From Ejike Chinedu, Lagos
Events that led to the governorship election in Rivers State were strong indications that Nyesom Wike will remain in the news, whether he won the election or not. Now, having been declared winner of the April 11 governorship polls, the former minister of state for Education has settled-in as one of the most outstanding news makers in the one month existence of this democratic dispensation.
He added a new item on his list of achievements so far.
Governor Nyesom Wike seems not to have time to waste on irrelevancies hence he has hit the ground running from the word go. Perhaps, that is why he is setting the record as the governor who is most friendly with the banks.
In less than 30 days of the administration, Rivers State government has borrowed a total of N30bn. First was a N10bn loan which the State House of Assembly expressly approved on June 11, the day the request was made by the governor. Just this week, Governor Wike sought and got approval in like manner, for another N20bn loan.
There is no record of any new government in any part of the country that has drawn from the lenders to the tune of N30bn so far. And it does not seem that the state has borrowed the last.
Governor Wike had explained that the money will be utilized in completing some abandoned road projects and mobilizing contractors to return to sites. The governor said fresh contracts for the rehabilitation of some of the terribly bad roads in the state will be awarded.
The governor has also directed that workers’ salaries for April and May be paid immediately.
But the APC is accusing the governor of scheming to mortgage the life and future of the state through what they called “the governor’s obscene borrowing spree.” They argue that there is no clear policy trust of the Wike administration and wonder what the billions of naira are meant for apart from paying up the debts accrued by the governor during the campaigns.
The average person in Rivers sate would be unconcerned with what the governor is doing or not doing provided the basic needs of life are available.
But the concern here is that the governor seems not to have come to terms with the country’s economic realities. The steady lull in the global oil market has ensured that the Nigerian government and by extension the state and local governments in the country cannot get as much as they do from the federation account.
According to the Rotimi Amaechi administration, the debt profile of the state falls short of N100bn. Before the recent revelations from the Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, claiming that the former governor Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan plunged the state into deep debt in excess of N160bn, Lagos was the state with highest debt which stood at about N140bn. While Lagos State makes over N200bn annually from internally generated revenue, Rivers does not get more than N70bn per annum.
It may not be difficult base on available fact to conclude that further borrowing without a commensurate plan of paying back the loan will surely turn Rivers to one of the states that are struggling to survive.
As much as Governor Nyesom Wike may be in a hurry to make a mark, it is equally important that he realizes that there is need to preserve the state from total economic collapse.