As Oyo state gov’t, opposition bicker over N7.6b loan, the real issue

A loan facility meant to cushion the effect of the excruciating economic situation in the state is causing political ripples in Oyo state as AGBOOLA BAYO writes.

Presently in Oyo state, it is no longer news that the controversy over the N7.6billion loan granted the state by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is, rather than being a blessing, is raising political dust as against the intention.

The loan, no doubt, has raised fresh cold war among the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the state House of Assembly and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).

When the bickering started

It all started on October 10 when the law makers approved the request of Governor Seyi Makinde to access N7.6billion loan to upgrade two farm settlements in Akufo and Eruwa.

Governor Makinde, in a letter to the assembly, stated that the loan facility is to be accessed from the CBN and spent on the two farm settlements located within Ido/Ibarapa federal constituency. He said the proposed farm estates are to serve as pilot projects which would be used to develop other farm settlements across the state.

The deputy speaker, Hon Abiodun Fadeyi and minority leader, Hon Asimiyu Alarape both bore their minds on the need for such loan facility to be extended to other farm settlements in the state. Two other lawmakers, Hon Isiaka Tunde (Oyo East/Oyo West), Hon Dele Adeola representing Iseyin/Itesiwaju and Hon Dele Adeola queried the rationale  behind the selection of the two farm settlements from the same constituency, insisting that the project be spread to other parts of the state.

Speaker of the House, Hon Adebo Ogundoyin, however, said the selected farm settlements are to serve as pilot projects for the development of other farm settlements across the state. He noted that other states have been enjoying the loan long before the current administration.

“Other states have been accessing this facility, especially in the north but we thank God the state government is ready to work with the federal government and provide counterpart funding to show seriousness in accessing this loan. We know that the CBN and federal government are interested in agricultural development and this is a blessing to Oyo state. Moreover, our own goal is to develop the state through agriculture,” he said.

“If we decide to spread the money as requested by some lawmakers, we might end up not achieving anything and have abandoned projects. So why have abandoned projects when we can have completed projects that are working and running. These two projects can be the engine room for the other projects. We are taking the projects one at a time. If we can achieve two projects out of seven, then for the remaining five, we do another two next year and thereafter, we would be able to make progress.”

Opposition picks hole

Hours after the members approved the request, the APC came hard on the lawmakers, condemning what it called hasty approval of the letter from the governor.

The party in a statement by Prince Ayobami Adejumo, assistant publicity secretary berated Governor Makinde and Hon Ogundoyin over an alleged hasty approval granted the governor to obtain a fresh loan of seven billion, six hundred million naira reportedly planned to be spent on two farm settlements located in Ido/Ibarapa East Federal Constituency of the state.

“Media reports had it that the state House of Assembly, on Thursday, gave another express approval for the request of Gov Makinde to again borrow the quoted sum three months after a similar request to obtain a N10b infrastructural loan was granted making it a total of N17.6b in three months.” But a statement from the governor’s media office however claimed the said loan was secured by the last administration but it could not be utilised before time ran out.

According to Adejumo, “The current governor has succeeded in bringing the whole machinery of local government administration to a halt completely and to further demonstrate its resolve to drag Oyo state backward by many years within the shortest period of time, we have again been made to see the need for the concerned citizens to beam their searchlights on the PDP administration of Engr Seyi Makinde as financial indiscipline is now the order of the day in the business of government. As much as we would not even like to dwell much on the futile attempt by Gov Makinde’s media handlers to change the narratives on the controversial fresh loan, the whole world has realised that the present administration is here to mismanage resources and enmesh the state in inimical debt crisis. Without a clear-cut action plan, the Makinde administration has made itself a good customer to many financial institutions as it gets all forms of loans. Unfortunately again, most of these loan transactions are done covertly and to the disadvantage of the good people of the state. The latest N7.6b loan as announced by the state legislature was different from the N10b obtained three months ago even as tongues are already wagging on what has become of the whopping over N17b billion which came into the state government treasury in the month of June alone. Apart from the statutory payment of salaries to government workers, nothing concrete has been done by the PDP government since May 29, 2019,” the statement noted.

Government’s response

Sensing the dimension the controversy is assuming, Governor Makinde fired back, saying that the N7.6billion loan was actually  initiated by the immediate past administration of Senator Abiola Ajimobi and as such could not be referred to as a fresh one being sought by his government.

In a statement his chief press secretary, Mr Taiwo Adisa, he said that in May 2019 when he was still governor-elect, he moved to prevent the misappropriation of the funds by approaching the state High Court in Ibadan to get an injunction restraining the Ajimobi-led administration from accessing and spending the loan few days to the end of his tenure. He said contrary to the insinuations that he was obtaining additional N7.6 billion loan after an initial approval for N10 billion loan facility for infrastructure development, the N7.6 billion loan had already been approved by the CBN before he got to office and that the apex bank had begun to deduct the money from the state’s allocation.

The governor stressed that his administration only approached the assembly to seek approval to change the purpose of the loan facility so that it could be put to better use in developing farm estates in Eruwa and Akufo farm settlements that would be used as a model for the state-wide farm estate initiative of the administration. He said that  limiting the scope of the project to Akufo and Eruwa farm settlements which were in the same federal constituency is to allow for effective planning, monitoring, evaluation and coordination. The other projects, he said, would extend to other settlements across the state as his administration would remain fair to all zones.

 “The farm estates would serve as pilot schemes for our Private Public Development Partnership (PPDP) farm estates and would eventually generate funds to develop the other seven farm settlements. This is a deliberate plan aimed at creating sustainable development in the state.”

On the N10 billion loan earlier approved by the House of Assembly in July this year, Governor Makinde said, “The N10 billion is still intact as it has not yet been accessed. The loan is meant for specific infrastructural development projects. Once the Due Process Office is through with the approval process of hiring contractors for the earmarked projects, we would start accessing the loan to fund these projects. Our administration would continue to be transparent and accountable to our people about how public funds are utilised in the state. We would ensure our people get value for any project that we execute.

He noted that the government has equally noticed the deliberate misinformation about the loan, saying all those were  attempts to colour the truth in order to confuse the unsuspecting public.

According to the statement, the two farm settlements are to be built into farm estates in line with the vision of the Makinde-led administration to ensure the full utilisation of the agriculture value chain for economic expansion in order to boost internally generated revenue (IGR). “It is expected that when the two farm estates fully come on stream, the output therefrom would easily offset the loan secured while also providing the seed money for the reconstruction of the remaining seven farm settlements. The administration of Engineer Seyi Makinde has emphasised a Four-Point Service Agenda, which encompasses education, health, security and economic development; using agriculture value chain, its focus on this agenda for a quick turn-around of Oyo state’s human development index remains unshaken.”

With the on going scenario on the controversy over the N7.6billion loan, all eyes are now on the immediate APC administration of Senator Ajimobi and the incumbent, PDP’s Engr Makinde as to which of the two sides is for or against the overall  interest of the state as far as the loan is concerned.

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