Oshiomhole’s 2 Billion Naira Bonanza: Matters Arising.
By – Thompson Omorodion, Ph.D.
Yesterday this writer read in the papers that Edo State government has “injected N2 billion into the economy through the presentation of cheques to 10,000 beneficiaries” in what was described as “State Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund”. Instinctively, based also on objective evaluation of the available facts and judging by the antecedents of this government – a government that has a very poor reputation in transparency, accountability and objectivity, this writer had the impression that Edo state has made a huge loss, nay, wastage of hard earned tax payers’ money to the reckless abandon of an outgoing administration. But why should this writer form such an opinion?
Ordinarily anyone should be happy to hear of such major booster to the economy particularly at this time of grave national austerity occasioned by purposeful mismanagement of the economy in the last fifteen months – first by an outgoing government that bled the country to prosecute an election and a new government that completely strangled the country and has brought untold crunching hardship on the people the end of which is not in sight. Thus, an injection of 2 billion naira into the economy ought to elicit joy and satisfaction to any well meaning Edo citizen. But this reported injection could not achieve that effect because it is a highly suspicious injection – if it was ever an injection – into the economy. And why is this writer worried over the reported injection of 2 billion into the economy? Four broad reasons why this 2 billion naira injection in the economy is either a fraud or a monumental waste of tax payers’ money, or both, will be examined in the following paragraphs.
Firstly, the people of Edo state and this writer would like to know who are the beneficiaries of, what this writer prefers to call, the Oshiomhole 2 Billion Naira Bonanza – what are their names, where do they stay and what proof of their identities are available for veracity. This writer, on behalf of the common people of Edo state, demands that the government should publish the names of the beneficiaries in at least the Nigeria Observer or any notable newspaper circulating in Edo state. Anything less, would be viewed as an attempt to pull the wool over our face. This is politically suicidal, especially in this politically volatile season.
Secondly, how were the beneficiaries selected? This writer, most of his friends who run micro finance companies in Edo state and most of Edo state’s small and medium scale business people are not aware of any publication or announcement inviting them to send in application for this micro credit scheme. The question now is how did the Edo State government get the reported 10,000 people who applied for and got this opportunity? Were they informed in their dreams or through a private communication channel not available to the general public? These are germane questions that invariably lead rational thinkers to believe – reliably – that the 2 billion naira was removed from the treasury to service the pecuniary interest of the governor in order to hoodwink the public into voting for the APC in the forthcoming election.
Thirdly, Edo people would like to know whether this disbursement, if done by the government as the governor claimed, was a valid budgetary expenditure. Was the disbursement captured in the extant 2016 budget? If not, how come government could be spending that amount of money, nearly the monthly allocation from the federation account, without budgetary appropriation? For any expenditure to be validly categorized as an expenditure of government, it must be captured in the budget and approved by the people through the legislature, whether or not the legislators of Edo state are actually paper tigers, greedy squirrels or pussycats as Edo legislators described themselves in recent times. To the best of the knowledge of this writer, there is no evidence that this Oshiomhole Bonanza was appropriated for in the 2016 budget. Edo state government is hereby put on notice, as a matter of duty, to, within seven days, answer the question of where this 2 billion naira is coming from, failure of which may provoke litigation as the courts are truly the last hope of the common man.
Fourthly, when and how will the money be returned back to the treasury? Who are the beneficiaries? How were they selected? How are they going to pay back? Government should not be dashing tax payers’ monies out without due regard to the objectives and fundamental principles of state policy which must be based on objectivity, inclusiveness and justice. Government should have devised a modality for making the 2 billion naira into a sort of revolving loan, to be administered by reputable micro credit institutions, probably relaxing the interest rates, but ensuring that the money must be repaid to the treasury for others to benefit also. It is the realization that the beneficiaries have to repay the debt that would put them on their toes and enable them to make judicious use of the money. When the money is a dash, as it appears to be in this Oshiomhole Bonanza, the monies will end up going in the wrong direction – wastage.
In conclusion, it is safe to assume (unless the Edo State government, within reasonable time, comes forward with valid defence) that the current administration has illegally and fraudulently tempered with their commonwealth and is attempting to waste the commonwealth and hard earned tax revenues of the impoverished people to fund an election. Edo people should rise up and stand up to their government because the power lies, not in the hands of the government but the people. And the people should participate more in democracy through coming out at elections to select only leaders who are not only popular but also competent and prepared to assume leadership role. People should begin to ask questions capable of deepening our democracy and making their voices more heard and respected. A people who ask their governments questions would never be taken for granted by their governments.
Enough is Enough.
Dr. Thompson Omorodion is a scholar and development researcher writing from Benin City.