The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akan Okon, has stated that there is nothing to fear about taking loans to undertake developmental projects that will essentially benefit the people.
He made this known in his office while fielding questions, on how the state is coping with dwindling oil fortunes, from members of Independent Newspaper Publishers Association, INPA, who engaged him in an online meet-the-people interactive session, last Wednesday.
According to him, the state is not isolated from effects of dwindling oil price and global economic recession. There has been significant reduction in the revenue that comes into Nigeria as such what Akwa Ibom receives now is not up to 1/6 of what the state used to receive some 3 years back and salaries take 70% of the state’s monthly allocations from federal government whereas the state needs money for road construction and other projects.
“I don’t know why we are afraid of loans. It is important we think outside the box. There is no money as it used to be before. Even USA takes loans to finance government business. This government is very responsible when it comes to financial issues. We have initiated Contractor Finance Program. You know the Governor is a first class financial expert”.
He assured that some of the loans will be made available to small scale entrepreneurs to enable them engage in viable businesses and generate employment as well as revenue for government. However, he disclosed that the recent MoU government signed with Bank of Industries was being reviewed to know how Akwa Ibom people can best profit from the deal.
Speaking on the state’s debt profile, the Commissioner disclosed that the state refused to apply for recent bailout from federal government but initiated a brilliant way to diffuse its debt to give government breathing space to embark on development programmes unencumbered.
“Akwa Ibom state debt profile was kept at N64.5b when this administration came into power. However, we decided to restructure the N64.5b to federal government bonds. The loan was to be paid for 3 years and we were to pay 3.5billion every month, but we made use of the window by the federal government to use the bond which will allow us to pay back the debt in a 20year period.”, he said.
The Commissioner also threw more light on the BVN scandal currently rocking the state civil service. In his words, “Staff audit have been done in various Ministries, where it was discovered for instance that over 9 names are attached to one BVN.
That means one person receives salaries for 9 persons. We have isolated those cases and we will investigate them, so we advised people whose names appear in multiples against BVN to present themselves for physical for verification. In all, we have 1500 cases and will continue to search for more in order to block those leakages”.
Okon defended the planned establishment of an automobile assembling plant in the state saying, “if you know the number of vehicles that are imported into Nigeria every year, then you will know we are exporting labour to other parts of the world.
The automobile assembling plant is in order. It is mainly for assembling of luxurious buses and other vehicles for transportation companies and as I speak, the first consignment for the company has arrived”.
Asked if the present administration was interested in completing projects left behind by previous ones, he stated “We are doing house cleaning and computing figures on how much have been expended on projects and how much will be needed to complete projects”.