By SIMON EBEGBULEM, Benin City
Those who have followed the arguments of the governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, since early last year on the running of the nation’s economy and its future will understand why the governor is angry today about the parlous state of the economy.
Due to the dwindling allocation from the Federation Account to the state, Oshiomhole stopped over heads in the ministries and the state House of Assembly in the past six months, his office inclusive, and that is the secret his government has been able to pay its workers till date. And following the inability of the local government chairmen in the state to pay salaries, the governor met with them and directed that they should forfeit security vote and allowances so they can pay. He told them how he had forfeited his own in the past six months so as to pay civil servants and warned that he would not tolerate non-payment of salaries in the councils.When he declared recently that “this is the time for everybody to answer his or her father’s name”, the governor was not only directing the statement to the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, but also to the 18 local government chairmen in Edo, who he ordered to pay salaries owed to their workers or face the music.
He achieved that with so much sacrifice but his anger is that Nigerians are suffering today due to what he described as alleged mismanagement of the economy under the watch of Okonjo-Iweala. The governor started echoing the economic crunch in the country since early last year when he predicted that the way the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and other oil revenue funds were being managed by the then PDP-led Federal Government will have dire consequences for the economy in future.
It is not surprising, therefore, that he, of late, engaged in war of words with the former minister, who he accused of spending $2.1billion from the ECA without authorization. But, Okonjo-Iweala yelled back at him, describing Oshiomhole’’s allegation as political witch hunt, saying it will fail. According to her, she started publishing monthly updates of allocations to different tiers of government in order to inform Nigerians on government revenues and expenditure.