The government of Bayelsa State today scheduled a “transparency” briefing to dismiss figures released by Federal Ministry of Finance on the state’s share of the first tranche of the N516.38 billion Paris Club debt refund.
The move comes two days after a SaharaReporters story pointed out that while the Seriake Dickson-led administration had announced receiving only N14.5bn in the federal government’s disbursement of the refunds, the central government’s announcement showed Bayelsa had actually received a whopping N24.89 billion, N10.39bn more.
The Federal Ministry of Finance had on Friday published a detailed account of the reimbursement to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
Governor Dickson’s media managers responded by enlisting the radio stations with paid advertisements aimed at refuting ours and similar reports, with none of the advertisements making any effort to respond to the facts they highlighted.
Jonathan Obuebite, the Bayelsa Commissioner for Information and Orientation, danced around the numbers.
“The figures we declared for March was N14.5 bn, and it was discovered that we were short paid just like Rivers but we got some more money but it is not anything near the N24.89 they claim, it is still a rumor,” he said.
“When we shall be declaring April 2017 finances, the finance team will announce the figures, I do not have it at the moment.”
But the details of the first tranche repayments from the federal government clearly showed that Bayelsa got the sum N24.89 bn, not the N14.5 the government claimed before the federal government’s publication. leaving a difference of N10.39 bn.
Salisu Dambatta, the Director of Information in the Federal Ministry of Finance, had stated that the payments were made following the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari on November 12, 2016.
Reacting to the development, Stanley Ogoun, the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Niger Delta University chapter expressed surprise at the wide disparity between the figures from both sources.
The ASUU leader said that the onus is on the state government to explain to Bayelsa people if truly it was N24.89bn or N14.5bn that the government received.
Similarly, Alagoa Morris, a human rights activist, stated that the disparity casts serious doubts the state government's transparency stance and the monthly transparency briefings where public financial figures are made public.
"The difference alone would go a long way to address the nagging issues of salaries and pensions owed state and LGA workers; the authorities owe Bayelsa people explanation on the difference," he stressed.