiano took on Peter Obi over disputed N75b handover

Why Governor Obiano took on Peter Obi over disputed N75b handover
December 12
11:55 2015

According to SaharaReporters, three senior officials of the Anambra State Government have revealed why Governor Willie Obiano’s administration was compelled to take to the media to correct the widely held impression that former Governor Peter Obi bequeathed N75 billion in cash to his successor. “Governor Obiano came into office singularly focused on restoring an atmosphere of general security in a state ravaged by armed robbery and kidnappings. And he was able to achieve this critical goal within a short time,” one state official told our correspondent.

He said Mr. Obiano “regarded the security of lives and property as the groundwork needed to pursue his other agenda of attracting investment, boosting agriculture and agro-businesses, and investing in infrastructural development across the state,” adding that the administration soon realized that “the erroneous but widely trumpeted impression that he [Governor Obiano] had received a cash bequest of N75 billion from his predecessor had become a mischievous tool in the hands of certain interests opposed to progress in the state.”

Another state official revealed that Governor Obiano finally okayed exposing the falsehood of the N75 billion cash handover when it dawned on him that the financial misinformation “was hampering the state’s ability to enter into meaningful and good faith negotiations with contractors when the contractors were insisting that they had been told that the state had a stash of cash left behind by the former governor.”

“Imagine a situation where traditional rulers, labor union leaders, contractors and other stake holders would ask His Excellency, Governor Obiano, why is he not willing to spend freely when his administration is known to be sitting on N75 billion left by former Governor Obi,” another source stated. He added, “So it became imperative and prudent that the governor reveal the true state of finances his administration inherited. It is a duty he owes to the good people of the state.”

On November 14, 2015, the Secretary to the Anambra State Government, Solo Chukwulobelu, gave reporters a breakdown of former Governor Obi’s financial handover note to Governor Obiano. At the briefing, Mr. Chukwulobelu revealed that Mr. Obi had furnished his successor with N9 billion in cash, a far cry from N75 billion that was widely reported in the media and circulated in social media circles.

Mr. Chukwulobelu and other state officials disclosed that the balance of what former Governor Obi handed over included a N26.5 billion in Eurobond the Obi administration had bought shortly before its tenure ended, a N9 billion non-tradable equity deducted from the state’s Federation Account to fund Nigeria’s Independent Power Projects, as well as a number of long-term investments, some of them in teething stages. The investments include Orient Petroleum Resources; Onitsha and Agulu Lake Hotels; three shopping malls located in Onitsha, Nnewi, and the state capital, Awka; shares in Intafact Beverages Limited, brewers of Hero Lager, and business parks in Onitsha.

The clarification set off a fierce exchange on Nigerian television, newspapers, and social media, with aides and supporters of former Governor Obi accusing his successor of bad faith.

But officials of the incumbent administration defended their move, arguing that Mr. Obi’s cohorts had deliberately planted misleading data about the size of the cash he left at the end of his tenure in March 2014.

According to one state official, the long-term, non-earning assets Mr. Obi handed over to his successor amount to N22.73 billion, or 30% of the ostensible N75 billion. According to Willie Nwokoye, Principal Secretary to Governor Obiano, “seven out of the 13 long-term assets are uncompleted yet; they therefore cannot begin to earn cash until they are completed.”

One financial asset listed in Mr. Obi’s handover note “a N1.5 billion computation of the State’s share of the Excess Crude Account contributed as capital to the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Fund in 2010,” said Mr. Nwokoye, adding, “At best, this can be regarded as a State Reserve Fund, a kind of saving for the rainy day. It is not realizable yet into cash.”

Other assets listed by Mr. Obi to arrive at N75 billion included N2.48 billion in state contributions to Funds held by Federal financial institutions and meant for disbursement as soft loans to small-scale businesses in Anambra, and N10 billion spent by the state on the rehabilitation of Federal roads in Anambra. According to Mr. Obiano’s Principal Secretary, “the verified figure has risen to N25 billion” after the current governor made the case with the relevant Federal agencies. “This is pure and plain IOU by the Federal Government, which can conceivably be cash available to Governor Obiano only when it is refunded by the Federal Government,” said Mr. Nwokoye.

One of the state officials told SaharaReporters that, while some interests had seen fit to spread the misleading information that Mr. Obi handed over N75 billion in cash, “the same people failed to tell the public that the former governor left his successor the financial burden of finding money to pay for N185 billion for contracts awarded by Governor Obi, some of them in the last hours of his tenure.”

The official stated that Mr. Obiano’s administration had so far paid N35 billion on projects inherited from Mr. Obi.
Asked whether the media brouhaha generated by the state government’s clarification on the issue of cash handover signaled a feud between the former and incumbent governors, Mr. Nwokoye said that was not the case. “Governor Obiano is not one to waste precious time on unproductive political wars,” he said. “He felt he owed it to the people of the state to avail them of the true picture of things. But his passion remains to sustain the atmosphere of security, expand the state’s agro-business, and position the economy to generate jobs to the youth to waste time. That’s where he’s investing his time and energy.”

  • SaharaReporters

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