Asaba — The Delta State Government has disagreed with the Federal Government claims that the state's external debt was N16 trillion out of N19 trillion, saying the figures do not represent the true position of its external loans debts.
The State Government specifically stated that out of the N19 trillion, the state are only responsible for N3 trillion, adding that the figures published by the Federal Government were incorrect.
Report published by the Federal Government recently said the states were responsible for external loans of N16 trillion out of N19 trillion.
But the State Commissioner for Finance, David Edevbie at a media briefing yesterday in Asaba, told journalists that the Federal Government's figures were misleading and untrue.He described the situation as 'shifting blames,' adding that the state had received N33.5 billion Paris Club refund and N109 billion bailout fund.
It also released N3.26 billion with interest to local councils in the state, while N3.5 billion was spent on the payment of salaries and others payments.Edevbie insisted that N500 million was released for the payment of pensions out of the N2 billion outstanding on the presidential directive that the Paris refund be used for the payment of salaries by the state governments.
"It is totally not true and out of place. I'm sure President Muhammadu Buhari did not give that directive," he said.He also disclosed that part of the Paris Club refund was spent on projects and payment of salaries, adding that N2 billion was released to local councils to off-set part of their outstanding backlog of salaries.
Edevbie explained that Delta State Government, in line with its electioneering promises, spent 58 per cent of the Paris Club refund on salaries and pensions, adding that the state government inherited N11.5 billion unpaid pensions and N3.6 billion, leaving an outstanding debt of N8.2 billion.
Earlier, the State Commissioner for Economic Planning, Kingsley Emu told journalists that N298 billion budget proposals for 2018 was enough to move the state forward in infrastructure development and other recurrent needs.
He assured the people of Delta that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa administration would provide the dividends of democracy and blamed the financial setback of the state on the Niger-Delta crisis.
Meanwhile, the Okurbo and Otumara communities in Oghara, Ethiope West Local Council of Delta State yesterday protested the alleged acquisition of their land by officials of the Nigerian Navy Logistics Command.
They have, therefore, threatened continued unrest until compensations are paid or their land is restored to them.To register their grievances, members of the communities staged a peaceful protest to Government House, Asaba in the early hours of yesterday.
They carried placards with inscriptions: Navy Give Us Back Our Land and We Need Our Land, among others, were, however, addressed by officials of the state who assured of government's efforts to ensure peace prevails in the area.
The protesters alleged that the Nigerian Navy forcefully occupied their land measuring 600 x 600 hectares after several representations to the Navy's authorities for settlement or compensation proved abortive.
But an officer of the Navy in the area, who pleaded anonymity, debunked the allegations as untrue, adding that the leaders of the communities approved the land in question for the Navy over ten years ago.
It was gathered that Oghara people had in their claims through a court injunction, demanded that the Navy vacate their land on which they said they intended to build houses and establish other business.
Spokesman for the communities, Lucky Akormire in a swift reaction said: "In 2006 when the Nigerian Navy requested for the land for construction of a barrack, a piece of land, which was initially meant for the Nigerian Mobile Force, was traded to them but the police relocated to Oghara."