The Bayelsa State Government on Saturday denied allegations that a N3 billion agriculture loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been diverted by government officials.
David Alagoa, the commissioner for agriculture in the state, described the allegations as “false, baseless and childish”.
John Idumange, a former general manager of the state-owned Bayelsa Broadcasting Corporation, alleged that the agricultural loan obtained by the past administration led by Seriake Dickson has been diverted by the current administration in the state.
Mr Idumange, who was an aide on research and documentation to Mr Dickson, claimed the present administration was diminishing the efforts of Mr Dickson’s government.
He claimed he had so far recorded 17 cases of diversion of the N3 billion loan.
Mr Idumange said he would file a complaint with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission when the count reaches 25.
The commissioner for agriculture, Mr Alagoa, who spoke in a radio interview in Yenagoa on Saturday, said the first tranche of N1.5 billion facility which was received in March 2020 for infrastructure has been deployed to upgrade the existing cassava processing plant and set up two rice mills.
He said the facilities where the funds were spent on were available for any interested person to visit and inspect, adding that the CBN has stringent inbuilt governance mechanisms to guard against abuse.
Mr Alagoa dismissed as false, claims made by Mr Idumange who called into the programme to allege that a paltry sum of N50,000 was disbursed to few farmers while government officials shared the rest of the money.
“It is either Idumange does not understand or does not want to understand or is on a mission to discredit this administration. Let me state right here that we are open to criticism as we do not have a monopoly of knowledge.
“We welcome constructive criticisms as long as they are factual and true, but Idumange did not get his facts right and maybe the information at his disposal is from another state and not Bayelsa.
“I therefore challenge him to prove that money was shared by government officials because no such thing happened and the projects for which the funds were meant for are there for inspection.
“It is also false that N50,000 was disbursed to few beneficiaries. We have 3,500 beneficiaries who qualified even though we had planned for up to 6,000 farmers.
“Many of the farmers who do not have functional bank accounts with Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) were screened out. So the 3,500 beneficiaries received N50,000 for land ploughing and preparation.
“The programme is structured in such a way that funds are remitted at various stages in the farming process, currently we are distributing inputs for rice and cassava farmers, while fish inputs would be distributed later this month.
“Our policy on Agriculture is to promote farming by residents to achieve food security, while the government assists them by mechanising the process and the tractors acquired are already in our custody ready for use,” Mr Alagoa said.
Mr Idumange alleged that more than one year after the first tranche of the loan was received, nothing has been achieved beyond land clearing, but Mr Alagoa said the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the process.
Meanwhile, the former governor, Mr Dickson, had, in a press statement on Friday, washed his hands off the allegations, and urged his supporters to close ranks and work for the success of Governor Douye Diri’s administration.