Peddling Falsehood against Alex Otti

It is frequently said that one of the major disadvantages of the social media is the unfettered access they give to some persons to peddle falsehoods. This is exactly what a Nigerian businessman, Uche Rochas, did recently when he disingenuously and cynically claimed that Governor of Abia State, Alex Otti, obtained more loans than his predecessors within one year.

On his X page on May 28, Rochas said Otti spends “N9m daily on feeding from Abia State taxpayers money.”

“He has borrowed more than Orji Kalu, Theodore Orji, Okezie Ikpeazu combined in less than one year in office. He’s building substandard roads but the Pharisees aka Obidient movement sees nothing wrong in it,” Rochas said.

The post has over 300,000 views, 761 likes, and 181 reposts on X.

Kalu served as governor of Abia from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007. He is currently the senator representing Abia North senatorial district, while Orji served as the state governor from 2007 to 2015 and the senator representing Abia central senatorial district from 2015 to 2023. Ikpeazu served as governor from May 2015 to May 2023.

Rochas claimed Otti spends N9 million daily on feeding, however, in the 2024 approved budget, N595.12 million was budgeted for refreshments and meals for the governor’s office — bringing the daily expenditure to N1.63 million.

To verify Rochas’ claim, TheCable initially attempted to compare the first-year change in domestic and external debt profile during Orji and Ikpeazu’s tenure to Otti, but there was not enough data to make a fair comparison. 

The domestic debt data compiled by the Debt Management Office (DMO) — a government agency established to coordinate the management of Nigeria’s debt — started keeping the records in 2011, thereby, excluding the debt profile of governors that served between 1999 and 2010.

There is no debt data for Kalu’s two terms and Theodore Orji’s first tenure in office as governor of Abia.

However, available data shows that Abia state’s domestic debt profile was N142,470,717,702.46 as of June 2023, a month after Otti assumed office.

The data also showed that the state domestic debt has reduced by N3.83 billion or 2.69 percent to N138,638,007,432.32 as of December 2023 — the first six months of Otti’s tenure.

Similarly, external debt stock decreased by $3.27 million under Otti to $89,053,939.30 as of December 2023, from $92,328,683.83 as of June 2023.

During Ikpeazu’s tenure, the state domestic debt stock rose in the first year by N8.49 billion (8.92 percent) from N95,212,687,526.87 as of December 2021 to N103,710,011,090.63 as o f December 2022.

Although, external debt stock under Ikpeazu dropped by $6,853,150.31 from $101,132,954.37 to $94,279,804.06 during the same period.

Also, DMO reported the state domestic debt under Orji stood at N31,736,723,709.99 as of December 2023 compared to N25,126,070,685.10 in December 2014— indicating a decrease of N6.61 billion or 26.3 per cent during his tenure.

However, during Orji’s administration, external debt stock rose by $388,691.41 from $34,180,112.33 as of December 2013, to $33,791,420.92 as of December 2014.

Based on the DMO data available, it is clear that the state’s debt has reduced since Otti took office. Hence, the claim that Otti has borrowed more money than the previous governors combined in less than one year in office is false. 

Also, the claim that Otti spends N9 million daily on feeding is incorrect based on the 2024 approved budget.

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