The 2023 gubernatorial and state Houses of Assembly elections were held across the 36 states in Nigeria. These elections took place three weeks after the closely contested presidential and national assembly elections. However, the states of Imo, Kogi, and Bayelsa will hold their elections on November 11, 2023, to elect new governors. Out of the 36 states where elections took place, 17 newly elected governors have already taken the oath of office as the chief executives of their respective states. Unfortunately, among these 17 governors, Matawalle of Zamfara was the only incumbent seeking re-election who lost. He lost to the PDP’s Dauda Lawal.
These 17 newly elected governors have assumed their positions amidst the daunting challenge of inheriting substantial and burdensome debts in their respective states. The accumulated debts amount to a staggering 2.1 trillion naira in domestic debts and an additional 1.9 billion naira in foreign debts. As of September 30, 2022, the domestic indebtedness of these states reached a staggering 21,551,924,507,448 naira, while foreign creditors were owed an astonishing $39.66 billion.
In Abia State, Alex Otti, who took over from Mr. Okezie Ikpeazu, has inherited a debt liability of N104,573,334,025.73, while the foreign debt stands at $95,632,239.04. Besides the pile of debts, the state owes its health workers and teaching staff between 10 and 27 months’ salaries.
In Akwa Ibom, the story is not different. Former governor Udom Emmanuel, who handed over the reins of Akwa Ibom State to Governor Umo Eno, also left behind debts in the sum of N219,617,660,991.63 in domestic debt and $46,569,647.22 to foreign creditors. These debts were accumulated between September 2022 and May 2023. They are both PDP stocks.
Benue State’s immediate past governor, Samuel Ortom, whose party, the PDP, lost the elections to the All Progressives Congress candidate, Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia, left behind the sums of N143,368,150,982.89 and $30,472977.14 to domestic and foreign creditors.
In Cross River, Bassey Otu, who took over from Professor Ben Ayade, will be grappling with the servicing and repayment of N175,198,799,155.96 in debt to local creditors and $215,754,975.33 in borrowing from foreign lenders.
Oil-rich Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, the former speaker who was the anointed candidate of the past governor, and the vice presidential candidate of the PDP, Ifeanyi Okowa, will also be contending with $272,612,510,528.95 in domestic debt and $60,046,972.41 in external debt.
In the coal city of Enugu, the hive of debts in the state is worrisome and mind-boggling. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who superintended the Enugu state elections in the March 18 gubernatorial elections that produced the incumbent, bequeathed to his successor, Peter Mba, a domestic debt of N89,887652,914.75 and external debts of $123,024,888.67.
In the Northwestern state of Jigawa, Umar Namadi of the APC will preside over N44,406,862,432.83 and $27,611,046.36 in domestic and foreign debts. However, cosmopolitan Kaduna State is not exempt from the debt frenzy, as the immediate past governor, El-Rufai, left behind his preferred candidate, Uba Sani, N86,863,069,011.79 in domestic debt and $586,776,219.18 in indebtedness to foreign creditors as of September 30, 2022.
The politically stranded past governor of Kano state, Ganduje Abdullahi, who handed over to Abba Kabir of the NNPP on the eve of the swearing-in, left behind a domestic debt of N125,186,662,228.72 and $109,422,176.85 in external debt.
Aminu Masari left behind N62,374,809,154.32 in domestic debt for the new governor to contend with; Dr. Dikko Radda of Katsina State will have an external obligation of $55,824,330.35 to service and pay back.
In Kebbi State, Nasiru Idris, who took over the reins of the state from Abubakar Bagudu, will be racking up both domestic and foreign debts of N60,131,306,074.57 and $42,403,327.93.
In the North Central Nigeria state, Umar Bago, who contested and won on the platform of the APC, will grapple with N98,262,195,557.88 and $69,266,186.30 in monies borrowed from domestic and external creditors.
The chairman of the APC presidential campaign council in the February 25th presidential elections and former governor of Plateau State handed over in liabilities, accrued domestic debt of N151,903,415,543.09, and external debt of $33,735,927,81.
The past governor of the oil-rich Rivers State and the arrowhead of the defunct G5, Nyesom Wike, passed on the reins of the state to his predecessor, Siminialayi Fubara, for the sums of N225,011,356.00 and $140,177,828.95, both in internal and external debts, respectively.
Former Speaker of the National House of Assembly and immediate past governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwa, in his eight years in office, borrowed from domestic and foreign creditors N85,584,818,029.23 and $37,127,361,58. Ahmed Aliyu, the incumbent, will grapple with these debts throughout his administration.
In Taraba State, Governor Kefas Agbu will have to dig into his ingenuity to service and repay the debts of N90,807,647,838.11 and $22,280,666.87 in domestic and external debt that Darius Ishaku, the previous governor, left behind.
The newly elected governors of Nigeria are facing a daunting challenge. In addition to assuming the leadership of their respective states, they have inherited substantial and burdensome debts. The accumulated debt amounts to a staggering 2.1 trillion naira in domestic obligations and an additional 1.9 billion naira in foreign debts. As of September 30, 2022, the domestic indebtedness of these states had reached an alarming N21,551,924,507,448, while foreign creditors were owed an astonishing $39.66 billion.
This debt crisis is the result of years of reckless spending by past governors. They borrowed money without a plan to repay it, and they used the money for pet projects and personal enrichment instead of investing in the future of their states.
The newly elected governors must now find a way to deal with this debt crisis. They have a few options. They could try to renegotiate the terms of the loans, they could cut spending, or they could raise taxes.
Whatever they do, it will be a difficult task. The debt crisis is a legacy of the past, but it is the newly elected governors who will have to clean up the mess.
The people of Nigeria deserve better than this. They deserve governors who will be responsible with their money and who will invest in the future of their states. The newly elected governors have an opportunity to show the people of Nigeria that they are different from the past. They can start by tackling the debt crisis.
Reported by Oluwafemi O.