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Edo state government of lies, deceit and coercion

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A few days ago the government of Edo State once again demonstrated it’s propensity and capacity to lie unashamedly and deceive the people of the state without remorse. If anyone had doubts that Obaseki and his team believe Edo people are docile and incapable of independent analysis of issues, the recent brazen attempts to manipulate the minds of our people through official deception, cleared such doubts.

How else can one possibly explain the sheer audacity, temerity and callousness with which the governor sent his Commissioner for Budget and Finance, Mr. Joseph Eboigbe; Commissioner for Orientation and Communication, Chris Nehikare, and his Special Adviser on Media Project, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, to hold a Press Conference with a well concocted plan to merchandise falsehoods to Edo people and the world. What crime did we commit as a people that will make a governor, elected to protect our interest, hate us so much that he cannot even give us accurate information on the money that accrue to our state as legitimate share for being part of the Nigerian nation?

On 18th of November 2022 at the commissioning of the Nabo Graham Douglas campus of the Nigerian Law School in Rumueme, Port Harcourt, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike commended President Buhari for approving the payment of funds withheld by previous governments since 1999, to Oil Producing States. The governor announced publicly and unequivocally that the money has been the major source of funding for his much talked about infrastructural development in Rivers State.

According to him, while other presidents since 1999 held on to part of the 13 percent derivation funds, Buhari approved its release to Rivers and all other states in the South South region of Nigeria.

This revelation started a conversation and stirred up agitations in other South South states as the people called on their governments to show evidence of what they had utilised their own share of the refunds for, especially since Governor Wike has openly confessed that he used that of Rivers State for the building of over 10 Flyover bridges, Law School Complex and other very important projects in the state.

This agitation for explanation is what spurred Governor Obaseki of Edo State to delegate his Commissioner for Budget and Finance, Commissioner for Orientation and Communication and Special Adviser on Media Projects to address a Press Conference on the issue, after a deafening silence that lasted over a week.

Curiosly, the Edo State government officials did not offer any explanation on what the refund was utilised for, which was the primary concern of Edo people. Instead they sought to trivialise the whole idea of a refund from the federal government by putting forward some ad hominen which can be summarised thus:

1. That the total refund due to Edo State is N28 Billion, which will come in 20 tranches over 5 years, and of this sum only N2.1 has been received and it came in three tranches of N700,000,000.

2. That the Obaseki government is the most transparent administration in Edo State for 30 years and that the government is prudent in all its financial dealings.

3. That the immediate past Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has no moral right to comment on any financial impropriety in this government because his own administration earned 1 trillion Naira in 8 years and left a debt of N160 Billion.

4. That nobody should question the government on what it utilised the refund from the federal government on since Edo State annual budget is between 250 to 300 Billion and N2.1 Billion is insignificant in the circumstance.

The first sign that the officials were on a deliberate mission of deception is when they began to approximate rather than being specific about figures that they have at their disposal. Godwin Obaseki was the chairman Economic Team during the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole administration. He was the one who recommended loans that the government needed in order to pursue its programmes. It was his company Afrinvest that negotiated the loans and earned huge commissions for the services. He also sat in Exco when those loans were appropriated. So when Governor Obaseki was sending his Commissioners to grant a Press Conference, he ought to have given them specific records of the income that accrued to the Oshiomhole government in 8 years, the specific figures of debts that the Oshiomhole administration left behind, and the debt his own government has incurred in the past 6 years. This is the only way that one could make a comparison to justify his own claim of tranparency. There is no way the Oshiomhole administration could have earned exactly 1 trillion Naira and left exactly 160 Billion Naira in debts.

Giving exact details of the income and debts to the last kobo is the only way those figures can be taken seriously. The commissioners had enough time to prepare for the Press Conference and the whole documents concerning all financial transactions in the Oshiomhole administration is at their disposal. So their statements in that regard is merely speculative especially when it was not backed by any documents or details.

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However, since governor Godwin Obaseki has come out to say that the Oshiomhole government left behind a debt burden of 160 Billion Naira, we appeal to governor Obaseki to answer the following questions

1. How much of that debt came from loans.

2. How much of that loan was negotiated by his company Afrinvest and what was the total amount earned by his company as commission for those loans.

