The accelerated approval of a N100 billion agro bond by the Adamawa State legislature sent tongues wagging in the state. The bond request was made by Governor Ahmadu Umar Fintiri.
The urgency of the request was underscored by a call for the reconvening of the 22 member State Assembly for an emergency plenary, despite the fact that staff of the assembly were on strike.
LEADERSHIP gathered that text messages were sent to lawmakers as well. Nevertheless, the request faced opposition by lawmakers of All Progressives Congress (APC) extraction.
The five APC lawmakers in the chamber walked out of the plenary session which was meant to approve the bond. They expressed worry that the bond was too large and would mortgage the future of most indigenes of the state whose means of livelihood depend on salary. The state is largely regarded as a civil service state.
But that didn’t stop the other 17 lawmakers of PDP extraction from passing the bond request. Pundits who bared their mind on the issue noted that the present government inherited N140 billion debt and at once secured N100 billion bond stressed that the bond would have been in tranches for easy repayment.
In recent times however, governors have resorted to seeking for bonds as a means of tackling the revenue shortfall that has hit the country in the last couple of years.
But this scenario did not stop the opposition APC in Adamawa State from objecting to the bond request. For them, the bond is not just illegal but targeted for partisan use ahead of the 2023 elections.
The party’s caretaker publicity secretary in the state, Mohammad Abdullahi, alleged that the Agric Business bond facility was meant to ambush the state.
Abdullahi accused the state government and legislators who stood their ground for the approval of recklessness just as he claimed that the whole transaction is null and void in view of the dwindling economy and COVID-19 which affected the state.
He lampooned the lawmakers for being rubber stamps for approving the huge sum that has never been seen in the history of the state.
“Apart from the N100 billion that has been illegally approved by the state House of Assembly, there are still numerous other loans collected by the same PDP led administration of Rt. Hon. Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri. In 2019 and 2020 alone, the governor, using the rubberstamp state House of Assembly, collected about N30 Billion which cannot be properly accounted for.
“To be specific, the Fintiri led administration collected N9 billion as loan to execute two thousand (2,000) housing projects at Malkohi, but the houses are nowhere to be found.
“The N15 billion collected for the renovations of secondary schools cannot be accounted for, because no single secondary school was renovated or is under renovation as at the time of writing this press release.
“The Covid-19 N2 billion loan collected was also a misery as nothing to show for the collection of this huge amount of money. The construction of two (2) glorified bridges in the state capital proved to the public the level of insincerity of this government, as the two projects added no economic value to the state.”
He claimed that the huge amount expended on the project cannot be justified as similar projects in other states (Borno and Kano) that look more qualitative consumed less than half of the amount collected and has since been completed.
“The sub-standard housing project in Malkohi has revealed to the public the level of irresponsibility of this PDP led government in Adamawa State. The N9 billion collected for the 2000 housing estate, can only show ten (10) substandard, two- and one-bedroom flats still under construction.” the party said.
According to APC state government financial misappropriation, came at a time when the state’s Internally generated Revenue (IGR) is still the lowest in the North East.
“As an opposition political party, we are taking it as duty to protect the common interest of the people of Adamawa State which is to improve their welfare,” he said.
The government had anticipated opposition to the bond as it organised a stakeholders meeting on the matter. The meeting was in collaboration with Arewa Research and Development Project organised a town hall meeting involving Farmers’ Association, officials from Adamawa Chamber of Commerce, Mines and Agriculture, Political Parties, the organised labour to clear the misconceptions on the approved N100 billion.
At the stakeholders meeting however, secretary to the state government Mallam Bashiru Ahmad said it was to educate stakeholders on the agribusiness so that they will understand the concept and in turn educate the populace.
Ahmad reiterated the government’s promise to be transparent in its dealings, believing that there are different ways of boosting the economic base of the state which agriculture and mineral resources the state is endowed with.
Leader of the team Arewa Research and Development Project Aminu Buhari said the Agribusiness programme will provide a Credit Guarantee Scheme of 5.15 billion that will be used to generate additional IGR in the first year of operations.
He added that other benefits the state stands to gain include Increase in the annual IGR from 8.3b on inception to 45b by the tenth year, return of the warehoused 5.15b credit Guarantee fund and Increase in Gross Domestic Product GDP from 1.7 b to 7.8 trillion among others.
He said selected grains and cattle markets in Mubi, Ganye, Song, Gombi, Ngurore, Tungo, Malabu, and Wuro bokki would be upgraded to boost socioeconomic benefits in the areas.
But explaining the purpose of the loan to newsmen recently, Gov Ahmadu Fintiri said the bond would be used to create 750,000 direct jobs for youths.
He said the opposition were given opportunities but failed adding that now that the PDP-led government is performing well they are left with no choice but to make noise.
Fintiri said, “We are building at the moment about 1000 housing estates in the state capital, these can not go without funding and alternative ways of looking for resources and we did not do it in order to squeeze and push the state to the wall in terms of borrowing.”
He added, “Going forward, we now partnered with Arewa Research and Development who came and saw the huge potentials and make funds available for the state not just for us to fund the capital projects in the state but also to open up the economy in the agricultural sector, employ about 750,000 youths for direct jobs in the agro business, the processing sector is going to come which we are still working on with the consultants.
“The Adamawa agro business bond I think is something that should be celebrated by all, especially in Nigeria, that for the first time, the Security and Exchange Commission of the country would give the approval for a state to borrow from the capital market from agricultural business it has never been done.
“Most of the bond borrowing from the capital markets has always been coming from attaching either VAT or your SRS which is the FAC that comes from Abuja, if you don’t mortgage this to account, you can never access any funds from the capital market.”
On the face of it, pundits like Niyi Adewale, a lawyer and political analyst, argue that such schemes are usually “good sounding” and can even be “well-intended”, but he said the challenge is for the governor to deliver on the terms of bond.
“The challenge for the government is that it has to ensure that the basis on which this bond was sourced is realised or else it justifies the claims by the opposition in the state that it is intended for election,” he said.