Members of civil society groups under the umbrella of the United Forces for the Protection of Democracy (JOFDES) protested in and around Benin against the offer of Edo Governor Godwin Obaseki to receive a N20 billion loan.
They claimed that the loan was intended for the Governor’s re-election.
JOFDES, through his leaders, lawyer Osewmenga Isere and Kola Edokpayi, said that the Obaseki administration has no reason to receive another N20 billion loan, which would be a burden for the Edo people and future generations.
The protesters, armed with placards with various inscriptions, chanted anti-government songs.
Some of the placards read as follows:” we reject the N20b loan by the Edo state government“;” don’t sell the future of Edo state because of political interests“;” Edo is one of the States in Nigeria with the highest level of debt “and ” the N20b loan will be redirected to Obaseka’s re-election.”
JOFDES said: “Just weeks before the Edo state Governor’s election on September 19, Obaseki of the people’s Democratic party (PDP) is making a desperate attempt to get another loan on the stock market.
“The most shocking part of this is that Obaseki is about to take out a loan when the Edo state is currently servicing a $ 150 million facility received by its administration from the world Bank.
“The internal debt of Edo state currently stands at $ 84.76 billion. Edo state has the highest domestic debt in Nigeria, second only to Lagos state. Edo state has the highest external debt in the entire South-South zone, with an external debt of $ 257.92 million as of March 2020.
“We find these events not only disturbing, evil,reckless, irresponsible and shameful, but also calculated attempts to completely pawn the future of the youth and other people of Edo state. Never in the history of our dear state have we encountered such a volume of debt as we face today in Edo.”
JOFDES members also called on President Muhammadu Buhari, other top Federal government officials and his agencies to do everything possible to prevent Obaseki’s loan from being approved.
Obaseki, reacting through his special adviser on media and communication strategy, crusoe Osagie, accused the all progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate, pastor Osagie ize-Iyamu, of sponsoring the protests.
However, he said that such actions would not distract voters.
Obaseki said: “The people of Edo are too smart to succumb to such hysteria and the staged drama of absurdity displayed by pastor ize-Iyamu and his sponsored protesters.
“We adhere to the principle that every accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but we are concerned about his (ize-Iyamu’s) apparent fear of facing the judge and the court, as well as his use of distracting tactics.”
But Ize-Iyamu, responding through the Chairman of the Edo state APC information campaign Council, Prince John Mayaki, said it was ridiculous and offensive to the people of Edo state, known for their independence of thought, that the Governor suggested that the anger of protesters expressed in the streets of Benin over a $ 20 billion loan was made on his orders.
He claimed that Edo’s youth and other residents of the state were able to read the news, interpret it, and understand the consequences of a failed government seeking loans by the end of their tenure.
Ize-Iyamu said: “the Edo state government has refused to speak directly with reports on the acquisition of a $ 20 billion loan. Do you get a loan or not? Why do I need a loan? Why are you looking for a $ 20 billion loan in the middle of an election that you are already guaranteed to lose? Here are some of the questions that need to be answered.
“We do not sponsor protests and do not pretend to control people’s minds. If Obaseki and his assistants have such an agreement through which they send funds to people to protest in the streets, they should go out and tell the world about it, since this is not part of the modus operandi of the APC.”