The government of Bayelsa state, southern Nigeria, has announced the receipt of N24.16bn from the Paris Club debt refund from the Federal Government.
Markson Iworiso-Markson, the state’s Commissioner for Information and Orientation, made the disclosure in a statement on Monday.
The state Commissioner for Information and Orientation said Governor Seriake Dickson had directed immediate payment of two months out of the outstanding three months salary arrears to workers and four months out of seven months pensioners arrears to pensioners in the state.
He described the recent criticism by the Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr Heineken Lokpobiri, that the state debt profile had reached N800bn, as disgraceful and unexpected of somebody occupying the exalted position of minister.
Iworiso-Markson said it was queer and indeed sad that a minister could quote wild debt figures with the intent to mislead the public and discredit the government.
According to him, while the state government got N21.94bn, the local government received N2.22bn from the Parish Club loan refunds.
The commissioner stressed that the state government decided to make the announcement of funds received from the Paris Club loan refund in consonance with the prevailing policy of transparency and accountability of the administration.
Iworiso-Markson explained that the state government would commit N8bn of the total receipt of N24.16bn to the payment of outstanding salary arrears and pension.
On the issue of the N800bn debt claim by the minister, the Commissioner said the unsubstantiated figure was inconceivable as it conflicted with the authoritative figure from the Debt Management Office which put the state debt portfolio at N123bn.
His words: “The Debt Management Office, (a federal institution) in its June 2018 report stated that the debt portfolio of the state was N123bn. This figure includes contingent liabilities which included contract payments and pension obligations. We advise Lokpobiri to educate himself or engage a brilliant young graduate to assist him.
“While the government is making every effort to achieve massive developmental strides in every area, government wish to condemn the unguarded statements of some highly placed individuals.
“The recent unsubstantiated statement of the Minister of State for Agriculture that the state is owing N800bn is disappointing for someone of his high office and it’s disgraceful. As a minister for agriculture, he needs to inform Bayelsans of the impact he has made even in his local government area.”