Bayelsa Govt yet to collect N17bn Agric loan, borrowing plans sustainable — Commissioner

The government of Bayelsa on Thursday stated that it had yet to receive a N17 billion loan facility approved by Bayelsa state legislature for development of Agriculture in the state.

Mr Maxwell Ebibai, Commissioner for Finance in Bayelsa, gave the clarification in his office in Yenagoa while presenting the revenue and expenditure profile of Bayelsa for July and August 2021.

Ebibai dismissed rumours that the government had collected and diverted the facility being expected from the Central Bank of Nigeria as false and baseless adding that the state’s borrowing plans remained sustainable.

“The approval by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly is part of the loan procedure, we have not yet collected the money and yet there are speculations that the money has been spent.

“On the N17 billion loan we applied for the development and improvement of the existing Bayelsa Palm project from the Central Bank, we have not collected the money.

“Nothing has been received, nothing has been spent.

“Our people should note that borrowing is not bad in itself and it is a global practice in public finance in governments.

“The key issues in borrowing are the purpose and the cost of the loans, our borrowing plans are sustainable and the economic indicators favour us because of our revenue.

“In the current scenario where you have inflation at around 16 per cent, taking a loan at nine per cent will in the long run save you money, the loans we are taking are justifiable,” Ebibail said.

Ebibai also expressed dismay that the state’s plan to borrow N43.5 billion to augment the 2022 appropriation was also misconstrued adding that the borrowing plan was merely a proposal and not yet collected.

He, however, noted that the state was having a healthy economy to qualify for such loans and could borrow more if the need arose.

Checks on official records by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) indicate that the debt profile of Bayelsa had been on the rise following four separate loan approvals granted Gov. Douye Diri by the legislature.

The Assembly had on Oct. 5, granted another approval to Diri to obtain an additional loan of N18.7 billion from multiple sources.

According to data obtained from the website of the Debt Management Office, Bayelsa’s debt profile as of June 2021 stood at N150.60 billion, up from the N123 billion inherited on assumption of office in Feb. 2020. (NAN)