From Amos Okioma,Yenagoa
Bayelsa State Government has explained that the N17 billion facility it is processing is for the purpose of boosting the state’s economy through the development of its agricultural sector, create jobs and raise its internally generated revenue profile.
The Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Maxwell Ebibai, stated this while reacting to questions from journalists after rendering the statement of accounts for the income and expenditure of the state for August, September and October 2020.
According to the Finance Commissioner, “we decided to approach the State House of Assembly for approval to collect the facility for the purpose of developing our palm oil and our other agricultural potential.
“The Bayelsa government is not collecting N17 billion to spend on recurrent expenditure. Rather our citizens involved in commercial agriculture would benefit from it and the process would also generate employment for our people and boost our revenue too.”
While noting that the money is yet to be collected, Mr Ebibai explained that the N17billion facility is in three parts: N10billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria, with flexible repayment terms, and that the facility is open to all states in the country.
He said the N4billion is a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) counterpart fund, which would be deployed into fixing some of the state’s road infrastructure, provision of potable water, rehabilitation of schools and primary healthcare facilities; and lastly the N3billion is a revolving temporary credit facility, with a 12-month tenor to fund financing gap whenever there is a shortfall in monthly revenue accruing to the state.
He pointed out that in recent times there had been a sharp decline in revenues from the Federation Account to the state as a result of statutory deductions, which had impacted the state’s economy negatively.
Ebibai maintained that it was necessary to obtain the loan in order to make up the gap in the event of revenues falling below a certain threshold to enable the state manage its economy.
“We are aware that the national economy has gone into another recession. Invariably, if the economy is bad, you can do things to reflate it and put money in the hands of the people.”
He further stated that the loan and debt profile of the state is not hidden as it is published on the Federal Government’s Debt Management Office website for anyone to see and that through the transparency briefings, the government declares the income and expenditure of the state regularly.
“The loan profile of the Bayelsa State Government is there on the Debt Management Office (DMO) website. You will see the breakdown of the loans and what they were used for. You have the full details and the public document is there.”
He contended that it is government’s responsibility to do what it considers to be in the best interest of the people by being responsive to situations in averting financial crisis.
“The steps we are taking show that the government of Senator Douye Diri is thinking ahead, envisaging situations and responding to them even before they arise,” he said.