|Ex Governor Peter Obi|
Following sustained attempts by politicians of underworld to blacken the towering image of Anambra State and her people over the outstanding leadership qualities and legacy shown and left by immediate governor of the State, Mr. Peter Obi, especially as it concerns public finances and their management, the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law has re-visited the state of finances contained in Mr. Obi’s public stewardship account and handover note. While information contained in his public stewardship account was made public, that contained in his statutory handover note was sought by our leadership through friendly and Freedom of Information Act premises.
Introduction: Mr. Peter Obi governed Anambra State democratically from 17th March, 2006 to 17th March, 2014. Nine days to his handover, on 8th of March, 2014, to be precise, he publicly gave the account of his stewardship and presented a “blue book” containing many tangible and intangible projects he executed in office. One of the findings we made after perusing the contents of his “blue book” stewardship account, which is in the public domain with provable indexes, is that not all his completed projects are captured. The highlight of his stewardship presentation was his thunderous announcement of a surplus cash and investment balances of “N75 billion” for the State. This, being clearly unheard of in recent times in Nigeria, or any part thereof, made some never-do-well citizens including failed politicians unsettled. As a result, faceless groups and other malicious individuals were hired and recruited to place adverts in newspapers claiming that Mr. Peter Obi’s public stewardship account was a fiction.
Among indisputable and provable achievements associated with Mr. Peter Obi’s glorious administration were tarring and completion of over 800 kilometers of Trunk B & C roads, reconstruction of a number of strategic Federal roads on “ reconstruct and be reimbursed” basis, construction and completion of over 25 large and medium scale bridges, attraction of a number of strategic Federal projects to the State and the Southeast zone, which include Akanu Ibiam International Airport, commencement of work on Second Niger Bridge and construction of Onitsha- Nkpor Flyover.
Other provably completed projects of the former Obi’s administration are procurement and distribution of over 1, 700 vehicles to important organizations including security agencies, missionary, public and private schools and hospitals, distribution of over N20 billion saved since 2006 to organizations above named, distribution of 22, 000 computers and laptops, 1000 distribution transformers and hundreds of industrial generators to schools, hospitals and communities, reconstruction of various dilapidated public and missionary schools and hospitals, transformation and upgrading of a hitherto “glorified secondary school” called “Anambra State University” to befitting “Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University” and a number of State owned tertiary hospitals and schools with full accreditation of their key programs.
Mr. Peter Obi’s celebrated records in the area of “intangible projects” include his ingenuity and masterfulness in resources mobilization and less reliance on statutory allocations and raising of bonds or engaging in public borrowings, payment and liquidation of pension and gratuity arrears owed State and LGA serving and retired workers amounting to over N35 billion accumulated since 1995, reduction of the State’s previous debts from over N20 billion in 2006 to N10.7 billion as at December 31, 2013, restoration of decency and tolerance in politics of the State and invention of “economic governance” approach as against “political governance” approach.
Issuance of stewardship account in public governance under democracy and its provable scrutiny are not only important, but also a fundamental yardstick to measure the performance index of elected public office holders. Our archive vividly recalls that in March 2006, when the Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal, removed Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige as Anambra governor, he hurriedly issued a public statement saying that he left a staggering sum of N12.8 billion in the State coffers. Thorough checks that followed immediately after, revealed that unpaid certificates for projects completed by contractors amounted to N9 billion. When deducted from the cash balance, the actual cash left in the State coffers was N3.8 billion. It was further found that arrears of gratuities, pensions and salaries amounting to billions of naira were owed. There was also over N20 billion public domestic and foreign debts inherited from the Mbadinuju’s disastrous administration. In other words, the state of finance under Ngige, just like under Mbadinuju, was in huge deficit amounting to tens of billions of naira.
Our Investigation Of Peter Obi’s Credit Balances: Under the Freedom of Information Act of the Federation 2011, the corporate and private citizens’ right to seek and obtain public information from the constituted authorities for public interest is ensured. To this end, investigation of Mr. Peter Obi’s public stewardship account was recently carried out by our leadership. Provable facts at our disposal gathered from the investigation showed that as at Monday, 17th of March, 2014, the total investments and cash left for Anambra State amounted to N86, 665, 985, 574,066 (eighty six billion, six hundred & sixty five million, nine hundred & eighty five thousand, sixty six kobo). This alters the former governor’s earlier public declaration of N75 billion, which was made nine days to his handover date of 17th day of March, 2014. The latest investigated figure was arrived at after final updates and addition of cash left by ministries, departments and MDGs as well as certified bank balances.
In the course of our investigation under reference, we saw signed documents from heads of respective ministries and departments certifying the credit balances with banks domiciling them. We also saw certified bank accounts backing the cash balances including Fidelity, Access and Diamond Banks certified documents containing the dollar bonds of $156M or N26.5B bought by Anambra State, which includes their procurement and due dates together with expected accrued interests. We saw the statutory handover note of the former governor to his successor where all the fiscal and investment data were contained.
The highlight and striking thing we found in the course of our investigation is that no serving and retired civil servant salaries, pensions and gratuities both at the State and Local Government levels were outstanding as at 17th of March, 2014. This corroborated calls we received from some aggrieved LGA staff retirees approximately one month to the handover date (17/03/2014). The said aggrieved LGA retirees were afraid that since their names got missing from the compiled list of retirees, they might not be included in Obi’s pension and gratuity liquidation of arrears’ “final push”. Few weeks after, they called us to inform us that they were part of the last liquidation of LGA pension and gratuity arrears, amounting to N2.3 billion after the omission of their names was rectified. In the area of State contractors’ payment warrants or certificates, we found that under Mr. Obi’s policy of ‘be paid as you execute or complete’, all certificates bearing ‘completed projects’ were fully crosschecked and paid. Under the policy, contractors are not paid for jobs not completed. This explains why they now work in phases and get paid in phases. As a matter of fact, payment of contractual certificates for public projects completed, amounting to N5 billion, was cleared as at 17th day of March, 2014. It is a standing policy in the State of Anambra State, according to our investigation, that public contractors are not paid for jobs not completed.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk