N20b Loan: Group Protests, Rolls Out State’s Indebtedness
Group, Joint Forces for the Defence of Democracy (JOFDES) Monday, July 14, protested against alleged Edo State government plan to obtain N20b (Twenty billion naira) from the Nigeria Capital Market few weeks to the Edo State Governorship elections.
The group also alleged that the Godwin Obaseki-led government intends to obtain another $100Million and $150m loan from the World Bank respectively, just as it described the act as ” reckless, irresponsible and ignominious for the Obaseki-led state government to obtain another loan.”
Co-covener of the group, Kola Edokpayi and Felix Osemwengie Isere, Esq in a statement titled ‘we reject the attempt by Governor Godwin Obaseki to mortgage the future of Edo youths by his recent moves to obtain another N20b loan’, noted that the state’s domestic debt profile stands at N84.76 billion, hence it will amount to a calculated attempt by the Governor to mortgage Edo youths future.
” As if these are not enough, we have received reliable information that Godwin Obaseki also intends to obtain another $100Million loan from the World Bank.
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“This loan, known as the performance for results loan which is awaiting board approval is aimed at funding the overblown Edo Best and Edo jobs projects. We the citizens are aware that Edo Best and Edo jobs projects are a mere facade and failed projects serving as conduit for siphoning funds for the coffers of the good people of Edo State
” The most shocking part of it is that Mr. Obaseki is considering these loans when Edo State currently services the $150Million credit obtained from the World bank in 2016 and 2017.
” This is the highest level of political and economic betrayal for the good people of Edo State who have entrusted her collective patrimony into the hands of the governor. It is most unfair and is a demonstration of the mortgage of the future of Edo people.
” We find this development not only worrisome, wicked, reckless, irresponsible and ignominious but a calculated attempt to completely mortgage the future of the youth and people of Edo State. This is totally obvious because Mr. Obaseki is 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”, the statement added.
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While disclosing that the state is with the highest domestic debt in the South-South and second throughout the nation, noted that the governor has to ” answer reason why the state is indebted so high and other financial mismanagement.”
According to the protesters, with all the borrowing, citizens of the state have not seen any tangible project from the state government “apart from some renovations of already existing infrastructure and window dressing.”
” We have the highest external debt in the entire South-South with an external debt of $257.92 milliion as at March 2020.
” Second, we have the highest domestic debt in Nigeria, second only to Lagos State.
” We must get answers to these and other glaring cases of financial mismanagement that have become the hallmark of the Godwin Obaseki’s government
” Apart from the few renovation of already existing infrastructure and window dressing of already completed projects, we have not seen any landmark or gigantic legacy projects the Obaseki Government has done with funds accruing to the state”, they said.
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The group called on President Muhammadu Buhari and other concerned authorities particularly Edo citizens to stop the loan from being approved, just as they added that if there’s any reason to obtain such loan, that should be considered after the election.
The group further said, ” We as a pro democracy group committed to defending the interest of Edo sons and daughters worldwide hereby call on the President of Nigeria, Secretary to the government of the federation, Hon Minister of state for budget and national planning, director general Debt Management Office (DMO) Abuja, the Chairman Senate and House of Representatives committees on local and foreign debts, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Senate President and speaker of the House of Representatives, DG of Nigerian Stock Exchange, Attorney General of the federation and all well-meaning Edo sons and daughters who have the future of our children at heart, to do everything within their powers to stop this loan from being approved for the governor of Edo State.
” However, if there is any genuine reason whatsoever to approve such a loan for Edo State, it can be considered after the forth coming Edo governorahip election to forestall the mismanagement of the funds under the tension that accompanies elections.”
However, in his reaction, Special Adviser to Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie denied the allegation, just as he accused Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of sponsoring the protest.
” 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.
Reacting to Crusoe’s allegation that the protesters were sponsored by Ize-Iyamu, Mr. John Mayaki, Chairman, Edo State APC Media Campaign Council said was insulting to the people of Edo State for the Governor’s Aide to attribute anger expressed by the citizens to Ize-Iyamu.
