N2.9bn Car Loan Request in Order, Diri Insists


•Says lawmakers, judges are beneficiaries

Nseobong Okon-Ekong

The Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has defended his request to the state House of Assembly for a loan facility of N2.9billion, which was last week granted by the legislature.

Speaking with journalists in Lagos at the weekend, Diri justified the request, saying contrary to insinuation in the public, the money was meant to purchase vehicles for senior government officials, members of the House of Assembly and judges in the state judiciary.
He said the process of securing the loan had been made transparent as part of the commitment of his administration to run a transparent and accountable government.

Diri explained that the state was not as rich as people insinuate.
According to him, even though the state could be sitting on rich oil resources, its government had no control over the reserves.
He, therefore, called for a review of the 13 per cent derivation to oil-producing states.

“For instance, the last allocation that came to Bayelsa State was short by N2 billion from the previous month’s allocation. So, we are saying let us benchmark based on what we have. That explains why states are looking out for loans.

“We are not as rich as people think we are. A lot of people believe Bayelsa is a rich state but truly we are not. I don’t blame anybody who says that because our country runs on oil and the oil reservoir is in Bayelsa. We are like a people bathing inside the water but soap is entering into our eyes and we are looking for water from the bucket to wash our eyes.”

The governor contended that there was a need to take another critical look at the revenue allocation and derivation formula, saying the oil-producing states do not get the 13 per cent of derivation that is on paper.

“We don’t even know 13 per cent of what is being given to us. I urge my brother governors (of the oil-producing states) that we should actually look at it. The Constitution says a minimum of 13 per cent and we have been running on that minimum from the beginning till today. So why have we not been able to review the 13 per cent like we are reviewing minimum wage?”
On his victories at the Supreme Court, the Bayelsa helmsman said God virtually came down from heaven on the day the apex court gave its verdict on the governorship tussle.

Diri recalled how he and his deputy fasted for three weeks before the February 13 judgment.
“If you ask what was going through my mind; it was: ‘Is God this real? From that day, I now believe that God works miracles. That is the reason I have christened myself the Miracle Governor.”

He restated his call on the opposition to join hands with him on the task ahead of developing the state.
He said he has also advised the leadership of the party to set up a reconciliation committee to unite aggrieved members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

“I have extended the olive branch of peace to members of the opposition. If they come, my government will accommodate them. Where possible we would even give appointments to them.”
He said the violence unleashed on the state after the Supreme Court judgment was triggered by the inflammatory statements of leaders of the opposition in the state.