Unlike the loan secured by previous administrations in the Bayelsa State, the N17billion loan request by the Governor Douye Diri administration is generating controversy.
Supporters of the present administration have defended the loan deal as “timely” and “necessary” to governance in the state due to the huge poor financial status of the state.
Those opposed to the loan argue that though they are not against it, experiences with past administrations showed that loan are not transparently used amid allegations that the bulk of it end up in private pockets.
Those against the loan claim that in less than one year, the Diri administration has procured over 20billion loan with an alleged N2.9billion loan approved by the State House of Assembly for the procurement of official cars to the state governor and his Deputy, Senator Lawrence Erukhiakpor.
However, the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, while giving the nod for the N17billion loan request by Diri said it would boost the economy of the state and enhance good governance.
In its request, the Diri administration had sought the House approval to access a N4 billion Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) counterpart Fund and a N10 billion Facility from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to develop oil palm potentials.
The governor, in his letter, explained further that the N4 billion Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Counterpart Fund would be obtained from a Commercial Bank, while the N10 billion facility from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) when acquired would be used to finance the development and expansion of existing oil palm potentials in the state.
In another letter, the governor also implored the House to approve N3 billion, as a revolving temporary Credit facility, with a 12 Months tenure, to fund state financing gap when there is a shortfall in monthly revenue accruing to the state.
As opposition to deal began to emerge, Diri through State Social Media handlers gave further explanation on the reasons for the loan. The explanation stated “This N17 billion naira loan is very critical to the present administration in Bayelsa State. Do bear in mind that the times are hard for the global economy and Bayelsa State is no exception.
“Your concerns about the N17 billion naira loan are well noted and appreciated but this move is demand – specific for critical government projects including more investment to upgrade and expand the Bayelsa Oil Palm estates and for counterpart funding for Sustainable Development Goals projects.
“The loan will be a boost to the Agricultural revolution of the Prosperity Administration and it is being sourced from the CBN approved palliatives as stimulus for economic recovery after Covid-19 pandemic. Since it is a Federal Government loan, interest rate is a great relief.
“Governments all over the world resort to taking loans in times of economic challenges like the country is passing through with the drop in global oil prices. The federal allocation to the state has dropped drastically and we must move on in the midst of low IGR. This big ticket investment into the oil palm estates revitalization is a right decision for the good of Bayelsa people.
“Indeed, the future will be better tomorrow for a greater Bayelsa and remember we can’t have a better tomorrow if you are always thinking about what did not happen yesterday all the time. Also remember biblical injunction that though “weeping may endure the night but joy comes in the morning.
“The state government just like you too is deeply worried about the non-productive state of that multi-billion naira Bayelsa oil palm and is desirous to turn around the fortunes. That is the direction and a commitment to keep.”
Another supporter of the Diri administration, who pleaded anonymity argued that the,” The 10 billion Naira loan for Bayelsa Oil Palm Estate is for the revitalisation of the oil palm to boost agriculture in Bayelsa State. This is a CBN loan facility approved by the Federal Government to stimulate the economy after the impact of Covid-19.
“Clearly a palliative available to all other states so why should Bayelsa not access it. With this, the Prosperity Administration will upgrade, expand, acquire oil mills and achieve overall development of the palm for economic growth of the State. This government means well.
“Bayelsans surely do not want the Bayelsa Palm to rot away? There must be new investments in the oil palm to bring it to worthy production. Agriculture remains our big ticket sub-sector. Trust us to deliver and we will not fail you.
“The N4 billion in the loan package will be to settle our counterpart funding for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). That is when we can attract additional intervention fund to take on some critical projects. Bayelsa State needs the loan now more than ever before. The global economy is down and Bayelsa is no exception.
“There is no need for the hue and cry over this very strategic and important loan facility. It is a global investment avenue to measure up with development plans. Even Nigeria as a country obtains loans, its also common among many states to obtain loan. The global economy is down and it is not wise to shut down the economic activities, hence the loan facility,” the source told LEADERSHIP.
But the Movement for the Survival of Izon Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta, (MOSIEND) was not swayed by the explanations as it expressed displeasure over the State Assembly’s approval for the 17 billion Naira loan.
Chairman of the MOSIEND in the central zone, Comrade Taribolou Ogboriyo, described the action of the lawmakers as painful and untimely, especially as Bayelsa has been classified among the top five poorest states in Nigeria.
Taribolou, who warned that such rubber stamp moves by the House of Assembly would be resisted henceforth, maintained that the Prosperity Government has borrowed close to 30 billion Naira since inception.
His words, “First of all, we are very displeased over the actions of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly – for approving the loan sum of 17 billion Naira which was requested by Governor Douye Diri for reasons best known to them.
“MOSIEND frowns at this because it was ill timed and not in the interest of the people of the state. We want to put it on record that the Bayelsa State House of Assembly is to blame for the indebtedness of Bayelsa, because they always approve every executive bill sent to the house.
“This government, in less than 10 months, has borrowed about 30 billion Naira, and has also received the sum of over 90 billion Naira as federal allocation – with nothing to show for it. We also call on Governor Douye Diri to desist from such attitude of borrowing because, in the end, it is Bayelsans that will suffer for it. This government does not have any reason to borrow because there is nothing on ground to justify such borrowings,” he added.
The mobilisation officer of MOSIEND, Comrade Olayefa Toru, while lambasting the House of Assembly for approving the loan, said, “Since the inception of the Prosperity Government, all we have been hearing is borrowing, borrowing and borrowing, and we don’t actually know what they are using these monies to do.”
Also commenting on the development, a former political aide under the immediate past Governor Seriake Dickson administration,Hon. Miriki Ebikibina called on the governor not to go ahead with the new loan. He noted that it is scary that this administration has already secured three loans in 10 months.
He said “Bayelsans must be carried along because the governor has ceased to be the governor of PDP but the governor of the people the minute he was sworn in.
“So he should carry the citizens along and move critically on issues that borders on purposeful leadership anchored on transparency, accountability and collective responsibility in governance.
“The government is far from the people and the monthly transparency briefing that allowed the people to hold the government accountable has been shelved and hasn’t been held for months now and yet allocations due to the state are still coming in.
“Also the assembly members must not be derailed as the house only has 5 opposition members and cannot afford to be moribund when it comes to matters that affects the wellbeing of the people and the state,” he said.
Already, a coalition of 45 non-governmental organizations in Bayelsa State under the aegis of the Bayelsa Non-Governmental Organization Forum (BANGOF), has dragged Diri, the State House of Assembly and four of his aides before the State High Court in Yenagoa on the need to make public the status of the state finances, lists of loans obtained and debt profile from 2015 till date.
The four aides to governor listed as respondents in the suit include the attorney-general and commissioner for Justice, the commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, commissioner for Health and commissioner for Education.
The claimant in the suit on behalf of the groups is Comrade Kemedengiyefa Opia.
The suit numbered YHC/183/2020 and made available to newsmen in Yenagoa, is asking the State High Court to issue an order of mandamus compelling the defendants to make available information on the accounts of the State for the period between 2015 to 2019 in line with the pursuance of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.