By Jonathan Ugbal
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Bank is asking the Cross River State Government to pay back the multi-million dollar facility it granted the state to construct the Tinapa Premier Business and Leisure Resort.
This is giving Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade serious headache, CrossRiverWatch gathered, especially with the state barred from obtaining any further commercial loan from banks.
The Governor Donald Duke’s administration had initially budgeted USD350 million for the project but as at its commissioning on April 2, 2007, this had increased to about USD450 million with some reports pegging the actual cost at USD470 million.
This is nearly NGN150 billion today but was about NGN56 billion as at 2007.
The huge debts left behind and the inability of Tinapa to kick off 3 years after completion saw the loans under Governor Liyel Imoke’s administration, accruing neck breaking interest with the Asset Management Company of Nigerian (AMCON) attempting to buy over NGN30 billion of the debt the state owed Union Bank.
But, a chunk of that money was gotten from the ECOWAS bank.
CrossRiverWatch gathered that a bus load of the bank staff from its Abidjan, Ivory Coast, headquarters arrived the state recently and threatened the Ayade administration to either pay back the loan or the bank will take over the facility.
A source in government told this correspondent that Mr. Ayade is worried as he was not aware of the debt until when the ECOWAS bank team arrived Calabar.
When CrossRiverWatch contacted Government officials, they were unwilling to disclose any information with a highly placed official pointing out that the Governor will not want to join the discussion in public so it won’t seem he is going against former Governor Duke whom he has a cordial relationship with.
But CrossRiverWatch further gathered that due to huge internal and external debts accumulated since 2005, the state alongside 2 others, were said to have crossed their borrowing thresholds and were barred from obtaining any commercial loan facility due to poor credit rating.
Our source said this, and the deductions at source from the DMO, of the state’s statutory allocation which has seen it receive a paltry NGN8.9 billion between January to June 2017 (NGN9.3 billion was deducted), has seen the state nearly grind to a halt.
But, Governor Ayade in different fora has said that despite these challenges, he is bent on industrializing the state as it is the only way out of the financial conundrum the state is currently in.
“I know no sleep trying to ensure that salaries are paid because if we don’t pay that, there will be social tension which is why it is a priority in my administration,” Ayade told the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission chairman earlier this year.
He argued that the magic he was performing to pay salaries, pensions and gratuities may not be replicated by another and posited that the state will use its intellectual wealth to get out of the financial mess it is currently in.