A former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, has said one of the reasons he was impeached during his administration was his refusal to inflate the government’s yearly budget.
Mr. Obi spoke Tuesday at The Nigeria Symposium for Young and Emerging Leaders which took place in Lagos with the theme ‘Open Governance: Improving Transparency and Accountability in Government.’
“Government budget should be published, each item they want to spend money on should be published so people can compare the prices government are buying their items with what it is in the market,” said Mr. Obi, who was governor between 2006 and 2014.
“I have been a victim of that because budgets are not properly articulated, it’s inflated not even padded.
“I was impeached in Anambra State, removed from office twice, the first one is because of this budget issue.
“They want to repair Office of the Governor, which is my office, the approved budget for 2006 was N298 million, I repaired everything with N43.2 million. They said I didn’t do it through due process, because they have awarded the contract.
“The second item was repair of the Governor’s Lodge, which is where I live, everything was N486 million, I did everything with N81 million, they said it didn’t go through due process. That is to show you how government works, they input so many roadblocks.”
Mr. Obi said politicians as well as civil servants are responsible for inflated government budgets.
“I keep saying it, if the leader is not stealing, you reduce it by 75 percent. Because anybody on the line will know…
“My first experience as a governor, was about headed paper. When I arrived, they said they were going to do headed paper. Because I came from a business and a private sector, I’m a trader, so when they said to do a ream of paper that I used to buy in my office N750, they told me it’s N15,000. I said ‘Ehn! What do you mean?’ They said they even reduced it from N18,000 to N15,000.
“I said ‘can you give me the sample?’ Maybe it’s different. They gave me the sample, I called my printer and told him to do me two reams of this. He came back and said it’s N1,500 each, so for two of them it’s N3,000, instead of N30,000. From there, I issued order: ‘All government expenditure in this state as long as I stay here would be approved by me.”
Also in attendance at the forum were a former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke; co-founder of BudgIT, Seun Onigbinde; Channels TV journalist, Seun Okinbaloye; and All Progressives Congress chairmanship aspirant in Lagos Mainland council, Dayo Israel.
Mr. Obi said part of the problem with governance in Nigeria is that government is transactional, instead of transformational.
“It depends on what I’m hiding because I’m hiding something,” he said.
“When I came into office in Anambra State, there was a panel for unpaid contracts, a big panel. When I came in, I said we don’t need this panel, you said you’ve done the road, let’s go and see it. They said ‘no no no, the panel has approved it.’ I said ‘you said you have done this road, this road is in Anambra State, let’s drive there.’
“You don’t need the panel because everybody can see it. And when we checked and said for you to execute any contract, let the community say it’s been executed before we pay you, they started agitating.”
Mr. Obi noted that strong institutions are critical to managing the country’s resources.
“If today we are talking about airports not working, I’m one of those who say it’s not working, I’m one of those who said we shouldn’t have borrowed money to build new terminals, that is not our problem.
“Our problem is to make the existing ones more efficient and more functional. Murtala Muhammed (airport) has the second biggest terminal in Africa, go to Ghana go to everywhere you’d see tiny building and everything, but it is not functioning.
“If you arrive there today, even to just make use of the toilet is difficult because somebody stands there with a toilet tissue and asking you ‘do you want toilet roll?’ I don’t know what the person thought you were going inside to do. These are the issues.
“If you want to make our democracy like that of the advanced societies, transparency and openness is a fundamental, critical part of it. And we have not been, from federal to local government.
“I don’t know what happens in my local government, we are talking about federal, I’m sure people here don’t even know what happens in their local government. Every local government in Nigeria receives about N100 million every month.”