By Chukwuemeka Eze
On Monday March 10, 2014, Mr. Peter Obi, governor of Anambra state for eight years, bowed out from office, succeeded by Dr. Willie Obiano at an impressive ceremony witnessed by thousands of people from all parts of the country and Nigerians in the Diaspora. The former governor, after inspecting a guard of honour mounted by the police, made a valedictory speech in which he expressed happiness that Anambra had returned to what it should to be. Describing his successor as lucky, the former governor recalled that after his swearing in, in 2006, there was no office for him to move into and no official car for him, adding that his successor was lucky to have them in place. He also said that Obiano assumed office at a time the state was financially stable and appealed to the people of Anambra State to give the new governor their full support.
Prior to the hand over, Obi had disclosed that he left N75 billion in the Anambra state treasury. That was at the presentation of his report card to the people of the state at the Women Development Centre, Awka. The former governor said it was due to prudent fiscal management and governance that he was able to achieve so much during his tenure. The event had in attendance notable personalities from across the country. Obi further said he invested $155 million (N26 billion), and that the state had a bank balance of N11.5 billion. Other sources of income were Federal Government approved refund of N10 billion. There was also N620 billion allocation from Federal government whilst donor agencies provided N20 billion.
However, last week Friday, March 28, 2014, the new Governor of Anambra state Willie Obiano, debunked Obi’s claim. It was at a meeting he held with captains of industry from his state at the government House, Awka.
Obiano reportedly told them that the state was in dire need of funds and requested for financial support to enable him run the affairs of the state. According to those that attended the meeting, Obiano needs some billions of naira to tackle immediate needs of the state such as purchase of about 200 security vehicles, security gadgets, rehabilitation of state –owned hospitals and educational institutions. According to one of the guests, “we were shocked when Obiano told us that he invited us to the meeting to raise funds for the state. In fact, he said the sate was in dire need of funds and that contrary to statements credited to Peter Obi, Anambra state government does not have money to run state affairs. Obiano even told us that the government could not afford to pay for a security gadget worth $2million (about N300million) and had to borrow the gadget from Cross River state. That shows you how bad the situation is after Obi left the seat”. Going by Obiano’s statement, one wonders how a state with vast potentials like Anambra could be broke to the extent that the state government could not afford a paltry N300million. This is a shame, great shame and there is need to investigate what went wrong so as to separate truth from fiction. In this case, between Obi and Obiano who is telling the truth? There is no doubt that Peter Obi did well in office but leaving the state treasury empty is unimaginable.
During his tenure, 801 roads were constructed. Governor Obi changed the face of the state’s tertiary and secondary institutions, built a state of the Art Library, the Jerome Udoji Secretariat, the ultra modernAnambra State University Teaching Hospital (Amaku), other hospitals and health institutions, Local government Council Secretariats, cleared pension arrears and employed thousands of youths as well as handed-over 1040 schools to original owners.
On his part, Obiano has announced plans to embark on people-oriented projects such as equipping and modernizing existing state-owned schools and hospitals, build additional roads, provide basic infrastructures, robust industrialization and expansion of major cities such as Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi by developing master plans for each city (which presently do not exist), tackle security in the state and many more. He can only achieve these if there are sufficient funds.
With the disturbing discordant tunes on the true position of Anambra state’s finances, It is expedient to call on the Auditor-General of the State and the State Assembly to rise up to the occasion by instituting forensic audit of the state treasure, this will include determining if many of the dummy cheques allegedly presented to several organizations by Obi were actually redeemed. Take it or leave it, until the mystery surrounding the N75billion is revealed, Anambrarians would continue to hold Obiano liable for the fund and other financial commitments made by the previous administration.
Chukwuemeka Eze, public analyst writes from Awka, Anambra state