By Emem Idio
WITH the 2019 general election drawing closer, the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, in Bayelsa State appears to have woken up from its slumber.
Before now, there had been worries among observers that the APC was not providing the needed checks on alleged excesses and unpopular policies of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP- led government in the state.
However, with the commencement of the campaigns for the 2019 elections, the scenario is changing now. In the last two weeks, the APC has caused the state government some sleepless nights over a number of issues including the N80 billion Airport project, posting of commissioners of police, and slashing of monthly subvention of the Niger Delta University, NDU among others.
CP posting controversies
The government fingered the APC leadership for the frequent posting of commissioners of police to the state, and calls for the disbandment of the state government special security outfit code-named Operation Doo Akpo.
The Minister of State, Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, denied any complicity, saying that with the election at the corner, the PDP “is jittery and unsettled and therefore concocting excuses to justify its coming electoral doom.”
Bayelsa APC in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Doifie Buokoribo, said that the resolution of the State House of Assembly accusing the party of complicity in the posting of State Police Commissioner showed that the assembly is ‘mischievously opposing a constitutional security arrangement simply because it denied them the room to repeat the electoral fraud they perpetrated to win the last governorship elections in the state.”
The Minister, in a statement by his Media Aide, George Orji, wondered why the PDP is engaging ”in a binge of complaints and spurious allegations over change of police commissioners in Bayelsa State. ‘
”The question APC continues to pose is, why is PDP jittery and unsettled over what is otherwise a purely security matter and seeking to score cheap political point out of the issue?…The Minister is most shocked with Governor Seriake Dickson who as a former police constable ought to be familiar with the fact and practice that the posting of commissioners of Police to states are purely the responsibility and prerogative of the Inspector General of Police.”
On the allegation that the police is targeting the disbandment of the state Dou-akpo security outfit, the minister dissociated the APC from it and recalled the recent directive of the National Security Adviser to all the security chiefs in the country to immediately disband all illegal and unauthorised security outfits.
“If there is a directive from the office of the NSA saying that all illegal security outfits should be disbanded and anybody who has any complaints against such directives, the person is at liberty to refer their concerns to the appropriate office, in this case, the office of the NSA, not to blame it on the Minister.’’
N80b Airport project
The opposition described the airport project as a “cesspit of fraud” and a fraudulent scheme put up by Governor Dickson to siphon state funds.
The APC,in a statement its Publicity Secretary, Doifie Buokoribo, alleged that the N80 billion plus Bayelsa airport project was built at a vastly inflated costs, making it “clearly the most expensive airport project in Nigeria, as none of the 26 owned by the Federal Government or the eight owned by states is near that figure.”
According to the APC, “Governor Henry Seriake Dickson collected a N40 billion credit facility from a commercial bank to commence work on the project. As against the initial estimated cost of N40 billion, the Bayelsa State governor himself disclosed in Amassoma, Southern Ijaw Local Government Council, on 26 May 2018 that N80 billion had already been spent by the State Government.
“Add to the new figure the loan interest of N32 billion, and the cost comes to N112 billion. It is clearly the most expensive airport project in Nigeria, as none of the 26 owned by the Federal Government or the eight owned by states is near that figure…
“The Bayelsa International Airport project does not make any economic sense. A total interest of N32 billion (to be serviced within eight years) is a crippling repayment burden to the state. What is more, its faulty conceptualisation leaves the airport without a critical axial component – a standard road network or connecting rail system – for ground accessibility.
APC added that the airport is being built at the detriment of civil servants, teachers, pensioners, local government employees, and other segments of the populace, who had been without salaries or pensions, or had been placed on half pay for some 10 months…
“While work on the airport project proceeded unhampered, the State Government ceaselessly complained about paucity of funds to meet what it termed infrastructure needs of the State. State-owned tertiary institutions, namely, Niger Delta University, Isaac Jasper Boro College of Education, Sagbama, and College of Health Technology, Otuogidi, have been repeatedly shut down following prolonged industrial actions by workers and demonstrations by students as a result of mass retrenchments and over 200 per cent increase in tuition and related fees.
“At NDU, for instance, where the State Government never undertook a single project from 2012 till 2017, the monthly subvention was slashed from N400 million to N200 million. The University Management was directed to generate funds by whatever means to augment what the Government provided.”
APC desperately clinging on lies — state govt
Responding, the Bayelsa State Government in a statement by the Commissioner for Information, Hon. Daniel Iworiso Markson, said that the APC had become a leprous organization that has suffered the most debilitating and humiliating defections in recent history in Nigerian politics.
He said the APC under the leadership of former Governor Timipre Sylva was now desperate to cling unto lies and imagined stories as a lifeline after losing most of its members to the visionary leadership of the PDP-led Restoration Government òf Dickson.
The Government’s Spokesman said that it would only take a band of unconscionable political desperadoes to criticize the well-conceptualized and effectively executed Bayelsa International Airport.
He said that the APC and its remnants of political bandits should be ashamed of their record of failure in Bayelsa and should atone for their sins by towing the path of their compatriots who left the party for the PDP.
Iworiso-Markson said that the leader of the APC in Bayelsa, Sylva, failed woefully in the attempt to give Bayelsa and her people a desperately needed International Airport between 2007 and 2011 in spite of the huge resources at his disposal.
The Commissioner challenged the APC Spokesman, an aide of Sylva, to tell Bayelsans and Nigerians what his master did with N300 billion Agric Loan from the World Bank, N3 billion MDG Funds, and a bond obligation of N125 billion which the current administration has drastically reduced through prudent management of available resources in an era of crushing recession.
He added that Bayelsa under Sylva received N708,896,925 billion allocation from the Federation Account apart from N22,02 billion IGR without any notable execution of projects in the state.
According to him, Governor Dickson Legacy in Bayelsa are self- announcing as demonstrated by the array of big ticket projects across the state.
He said that the Restoration Administration under the leadership òf Dickson had broken new grounds in project execution which has put Bayelsa ahead of most states in Nigeria.
He listed major road projects linking the three senatorial districts of the state, the super projects in the health sector, the emergence of new state-owned universities, new town development, the successful implementation of the best free education policy in the country, the introduction of new boarding schools with 10,000 Bayelsa kids on scholarship as among the innumerable exploits of the Restoration Government.