A report released by Fiscal Responsibility (FRC) which declared the debt portfolio of Osun State as having gone through the roof, in contradiction to its gross revenue has, again, set some stakeholders and the current administration in the state on a collision course.
The report had listed Osun, Lagos and Cross River states as having debt portfolios that exceed their gross revenues by 480 per cent.
The report, published earlier in the week by the federal agency, put the state’s consolidated debt and gross revenues at 626.25 per cent and its consolidated debt and net revenue at 286.14 per cent.
The stakeholders, among whom are a former Head of Service (HoS) in the state, Mr Sunday Akinwusi and a former deputy governor of the state and erstwhile chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Iyiola Omisore, contended that the enormity of the debt and the implication of the FRC’s report on the economy of the state were unfavourable to the social and economic well-being of the state, despite the sustainability claims by the Debt Management Office (DMO).
However, the state government maintained that the report of the FRC was obsolete, saying a critical look at the data and table provided by the commission showed that the report was limited to 2016, just as it failed to take into consideration deductions and payments made by the state in respect of its debts.
Speaking on the report, Akinwusi said, “I want to say that truth is very constant. When I raised the alarm about the finances of this government about four years ago, they labelled me as a liar. That is why I said that I demand a public apology from this government. And I must tell you that government had committed this state for the next 25 years or more for what they have done.
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“When you want to borrow money, you have to have the capacity to pay. The rule is that you cannot borrow in excess of 50 per cent of your anticipated revenues. Now that they say we have overshot by 480 per cent, it shows that this government has committed unborn generations to hardship and servitude for the next 25 years. That is why I say any government that wants to come must be a very serious one to put a lot of things right apart from what these people have done today.”
Akinwusi added: “I want to challenge the federal government agencies, too. They know all these things and are aware of these conditionalities. Why are they not in a position to enforce them before they allow everything to go haywire? The Federal Ministry of Finance has all the means to monitor all the financial resources of the state government.”
Also reacting to the report, Senator Omisore said: “Osun’s debt stands at 947.68 per cent and that is the real figure, highest in Nigeria since independence. Fiscal Responsibility Commission’s guidelines stipulate that the debt status of any state should not exceed 50 per cent of the statutory revenues in the previous 12 months.
“Being the highest debtor in Nigeria since independence, followed by Lagos though with high IGR, Osun’s direct Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) against FAAC is high, i.e., Aregbesola has mortgaged our future and that of our children till 2048.”
But the state Commissioner for Finance, Mr Banji Oyebamiji, disagreed that there was any cause for alarm as regards the finances of the state, describing the report as being inconsistent with realities.
“I think that report is very obsolete. If you read the report, it was credited to 2016, obtained in Abuja and I strongly believe that the report is obsolete. Let me tell you while I am not disputing this report, in reference to Debt Management Office in Abuja. Several times, the office said Osun State debt is sustainable and serviceable. So, there is no problem at all regarding that.
“It is not debatable. I would rate it as a credible credit. People in Osun can match the debt with physical infrastructural developments in our state and our people are happy to witness these infrastructural developments, which have never been witnessed in Osun State. People outside can come and see what we are talking about. Beyond that, we have been servicing these debts and I am happy to tell you today that what we have on ground is something to write home about,” Oyebamiji submitted.
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