Wednesday, 17 June 2020

REASONS WHY PETER OBI STARTED SAVING ANAMBRA STATE’S MONEY IN DOLLARS?

Peter Obi
Tai Emeka Obasi

Dr. Alex Otti, the gubernatorial candidate for APGA in the last Abia State gubernatorial election and the man many believed secured enough popular votes and electoral spread to have been declared winner of the said election, recently confirmed in professional language that His Excellency Peter Obi truly saved 155.6 million dollars in three banks before he handed over in 2014.

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What shouldn't have ever been in dispute but for the fact that Obi's predecessor had other ideas about continuity and governance generally - all negative - became a protracted battle where His Excellency Willie Obiano and his advisers engaged all manner of journeymen to attempt to deny the existence of such savings with ''near cash'', as one of the most floated coinages of public deceit.

But records don't lie, especially one kept in banks. Besides, a prudent man like the vice presidential candidate of PDP in the last gubernatorial election is never a man to make mistake in financial figures. He is not called Mr. Prudence for nothing and many say that God created him from his mother's womb solely to take very efficient care of public funds.

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''Peter Obi is one of the few leaders of the country that has his head properly screwed on his shoulders,'' Otti, the former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Bank, began. After pouring the usual encomiums any progressive mind would on the man we fondly call Okwute, Otti went to the meat.

''Like yours truly had done in the past, one can attest to the fact that some $155million was invested in the tier two capital of three Nigerian banks with maturities of about 5 years at interest rates of up to 9% per annum to the credit of the State. As at the time the investments were made, the Naira equivalent of the funds was about N25b. If those funds were rolled over at maturity in 2019, they would be worth about N62b today. If interest is assumed to remain at 9% for the past 6 years, an additional N33.5b would have accrued to bring the present value of the investments to over N95b. This is one of the advantages of prudence and financial literacy,'' he said

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For the uninitiated, Otti was the Managing Director of Diamond Bank when these savings were made. Now, why did Okwute start saving in dollars? Yes, dollars is the safest currency to save in, especially if it is for long-term span. Inflation and devaluation hardly affect the all-powerful American currency while our own Naira ever suffers by steady devaluation against the international trading currency. So reasons Okwute saved in dollars is a no brainer actually.

The major question is - what project/s did the very foresighted ex-governor have in mind before taking up the task of saving in hard currency? It truly was not to fight Coronavirus, even though a fraction of it would have been used to fight the pandemic without harming the main goal. It was neither for road construction nor for building flyovers. They were mainly for:
1. Industrialization of dear state.
Okwute and his team studied China's model of industrial growth and decided to copy, then model to suit our environment and financial capability. Regional governments in China contributed immensely to China's economic growth. Okwute planned to start a saving culture where by 2025-30, Anambra State would have saved over a billion dollars. This money would be used to spring up a 1000 SMEs all over the state. This would be in partnership with willing Anambrarians as shareholders, with the state providing 50% of the share capital. Imagine an Anambra with 1000 SMEs in full production! Imagine the jobs that would be created! Imagine the IGR for the state! Imagine if Anambra would ever depend on Federal Revenue for robust development!

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2. Okwute's government already negotiated for a World Bank interest-free loan for STEM Education.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The $40 million loan was to have been accessed by his predecessor immediately he came into office to use to train Anambra youths in the STEM field to adequately prepare them for the planned industrial revolution in the state. It would be of little gain to build industries only to employ Chinese to man them just because we lack adequately trained manpower. Besides, UN study projected vacancy for over 20 million jobs in the field of modern technology by 2020. COVID-19 may have scuttled that but Okwute wanted ndi Anambra to be part of that global workforce.

3. Erosion Control.
Again an interest-free loan of 60 million dollars was negotiated for Obiano's use on take-off to tackle all erosion problems in the state. This total of $100 million dollars loan without any interest would have seamlessly been repaid from the dollar savings by 2025, while our state would have been free of any erosion problem within two years of Obiano's tenure as well as having adequately trained up to about 250,000 Anambra youths in the new world order of STEM Education and Gov Obiano would have taken all the credit!

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Instead, an acclaimed auditor, an accountant and a banker admitted he dived into squandering the money, asking why there should be money kept in the bank while people are hungry. A case of two extremes! Okwute may clearly have come far ahead of his generation but some others evidently came behind schedule.

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