23rd November, 2023
By Jethro Ibileke
Edo State Government has rubbished claims by the Senator representing Edo Central district, Monday Okpebholo, that Governor Godwin Obaseki misappropriated the N5 billion petroleum subsidy removal palliative allocated to the State by the federal government.
Okpebholo who spoke during the occasion of the 25th priestly anniversary and book launch of Rev Fr Theophilus Idebaneria Itaman at the Lumen Christi International High School, Uromi, further alleged that the Obaseki-led government also spent N7 billion on diesel to fuel the free transport scheme in three months.
But, the Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, in a statement Tuesday night, described Okpebholo’s claims as baseless, misleading and false.
Nehikhare however said the government spent N110 million on diesel in three months for the free transport scheme across the State to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal by the federal government on the people of Ed.
He urged members of the public to disregard what he described as “the falsehood peddled by Senator Monday Okpebholo…on the transport scheme, which has benefitted over 1.5m Edo residents in its first phase.”
According to Nehikhare, “The Edo State Government has spent N110, 509,230 in the last three months on the free bus scheme, which operates intra-city services from Monday to Saturdays and inter-city services from Monday to Sundays across the State.
“The scheme which commenced on September 11, 2023, for an initial two-month period to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government on the people of the State has continued to record success and garner positive feedback, directly benefitting over 1.5m Edo residents within the first phase of its operation.
“While we acknowledge the steep rise in diesel prices and other operational costs for the scheme, the Edo City Transport Service, ECTS, has continued to explore various avenues to offset this surge, including skeletal hire services and partnerships with different groups and religious organizations such as Christ Embassy, Church of God Mission, and Winners, among others, which has helped to augment the increase in the cost of diesel and vehicle maintenance without recourse to government.”
Nehikhare further stated, “It is therefore disheartening and ridiculous to read in some sections of the media of patently false, baseless and misleading comments by the Senator representing Edo Central, Senator Monday Okpebholo, on the free transport scheme, in what seem like a desperate bid to be noticed.
“For the record, the figures quoted by the senator are imaginary. They are ill-intentioned and have no basis in truth, and should be disregarded by all Edo people.
“We suspect that he may have manufactured the figures based on the fact that the government has saved citizens a total of N1.5bn monthly that they would have spent on transportation cost were they to pay for the services now rendered for free by the government.
Had Senator Okpebholo contacted ECTS or the Ministry of Communication and Orientation, he would have had better and more accurate information to share with his audience.
He added, “Edo people can be rest assured that their resources are in safe hands with Governor Godwin Obaseki, who has over and again proven his commitment to ensuring transparency, accountability, and prudent management of public resources.”