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Obaseki, PDP trade words over Edo debt profile

• Gov swears in new revenue board members

From Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin

Edo Governor, Godwin Obaseki and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) traded words over the financial status of the state, yesterday.

While the PDP alleged that the state is heavily indebted, the governor dismissed the allegation and said Edo has the best debt profile in Nigeria and added that there is virtually no government or business anywhere in the world that does not have debts.

Governor Obaseki said the state was privileged as Lagos State, in Sub-Saharan Africa, to access World Bank loans at less than one percent for 20 years, and, in some cases, 10 years moratorium.

He noted that it is salient to borrow with caution, saying: “Debts must be managed responsibly or no lender will borrow you money. If they believe that you do not have the capacity to pay.”

A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. John Mayaki quoted Obaseki as urging critics to be cautious.

“Let us be careful; when you have financial illiterates picking figures wrongly and saying Edo is the most indebted state, you don’t join issues with them and you don’t take them seriously.

“You cannot say we are so indebted and yet, we are able to pay salaries, we are able to pay our contractors and we are able to run our services. You also need to look at who is saying what, and what the motivation is. If we expose the evil they perpetuated in their era in government… We could show you how they collected N4 billion from four banks and that money never came into the government coffers but went into private accounts; the documents are there.

“Take a look at the companies they set up when they were in government, they all failed. So, does it make sense to put money in business? It is not government’s job to run businesses, but that of those in the private sector, who can take the risk. I don’t believe we should spend taxpayers’ money on things individuals can do better than government can do.”

In his response, PDP Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chris Nehikhare recalled that the party drew the attention of the governor to the concern of Edo citizens over the deliberate decision of not disclosing the actual debt profile and the details of the content of the handover note received from his predecessor.

He quoted the state Chairman of PDP, Chief Dan Orbih as saying: “It is true that Adams Oshiomhole accessed $150 million controversial World Bank loan at one percent interest over a 20 year period, at which time, if God willing, he will be in the prestigious octogenarian club.”

He added that the governor was being economical with the truth.

“PDP has asked Obaseki to tell citizens of the state how much he inherited as debts from his predecessor rather than pontificating that Edo is not a highly indebted state.

Nehikhare, quoting Chief Orbih, said Oshiomhole’s administration took the loan, “as a result of his limited knowledge in financial matters. We are surprised that a self-styled financial expert in the person of governor Obaseki cannot read between the lines.”

He said Chief Orbih challenged Obaseki to disclose the exchange rate at the time the money was borrowed, the current exchange rate and the projected exchange rate at the time the money will be paid.

“Can the governor still refer to the loan as one that was accessed at less than one percent interest rate? I make bold to say that the loan at the time of repayment will be the most expensive ever in Africa,” he said.

In another development, Obaseki, yesterday, administered the oath of office on the chairman and members of Edo Internal Revenue Service (EIRS) board at the Government House, Benin.

Obaseki urged them to be professional and meet up with budgeted revenue targets.

He said one of the challenges of previous boards was inability to meet budgeted revenue targets, noting that it would not be accepted anymore.

He commended the immediate former chairman and members of the board for the level of patriotism and professionalism displayed during their tenure.

Also, the governor called on the new board members to build on the already established benchmark of their predecessors and urged them to adopt the right technology and be prudent in spending, to ensure effective performance of the board.

In his response, Chairman of the board, Mr. Igbinidu Inneh, thanked the governor for the opportunity to oversee revenue collection in the state.

Inneh also praised his predecessor and former members of the board for repositioning the revenue service in the state.

He promised the new board would live up to its expectations, be accountable and sustain taxpayers’ confidence.

He said the board would execute its task with six principles: legal and regulatory, availability of data, human capital capacity, technology selection, enlightenment and social inclusion and value for money for optimal performance.

Other members of the board are Mr. Charity Aimamyaevbo, Mr. Emmanuel Okodugha, Micheal Ohio-Ezomo and Mr. Efe Iserhienrhien as secretary.


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