Tony Osauzo, Benin
A group, the Joint Forces for the Defence of Democracy (JOFDES) has rejected the move by Edo State government to borrow N20 billion from the capital Market.
Leaders of the group, Felix Osewmengie Isere, and Marxist Kola Edokpayi, told newsmen during a protest rally round major streets in Benin City yesterday that the state government has no justification to acquire another N20 billion loan that will become a lasting yoke on the good people of the state.
But Governor Godwin Obaseki accused the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of sponsoring the protest to distract Edo people.
The group called on President Mohammadu Buhari, Secretary to the government of the federation, Hon Minister of state for budget and national planning, Director General, Debt Management Office (DMO) Abuja, the chairman Senate and House committees on local and foreign debts, the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria and other authorities concerned, to do everything within their power to stop this loan from being approved for the governor of Edo State.
In the words of the group, “just few weeks to the state governorship election, the governor is making a desperate attempt to secure another loan from the stock market exchange.
“The most shocking part of it is that Mr. Obaseki is considering these loans when Edo State is currently servicing the $150 million credit obtained from the world bank.
“Edo State domestic debt profile stands at N84.76 billion, we have the highest domestic debt in Nigeria, second only to Lagos State. We have the highest external debt in the entire South-South with an external debt of $257.92 million as at March 2020.”
Some of the placards carried by the protesters read: “We reject the N20 billion loan proposal by Edo State government, don’t sell the future of Edo State today because of Political interest; Edo State is already one of the states with highest debt profile in Nigeria; N20 billion loan is a conduit pipe for diversion of funds among others.
But reacting to the development, Governor Obaseki accused the APC candidate, Pastor Ize-Iyamu of sponsoring the protest to distract the people of Edo.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, in a statement, advised Ize-Iyamu, to go to court and face his corruption trial instead of sponsoring protests over non-existent issues.
“In a bid to distract Edo people from his ongoing trial in court for a N700 million fraud allegation, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has resorted to sponsoring protests over non-existent issues.
“There is no such thing as N20 billion debt proposal by the Edo State Government, and Edo people cannot be distracted by such wild claim.
It is ridiculous that on a day the APC candidate is billed to appear in court after several efforts on his part to stall his prosecution, he comes up with a bogus claim of a non-existent debt proposal, and pay people to put up a protest around the court premises.”