Former Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha has defended the Federal Government’s proposed N13.08 trillion budget for 2021.
The N5.21 trillion deficit in the 2021 budget, representing 3.64 per cent, is to be financed with new borrowings amounting to N4.28 trillion.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday presented the budget proposal to a joint session of the National Assembly.
Okorocha spoke in Bauchi State where he was hosted by renowned international Islamic preacher Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi on Saturday. He was later honoured as the leader of the poor.
The ex-governor faulted critics of the Federal Government for its rate of borrowing, saying there was nothing wrong with it.
He said: “But there is something wrong with borrowing if it is not used for the purpose it is meant to be used for. It is neither here nor there if you look at it. But what is important is to be able to alleviate poverty in Nigeria and move the country forward and make it a greater nation. I support the fact that this year’s budget should be quite different from our usual budget.”
The representative of Imo West in the Senate said critics should consider the economic challenges facing the country because of COVID-19 and the projects the outbreak of the pandemic had affected.
Also, Okorocha dismissed the report of the Justice Benjamin Iheaka Panel of Inquiry, which investigated the contracts awarded by his government between 2011 and 2019, asking those who awarded the contracts and contractors to refund N106 billion to the state government, as “a wide goose chase”.
The legislator insisted that his administration executed over 2,000 projects in the state that required a lot of money.
“The issue of the probe is neither here nor there. It is a wide goose chase. It is a political witch-hunt or the government is seeking relevance by saying that Rochas is being probed,” he said.
Okorocha again asked the Hope Uzodimma government to publish the report verbatim to prove that he tampered with public money while in office.
The All Progressives Congress chief said his administration’s projects included an international cargo airport, courts, police headquarters, prison headquarters, six universities, four polytechnics and two Colleges of Education. He added that he gave Imo people free education.
Okorocha said he could not have executed the projects if his government was corrupt.