…Remember tomorrow – Sen Wabara
…We’ll go to court – Ex- SSG
…Any culpable bank ‘ll vomit it – Uche Ogah
…Be ready for probe – Otti
…We ‘ll ask questions – lawmaker
…You ‘ve no morality to query us if you can’t query FG – Abia govt replies critics
…Fails to confirm or deny rumour
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 the 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 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.
“I even heard it is N11 billion. I also heard they intend to give N2 million to delegates. And you know what that means to the state.”
Reacting also, former Senate President, Senator Adolphus Wabara, advised the Government to weigh the implications of such proposal on the future of the state.
He noted that it would not be the first time the state would be obtaining loans, and advised against reckless borrowing.
“I think we should be very careful. There is always tomorrow, and that Abia State will outlive all of us.
“Those who are there now are younger than I am, and that means that I will die before them but they should remember their children.
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“The six billion they want to hang on the neck of Abia is the same way N2 billion was borrowed for Abia Polytechnic and this present Government came and cleared the N6 billion. So, who is fooling who?
“You can see the hand of Esau. Does that not suggest that the present Government and its leadership had a hand in the N2 billion that was illegitimately borrowed for Abia Poly which they came in and cleared.
” They should be very careful because there is a day of reckoning.”
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 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 became 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 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.
” The truth is that borrowed funds are not free money. They will be repaid most times with high interest in dollars. There is absolutely no basis for the Government to borrow again.
” We are completely against it because it’s like mortgaging the future of the unborn generations of Abians. We are completely opposed to it”.
On what to do if elected to succeed Ikpeazu in 2023, Otti said:” Whoever takes over will look at the records and see how the funds were utilised.
” Then based on the available facts, we will engage those institutions that have the capacity to ask questions where necessary, recover funds where ever they are not properly utilised.
” It is something that must be done in the most responsibie, unbiased and democratic manner in line with what the law says.”
Reacting, the Leader of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, and member representing Aba South state constituency in the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. 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 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.
” I would not want the out-going PDP Government of Abia State to accumulate unnecessary debt for the state, thereby, making things difficult for the next Government that will be formed by APGA..
” What have they done with the $56.4 million World Bank loan? All the roads for which that loan was given, non of them has been completed. All the projects – Ifeobara Basin is a disaster, Obeohia Road Aba has not been completed, Port Harcourt Road Aba is out of the way, Urattah Road is abandoned.
” All the roads for which the State Government received the $56.4 billion US dollars from the World Bank have been abandoned.
” Apart from that, and the money they received for Faulks Road is a total waste. A Road that is less than 5 kilometer, the State Government said it paid N5.8 billion to the contractor. It later said it paid additional N2 billion to the contractor totaling N7.8 billion.
“What it means is that in Abia the PDP Government constructs a Kilometer of road for over N1 billion.”
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 say 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.