How much does Bayelsa State owe at the moment? The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, one time speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, said his state owed N800Bn, but the man who governs the state at the moment, Henry Seriake Dickson, says it is N123Bn. He said he got his figure from the Debt Managemnet Office (DMO), the agency that has the final say on what people owed.
Dickson who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media Relations, Fidelis Soriwei, said the figure was as recent as June 2018 released by the DMO in September this year.
He disclosed that the debt profile of the state rose astronomically by 300 percent as the state alone had N13.0 percent of the total state debts with N162 billion from 2007 to 2012 when his predecessor, former Governor Timipre Sylva was in office.
The current figure, according to him, represented 3.54 percent of the total debts owed by the states, which showed a drastic reduction of the debt burden in spite of the recession occasioned by dwindling federal allocation and the execution of high profile projects in the state.
Dickson further explained that the total debt profile of N123 billion also includes “contractual obligations, pension and gratuities, as the major components” and urged the minister to use his office to attract projects to the state.
“Lokobiri has failed to take advantage of his position and supposed contacts in Abuja to attract projects to Bayelsa. He should remain silent as he lacks the moral ground to make any comment on the development of Bayelsa,” the governor stated.
But further reactions by Lokpobiri through a statement his media aide, George Oji, urged Governor Dickson to come clean on the state debt burden and revenue accruals questioning how the governor expended N800 Bn (domestic) and $216 million (external) loans his administration incurred since coming into office in 2012.
The minister said: “The governor tactically maintained deliberate silence in his response on external debts and other trillions of Naira accruals to the state” saying Governor Dickson should refrain from peddling falsehoods about the financial position of the state.
Further questioning what the governor did with the over N1.2 trillion that accrued to the state from the Federation Account for the same period, Lokpobiri stated categorically that Dickson borrowed N222 billion domestic and $28 million external loans in 2012 alone.
He threatened to expose how much the governor has been borrowing annually since 2012 describing the N123Bn Dickson acknowledged as the total debt profile of Bayelsa State as “tissue of lies.”
While stating that the social problems affecting the state would have been averted had the governor deployed the loans and other accruals to wealth creation and development projects, Lokpobiri advised Dickson to “settle in and face the onerous task of providing leadership and governance.”
Analysts however wondered whether the problem was in amount borrowed or what was executed with it, wondering why it was right for the APC-led FG where Lokpobiri serves to borrow Nigeria out of recession and wrong for a state to borrow, too.