“It is ludicrous and insulting to the people of Edo State who are known for their agency and independence of thought, for Crusoe Osagie to suggest that the anger they expressed today on the streets of Benin over the 20 billion naira loan Obaseki is trying to obtain for his collapsing campaign was done at the behest of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
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“Is Crusoe suggesting that Edo youths cannot read the news, interpret it, and understand the implications of a failed government seeking loans toward the end of its tenure?” Mayaki said.
Court Admits In Evidence Two Video Clips Supporting Obi’s Petition
The Presidential Election Petition Court admitted in evidence two video clips tendered by the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, in aid of his petition challenging the conduct and outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
At the resumed hearing on Friday evening, the petitioners, through their counsel, Jubril Okutekpa, SAN, informed the court that they had subpoenaed Channels Television to produce the recordings contained in two flash drives.
Okutekpa disclosed that two separate subpoenas, dated May 30 and June 6, were served on the TV station, which he said sent one of its staff members, to tender the requested evidence.
Justice Haruna Tsammani-led’s five-member panel admitted the subpoenas in evidence and marked them as Exhibits PBH-1 and PBH-2.
One of the flash drives is said to carry video clips of an interview that the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmoud Yakubu granted before the general elections, where he assured that the results of the election would be electronically transmitted in real-time.
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The other contains a press conference by a national commissioner of the commission, Festus Okoye, who reiterated the commitment of the body to electronically transmit the results.
In a move to present the content of the video clips in the open court, a senior reporter and editor at Channels TV, Lucky Obese-Alawode, was summoned to the witness box.
However, the respondents in the petition vehemently opposed the move by the petitioners.
Counsel to President Bola Tinubu, Akin Olujinmi, SAN, queried the competence of the witness on the grounds that his statement was not filed alongside the petition.
Relying on Paragraphs 4 (5) and (6) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022, Tinubu’s lawyer argued that the law is clear that a petition must be filed within 21 days after the declaration of the result of an election.
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He contended that the petitioners ought to have attached all the necessary documents as well as the list of witnesses they would call in support of their case at the time the petition was filed.
“A petition which fails to comply shall not be accepted, that is what the law says. My lords, it was after the proceeding started today that the statement of this witness was served on us.
“This is over three months after the declaration of the result of the election was made.
“This witness was not listed by the petitioners, and his statement was not attached to the petition. To that extent, he is not a competent witness who can testify before this court,” Tinubu’s lawyer insisted.
He contended that the petitioners were aware that they would rely on the said video recordings, at the time they filed the petition, yet did not attach it to the list of their documents.
Aligning with the disapproval by Olujimi, SAN, the INEC, through its lawyer, Kemi Pinhero, SAN, argued that Obi and LP should have listed the proposed evidence in their petition.
However, counsel for the petitioners, Okutekpa, SAN, contended that the witness was competent enough to testify as the subpoena was an order of the court that he had no command over.
The objections, notwithstanding, the panel admitted the two flash drives in evidence and marked them as Exhibits PBH-3 and PBH-4.
READ ALSO: Presidential Tribunal: Obi Tenders 136 Exhibits From Lagos, Edo, 4 Other States
Again, when the counsel to the petitioners applied for the contents of the flash drives to be played in the open court, the respondents disagreed except for the electoral commission which was indifferent.
Olujimi maintained that his client was not served with any copy of the flash drive.
He further stated that playing the video clips without his clients’ foreknowledge of their content could rob them of the right to a fair hearing.
He said, “This case is not hide and seek. We are entitled to be served with a copy so that we can know the content and be able to prepare. Until we are served, we will oppose allowing it to be played.”
On his part, the counsel for the All Progressives Congress, Solomon Umoh, SAN, said it would amount to an ambush for the petitioners to play the content of the flash drives without first serving the same on the respondents.
Ruling on the matter, the chairman of the five-man panel, Justice Tsammani, held that the position of the respondents is not prejudiced against playing the video clips but on their non-service beforehand.
However, for time constraints, Tsammani adjourned the matter to Saturday afternoon, June 10, for the video clips to be played in the open court.
