APC, Delta Lawmakers Slam Okowa Over State's Indebtedness, As Rights Group Seeks Uduaghan's Probe

Source: thewillnigeria.com

BEVERLY HILLS, June 29 (THEWILL) – The Delta State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) has slammed Governor Ifeanyi Okowa over his recent revelation that the state was indebted to banks, saying the Governor was only playing to the gallery and being disingenuous in his claims about the financial mess he allegedly inherited from his predecessor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.

This came as a right group, Centre for Vulnerable and the Underprivileged, (CENTREP), weekend asked Governor Okowa to disclose in full the actual debt profile of the State as well as investigate and probe all debts owed contractors under the watch of his predecessor, Uduaghan.

APC in a statement issued in Warri, the commercial nerve centre of the state and signed by its media adviser, Barr. Martins Mukoro, described as embarrassing and an insult to the sensibility of Deltans, Governor Okowa’s alleged attempt to “shed crocodile tears” over the huge debt profile of the state totalling over N600 billion which his predecessor left behind.

According to the party, Okowa is merely setting the stage by crying wolf to divert attention and in order to lay the foundation for him to go borrowing more money thereby plunging the state into a deeper financial disaster.

The statement said: “The APC recalled having earlier forewarned Deltans, during the campaigns, that Okowa represents NO CHANGE but more of the SAME of PDP’s 16 years of mis-rule. From Governor Okowa’s days as Commissioner, multiple times under Governor Ibori to his days as the Secretary to the Government under Uduaghan that accumulated these debts.

“He has no moral excuse to attempt to distance himself as if he was an on-looker or bystander while the state was being wrecked. Okowa was not an on-looker but a key participant and a major co-conspirator and he is in no position to rescue Delta from the mess created by him and the past PDP Administrations.”

To this end, APC has urged all Deltans to brace up for the change that has been delayed and be ready to seize the opportunity of the expected re-run that may soon be ordered by the ongoing elections tribunal to support the APC at all levels to effect the desired change that will bring what it called relief, a breath of fresh air and freedom to Delta State.

In the same vein, some aggrieved members of the Delta State House of Assembly have accused Governor Okowa of fooling the House by obtaining a bank loan of N10 billion from Zenith Bank without a formal approval from the House.

It would be recalled that Governor Okowa had last Tuesday transmitted a letter to the speaker of the House, Hon. Monday Igbuya, seeking approval to borrow a N10billion loan from Zenith Bank which the Assembly had expressly approved without much debate.

THEWILL was told by some lawmakers that Governor Okowa had allegedly obtained the loan on assumption of office before formally sending a letter seeking an approval from the Assembly to do same. We could not however independently verify this claim as at the time of writing this report.

The lawmakers who confided on THEWILL described the action of the Governor as “illegal, unconstitutional and corrupt.”

One of our source who craved anonymity said: “This should not be regarded as fighting the governor but anything worth doing is worth doing well. I am a first term lawmaker, and I have never been in government before but I know how government operates. How will the governor, after obtaining a loan and started spending it, now send a letter to the House to seek approval? This is deceptive, illegal, unconstitutional and corruption.

“These were some of the things past administrations did that put us into all the mess we are in today in the state. Do you know that it was after the approval had been made that some of us came to discover that the loan had since been obtained before the approval was made by the House and some of us felt very bad about this deception.”

Speaking in the same vein, an opposition lawmaker in the House also condemned the action of the Governor, saying Okowa was only capitalising on his public declaration of the indebtedness of the state to recoup some of his debt incurred during the election.

“I am never a fan or supporter of Uduaghan but while posterity will be judging the former governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, Governor Okowa must not trade with the state because with the way and manner he is going, if not properly checked, the state might be sold off,” the lawmaker said.

The lawmaker disclosed that Governor Okowa according to his letter said that Zenith Bank Plc. had offered to restructure the existing loan facility while the N10 billion loan was consented to in principle, subject to the approval of the House.

“Yes we are saying Uduaghan was bad but I must tell you today that if care is not taken, Okowa will be worst and I know this sixth Assembly won’t close their eyes to any nonsense,” he further said.

Dependable sources at the State Assembly told THEWILL that: “In the Okowa’s letter read on the floor of the House by the Speaker, Mr. Monday Igbuya, Okowa was quoted to have said his administration met a huge bank and capital market debt burden of about N96.62 billion with a scheduled monthly repayment of N4.6 billion.

“But for some of us, the question is that why is Okowa hiding the truth about the true debt profile of the state? Okowa, should not forget easily that he was part and parcel of the Uduaghan’s government and by implication, he contributed to the debts he is blowing out of proportion.

