By Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe
It has become glaring that some activists and certain individuals sponsored by the major opposition party in the state, are trying to directly or indirectly play 2023 governorship election politics with the N150 Billion bridging finance facility request by Delta State Government, now awaiting approval by the State House of Assembly, and it is very important at this point in time to state the facts in issue.
I want to unequivocally state from the outset that there is no cause for alarm in the first place because the said sum of N150 Billion will be deducted from the N270.6 Billion of Delta State Government funds with the Federal Government through petroleum subsidy payments without recourse to the statutory 13% derivation funds due to oil-producing states between 2010 and 2021, respectively.
Fact number two is that the N150 Billion is not a loan in the real sense of it, but a bridging finance facility taken as a fraction of Delta’s N270.6 Billion which the federal government will refund in trenches as a result of the monies owed the state from petroleum subsidy payments without recourse to 13% derivation funds.
Fact number three is that the said N150 Billion bridging finance facility is a legitimate request channelled through the legal process for approval and appropriation in line with the universal principles of accountability and transparency in governance.
In the light of the above explanations, it is crystal clear that the N150 Billion bridging finance facility request before the State House of Assembly cannot be classified as an outright conventional loan, as erroneously claimed by some uninformed sponsored activists and certain individuals who have threatened to either take legal action or petition the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Simply put, the N150 Billion bridging finance facility shall be deducted from the state funds with the federal government, amounting to a whopping sum of N270.6 Billion and the balance of N120.6 Billion shall also be appropriated as when due, and/or when received in trenches from the federal government.
The state Finance Commissioner, Chief Fidelis Okenmor Tilije had this today;
“The request was not particularly a loan but a discounting receivables from the Federal Government for Petroleum Subsidy payments made without recourse to the 13% derivation due to oil-producing states from 2010 to date.
“The funds totalling N270.6billion ought to have been received a long time ago but because the Federal Government could not pay the whole money in bulk, it became reasonable and logical that the oil-producing states enter into an agreement for some part of it to be paid within 3 years and the other part within 5years.
“Having reduced the debt profile of the state from N151billion to N72billion, it is important that we have so many other contracts that we have awarded within the period of time and because it is a closeout of a particular tenure it became very important that we ensure those legacy projects including the new State Secretariat building are completely paid for before we leave office.
“Apart from the fact that we are paying old contractors, we are also ensuring that even the new contracts that were awarded which we refer to as legacy projects are also completed on time,” Tilije said.
Why the N150 Billion, for what purpose and why the facility in the first place?
Chief Tilije at a press conference on Wednesday 27th April, 2022, in Asaba, outlined the proposed application of the N150B facility as follows;
1. To pay for the completion of some critical ongoing legacy projects awarded by past and present administrations.
He listed some of the legacy projects to include, Orere bridge, Ode-Itsekiri Bridges and roads, Koka flyover and interchange, Bridge across River Ethiope at Obiaruku, the Ughelli-Asaba Road, Flood control in Effurun and Warri, Owa-Alero drainage channels and projects being executed in the three new universities.
2. Part of the N150 Billion facility would also take care of outstanding pension commitments to state and local government pensioners in the state.
Government will be spending N20 billion for state pensions outstanding past dues and N10 billion to the Bureau of Local Governments as grants to enable them also reduce whatever outstanding payments to local government pensioners.
He explained that the intention of the Platinum Governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, was to ensure that on transition day, the debt profile of the state would be almost insignificant. This is simply remarkable, heartwarming and commendable.
Chief Tilije further disclosed;
“So we thought it wise that rather than allow inflationary variables to dry down the proceeds of this recovery, it was important for us to discount some of them.
“The governor is also very mindful of the fact that pensioners are suffering. As at when we came into office in 2015, the total pension past dues was N35 billion and we have been trying to reduce that outstanding dues,” he said.
Also speaking, Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu said contrary to speculations in the social media, the bridging finance is not for any political reason but simply to address special needs in the state.
He said the funds will be paid to the state in tranches on a quarterly basis.
“Knowing that money does not maintain stable value due to inflationary variables, we decided that the money works for the state today rather than losing its value tomorrow.
“Since there are lot of developmental needs that we need to address as a state, which will not only reflate our economy but will also make it possible to realise our intentions of bringing about renewal in our different communities and ensuring that our brothers and sisters who have retired over time both at the state and local government level are paid.
“Having taken that the decision at the State Executive Council, we proceeded to the State House of Assembly to get their approval and they agreed that the decision is in the best interest of the state.
“We are giving you these details because it is in line with our transparency posture since 2015 and to make it clear that the season we are in has nothing to do with the decision we have taken before individuals will begin to think that we are looking for money for politics,” Aniagwu stated.