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Group kicks against Edo goverment’s plan to borrow N20b

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• Obaseki’s aide accuses Ize-Iyamu of sponsorship of protests

A group, Joint Forces for the Defence of Democracy (JOFDES), has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to reject the alleged plan by the Edo State government to secure a N20 billion-Loan from the Nigeria Stock Exchange.

Leaders of the group, Felix Osewmengie Isere, and Marxist Kola Edokpayi, staged a peaceful protest in Benin city on Tuesday to warn against the alleged plot by the state government to borrow money a few months to the governorship election in the state.

While protesting along major streets in Benin city and the state secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the activists said that the attempt to borrow the money was unfair and would mortgage the future of Edo people.

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According to them, s”Just few weeks to the state governorship election, the governor is making a desperate attempt to secure another loan from the Stock Exchange market.

“The most shocking part of it is that Mr. Obaseki is considering these loans when Edo state currently services the $150 million credit obtained from the World Bank in 2016 and 2017.

“Edo State domestic debt profile stands at N84.76 billion. We have the highest domestic debt in Nigeria, second only to Lagos State.

“We have the highest external debt in the entire South-South with an external debt of $257.92 million as at March 2020.”

The protesters brandished several placards with inscription such as “We reject the 20b loan proposal by Edo state government” , “Don’t sell the future of Edo state today because of Political interest”, “Edo state is already one of the state with highest debt profile in Nigeria.

“N20 billion loan is a conduit pipe for diversion of funds”.

Isere, who lamented that the state had become so indebted, sai thatd any further borrowing was inimical to the development of the state particularly as the electioneering begins.

“We find this development not only worrisome, wicked, reckless, irresponsible and ignominious but a calculated attempt to completely mortgage the future of youths and people of Edo state. This is totally obvious because Mr. Obaseki us fully aware that Edo State is already heavily overburdened by excess debts.

“At no time in the history of our dear state have we come under the volume of indebtedness that we face today.”he said.
The group however called on President Muhamadu Buhari, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Director General Debt Management Office (DMO) Abuja, the chairman, Senate and House Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other authorities concerned to stop the loan from being approved for the governor of Edo State.

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Reacting, Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, advised the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming governorship election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, to face his corruption trial instead of sponsoring protests over non-existent issues.

His words: “In a bid to distract Edo people from his ongoing trial in court for a N700 million fraud allegation, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has resorted to sponsoring protests over non-existent issues.

“There is no such thing as N20 billion debt proposal by the Edo State Government, and Edo people cannot be distracted by such wild claim,” Osagie said.

He added, “it is ridiculous that on a day the APC candidate is billed to appear in court after several efforts on his part to stall his prosecution, he comes up with a bogus claim of a non-existent debt proposal, and pay people to put up a protest around the court premises.

“Edo people are too intelligent to be swayed by such tantrums and staged drama of the absurd, being displayed by Pastor Ize-Iyamu and his sponsored protesters.

“We subscribe to the principle that every accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but we are however worried by his apparent phobia to face the judge and the court, and his resort to diversionary tactics..”

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