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Kwara Govt And PDP Bicker On Takeover Of State Buildings Over Debt

Kwara State Government, North Central Nigeria and the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party have disagreed over the takeover of property owned by the state to guarantee loans secured on behalf of Shonga Farms.

Gatekeepers News reports that state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Salman Jawondo, SAN, at a press conference alleged that the state was scammed on the loan by previous administrations.

Shonga Farms was an agricultural concern established for the state by the former administration led by Dr Bukola Saraki.

The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria had last week secured a court injunction to take over two landed property, Plot 135, Kwara House and plot 67, Central Area, Abuja over non-payment of N1.7bn debt taken on behalf of Shonga Farms.

While the government alleged that the state was scammed on the loan by previous administrations, the PDP said the present administration was lying on the status of the farm owned by the state.

The state government on Thursday said the state was fraudulently negotiated into underwriting the debts incurred by the former administrations in the name of Shonga Farm, a venture it said was funded 100% at inception with taxpayers money without any gains accruing to the people of the state.

Jawondo said more than N5bn of public funds and loans secured with the government as guarantor have been sunk into the agricultural project with no dividends to the people of the state.

He said, “Out of the 13 autonomous farms set up with public funds, nine had been sold out with no kobo paid to the public coffers, even when the government is supposed to hold a paltry 10 per cent equity in each of the farms.

“The reason AMCON took over Kwara property in Abuja is to recover the bad loans that the farm owes a consortium of banks that invested in it dating back to 2007 because the Shonga Farm Holdings could not pay back on the agreed timeline.

“AMCON had to hold the state responsible because it is listed among the shareholders of Shonga Farms Holdings Ltd, even though its share — allocated to it only after public noise in the early 2000s — is not anywhere commensurate with its huge investments in the project.”

In response, the state chapter of the PDP wondered why the state governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, was troubling himself over Shonga Farms loan in which the state has 20 per cent shares and in which it suffered no loss.

The PDP, in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Tunde Ashaolu, noted that the state holds 20 percent equity in the farms, adding, “We want to state that if the Kwara State Governor and his key aides knew their onions, they would have taken appropriate measures to save the state’s property from any threat.

“It is not possible for the Kwara State Government to use any property as collateral for any form of loan. Also, Kwara State is just one of the five shareholders in the Shonga Farms and if the company defaults in the payment of any loan, why is AMCON not attaching the property of the four banks that also hold shares in the company?

“AMCON’s lawyers in the new unethical practice that we now witness chose Kwara State as a soft target knowing that the people in charge of government are not only ignorant but they are also ever ready to play politics with any issue.

“The right thing should have been for the government to defend its property by going to court to join issues with AMCON. In any case, the case is still at the court of the first instance, and even then the matter has not been decided at that level. There are still two appellate courts where the matter can be contested.”

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