… My predecessor borrowed recklessly —Obaseki
By Olayinka Ajayi
FOR the first time since campaigns for the Edo State governorship election started, the leading candidates, Governor Godwin Obaseki of the PDP and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC, met face-to-face, yesterday.
The venue was the governorship debate organised by Channels Television where the contestants tackled each other and enumerated what they would to better the lot of Edo citizenry, if elected on September 19.
Tackled on the huge debt profile of the state, Governor Obaseki put the blame at the doorsteps of his immediate predecessor and former National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has accused his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, via reckless borrowing.
This came as Ize-Iyamu said the governor has little or nothing on ground after four years in office apart from increasing security vote.
The governor said: “Let me make some points very clear. What happened is that my predecessor in office borrowed recklessly and the Federal Government had to restructure all the debts that we have taken before I came into office. These included a whole series of bank borrowings, borrowing to pay salaries. So, the Federal Government restructured outstanding obligations to Edo State, to the tune of almost N30 billion. That was what was responsible for adding to the debt stock, not borrowings from this administration.”
He also alleged that the immediate past government was owing contractors about N70 billion, and pegged the debt owed by the state at N120 billion.
Despite having a debt burden, Obaseki gave his administration thumbs up for servicing the debt and also providing the needed development for the people.
Asked if the debt is sustainable, he said: “It is not the quantum of debts, it is what you use the debts to procure.”
The PDP candidate added: “As long as you are able to invest your borrowings productively and ensure growth in the economy, then you have enough income to pay back those debts on a sustainable basis.”
While thanking God and Edo people for trusting him to lead them, Obaseki said things standing on the path of growth have been bulldozed.
If given another opportunity to serve as the Edo State governor, Obaseki promised to open up the state to endless possibilities, noting that he has created 157,000 jobs so far.
“At the onset, I promised to create a minimum of 200,000 jobs within a four-year period. Just before COVID-19, we have created both direct and indirect jobs for Edo people as much as 157,000 jobs,’’ Obaseki said.
Where are the Jobs? Ize-Iyamu challenges Obaseki on job creation claim
In a swift reaction, the governorship candidate of the APC, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, faulted Governor Obaseki on his claim on job creation.
“I am sure he is not going to misplace the appointments he is making now as jobs,” Ize-Iyamu said.
“I know in the past one month, he has appointed over 2,000 people as SSA s on social media and the rest of them.
“Those are not jobs. When you say you have created jobs, in what area? We know for example that there is a glaring vacancy in the teaching profession and every school we went to, they practically had no teacher,” he said.
“ I have a simple agenda that I will work with. There is no way we can move forward without security. We will invest in infrastructures.’’
Both candidates also spoke on their agenda, revenue generation, security, and economic agenda among others.
On revenue generation
Ize-Iyamu said: “There is need to abolish multiple taxation. When Edo people begin to see what the money is used for they will be willing to buy into it. I don’t believe company in Edo state should not be taxed to extinction. No new innovation was made in the past four years”
Obaseki said: “What we have done to improve the security architecture was to use technology by creating hi-breed security architecture”.
In his reaction Ize-Iyamu said : Tthe security challenges in Edo have reached an alarming proportion. The only thing Governor Obaseki increased is security vote. If he had invested in security, the issue of insecurity would have been an issue of the past in Edo State.
On Relation with Oshiomhole
Gov. Obaseki said: “For eight years, I worked closely with Adams Oshiomhole to put Edo on the right path. I helped to raise fund for Oshiomhole’s government, while I was in his government.”
Responding, Ize-Iyamu who debunked the claim said: “When I heard he claimed to have raised money for Oshiomhole’s government, I asked Oshiomhole. He said it is a lie. Obaseki did not have the resources to have done such.”
On economic agenda
Obaseki maintained that Comrade Oshiohmole borrowed recklessly saying: “My predecessor in office borrowed recklessly and the Federal Government had to restructure all the debts had been taken before I came into office. The Federal Government restructured outstanding obligations to Edo State to the tune of almost N30 billion and that is what was responsible for adding to the debt stock not the borrowings from this administration”.
In his response, Ize-Iyamu who debunked the governor’s claim said: “It is scandalous to attribute the huge debt to a predecessor that you were the Chief Economic Adviser to. Sometimes you seem to forget the role you played in the past government.
“ In the agricultural sector, the loan that the governor has collected is staggering. The failed SUBE Project, two million naira went down the drain. The Agenegbode Rice Project, five billion naira went down the drain.
“The oil-palm project, he collected N69 billion from the central bank and the money has been shared to cronies. No Edo person has benefited from that money.”
While the moderator asked if Edo Civil Service is over bloated and what will be done to cut down on the workforce, Obaseki said the problem with Edo civil service is that its aged. “The problem is that it is not over-bloated. we need to bring in more people to work for government, smarter people and we need to train them”.
In his reaction, Ize-Iyamu said: “ I think the model that the governor has tried to adopt is to reduce the workforce to the barest minimum but unfortunately, whatever savings he thinks he is making, is not seen in capital projects.
The only vote that has been recorded is his security votes which has increased by over 100% but yet, there is no serious investment in the security sector.