“We can remember very well that Okowa was Secretary to the State Government, SSG, in the first term of Uduaghan; as such he is part of the debt. Nobody is justifying or holding brief for former Governor Uduaghan but the truth be said.

“Okowa also forgot that his very close associate and former Speaker and former acting governor of the state, Mr. Sam Obi, obtained a loan of N20billion and nobody is saying anything about that.”

Meanwhile, a human right group, CENTREP, has called for the probe of the administration of the immediate past Governor of the State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.

The group in a statement issued in Warri and signed by its Executive Director, Barrister Oghenejabor Ikimi and made available to THEWILL, said it was “pure evil” against the downtrodden masses of the State by the former governor whom he described as “a major contractor in the State”, to have left a whopping N636 billion debt burden for his successor.

The statement said: “Though we are not oblivious of the fact that the actual debt burden of the State is well over a trillion naira as revealed in the transition committee report submitted to the incumbent Governor, we wonder why the State Governor has settled for the above sum of N636 billion.

“We therefore call on the incumbent Governor for the avoidance of doubt to immediately publish the full extract of his transition committee report in the above regard as the above subject, such as the debt profile of the State cannot be traded for politics as same is not a Peoples Democratic Party family affair or an Ibori political family affair.

“Nevertheless, we still appreciate the incumbent Governor of the State for finding courage to put the debt burden of the State at N636 billion.

“We however make bold to say that going by the above conservative figure itself, it is glaring that the immediate past Governor of the State mortgaged the future of the State and her people before he handed over the reigns of governance to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and we call for an inquest or a probe by the State Government to investigate all the debts owed contractors in the State under the watch of the immediate past governor which figure Governor Okowa has liberally put at N539 billion excluding the principal sum of N98 billion owned commercial banks, as ex Governor Uduaghan was himself a major contractor in the State with several companies fronting for him under his watch as Governor.

“The urgent need for an inquest or a probe of the above sum of N539billion owed contractors in the State that took place under the watch of the immediate past Governor is informed by the fact that same was fraught with fraud and duplicity to the detriment of the State as stated in the transition committee report handed over to the incumbent Governor and we once again reiterate our call for the publication of the extract of the said report for the avoidance of doubt.

“To press home the above fact, we make bold to say that projects like the now declassified Asaba Airport which cost the State over N30 billion, and the Effurun and Asaba flyovers which were constructed at a whopping sum of N7.4 billion amongst others projects carried out under the watch of the immediate past Governor are a pointer to the above fraud.

“No wonder the immediate past Governor tried to install a puppet as Governor of the State to cover his above fraudulent tracts but failed woefully at the People’s Democratic Party governorship primary in the State.

“Little wonder also a week before the inauguration of the present Government in the State, the Accountant General of the State went into hiding as the immediate past Governor was bent on further crippling the remaining scanty finances in the vaults of the State before leaving office.

“We make bold to state that while we appreciate Governor Okowa’s assurances to the people of the State on the floor of the Delta State House of Assembly to lead by example, we state that he can only lead by example as a leader and Governor “if he knows the way, and shows the way and leads the way.” Anything short of the above would be tantamount to political gymnastics.

“To lead by example, Governor Okowa must first and foremost disclose in full the actual debt profile of the State. Secondly, he must investigate and probe all debts owed contractors under the watch of his predecessor. Thirdly he must fight official corruption head on in the State and plug all avenues of financial waste and mismanagement via probity, accountability and transparency in the governance of the State.

“Fourth, he must appoint a sizeable cabinet of Civil commissioners and special advisers and aides who together with himself as Governor including his deputy and other public officeholders in the State be prepared to forego 50 percent of their salaries and allowances, and he must prune down Government ministries and parastartals in the State to save money to pay civil servants, pensioners, and provide public infrastructures for the people of the State and meet the cost of governance instead of resorting to borrowing as it was with the previous administration.

“We posit that it is when the above is done, that Deltans can confidently say that their Governor is leading by example, and all Deltans would be prepared to support and sacrifice with his administration to save the entire State from the woods.

“We were not oblivious of the fact that under ex Governor Uduaghan, the State had a whopping 33 civil commissioners and 165 special advisers and civil aides, while official corruption, mismanagement and the plundering of our commonwealth as a State took centre stage.

“The economy of our dear State is heading for an implosion and as such Governor Okowa must take the above drastic steps so that he does not end up being the last People’s Democratic Party Governor in the State”.