Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State on Tuesday said the state government was yet to access the N150 billion bridging finance which it applied for two months ago.
Okowa’s explanation is coming on the heels of speculation particularly in the camp of the opposition that the money had been accessed and deployed into primaries of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
But addressing newsmen in Asaba, shortly after inspecting ongoing works at the Koka flyover bridge and interchange, the governor said the funds had not reached the state because the Federal Government was yet to commence remittances to the state, contrary to the agreement.
He said that the bridge was one of the projects that the bridging finance was meant to cover, adding that “when the money is available, we will be able to use it to upscale these projects.
“The bridging finance is actually a finance that we already have a source of repayment and rather than allow the depreciation of the naira or the extension of time at work create a cost escalation for us, our intention was to take a bridging finance and then pay back from the monies that the Federal Government owes us.
“But as at today, we have not even accessed the bridging finance because the repayment plan from the Federal Government, which is supposed to have started by January has not commenced; they have not made any remittances to the state.
“Some states have taken a part of their own bridging finance because we are not the only state involved. But for us, we intend to wait until the refund process starts before accessing the bridging finance.
“So, we have not yet accessed that bridging finance at the moment but we have got the approval of the House of Assembly.
“I hear that some of our brothers who don’t even understand governance, have tried to critique the situation but unfortunately, when some people don’t understand what is in government and how you can save funds for the people, they could talk politics and criticise.
“But I am very confident that whatever we are about to do, we are doing it in the best interest of the state; we are trying to save money for the state, we are trying to save situations where you have cost overrun and cost escalations.
“We do hope that as soon as the first set of refunds come from the Federal Government, we would be able to access the bridging finance to be able to scale up the speed of the major projects that we have as listed before the House of Assembly and utilise the money for some other sources.
“But as at today, we are still coping and we hope that very soon the Federal Government will start the process of refund and we will be in a position to ensure that we speed up all the projects we have,” he said.
Okowa explained that a slowdown and depreciation of the naira could be a major disaster because the bridging finance was meant to be a cost saving measure for the state.
On the Koka flyover project, he expressed optimism that the project would be completed in December, 2022.
“I can actually see that work is on schedule and they have gone very far from the briefing that I received from the Commissioner for Works.
“You know that when we came in last, they told me that they would try and finish it in February, next year, but I put a lot of pressure and insisted that we wanted it completed this year.
“The information I received is that they are still working very hard to ensure that they finish the project by the middle of December.
“From what we can see, the super structure of the bridge is already on and a lot of work is being done and by October, it is expected that this would have finished completely.
“And, the work to provide the full interchange with the road network under would also be started in due course. They have promised that they are right on time and that they would be finishing before that end of the year.
“I am quite excited at this because it’s quite important to us. More so, when we are anticipating that the sector C2 of the Ughelli-Asaba road would be completed about the same time.
“If there is free flow of traffic coming from Ogwashi-uku end to this place on a dual carriage way, it is important that we also have this completed about the same time.
“So that we don’t have a clogging of traffic and it appears everything is going on as planned so I am quite happy with the pace of work,” he said.