TARABA: Groaning Under A Heavy Yoke
LIKE every other state of the federation that is now cap in hands seeking for financial assistance from the Federal Government, Taraba State is not left out of the queue, as both government and private activities are on the verge of collapse, as a result of the huge debt profile of the state. This is hampering the new government of Darius Dickson Ishaku from carrying out its campaign promises to the people.
Taraba State has never been enmeshed in financial crisis like this since 1991. The present financial predicament, which has forced contractors to bow out of the state, as well as compel financial institutions to cease from lending funds to the state, started when the immediate past governor, Danbaba D.Suntai, was out of office due injuries he suffered from the October 25, 2012 plane crash.
Recently, speaking through the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Anthony Andrew Jellason, the governor admitted that he inherited a ‘huge debt’ profile from the last administration and that he needed time, to, at least, settle down and devise ways of solving the numerous challenges facing the state.
Apart from the state chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which had been on strike for the past six months, due to government alleged refusal to meet up with the demands of the union, other government institutions, are as well fashioning out ways of throwing downtheir working implements.
The former Commissioner of Finance, Emmanuel Gowon, confirmed that the “present financial situation of the state is so bad that it is finding it difficult to pay salaries.”
Accusing the sacked Acting Governor Alhaji Garba Umar of being the architect of the present financial situation of the state, the immediate past administration led by the reinstated Deputy Governor, Sani Abubakar Danladi, according to him, “inherited about N20 Billion debt from Umar.
A breakdown of the debt profile, according to him, includes N9.5 billion overdraft, N5.6 billion term loan and another N2.7 billion unpaid cheques to various ministries and contractors as well as other liabilities and claims of about N20 billion.
He said to ensure that salaries are paid, the Danladi administration had to negotiate with the bank to convert the N7.5 billion debt of overdrafts into a term loan for a duration of 20 months.
This means, out of Taraba’s monthly statutory allocation of between N3.5 to N3.6 billion, the state pays close to N1 billion for the term loan. The state is then left with N2 billion to pay the revolving loan, which it takes back to pay staff salaries of about N1.8 billion.
While attempting to salvage the state then, a bond of about N30 billion, The Guardian gathered, was entered into by the state government.
He said it would take long for Taraba, whose monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is only about N140 million, to come out of the its present situation unless it secures a bond of at least N30 billion.
He said if the state can access the facility, the first tranche of N20 billion could be used to offset the term loan and have a balance. And the remaining loan would be paid in a period of seven years with N390 million monthly, without stifling the running of government and yet embarking on some capital projects.
While patiently awaiting for a bailout from the Federal Government, the governor as The Guardian gathered, is leaving no stone unturned in sourcing for funds, as he has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of N700 million with the Bank of Industries, which the governor hopes would ease financial burden of the state.
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