Kwara Govt, Former Gov Squabble over AMCON’s Seizure of State’s Properties, Shonga Farms

todayFebruary 12, 2022 1

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Hammed Shittu in Ilorin

Kwara State Government and immediate past governor of the state, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed have traded words over the recent takeover of the government properties in Abuja and Shonga Farms by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).

At a press briefing in Ilorin to explain the recent takeover of two Kwara State properties by AMCON owing to about N1.7bn debts of the farm, the government said more than a cumulative sum of N5bn of public funds and loans secured with the government as guarantor had allegedly been sunk into the agricultural project with no traces of any dividends

The press briefing was jointly addressed by the state Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Salman Jawondo (SAN); Commissioner for Communication Hon. Bode Towoju; Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Lateef Alakawa; Special Adviser to the Governor of Political Communication, Bashir Adigun; and Group Managing Director of Harmony Holdings, Abdullahi Abdulmajeed.

The government said that 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 state government said it had been fraudulently negotiated into underwriting the debts incurred by the former administrations in the name of Shonga Farms, a venture it said was funded 100 per cent at inception with taxpayers’ money without any gains to the people of the state.

The government explained that the reason AMCON took over the Kwara properties 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 payback on the agreed timeline.

It said 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 2000 – is not anywhere commensurate with its huge investments in the project.

Asked why the government has not taken legal action against the perpetrators of the alleged fraud, Jawondo said crimes perpetrated through fronts and companies take years to unravel and that the government will take action once it gathers every document necessary to do so, including files and transactions tucked away by previous officials.
But the immediate past governor of the state, Alhaji Ahmed claimed that the allegations that his government and the Bukola Saraki administration guaranteed bank loans for Shonga Farms Holdings (SFH) are uninformed and false.

Ahmed, who was Commissioner of Finance when Shonga Farms was established and whose administration created Harmony Holdings Limited, SFH’s supervisory company, said Shonga Farms is a public-private partnership (PPP) funded under a debt-equity structure and owned by the state government, a consortium of banks and the Zimbabwean farmers.

The former governor who was reacting to the issues raised by the present government under Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on the Shonga Farms Holdings in a statement signed by his Media Aide, Alhaji Wahab Oba, maintained that “the Kwara State Government invested in the project through infrastructure for the farms and its communities such as roads, electricity, water and security infrastructure that are still intact.”

Shonga Farms Holdings, he revealed, secured bank loans for expansion using its assets as collateral, adding a state government can only guarantee a loan through its federal allocation, which was never pledged.

Ahmed reiterated that not all businesses are thriving, stressing that while the poultry business remains viable, the dairy syndicate stagnated when a global milk company cancelled its off-taker arrangement with SFH.

The mixed crop section, he said, stalled due to irrigation problems as a result of the federal government reneging on its promise to assist with irrigation.

He said some of the farms secured new investment to pay off their loans to the banks through SFH, which has paid over N600m out of an outstanding N900m to AMCON.

The former governor exonerated the previous two administrations of any wrongdoing in exploiting a business opportunity that attracted investments into the state, developed the local community and placed Kwara State on the global map.

According to Ahmed, SFH attracted foreign and local investments above 100 million USD and has created over 4,000 direct and indirect local jobs besides knowledge transfer to the local community.

He maintained that his and the Saraki administrations followed due process in all transactions relating to SFH, a quality that earned the state government a high ranking from the global rating agency, Fitch.

While acknowledging that the SFH financing model was innovative, Ahmed urged the state government to seek clarifications from professionals rather than indulging in theatrics capable of discouraging investment in the state.

The former governor urged the state government to focus on surpassing investment inflows recorded during the previous administrations, including Dangote Industries and BUA Sugar Company.

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