Again, Lokpobiri challenges Governor Dickson to come clean on Bayelsa's debt burden

Again, Lokpobiri challenges Governor Dickson to come clean on Bayelsa's debt burden

- Senator Heineken Lokpobiri has become a thorn in the flesh of the Bayelsa state government

- Lokpobiri has challenged the Bayelsa government to come clean on Bayelsa state debts

- The minister in an another salvo aimed at the government, accused Governor Seriake Dickson of wastefulness

The minister of state for agriculture and rural development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, has again challenged the Bayelsa government to explain what and how the administration expended N800 billion (domestic) and $216 million (external) loans.

The minister stated this while reacting to the demands of a group named Association of Bayelsa Professional (ABP) challenging him to substantiate the recent claims he made against the government.

In a statement signed by his media aide, George Oji, and sent to, the minister insisted that the governor must come clean on Bayelsa state debts.

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Part of the statement read: “Happily, the governor has publicly admitted and committed to paying workers’ outstanding salaries from the N24.16 billion the state just received from the Paris Club debt refund.

“The minister is however worried and concerned that it will take the receipt of the Paris debt refund before the governor can meet the state’s statutory financial obligations to its workers.

“It surprises the minister also why the governor cannot defray the entire workers’ salaries from the debt refund, promising to pay only two out of the three months outstanding salaries to the workers and four months out of the seven months outstanding to the pensioners in the state.

“For a state that has one of the least number of workers in its pay roll in the country and ranks amongst the highest recipients from the federation account, the minister is surprised that Bayelsa state falls within the hall of shame of the states that are unable to meet their financial obligations to its workers."

The minister challenged the governor to make public the monthly wage bill of the state to show why it has become difficult for a state like Bayelsa with the least number of workers to meets its wage obligations to the workers.

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He maintained that the payment of workers’ salary by an elected governor does not amount to favour to the people but a statutory obligation.

Concerning the debt profile of Bayelsa, the minister reiterated that the state has accumulated the sum of N800 billion (domestic) and $216 million (foreign) debt without anything tangible to show for it.

“This figures, which is still contained in the website of the Debt Management Office (DMO) shows that in 2012, the states domestic debt stood at N22billion, foreign $28 million, in 2013, it was N70 billion (domestic) and $29 million (foreign), in 2014, the amount was N92 billion (domestic) and $35 million (foreign) and in 2015, it was N103 billion (domestic) and $38 million (foreign). Similarly, in 2016 the domestic debt was N140 billion and $39 million (foreign) while in 2017, it was N129 billion (domestic) and $48 million (foreign),” the minister clarified.

He insisted that it does not matter that over the years, these debts have been reduced, stressing, “the fact remains that the governor owes the people of Bayelsa the obligation of showing and explaining how, and to what use, he deployed the borrowed funds.”

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Meanwhile, Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom has urged the people of the state to remain calm, following the decision of the federal government to withdraw the final tranche of Paris club refund sent to the state.

While expressing shock at the decision of the federal government to withdraw the funds, Governor Ortom expressed optimism that the decision will be reversed in the interest of the workers and retirees of the state.

Following the governor's directive to the state ministry of finance, payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities was set to commence on Tuesday, September 25, only for the people to wake up with the news of federal government's recall of the funds from the state's accounts.

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