SENATOR Ifeanyi Ubah claimed at a news conference on Friday, November 21, 2020, that Anambra State lost almost a whopping eight billion naira (N8bn) as discounts by accessing funds from the twenty five billion naira (N25bn) promissory notes which the federal government used to reimburse the state in tranches for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of federal roads in the state over the years. He threatened to go to court against the state government if, as he put it, the authorities failed to provide full information on how they caused the state to lose such a huge amount.
The Anambra State Government is advising the senator to proceed to court immediately against it because no such amount or anything near it was lost in order to get discounts on the tranches of payment to the state government through promissory notes of the Federal Government of Nigeria. It is awful to see a national legislator manufacture figures, driven solely by an ambition to become, by all means, the next Anambra State governor. Acts like this diminish the peddler, and proceeding to court with manufactured figures will bring such a person further to odium and public ridicule.
If Senator Ubah fails to go to court with his fanciful figures and ideas, he has to resign from the Senate. The legislature, especially the Senate, is for thoughtful men and women who have prepared themselves for public service in the finest tradition. If he refuses to resign honourably, the people of the Anambra South Senatorial Zone know what to do.
Chief Ubah has been making all manner of claims about the federal government’s reimbursement of the over 43 billion naira owed the people and government of Anambra State for almost two decades not so much out of limited knowledge of finance issues as out of a strong desire to be in public view. There are elements in every society prepared to do anything just to be in the news, even if it means being in the eye of the storm.
He alleged, without any sense of embarrassment, that Anambra State, in cahoots with the Debt Management Office (DMO), raised N25bn secretly through a bond. Only an Ifeanyi Uba can know how such a transaction is possible when the law makes it mandatory that to raise a bond in Nigeria, as in most countries of the world, the legislature, the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission must be involved and the proceedings must be public knowledge in the most transparent manner.
In any case, how can Anambra State raise a loan from the federal government to reimburse itself for fixing federal roads when the federal government is owing it for reconstructing failed federal roads in the state since 2003? It just doesn’t make sense. Ubah seems to have little understanding of what a bond is.
The federal authorities have never denied owing Anambra State as much as N43bn for rehabilitating and reconstructing federal roads in the state from 2003 to this day. The Senate has held hearings on the indebtedness and recommended repayment. Since the Federal Ministry of Finance claims it has no cash to make the repayment, it has requested the state to accept staggered payments through promissory notes spanning a number of years.
Given the time value of money, it would be bad economics and a profound disservice to ndi Anambra to collect the monies on their maturity dates. The naira has lost considerable value in recent years, exchanging now at almost N500 to one dollar in the parallel market, in sharp contrast to the exchange rate in 2003 when about a mere N80 could fetch a dollar in the same market. Naira’s rapid depreciation may continue. Inflation is today very high for various reasons. Whereas N100m could build a reasonable length of road in 2003 when the state started to reconstruct federal roads, the same amount can today build about only a fraction of the same road.
The most reasonable thing for any state to do so as to have value for such reimbursements is to cash the monies now rather than to wait for more years. This would entail some discounts. The Anambra State Government did just this. The proceeds are stated clearly in the Report of the Accountant General, with Financial Statements, for the year ending December 31, 2019. The proceeds are also part of the 2020 Anambra State budget estimates. Ubah may not have read the budget.
It is worth pointing out that the Central Bank of Nigeria came to the aid of 22 states, including Anambra, owed for reconstruction of federal roads in their territories with a concessionary single digit discount rate. How a single digit discount rate on N25bn promissory rates, as in the case of Anambra State, would amount to a whopping N8bn is a mathematical mystery which only Ifeanyi Uba can solve. In one word, the junior senator is taking propaganda and phantasmagoria too far.
Let it be stated for the umpteenth time that Anambra State has no reason to delay collecting its monies. It is currently building the most modern airport in the nation, without borrowing a kobo anywhere and without owing any of the contractors; the airport will be commissioned next April. Anambra State is building an international conference, with a sitting capacity of 10,000, which is the biggest in Africa, without borrowing any money from any financial institution and without owing the contractor; it will be ready next March. In addition, it is building the Awka City Stadium, as usual without borrowing a kobo and without owing the contractor; the stadium will be ready before February. Anambra State requires N150bn to complete the ongoing building of numerous roads and bridges in the state. And Nigeria has entered a recession, with all the consequences. So, why wait in perpetuity to collect monies whose value depreciates fast?
Anambra State remains exemplary in financial management. It is one of the few states which did not apply for a bailout from the federal government, even when states which receive fortunes monthly for oil-bearing received such assistance to enable them to discharge their basic obligations. The World Bank has since September, 2018, commended it for being the best implementer of projects in the Southeast and South-south. Last August 19, Budget, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, declared Anambra State and the petroleum-rich Rivers State the states with the highest fiscal responsibility index in the whole country.
Ifeanyi Ubah and his hirelings are the only traducers of Anambra State’s exceedingly impressive financial management. It is a conundrum that someone should be de-marketing the very state he wants to rule by all means. Whoever advised him to embark on this trajectory of manufactured facts just to be in the news did him a terrible disservice. Let him go to court at once to demonstrate how, as he claims, Anambra State lost N8bn as discounts on N25bn promissory notes of the federal government. Otherwise, he has to resign from the Senate forthwith. If he refuses, the people of the Anambra South Senatorial Zone know what to do with his continued presence in the hallowed chambers of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Anambra State has attained governance heights too sophisticated for certain politicians. Whatever their antics may be, Anambra State will remain the Light of the Nation.
Adinuba is the Commissioner for information & Public Enlightenment, Anambra State