The Bayelsa government said Wednesday that it has taken steps to overcome the challenges that stalled the delivery of a 22-kilometer bypass highway abandoned by the immediate past administration.
The state executive council on Thursday approved the restart and construction of the Igbogene highway to the AIT highway in Yenagoa starting in January 2021.
Information and Guidance Commissioner Ayibaina Duba spoke with NAN in Yenagoa about plans to finance the project, amid outstanding loans of more than 20 billion loans approved by the State House of Assembly from February 2020 to the date.
Existing information from the Office of Debt Management indicated that the state’s debt profile as of June 30, 2020 was N150.05bn, while as of March 31, 2020, a few weeks from February 14 of 2020; the debt balance was N154,951,999,955.49, which indicates a marginal decrease.
On March 3, 2020, two weeks after Governor Douye Diri’s inauguration, the Assembly gave the governor’s approval to borrow N2.9bn from commercial banks to buy cars for himself and top government officials.
Diri had also obtained another approval on November 11 to borrow N17 billion for Agric and other projects, and another loan of N3.5 billion on December 24 as a matching fund for basic education.
Duba told NAN that construction of the road scheduled to restart in the second week of January 2021 will continue despite the challenges facing the state, as the government had reserved N21 bn in the 2021 budget.
He stressed that the Bayelsa government remained committed to fulfilling its commitment to the people despite the harsh economic climate caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and declining revenues.
The highway project, according to Bayelsa Works Commissioner Moses Teibowei, will cost the state more than 22 billion naira with a completion time of 24 months.
The Information Commissioner explained that the government has made adequate financial provisions from alternative sources, including contractor financing, to meet the target date.
“The government is very committed to the timely delivery of this important project as part of its commitment to fill the infrastructure gap.
“We had planned an end date of 18 months, but realized that, given the reality, it was too ambitious.
“So we settle for 24 months and we are going to be very innovative and prudent and we have made feasible milestones to be achieved by the contractor and the state is currently stable and enjoys the goodwill of investors.
“We have to take these bold steps by following the arrangements we made, and we are very hopeful that the project will unlock the economic potential of our state and serve as a catalyst for the prosperity of our people,” Duba said.