Facts have emerged on the reason Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has been throwing tirades at immediate past finance minister, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The pair have been throwing banters at each other in the past few weeks over issues bothering on misappropriation of funds, especially those of the Excess Crude Account and the NNPC accruals.
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A report by Thisday has now shown that the recent allegations may not be unconnected to the refusal by Okonjo-Iweala to grant loan requests by the governor to pursue financial obligations, which the then minister considered unfavourable to the interest of Edo state.
According to some documents obtained from some sources at the Debt Management Office (DMO), the Edo state governor had in a letter dated December 9, 2014, requested a “No Objection” for facilities totalling N15.37 billion, which were turned down by DMO and the minister.
It was further revealed that the Edo State Government asked for a "No Objection" for a N13.2 billion term loan from Ecobank Plc to enable the state government meet its payment obligations to contractors; a N1.03 billion term loan from Fidelity Bank Plc to meet the Edo government’s State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB) 50 per cent counterpart funding obligations; and yet another N1.14 billion term loan from Ecobank Plc to meet the state’s 50 per cent counterpart funding obligations to SUBEB.
But all the requests were reportedly turned down by the ministry of finance under Okonjo-Iweala directive following the assessment and guidance provided by DMO, which observed that the loans would be inappropriate and ran contrary to the existing guidelines.
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She allegedly claimed at the time, that approving the requests could put the state in a very difficult position, because it was wrong for the state government to obtain a commercial loan and repay same via a World Bank disbursement, which Edo state was expecting.
She had, through the DMO, communicated her reservations, that using a concessional World Bank facility with a 25-year tenor and a five-year grace period at 1.25 per interest rate to pay for a commercial bank loan of 23 months tenor and 18 per cent interest rate, was not only irregular but was not economically sustainable.
“In fact, World Bank rules abhor the use of the institution’s facilities to offset commercial loans,” the DMO reportedly informed in another letter in response to the Edo state government.
Thisday investigations have further revealed that Okonjo-Iweala did not just reject the loan applications, but actually offered some other solutions, including borrowing a smaller amount through a N5 billion bond with a lower interest rate than a bank loan. But Oshiomhole rejected this option.
READ ALSO: Oshiomhole Slams GEJ, Okonjo-Iweala For Denying Edo N10B
It was gathered also that Edo state was not the only state whose loan applications were not approved by the former minister. Several other states also had their applications rejected based on the results of the Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) carried out by the DMO.
Thisday sources have now stated that Oshiomhole’s sudden repeated attacks against Okonjo-Iweala were indicative of the fact that he took the minister’s rejection of the application very personally, as he desperately needed the funds before the 2015 elections.
He was also reportedly displeased with the publication of what the states as well as the federal government got from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) between 2011 and 2014 because it put the information into the hands of Edo citizens to whom he had been crying that he did not have enough money because the government at the centre was denying the state its due from the ECA.
When confronted with the documents in Thisday's possession, the media aide to the governor, Kassim Afegbua, dismissed the reference to the loans requested by the governor, describing it as a weak attempt to whip up sentiments with the intent of masking the real issue which was the illegality perpetrated by Okonjo-Iweala “who was dipping her hand in collusion with the president into the ECA and spending money against the provision of our laws which make it mandatory for the National Economic Council (NEC) to approve withdrawals from the ECA.
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“Oshiomhole has not been making reckless accusations. Why are the minister and her co-travellers begging the issue? Are they saying Okonjo-Iweala’s dipping her hands into the ECA is acceptable under our laws?
“Are they saying that the former minister is at liberty to take money from the ECA to pay subsidy claims without the required approvals? Does she have the right to take money from the ECA running into several billions?
“Oshiomhole is not raising dust over nothing; the funds in the ECA is owned by the federal government to the tune of 52 per cent, while the states and the local governments own the balance 48 per cent.
“Under our laws, the president can’t spend the federal government's funds without the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).”
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He argued further that Okonjo-Iweala had changed her position on this issue up to four times, indicating that she must have something to hide, stating: "this is simple logic, since you have been publishing the disbursement of the funds to the various state governments from the ECA, what stops you from also publishing the accruals into the same account?
“She needs to tell us the law that allows you to spend the funds in the ECA without permission. She initially said FAAC gave the approvals and FAAC said they did not and the she changed her position and said it was the president who gave the permission, but is the president permitted to do that? The answer is no.
“Instead of addressing these important issues and addressing these violations her spokesperson is feigning ignorance and begging the issue.
“They mismanaged the economy and plundered our collective patrimony with reckless abandon. She was indeed the coordinating minister of economic fraud and financial malfeasance."
The ex-minister, in one of her replies to the governor, stated that he was suffering from numerical diarrhea.