Fact Check: How true is the claim that Anambra owes over ₦200bn debt?

Fact Check: How true is the claim that Anambra owes over ₦200bn debt?

Claim: A Twitter user, Nnamdi Chife (@NnamdiChife), claimed in a tweet that Anambra state is owing “a combined debt of over N200 Billion”.

Chife also alleged that Peter Obi (former Anambra governor) handed over ₦72 billion in cash and $150 million in Anambra Generational Fund to his successor, Willie Obiano, adding that all have been “frittered away”.

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Verdict

The claim that the Anambra state government is owing over ₦200 billion is false. The combined worth of the state’s debt according to the Debt Management Office (DMO) is ₦100.7 billion.

Also, the claim that Peter Obi left ₦72 billion in cash and $150 million in Anambra Generational Fund, with all “frittered away”, is mostly false.

The former governor in a 2018 interview said he left about ₦30 billion and $156 million in cash (not ₦72 billion). Even the former governor’s claim has been questioned by the Obiano government.

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Full Text

On Sunday, January 10, a Twitter user named Nnamdi Chife (@NnamdiChife), claimed in a tweet that has since gone viral that the Anambra state government owes a combined debt of over ₦200 billion.

Chief further alleged that former governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi, left ₦72 billion in cash and $150 million in Anambra Generational Fund for Willie Obiano, the current governor.

He also implied that all that the former governor left had been squandered.

Fact-check: Claim that Anambra owes over ₦200bn debt is false
Fact Check: Twitter user's claim that Anambra state government owes over ₦200bn debt is false. Photo credit: @WillieMObiano
Source: Twitter

The tweet reads:

“I am incredibly heartbroken.
“Anambra State is owing a combined debt of over N200Billion !!!
“Peter Obi handed over this state to Obiano with N72Billlion in cash and $150M in Anambra Generational Fund.
“All frittered away, broken infrastructure, debt, and profligacy.”

As at Sunday, January 17, the tweet has been shared over 2,000 times with o168 quotes and over 3,000 likes.

Fact Check: Is it true Anambra Owes over ₦200bn Debt?
Fact-checking Twitter user's claim that Anambra government owes over ₦200bn debt. Photo source: @NnamdiChife
Source: Twitter

Verification

Claim one: Anambra state government owes over ₦200bn debt

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To verify this claim, Legit.ng first reached out to Nnamdi Chife to understand the source(s) of his allegation.

Responding, Chife cited the Debt Management Office (DMO) as the source of his information. Thus, Legit.ng contacted the DMO’s portal for relevant information regarding Anambra state government’s debt.

According to the domestic debt data for the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) published by the DMO as at September 30, 2020, Anambra State is owing ₦59,013,845,976.50 (₦59.0 billion).

Fact-checking claim that Anambra owes over ₦200bn debt
DMO's document showing total domestic debt owed by Anambra and other states. Photo source: www.dmo.gov.ng
Source: UGC

Regarding the external debt, the DMO’s debt data as at 30th June 2020, indicates that Anambra is owing $115,886,392.46 ($115.886 million).

Fact-checking claim that Anambra owes over ₦200bn debt
DMO's document showing total external debt owed by Anambra and other states. Photo source: Anambra debt2
Source: UGC

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s official exchange rate of dollar to naira, as of June 30 when the document was released, was about ₦360. At this rate, $115.886 million equals ₦41,718,960,000 (₦41.7 billion).

The combined debt owed by the state government, that is both domestic and external, amounts to ₦100,732,805,976.5 (₦100.7 billion).

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From the above, the total debt owed by Anambra state government is ₦100.7 billion.

Where did Chife get his “over 200 billion” debt figure from? He told Legit.ng:

“The DMO's balance doesn't include the ACCESS BANK N50B loan for airport project at Aguleri, Anambra State.”

Asked for evidence to back up this claim, the Twitter user said:

“The Access Bank facility is an insider information. The loan is collateralized (viz) with Anambra USD Generation Fund that was set up in the then Diamond Bank.”

To verify this allegation, Legit.ng checked the Anambra state government’s website for any relevant document.

According to a document on the portal tagged Anambra Debt Sustainability Analysis and dated December 31, 2020, the state government indicates it is owing a total of N85.197 billion outstanding debt: N40.561bn external, N44.636bn domestic.

Though there is no evidence to back up the alleged new Access Bank loan, if the ₦50 billion is added to the official debt owed by the Anambra state government, either the DMO figure (₦102.9 billion) or the one on the state government’s website (₦85.197 billion), the total figure will still be far away from “over N200 billion” claim.

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Based on these findings, the claim that the Anambra state government owes over ₦200bn debt is false.

Claim 2: Former Governor Peter Obi handed over ₦72 billion in cash and $150 million to Governor Willie Obiano which have all been “frittered away”

Peter Obi handed over to his successor, Willie Obiano, in 2014.

About a year after, 2015, the Secretary to the Anambra state government, Prof Solo Chukwulobelu, granted a press conference to address an allegation that Peter Obi left ₦75 billion for his successor.

Chukwulobelu described Obi’s claim as a hoax, according to a Vanguard report.

He said:

“The N75 billion was not there; it was not handed over to anybody. At best it can be half truth.”

Chukwulobelu said instead, the state government inherited a total contract sum of N185.1 billion as liability from the Obi administration.

He said further:

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“In the real sense, what the Obiano administration inherited from Obi was N9billion cash and 26 Billion near cash.”

However, reacting to Chukwulobelu’s claim, Obi’s media aide, Valentine Obienyem, clarified that Obi left “over N75 Billion in cash and investment”; not in cash alone.

According to Obienyem, ₦27 billion was in local currency investment; ₦26.5 billion in foreign currency investment and ₦28.1 billion in Certified State/ MDS balances.

In a 2018 interview with The Sheet TV, Obi revisited the issue. He said he left for Obiano local and foreign cash and investments in shares and bonds worth ₦75 billion.

Breaking down the ₦75 billion, Obi said he left about ₦30 billion in the bank. In foreign currency, he said left a total of about $156 million. The former governor added that he left investments worth ₦25 billion.

CBN’s dollar/naira exchange rate in March 2014 when Obi handed over was about $1/₦155. At this rate, the $156 million the former governor claimed he left was about ₦24,180,000,000 (₦24.1 billion). Added to the alleged ₦30 billion, the total amount the governor claimed to have left in cash (both Naira and Dollar) would be about ₦54 billion.

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Beyond the claims and counter-claims (with varying figures) made by Obi and the Obiano government, Legit.ng cannot find any publicly available data to verify the actual amount left by the former governor for his successor.

Nevertheless, findings above indicate that the claim that Obi left “N72 Billion in cash” and “$150 million in Anambra Generational Fund” is mostly false.

The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with Legit.ng to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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