Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
There is no let-up in the verbal warfare between the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri and Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State over the debt profile of the state.
The minister has insisted that Bayelsans deserve to know how the borrowed funds were spent.
Lokpobiri claim of huge debt profile which he put at N800 billion (domestic) and $216 million (foreign) debt had come under criticism from Association of Bayelsa Professionals (ABP) which challenged Lokpobiri to make his facts about the huge debt profile public.
General Secretary of the Association, Jasper Timiebi, accused Lokpobiri of misleading the public and asked him go beyond the level of threat to provide details of the N800bn, and also supplied the names of the financial institutions that gave the loans to the Bayelsa State Government.
Lokpobiri, in an apparent response to Timiebi, through his media aide, George Obi said :“In 2012, the States domestic debt stood at N22billion, foreign $28 million, in 2013, it was N70 billion (domestic) and $29 million (foreign), in 2014, the amount was N92 billion (domestic) and $35 million (foreign) and in 2015, it was N103 billion (domestic) and $38 million (foreign).
“Similarly, in 2016 the domestic debt was N140 billion and $39 million (foreign) while in 2017, it was N129 billion (domestic) and $48 million (foreign).
“It does not matter that over the years, these debts have been reduced, the fact remains that the Governor owes the people of Bayelsa the obligation of showing and explaining how, and to what use, he deployed the borrowed funds.”
Lokpobiri also has an axe to grind with the Dickson government on the payment of civil servants salaries and pensioners querying why the governor cannot use the recently received N24.16 bliion Paris Refund money to defray the salaries arrears of civil servants.
Commissioner for Information and Orientation in Bayelsa State, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, challenged Lokpobiri to inform Bayelsans of number of projects he had attracted to the state as minister whose party was in control of government at the national level.
He said, “The Debt Management Office, (a federal Institution) in its June 2018 report stated that the debt portfolio of the state was N123 billion.
“This figure includes contingent liabilities which included contract payments and pension obligations.
“While the government is making every effort to achieve massive developmental strides in every area, government wish to condemn the unguarded statements of some highly placed individuals.
“The recent unsubstantiated statement of the Minister of State for Agriculture that the State owes N800 billion is disappointing of someone of his high office and indeed disgraceful.
“As a minster for agriculture, he needs to inform Bayelsans of the impact he has made even in his local government area. We advise Lokpobiri to educate himself or engage a brilliant young graduate to assist him.”