•Remember tomorrow —Sen Wabara
•We ‘ll go to court —Ex-SSG
•Any culpable bank’ll vomit it —Uche Ogah
•Be ready for probe — Otti
By Steve Oko
Abia stakeholders and elders have cautioned the out-going Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu-led administation against taking any fresh loan, which, according to them will only worsen the debt burden of the state.
The warning is coming on the heels of speculations that the state is perfecting arrangements to take N6 billion fresh loan from a commercial bank (name withheld).
A statement circulating online read:”Multiple sources confirmed that the Government wants to use a proxy to fraudulently obtain the loan since by law, and owing to unsavory circumstances, the Government is not qualified to borrow directly from any bank.
“To make matters worse, the company that Ikpeazu wants to use to obtain the dubious loan has been blacklisted by the EFCC and is unfit to obtain the loan.
“Currently, the Governor is said to be mounting pressure on the officials of Central Bank of Nigeria and management of the bank to approve the loan as election is fast approaching.
“The Government is assuring the authorities that it will guarantee the loan since it is incapacitated from borrowing directly. They want to use that system to circumvent the rules guiding lending to government.”
Meanwhile, the alleged move to obtain the said loan has generated angry reactions from Abians who allege it is a ploy by Government to raise funds to prosecute the 2023 elections.
Reacting to the development in an interview with Vanguard, the immediate-past Secretary to the State Government, Dr Eme Okoro, asked the Governor to jettison the idea as it would only amount to mortgaging the future of Abians.
His words: ” It doesn’t make sense for any government to borrow N6 billion at the eve of an election year. It means accumulating debts for the incoming government.
“If any bank approves of such loan, we will go to the bank and say no. The House of Assembly must be informed about it and should discuss it to determine the merit or otherwise.
“Over burdening our people with all these loan portfolios is not necessary”.
Asked if the court action was a threat, the former SSG said:”It’s not a threat; if any bank approves such a loan at this point, such a bank is taking a risk.”
In his reaction, former Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr Uche Ogah, advised banks and commercial institutions not to go into any shoddy deals with Abia government as the incoming administration will not sweep any suspicious deal under the carpet.
“Let us pray for God to give us a change. If we get a good government, these banks are going to vomit that money because we are going to trace what they used the money to do.”
Asked what he would do assuming he becomes Ikpeazu’s successor, Ogah said:”Once I look at the records and see that my predecessor used it judiciously, then the state will repay because government is a continuum.
“But if I discover it was borrowed and squandered, then it has to be vomited”.
Similarly, another APC governorship aspirant and former Diamond bank boss, Dr Alex Otti, said he would probe the loans and their disbursements if elected Governor in 2023.
Otti who spoke through his Media Aide, Ferdinand Ekeoma, described the fresh loan as very unnecessary, claiming that there is no development on ground to justify previous borrowings.
“There is no justification for another loan because Government has gotten enough funds from statutory allocations and internally generated funds, bailout funds, Paris Club refunds, and other cash inflows.
“Government has borrowed from different financial institutions and when you look at what is on ground, you will find out that it is not commensurate with what they have received.
“Government is still owing workers and pensioners for many months. Government cannot account for resources it received, we think it is dangerous for Government to continue with this endless borrowing spree. It’s not in the interest of the state.”
Reacting, the Leader of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, and member representing Aba South state consituency in the Abia State House of Assembly, Obinna Ichita said he was not aware of any communication for the consideration of any loan request from the Government to the House.
He therefore said that “when the House resumes sitting, we will ask the right questions”.
The lawmaker advised the Government to perish the idea of going for any fresh loan so as not to accumulate unnecessary debt for the in-coming administration, arguing that previous loans were not properly utilised.
But in a quick response, Abia State Government dismissed the source of reports about the alleged loan as ” baseless, frivolous and malicious”.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Eze Chikamnayo, who spoke for the state government claimed that most of those commenting on the alleged loan are members of the opposition who are biased.
Prodded to either confirm or deny the alleged move to obtain the loan, the Commissioner retorted”: When last did you ask the Federal Government to deny or confirm if they are obtaining or giving out loans?”
Continuing he said:” Those making those allegations are mostly members of the APC that has borrowed and over-borrowed until even their own National Assembly is trying to put a wedge on their borrowing spree.
“If they can’t question the Federal Government that has gone haywire with borrowing, what morality do they have to come and start looking for what?”
Statistics from the Debt Management Office, showed that as of December 31, 2015, the debt profile of Abia State was N37.55 billion but by March 31, 2021, it rose to N70.57 billion.
Some said it has now risen to over N90 billion but as at the time of filing this report, Abia’s current debt profile is not on display on the list of heavily indebted states that has Lagos State at the top with a whopping debt of NN658 billion followed by Rivers with N225.5 billion.