The Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa, an NGO committed to government transparency and accountability, has raised the alarm over alleged plans by the Edo State Government to embark on a capital market borrowing spree after purportedly depleting the state’s treasury on re-election plans.
The group said the state government’s preparation against COVID-19 had been hampered by a lack of funds and the state government was now mooting plans to further commit the state to more debts through under-the-table loan deals that could spell doom for the economy.
In a statement signed by its Edo State Coordinator, Mallam Shaibu Abdulsalam, the group said “Having spent so much money for the wrong purposes, Governor Godwin Obaseki’s spendthrift character has returned to haunt him.
“First of all, the financial thread of Obaseki’s administration cannot be traced because the government is shy of accountability.
“But now, frayed by the coronavirus pandemic and the expensive requirements needed to combat the spread, the government is exposed, its atrocities brought to its face.”
According to the group, “For a government whose expenditures, due to its stealthy behaviors, cannot be traced, we can only start from where we can in understanding why the government is broke.
“The most recent cause of extravagance spending was not even a project that would benefit the masses.
“It was the Oshiomhole-must-go ambition, led by Obaseki himself, funded by millions of dollars drawn from the state treasury. And this failed mission, obviously, was a personal vendetta executed with public funds.”
The group continued: “Still fumbling from this loss, its pocket running low, the administration suddenly woke up to one of its responsibilities.
“Edo State was meant to host the year’s National Sports Festival, an honor that should, if properly handled, generate revenue for Edo State and also stimulate economic growth through the boom small businesses would experience serving the needs of the visiting sports enthusiasts.
“But this sports festival, with its great promises, aside being cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, was bungled by the Obaseki-led administration.
“Like the global Olympic sports festival, to make financial successes out of such events, the host must first invest wisely through constructing structures with appealing aesthetics.
“This should be followed up by well-planned, awe-inspiring chain of activities. Visitors and spectators are treated to a great entertaining experience, hence compelling them to relax and spend.
But the group contended that “The government had no such grand plan, nor the sincere intention to make greatness out of the festival. The most immediate proof of this is the shoddy, hurried job they did with the hosting stadium.
“However, underwhelming performance by this government no longer draws surprises; rather, what is shocking, and at the same time horrible, is the enormous sum of money they claim to have expended for the purpose of this same shodily-prepared sports festival.
“Worse, this dishonest extravagance, this glaring corruption, ultimately, rendered the state poor, broke, and beggarly.
“The beginning of this problem was the unwise and unwarranted expenditures channeled towards ousting the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole.”
The group continued: “In effecting the mission, Obaseki had greatly used his deputy, Philip Shaibu, and in reward, Obaseki granted him a license to treat accountability with contempt, using the guise of the stadium renovation.
“This was how Edo State came to financial tatters, helpless before a ravaging virus outbreak, now having to resort to the help rendered by private individuals and austere measures like owing salaries, slashing Edo State House of Assembly and judiciary overhead payments, and tasking wards.”
The group decried the failure of Governor Obaseki to slash his 700 million naira security vote, a development that has portrayed him as lacking in compassion and understanding l.
“The government is now running helter-skelter, looking for where to borrow money, a move that will consequently lead to piling up debts for the state.
“Worse, there is an election coming up later in the year, one that the incumbent government is very likely to lose, going by public opinion and expert forecast.
“Consequently, the debt burden this administration is about to incur would be borne by the incoming government.”
“This kind of future, along with the state’s present experiences, is a cause for worry worsened by going cap-in-hand to lending institutions, thus creating a future charaterised by endless debt servicing and repayment.”
The group added: “The greatest statement of despair was the ironical charity of the Commissioner for Justice, Prof Yinka Omorogbe, who was seen on Thursday donating food items to some people in her office.
“With the compulsory deductions from the 18 local governments to aid the state government efforts to provide relief package, salaries cannot be paid at the LG levels.
“It is the understanding of the danger this poses, especially as the lockdown rule swings into full motion, leaving citizens owed and not provided for by a now broke government, that warranted the Commissioner of Justice to venture into charity, and compelling her to commend the activities of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, one of the frontline APC gubernatorial aspirants.
“The commissioner is an insider and she knows the true nature of things. She too is at the receiving end of slashed payments and owed salaries, hence, if she is doing charity, thanking those doing same, and urging more private individuals to join the effort, then there is fire on the mountain, and we are calling the public’s attention to it.”