Opinion: In caution of an Emperor and his penchant for fiscal irresponsibility

By Chukwunonso Ezeani

Beyond the impression of a fiscally buoyant state bling bling Governor, Dr. Willie Obiano of Anambra State would normally sell, plenty new facts indicate that concerted efforts are made on regular basis to conceal the actual financial state of affairs of that State.

In fact, very few persons, including senior government officials can suggest that the financial state of affairs of Anambra State is impressive. Where few dishonest state officials attempt to offer what may pass as explanation which touch on slush deals that happen in government house and facilities, their offerings are normally bereft of logic as their lines barely connect. Ordinarily, they should shut up and just walk away but theirs is a trade where shame is alien. Their explanation is usually akin to one suggesting that Afghanistan is a haven of peace and tranquility. Offering an excuse for daylight graft could often hurt more than the act of graft itself.

Already, plenty incidences of borrowings have happened under circumstances which remain shady and not a few persons are worried; justifiably. As if not sufficient that the implementation of its N101.4B annual budget is shrouded in layers of wraps of utmost secrecy which prevent independent scrutiny by interests, show-boy Governor, Dr. Willie Obiano who retires to a $196K bed each night after feasting over a $77K dinning setting has reserved for himself a preserve to decline providing answers to essential questions on how he spends government cash as permitted by the 2016 budget curiously branded “the budget for efficiency, optimization, productivity and job creation” contents of which is yet to be available for even sighting. The governor is actually an Emperor!

With background in financial services, Dr. Obiano, whose (managerial) skills dwarf the collective professional experience of over half his cabinet agreed during a presentation before a weak, rubber stamp state parliament that “experience has shown that every realistic budget proposal must anticipate some challenges that might stand in the way of its full realization.”

For an effective manager of resources who recognized that “the challenges that our Budget of Efficiency, Optimization, Productivity and Job Creation must overcome include limited resources, large portfolio of legacy projects & 4Cs and strategic priorities,” it remains to be seen how this recognition reflects in his conduct of government business especially as wild parties regularly hold in his country residence in oil rich Aguleri at huge cost in foreign currency to the public. Besides an insatiable passion for unwinding and social activities like the Sun Newspapers Governors Award which was exchanged for a whooping $525K state money, reports exists which indict Governor Willie for waste, fiscal irresponsibility and impunity as well as operating a management structure notorious for duplicity of functions with its attendant costs.

So pathetic is this episode that while He barely can recognize many of his aides many of whom have just a plastic ID card as proof that they serve government, the aides amongst themselves regularly quarrel over whose roles and actions translate to an encroachment on anothers’ scope of work. To avoid the risk of being redundant, forgotten or sidelined in “deals”, these young persons, broken and intellectually timid migrate en-masse to facebook (where laxity is limiless), where they bare their fangs on other users who make genuine enquiries about government operations. In poorly typed words, they harm their principal by circulating images of him attending state activites which now officially includes only church services, burials ceremonies and sport events initiated and sponsored by private citizens. Not a single member of the gang will show images of the aging “global warrior” delivering speeches at economic summits, investments programs or even executing a media parley where government business is topic.

Granted, a few projects dot selected spots around the state capital, but a shallow investigation will reveal that the most outstanding of these works were aptly listed by Dr. Willie and state officials as among “large portfolio of legacy projects & 4Cs”. What this means is that they were infrastructural interventions inherited from past leaderships which started and funded them. Perhaps the only efforts of Dr. Willie’s government in their regards touch on periodic variation of projects costs which have caused the original prices of these interventions to tripple like witnessed in the classic “Awka Flyover” – the killer punch project of this government which was partially commissioned with fanfare in December 2015. In this instance cost of work was raised by government from only N5B to an incredible $53M when no related hike occured in the cost of work materials like cement, iron rods and pipe, granite, sand and bitumen et al.

Only few people, mainly cronies of government insist that remarkable incidences of coordinated, high-wire thefts have not occurred through these mediums especially as on February 15th 2016, the governor boasted that the Awka flyover projects will have winded up and the facilities open for use by April 2016. All there is as at now is a “lighting” episode which happens each time senior government officials from Abuja visit the state. Usually done quickly under the cover offered by darkness, He sells them a fat dummy. While seriously working governors found in states as Rivers, Lagos, Akwa Ibom and nearby Delta states would be excited to show off their best projects during official working hours, their contemporaries who poach may act otherwise.