3. Why did Governor Obaseki wait for Governor Wike to tell the world that there were refunds from the Federal Government before reluctantly sending his Commissioners to address a Press Conference. That is not a sign of transparency Mr. Governor! . If there is any governor in the entire South South region who can lay claims to transparency on this issue, it is Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. Without his public appreciation of President Muhammadu Buhari, no other governor who received the same refunds came out to acknowledge it. There was obviously a conspiracy of silence between them that was eventually broken by Governor Wike’s public acknowledgement and appreciation of the President.

4. How much of the loans that were negotiated during the Oshiomhole administration was received by the state when Oshiomhole was no longer governor. In essence, how much of the debts Obaseki is ascribing to the Oshiomhole administration was actually money utilized by the Obaseki administration?

All the loans incurred under Oshiomhole’s government was brokered by Afrinvest chaired by Mr Godwin Obaseki and they collected nothing less than 15% per tranche.

So, if without conceding that Oshiomhole’s government left N160bn debt behind in 2016 assume that Mr. Godwin Obaseki’s company Afrinvest earned 15% as commission on the N160 Billion since he was then the chairman of that company, is that not a case of conflict of interest and the pot calling a kettle black?

We shoud also recall that during the run up to the 2016 election which produced Obaseki as the Governor, and during the 2020 re-election he claimed that he was the engine room of Oshiomhole’s government. This is the record he used to get elected and reelected. So, just as the engine of a vehicle is responsible for the fuel consumption of the vehicle and any oil leakages of that vehicle, that is how Godwin Obaseki is responsible for any debts procured by the Oshiomhole administration because not only was he the head of the economic team, he was also the one who negotiated the loans and earned commission for it. It is therefore not impossible that Godwin Obaseki in his capacity as head of economic team, wrongfully advised the government to take loans knowing that his company would earn commission for such loans. Also, governor Godwin Obaseki should tell Edo people exactly how much loan was negotiated and sealed during the time Oshiomhole was governor but was released when he was governor. Being a participnt in the Oshiomhole government, he may have used the name of that administration to procure loans and ensured that they were only released after that administration had ended and his own government started.

To avoid misinformation, misconceptions and misunderstanding, it is important that statements bothering on financial dealings are correctly related in specifics.

From available records , there was no time Edo State government received the sum of 700 million in three tranches from the federal government. On the contrary, Edo State government received as “Refund of 13% Derivation Fund on deductions made by NNPC without payment of derivation to Oil Producing State from 1999 to December 2021” the sum of N766, 614, 272.73 in three tranches totalling N2,299,842,818.19 between 11/01/2022 and 10/11/2022.

Also, between 02/10/2021 and 11/01/2022, Edo State government received as “Refund of 13% Derivation Fund Withdrawal from ECA without deducting derivation from 2004 to December 2019” a total of N11, 320, 351, 575.16. The money came in the sum of N1, 703, 661,801.00 (4 tranches) and the sum of N1, 128, 676, 002. 79. (4 tranches)

Furthermore, on 10/11/2022, the Edo State government received as “Refund to States as Withdrawal for Subsidy and Sure-P from 2009 to 2015”, the sum N4, 705, 550, 859. 39.

The total amount received by the Edo State government from the federal government as “Refunds of 13 % Derivation Fund and Sure-P” is N18, 325, 745,250.

This is over N16. 2 Billion more than what Governor Godwin Obaseki’s government of lies, deception and coercion fraudulently told Edo people they received from the Federal Republic. It negates the claims made by the Edo State commissioner for Finance that the government only received the sum of 700 million in three tranches.

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It is time Godwin Obaseki and his government of garrulous misfits realise that Edo people are no longer interested in the Oshiomhole administration which ended over six years ago. They have had the chance to appraise that administration and the verdict is in that it was impactful, people oriented and generally successful.

Majority of Edo people look back to the Oshiomhole administration with nostalgia. On the other hand, there is unanimity of opinion today that the Obaseki administration is a scourge that Edo people are eagerly looking forward to its termination. Even those who helped Obaseki get reelected for a second tenure are openly regretting and blaming themselves for being enablers of this disaster that has befallen our land.

The governor should as a matter of urgency, personally address a Press Conference to clear the air on what he did with the over N18 billion Naira he received as refunds from the Federal Government within the last 12 calendar months.

 

By Dr. Fidel Okpo

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