The economy of Anambra State has grown from N2.7trn in 2014 to N4.17trn in the six years of Governor Willie Obiano’s reign, says Prof. Osita Solomon Chukwulobelu who is also the Secretary to the Government of Anambra State.
Chukwulobelu, a professor of Economics who has taught in various parts of the world and had joined the Obiano administration from the University of Birmingham also declared that any fair assessment of Anambra under Obiano would most certainly come to the conclusion that the state is a lot better today than it was when the governor took over in 2014.
Speaking at the weekly Meet the Media forum in Awka, Chukwulobelu observed; “IGR was chaotic. We all know the story. He set about reforming it. When we came in, it was N450-475m a month. Today the average is about N2bn. The former administration operated about 387 bank accounts owned by the state. I was in the committee chaired by Honourable Ifeatu Onojeme that closed these accounts because money was missing everywhere. So, he has reformed that. You talk about TSA; Anambra implemented TSA before the federal government knew about TSA. I attended a meeting in Abuja and I told them, come to Anambra; we have implemented TSA. If you want to do it, first, close all those numerous accounts,” he recalled.
Throwing a challenge to critics of the Obiano administration to square up with him in an open debate, Prof Chukwulobelu said “I am happy to have a debate with those who feel that Obiano has not done well. Facts will speak for themselves. I remember when the streetlights started coming up. Somebody said to me, “you will run it for one year and then it will go.” And I said look, “this administration does not embark on a project without thinking of how to sustain it.” The streetlights started four years ago, are they not still working? They are. When the next governor comes, he will make his own choices. Political economy is all about choices and priorities.”
Prof Chukwulobelu expressed surprise that some people questioned the wisdom of building the Anambra Airport when the money set aside for the project should have been saved for posterity. “I tell them that that is Asset Swapping. You are swapping cash for a major asset. And that major asset continues to yield revenue. If you keep cash, it will be affected by inflation, exchange rate depreciation and the rest of them. But the airport is a strategic investment. Some development partners cannot visit Anambra because there is no airport in the state. Some people will not come here because there is no airport in the state. So, it is a strategic investment by Governor Obiano.”
Prof Chukwulobelu also used the opportunity to clear the air on the confusion about whether the Obiano administration inherited any debts from the administration it succeeded. According to him, some debts are chalked up as credits. “If you look at programmes like SEPIP and NEWMAP which are done using World Bank facilities, those are credits that the previous administration actually entered into. If you go to DMO, they will give you the debt profile of Anambra State. It is still the lowest indebted state in the country but the DMO will show you how far back those debts are dated. So, did Obiano inherit debts? The answer is ‘yes,’ because there were SPOs that were already signed and the deductions were going through,” he explained.
Speaking further, Prof Chukwulobelu observed that some people were having difficulties in distinguishing between commercial debts and long term loans. Said he; “My answer again is ‘yes.’ For instance, when I was a Commissioner, one of the things that were on my desk was the procurement of N256m incurred by the previous administration on identity registration with Chams. And there were others as well. It was Obiano that paid it after it was reviewed. And it was reviewed downwards to N200m. But we were handed over a sheet of paper that contained only assets and no liabilities. Governments don’t work like that. So, when people want to play politics they can play politics. But like I said, I am happy to debate with anybody but it has to be an enlightened debate. I don’t want to debate with people that will be shouting and making cheap political points. We can debate as enlightened people to tell our people this is actually the situation.”