By Osehobo Ofure
Edo State today has a domestic debt profile that stands at N84.76 billion. In addition to this sum, the state comes first, in the rankings of states with huge domestic debt in Nigeria-second only to Lagos State. Even on foreign debts, Edo state as at March 2020, with a debt of $257.92 milliion comes first in the ranking of states with high foreign debts in the entire South-South of Nigeria.
Last week, the news broke that the Edo state governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki was planning to take a loan of N20billion from the capital market to finance his reelection campaign. This is at the time, the State currently services another $150Million credit earlier obtained from the World bank in 2016 and 2017.
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the Edo State governorship election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who raised the alarm said the alleged plans coming after the governor has drained the state treasury is worrisome. He called on the EFCC, ICPC, CBN, and other financial regulatory bodies to pay close attention to what is going on in Edo State.
He also condemned what he termed the Governor’s shortsighted and irresponsible manner of accumulating debts for the state “for desperate and personally-beneficial political activities”, while also warning financial institutions against granting fraudulent loans to the Edo State Government.
According to him, “After draining the state treasury with his corrupt N15 billion payout to the PDP tax-collectors for the party’s ticket, it has come to our notice that Governor Obaseki is now scurrying around to embark on another borrowing spree with a planned N20 billion bond loan from some financial institutions.
“We find it shocking that after the many tribulations Obaseki’s directionless and incompetent administration has caused in Edo State, the Governor is hatching fresh plans to mortgage the future of the state and her youths with additional loans to fund his desperate political agenda to foist himself on the people for another four years.
He said, “Obaseki already racked up foreign loans that propelled Edo State to number two on the states with the most indebtedness in the country without any commensurate gain in infrastructure, the economy, and security. Efforts to get the Governor to offer accountability on what he did with the loans and the role his private firm, AfrinInvest, played in their acquisition all fell on deaf ears.
“It is therefore heartless, irresponsible, and unconscionable for such a man to even conceive obtaining another loan in the tune of N20 billion for his political godfathers in the PDP who are cashing in on his desperation and lack of integrity”.
Ize-Iyamu then urged all financial institutions to honor the age-long freeze practice observed during election seasons and possible change of government and refrain from granting any loan to the heartless Godwin Obaseki who appears to now be on a mission to completely, ” sell-out our state and the future of our youths”.
Concerned citizens of Edo state under the aegis of Joint Forces for the Defence of Democracy(JOFDES) have also been protesting the N20billion loan plot by Mr Obaseki. In protests along major streets in Benin City, the Edo state capital they described the move by the governor as an attempt to mortgage the future of Edo youths.
Messrs Felix Osemwengie Isere, and Marxist Kola Edokpayi speaking for the protesters however, agree with Ize-iyamu that, “if there is any genuine reason whatsoever to approve such a loan for Edo State, it can be considered after the forth coming Edo governorahip election to forestall the mismanagement of the funds under the tension that accompanies elections”.
They said, “the inglorious attempt by the Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki to obtain another loan of N20,000,000.00 (Twenty billion naira) from the Nigeria stock market exchange few weeks to the Edo State Governorship elections” is a disappointing and must be condemned.
The development they said is not only worrisome, wicked, reckless, irresponsible and ignominious, “because Mr. Obaseki is fully aware that Edo State is already heavily overburdened by excess debts”, and that at not time in the history of our dear state have we come under the volume of indebtedness that we face today”.
They also said the Godwin Obaseki’s government have displayed glaring cases of financial mismanagement and they, “find no justification for the Government’s desire to acquire another N20 billion naira loan few weeks to the governorship elections”.
The Defence of Democracy(JOFDES) insisted that Edo State’s funds is not meant for financing elections not to talk of money borrowed from sources that will become a lasting yoke on the good people of the state. They described the projects the loan hopes to fund according to the governor as, ” a mere facade and failed projects serving as conduit for siphoning funds for the coffers of the good people of Edo State”.
They called on the President, Muhammadu Buhari Secretary to the government of the federation, the Minister of state for Budget and National Planning, Director-general, Debt Management Office (DMO) Abuja, the Chairman Senate and House of Representatives committees on Local and Foreign Febts, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Nigerian Stock Exchange, and the Attorney General of the federation, all well-meaning Edo sons and daughters who, “to do everything within their powers to stop this loan from being approved for the governor of Edo State”.
Meanwhile, Governor Godwin Obaseki has denied that there is such thing as N20 billion loan proposal by the Edo State Government.