Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has continued to battle with rising debt profile simultaneously with accumulating unpaid salaries of workers in Kogi State.
The governor who is seeking re-election for second term towards the end of 2019 is struggling with leadership performance record of purportedly owing workers in Kogi State 22 months salaries after he had secured over N16.2 billion loan which piles up the debt profile of the state.
National Daily inquiry revealed that the Kogi State Government under the leadership of Bello secured about N16 billion loan between May 2017 and January 2018.
The loans were not part of the over N20 billion that accrued to the state from the Paris Club refund. These are beside allocations from the Federation Account and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) which contribute to the aggregate revenue of the state.
Paris Club refund is a partial settlement of long-standing claims by state governments relating to over-deductions from their Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) disbursement for external debt service between 1995 and 2002.
Available record shows that in the first release of the Paris Club refund, Kogi State received N11.21 billion; N6.02 billion in the second release and over N6 billion in the third reimbursement.
More so, Kogi State Government received a share of the bailout funds disbursed by the federal government to states. President Muhammadu Buhari repeatedly insisted that the funds were to help governors pay salaries of workers in their respective states.
It was learnt that the Kogi State House of Assembly approved N12 billion and another N1.2 billion loans on December 5, 2017. The state government further secured more N1.2 billion separate loan in the same December.
Subsequently, the state Ministry of Finance entered an agreement with a bank that N123,250,244 million be deducted from state government revenue over a 12-month period.
Governor Bello had in a media encounter in January 2018, admitted that his administration obtained a loan of N10 billion, a figure widely believed to have reduced N4.4 billion from the loans his administration collected then.
There were indicators that Kogi State Government obtained more N3.5 billion loan on January 31, 2018.
Thereafter, the State Treasury Quarters issued an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) on March 20, 2018, to a bank to make monthly deductions of N236,892,000 from the state’s Lokoja bank account over a period of 18 months, as repayment of the N3.5 billion loan said to be used for budget implementation.
In the accumulation of the loans which the governor indicated part was to be used to pay salaries, workers in the state civil service, who include teachers, were still being owed salaries, which some of the workers claimed have accumulated to 22 months.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was gathered to have early last year petitioned the International Labour Organisation (ILO) protesting non-payment of over seven months salaries by the Kogi State Governor.
Governor Bello, however, drew the irk of the National Assembly when he was alleged to have unilaterally processed and secured $500 million (about N180 billion at N360 exchange rate) loan without approval of the Kogi State House of Assembly or the National Assembly. Accordingly, the Senate is still investigating the $500 million loan Governor Bello was alleged to have recently secured.
Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West in the National Assembly, at plenary last Wednesday, raised a point of order, notifying the Senate of ‘illegal’ procurement of loan by the Kogi State Governor.
The Senator citing Orders 42 and 52, alleged that the Kogi State Government signed a loan of $500 million without the approval of the National Assembly or the Kogi State House of Assembly. Melaye had argued that the Kogi governor secured the loan for the forthcoming governorship election in the state. Senator Melaye further said he has written the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor not to allow Governor Yahaya bello withdraw the fund.
Senator Atai Aidoko, representing Kogi East, also protested: “This is unacceptable. This state is in so much debt. There is no law that allows a Governor to withdraw $500 million without approval from the Senate.
“The state has not been paying salaries; where is all this money going? Let us do the needful and put these loans to an end.”
The Senate, after minimal deliberations, mandated the Committee on Local and Foreign Debt to conduct inquiry on the $500 million loan allegedly obtained by Governor Bello without approval of the legislature.
Senate President Bukola Saraki had stated: “There are comments and allegations that we must first decide. We must refer it to the Committee on Local Debt and we are supposed to set up an Ad-hoc Committee and give them a maximum of 48 hours to report back on whether this loan has been taken, the process to which these loans have been taken and that such actions should be suspended until we establish it them. Let us allow our Committee to establish the status of the point you raised.”
The Senate, thereafter, agreed to refer the point of order to the Committee on Local and Foreign Debt to report back within 48 hours, or a maximum of five days. The five days maximum for the investigation elapses this Wednesday.
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