The Bayelsa Government on Saturday denied allegations that the N3 billion agriculture loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria was diverted by government officials.
David Alagoa, Bayelsa Commissioner for Agriculture in a radio programme monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria in Yenagoa described the allegations as false, baseless and childish.
Dr John Idumange, a former General Manager of Bayelsa Broadcasting Corporation had alleged diversion of N3 billion agricultural loan obtained by the immediate past administration led by Chief Seriake Dickson.
Idumange, who was an aide on Research and Documentation to Dickson, who was governor from 2012 to 2020, claimed the present administration was diminishing the efforts of Dickson’s government.
He claimed that he had so far, recorded 17 cases of diversion of the N3 billion loan obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Idumange also claimed that he would report the alleged fraud to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) when the count reached 25.
Meanwhile, former governor, 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 Diri’s administration.
Speaking on the allegations, Alagoa said that 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 that 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.
Alagoa dismissed claims made by Idumange who called into the programme to allege that a paltry sum of N50,000 was disbursed to few farmers whilst government officials shared the rest as false and without merit.
“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 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 but due to financial inclusion issues.
“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 whitefish inputs would be distributed later this month.
“Our policy on Agriculture is to promote farming by resident 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,” Alagoa said.
Idumange alleged that more than one year after the first tranche of the loan was received, nothing has been achieved beyond land clearing but Alagoa noted that the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 slowed down the process.