10th NASS: South-West Caucus Writes PDP, Demands Minority Leader Position
Members-elect of the House from the South-West geopolitical zone on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party have demanded the position of Minority Leader in the coming 10th National Assembly.
The PDP caucus urged the national leadership of the opposition party to take the position from the South-South to the South-West.
The South-West caucus made the demand in a letter to the National Working Committee of the PDP, through the acting National Chairman of the PDP, Umar Damagum, dated June 9, 2023, a copy of which our correspondent obtained on Friday.
It was titled ‘Appeal for Your Intervention on the Zoning of the Position of Minority Leader in the 10th Assembly of House of Representatives.’
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The members-elect wrote, “We, the undersigned, being elected members of the House of Representatives from the South-West zone of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wish to respectfully invite Your Excellency to intervene on the issue of the zoning of the Minority Leader in the 10th Assembly, which is due for inauguration on Tuesday 13th June, 2023.
“Your Excellency will note that the position of the Minority Leader in the 8th and 9th Assembly of the House of Representatives was occupied by the Rt. Hon. Leo Ogor and Rt. Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, respectively, who were both from the South-South zone of the country. This is a cumulative period of eight successive years.
“We wish to also draw your attention to an agreement among members-elect of the minority caucus of the House of Representatives that the position of the Minority Leader should be ceded to the Southern part of the country for the next Assembly. It is, therefore, our considered view that in the interest of fairness, equity and justice, the South-West should be duly considered to fill this position of Minority Leader in the 10th Assembly of the House of Representatives. Apart from fulfilling the core values of inclusiveness and justice which our Party is noted for, this will also greatly boost the morale of our party members and help in the strengthening of our party in the zone and the country at large.
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“We assure Your Excellency and the entire leadership of our continuous loyalty and commitment to the growth, stability and progress of the Peoples Democratic Party. We thank you most sincerely for your support and pray that the Almighty God continues to guide you in the discharge of your responsibilities. Please, see the attached list of signatories to this very important request.”
NLC Vows To Fight Against “Black Market” Court Injunctions
The Nigeria Labour Congress, Friday night said it would no longer respect “black market” court injunctions. The congress said this following a recent court injunction obtained by the Federal Government to stop the organised labour from going on a strike to protest the removal of fuel subsidy.
The union in a statement signed by its national president, Joe Ajaero said, “We at the Nigeria Labour Congress are concerned by the frequent issuance of ex-parte injunctions restraining us from lawfully protesting against negative policies of government or employers in exercise of our right as contained in the provisions of ILO Conventions, Trade Union Act, Trade Dispute Act, the 1999 Constitution, the African Charter on Human Rights and other legal instruments.
“The latest of these injunctions was the order made by Honourable Justice O.Y. Anuwe in Suit No: NICN/ABJ/158/2023 between the Federal Government of Nigeria & Anor Vs. Nigeria Labour Congress & Anor. on the 5th day of June 2023 restraining NLC from protesting against the massive increase in the pump price of pms. We consider the frequency of these orders against the Congress an abuse and a violation of the pronouncement of the Supreme Court against frivolous use of ex parte.
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“More importantly, we consider these injunctions a violation of the extant laws aforementioned as well as an infringement of our right to lawful assembly and free speech.We are similarly concerned by the conduct of pliant Judges who often bend backward to accommodate the whims and caprices of the executive branch of government by way of granting frivolous injunctions which we shall hereinafter refer to as black market injunctions.
“We must warn that black market injunctions constitute inherent and present danger to the image of the judiciary as the judiciary risks being ignored. Given our experience, the greatest threat to the judiciary comes from within the judiciary by way of some compromised Judicial Officers.
“We are sounding a note of warning that any further black market or jankara injunction will not be respected by us. To show our capacity and resolve, we will show active resistance by picketing such a court.
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“We are also letting the public know that we have taken precipitate steps to vacate the extant injunction in question by briefing our lawyers.
“We wish to warn that when the citizenry lose faith in the judiciary, the probability of resorting to self-help could be quite high with unpredictable consequences.In light of these, we are calling on the Supreme Court and indeed NJC to speedily deal with erring Judges who issue frivolous injunctions.”
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