The ruling All Progressives Congress in Edo State and the Peoples Democratic Party have traded words over the state’s foreign external debt stock.
The Debt Management Office had in its latest statistics ranked Edo as the third highest debtor to foreign creditors among subnational governments in Nigeria.
According to the data, the state owed $232.2 million as of December 2017, coming behind Lagos and Kaduna, which owed $1.47bn and $238.28m, respectively.
The opposition PDP, while reacting to the DMO report, said that it showed that the APC government had allegedly thrown the state and its citizens into perpetual indebtedness, an allegation the ruling party denied.
It also accused the state government of allegedly over-burdening the citizens with debts that “generations yet unborn will continue to settle and pay.”
The State Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, said, “Our own information shows that we (Edo) are second (highest debtor). I think I need to reconcile what we have with the DMO so that it would see that, actually, Edo is number two.
“It shows clearly what we have been saying over the past nine years of the APC government. It (APC) has thrown the state into a bottomless pit of debt that generations yet unborn will continue to settle and pay.”
But reacting, the State Chairman of APC, Anselm Ojezua, told our correspondent on the telephone, that the data released by the DMO also included debts incurred by previous administrations under the PDP, adding that the loans taken by the state government had been directed at capital projects and other activities aimed at boosting the state’s economy.
Ojezua said, “The DMO statistics include debts that were incurred even before the APC got into office in this state; they include the ones that were incurred by the PDP government. But one thing I want to let you know is that all the loans we have taken as the APC (government) in Edo State have all been directed to capital projects, infrastructure, and all the debts that we will eventually incur will be those that can be used to boost the economy of our state and human resources, not to pay salaries and claims, as is the tradition of the PDP.
“PDP is the party I know; it would take loans and not use it for the purpose. Rather, it would privatise the money and transfer the liability to the state. But in the case of the APC, we are very responsible with the type of debt that we incur.”
According to him, the state government did not incur debts that would be burdensome but was open to loans that were productive and beneficial to the state’s economy, even as he added that the state government had been faithful in servicing its local debts.
Ojezua explained, “I am sure one of those (debts) it (PDP) is talking about is the debt that we owe the World Bank; it is a special type because it is what is called a budget support and the World Bank only gives it to state governments who have proven to be responsible in financial matters.
“It is a debt that is almost free because you have 40 years to pay and the interest rate is one per cent. There is nothing burdensome about what we are doing. As long as you are able to expand and deepen your economic capacity, repayment of those debts becomes a matter of course.”
However, the PDP maintained that Edo did not have any business incurring huge debts if the resources available were properly managed by the state government.
Orbih noted, “The present governor played a leading role in incurring this debt for no just course. It is clear that the mismanagement of state resources under the (Adams) Oshiomhole and (Godwin) Obaseki administrations has put us in this sorry state.
“I wish to remind you that Obaseki was the head of Oshiomhole’s economic team, a team that facilitated and negotiated most of the debts that have now plagued the state. It is sad that they have thrown us into this sorry state of indebtedness because the problem is not scarce resources but mismanagement of resources.”
“From the time of Oshiomhole till date, the APC government takes an average of N500 million every month for undisclosed urgent security challenges. So, when they mismanaged our money they resort to borrowing,” he added.
On the allegation that the state spent N500 million every month on security, Ojezua said, “I do not know about that; I think you can get that information from the government. But you will notice that, for some time now, the security situation in Edo State has improved greatly and that is because of the investment.