By Our REPORTER
Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, on Monday, debunked insinuations in some quarters that his administration had borrowed over N850 billion since it assumed office in 2015 till date.
Okowa, who spoke in Asaba, at an Interactive Session with journalists, described the allegation as “a lie from the pit of hell”.
He said that his administration only asked for a bridging-finance facility of N150 billion from a consortium of banks on N217 billion owed the state by the Federal Government, after an approval by the House of Assembly.
The governor said that the required amount was later reduced to N100 billion, with necessary recourse to the House of Assembly, adding that out of the amount, the government got N91 billion, which had been utilised.
According to him, out of the amount, N10 billion was spent on state and local governments’ pensions, while the balance was deployed into projects we listed in the application to the House of Assembly, including the Koka Flyover and Interchange, Mariam Babangida Leisure Park and Film Village and Ughelli-Asaba Dualisation.
He said that the facility was not a loan as erroneously and mischievously insinuated by the opposition in the state “for cheap political point.”
He said that the projects had been completed and inaugurated while two were ongoing, and advised critics of his administration and those seeking the number one position in the state to speak the truth to people.
Okowa also said that remarkable progress was made by his administration in healthcare delivery, education, infrastructural and human capital development, emphasizing that no fewer than 2,000 kilometres of roads and1,000 kilometres of drains had been constructed by his administration.
He said the creeks and other riverside communities in Ijaw and Itsekiri lands had a fair share of road and bridge projects in spite of the cost, adding that the Ayakromo Bridge project was ongoing, with a new contractor in charge following its repudiation as a result of poor performance by the former contractor.
“The rumour that we have borrowed N850 billion was a lie from the pit of hell. It is unfair for anybody trying to be the governor of the state to deceive the people.
“We have structured our finances with superior thinking. When we borrowed money, we borrowed reasonably to finance our projects.
“We have constructed over 2,000 kilometres of roads in the state. We have constructed a lot of bridges and we are still constructing more.
“We are still working on the bridge on the Beneku River, the Orherhe Bridge project and others. We have revoked Ayakromo Bridge project and re-awarded it to a more competent contractor,” the governor said.
He noted that his administration had enjoyed peace and all-round development due to the input of members of the House of Assembly, union leaders, stakeholders, civil servants, politicians, traditional rulers and the organized private sector, and urged them to sustain the tempo of such support.
On the assumption that Warri axis was abandoned in terms of road projects, the governor said the flooding challenges in the oil city and its environs took months before solutions were proffered through a study which, he said, gave birth to the storm water drainage project in the area.
While affirming that the storm water drainage project had gone far, he said tarring any road in Warri without proper drainage and discharge point would have amounted to waste of resources, adding that with the storm water project on course, the Warri township stadium and major roads construction will be achieved.
“We have done over 1,000 kilometres of drains across the state as well as underground drains. The same thing we did in Asaba, we have started in Warri. A lot have been done and l know that at the end of the day, Warri will be better for it.
“Having realised that the storm drainage project in Warri was nearing completion, we awarded contract for the total rehabilitation of the Warri township stadium last year,” Okowa added.
He said the huge pensions arrears owed retirees from the state civil service which was inherited by his administration on assumption of office in 2015 has been defrayed significantly.
The governor said that genuine arrears owed workers in the state would be paid, and advised appropriate agencies of government to ensure that promotion was done as and when due to avoid accumulation of arrears.
He said that the concessioning of Asaba Airport and Delta Line Transport Company to private investors had yielded positive result, stressing that economic drain the two agencies hitherto constituted to the state had become an asset.
On the emergence of Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori as the governorship flagbearer of the PDP in the state, Okowa said that the candidate was the choice of the people based on his victory at the party’s primaries.
On the Presidential and National Assembly election, he said that the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to live up to expectations and acted against the new electoral act.
“Today, we have four universities running in Delta State. Some persons may have something to say about it, but l have no regret floating the universities by upgrading some of the existing institutions in the state.
“The important thing is that we have brought university education closer to the people. It is important to make it clear that we do not charge tuition fees in Delta, what the students pay is running cost.
“In the primary and secondary schools, we have continued to do the best we can. Technical Education is key in our entrepreneurial development. We are laying a strong foundation for entrepreneurial development in the state.
“Civil service cannot provide all the jobs. That is why we are building capacity in entrepreneurial development through the various skills acquisition and entrepreneurial development programmes of the state government.
“The contributory health scheme of the state government is working very well as it has the highest number of enrollees in the country,” he said, adding that the state secretariat was one of the best secretariat in the country,” he stated.
In his remarks, the State Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Michael Ikeogwu, thanked the Governor for his media-friendly policies and programmes, and assured him of robust relationship in promoting the policies and programmes of the administration.