Home Opinion Okowa should not cripple Delta State with N150bn loan

Okowa should not cripple Delta State with N150bn loan

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State

By W.S. Iwerebor

When news filtered in that the rubber-stamp Delta State House of Assembly has within hours and without recourse to any public enlightenment of the people, approved a colossal loan of N150 billion wrapped up as ‘bridging finance facility’ to the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, there was obvious gloom and sadness across the state.  This is because it signposts another fresh phase of unquantifiable debt and misery for the people of Delta State when the state is yet to overcome the wasted loans collected by prior PDP administrations. It was even more upsetting to note that this amount is about half of the yearly income of Delta State. Okowa has taken too many loans in whatever description, including a loan to finance the new state secretariat project that cost over N15 billion. We are not ignorant of how these financial operations work.

Why would Delta State be so keen to suddenly acquire this size of new loan when only recently, in February this year, this same House of Assembly approved a N12billion financial loan to Gov. Okowa as credit from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to cushion, as the government said, the effect of resumption of repayment of the Federal Government’s intervention facilities. In December 2021 it also approved a N20billion loan from Fidelity Bank to the state. In addition, in November last year, it approved an N18.7billion bridging facility for this same administration from the Central Bank of Nigeria. These loans do not include several others that were incurred in the last few years and are still awaiting full repayment.

This huge loan is a serious challenge to the state’s finances at this time because a 2020 review of Delta State Debt Sustainability Analysis report revealed that Governor Okowa’s administration has simply been wasting the state’s resources for many years. The government’s overhead expenses exploded from just N41billion in 2016 to over N103billion in 2019; and while total state revenue in 2018 and 2019 was N304billion and N294billion respectively, the state’s overall expenditure escalated to N426billion and N442billion respectively. This represents a net deficit of N120billion each year which is far and above the state’s financial capacity. 

Over this period also, it is noted that capital expenditure shot up from N62billion in 2016 to over N218billion in 2019. Governor Okowa has been spending money that he does not have and this is clear evidence of the financial misapplication of the state’s resources. And it perhaps explains why the governor is now desperate and struggling tooth and nail to commit the state to this extreme and avoidable loan.

Thinking that he can fool the people all the time, Gov. Okowa is also trying to becloud his real intentions by proposing to use part of the loan to fund a segment of long outstanding pension arrears. It stands to reason to question why he has not been paying the aged pensioners of the state for many years. Was he waiting to rely on some unplanned windfall to pay up long-suffering retirees? His intentions seem more devious and calculated to hoodwink the people again.

Besides, if we consider the huge revenues that Delta State has received over the last many years and the vast expenditures that Governor Okowa has incurred since he came into office, you will understand why the state cannot boast of been more economically viable than other states like Edo, Anambra or Kaduna states that receive just a fraction of what Delta State gets annually. Life and living of the average citizen in the state has been worsening, full of suffering and has deteriorated to the extent that the state can now be said to be the symbol of carelessness, extravagance and wastefulness in Nigeria. 

In the over 20 years of PDP administration in the state, there has never been any serious effort to create jobs through sustainable or production-related factories that can progressively lift a majority of the people out of crass poverty. What the state continues to boast of is short-term and low-skill “empowerment” programmes that are boring and outdated; they fizzle out before they even commence and in the end, most of the beneficiaries return to their previous condition of misery and economic dependency.

With the massive loans that continue to hang over the neck of Delta State, it is saddening that Gov. Okowa has undertaken this despicable action when his administration is about commencing the process of winding down. This decision cannot be acceptable to a majority of Deltans whose future has been further mortgaged. In fact, the accumulation of huge loans in the twilight of successive administrations in Delta state since 1999 has become a character flaw of serial PDP governments. If we rely on previous experience, it is obvious that Gov. Okowa potentially aims to profit from this loan in more ways than one, including diverting a substantial part of this loan for political purposes as the election season begins. We therefore implore Governor Okowa to quickly take one step back and discontinue the acquisition of this offensive loan.

Our only ray of hope is that a critical and clear-thinking stakeholder in the person of the Deputy President of the Senate, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege has once again lent his voice against this kind of “madness” through a statement issued by his executive assistant, Mr. Aruviere Martin Egharevwa. He has described this loan as unjustifiable and a plot to sink future generations of the state into debt; more so as the loan is not tied to strategic developmental projects of immense value that have been thoughtfully conceived and executed in the best interest of Deltans.

We will not hesitate to sensitise more Deltans to this horrible and unprogressive loan that is obnoxious and stinks to high heavens. This madness must stop and we say “enough is enough.” Governor Okowa cannot continue to fool the people of Delta State all the time. 

•Iwerebor, who is the coordinator of Delta Integrity Movement, wrote from the Nordic.

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