At a cost of $130K to light up an uncompleted bridge, one would wonder if it wouldn’t have been wiser and more sensible for the government to build additional classroom blocks in it’s ‘Emeka Ojukwu University where students’ have been certified “not fit for employment” by even the National Youth Service Corp. This may have little meaning to a government from where a mind blowing $17.5M was doled out in supply contracts to family members and friends who received patronage for services provided towards the commemoration of the first 100 days the governor spent in office. This sum is the original cost of the “Awka Flyover”.

For a government which received nearly N80B in cash and other investments from its predecessor, one would wonder why as at the close of the 2015 financial year, its multilateral debt bucket have soared to N52,717,441.23K according to the Debt Management Office via HERE

Ironically and contrary to the coven-like modus-operandi of Dr. Willie’ gvernment, a note on the page allocated the state finance ministry on https://anambrastate.gov.ng/ministry-of-finance/ suggests that “The Governor in his desire to be very transparent to Ndi Anambra on funds availability and utilization, was able to throw light on the purported N75 billion in the Handover Note of the past administration. The truth told to our people was worth every bit of the dust it raised.” If indeed, transparency and control is a standard, like obtainable in Fidelity Bank Plc. and Total Plc., – both institutions which trained Dr. Willie, a copy of the 2016 budget should be thrown bare for debate. Non-disclosure is a form of fraud in itself. The global show-boy will agree!

Regrettably, while the finance ministry may have discharged doubts in the minds of its supporters alone as they touch on assets bequeathed to Anambra State under Dr. Willie, it must be disclosed that fresh borrowings running into nearly half the positive balance sheet this government received have been covertly accessed after approval from state parliament comprising of mainly dull traders and businessmen and women greatly incapacitated by their defective skills. Covert investigations by Daily Trust, the Nation, Business Day and the Punch Newspapers have revealed.

Very little may be achieved without governments engaging in borrowing but for a government which distorts facts and hordes vital information about nearly every important aspect of its operations, damning reports on its fiscal recklessness as this may be both a stinker and an indictment on the leadership acumen of Dr. Willie. While state officials say the Central Bank of Nigeria N10B facility when secured would help the state to complete some ongoing projects, they have consistently failed to identify the projects into which the funds will be spent. According to data sourced from the Debt Management Office, the loan attracts nine percent interest rate and is repayable in 20 years. An attractive facility as this one, proceeds of which will be spent on unidentified projects that may include private parties and lavish dinners in 5-star Lagos and Abuja hotels may be one reason why Dr. Willie has received more awards thant all former governors of Anambra state summed into one. Certainly, serving Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce knows less!

Expectedly, hordes of young persons; barely educated online urchins especially think Dr. Willie has a Midas touch but on the other hand they fail to ponder on why he has refused to make any serious hiring from within them. In the same vein, they cannot explain even why a 30 year old heap of refuse allegedly demolished by Dr. Willie’s tractors in Okpoko, a satellite town near Onitsha have resurrected in flash points in Amawbia, Nkpor, Nnewi and even within the Awka Capital Territory. Comically, some state officials argue that past administrations sponsor disgruntled citizens to dump refuse at unauthorized locations.

When this excuse is placed side-by-side the accolades they say Dr. Willie’s show-boy government has received on account of effective stewardship, one cannot afford not to be amazed at the prowess of the zombies who sing the praises of Willie – the affluent Oliver Twist who in the midst of plenty is ever in search of which borrowing window is left to be explored. If indeed IGR have crossed the N3.5B monthly benchmark as being sold by supporters of Dr. Willie’s leaking government, it will reflect in his obsession for loans.

References:

  1. Debt Managemt Office, Abuja http://www.dmo.gov.ng/oci/subn/docs/Federal%20and%20State%20Governments%20External%20Debt%20Stock%20as%20at%2031st%20December_%202015.pdf
  1. Anambra State Government, Awka https://anambrastate.gov.ng/ministry-of-finance/
  1. Daily Trust Newspaper, Abuja http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/general/anambra-assembly-approves-n10bn-loan/120396.html

Anambra State Government Public Policy Review Group.

(C) July, 2016.

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