Grappling with domestic debt of N123 billion, oil rich Bayelsa in Niger Delta has started deploying the $1 million loan it obtained from the World Bank and European Union (EU).
Figures obtained from Debt Management Office also put Bayelsa’s external debt as at June 2018 at $47.756 million.
The projects selected for implementation from the loan are scheduled to be completed in two years.
The World Bank and EU facility would be administered under the State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) Project to provide 6,000 jobs for youth empowerment.
Mr Parminder Brar, the World Bank Task Team Leader (TTL) for the SEEFOR in Nigeria, disclosed this in his remarks at the opening ceremony of the SEEFOR Project Implementation Support Mission (ISM) in Yenagoa.
He said that during the first 12 months of the two years, 40 new projects would be started and crafts, technical and vocational training centres in the state would receive support under the SEEFOR project.
Brar also said the overall allocation for the SEEFOR project was 480 million dollars of which 65 per cent was from the World Bank and 35 per cent from the EU, adding that the allocation for Bayelsa was 55 million dollars.
Delivering a keynote speech at the event, Retired Rear Adm. Gboribiogha Jonah, the Bayelsa Deputy Governor, decried Nigeria’s slow approach to tackling its development challenges.
Gboribiogha said that the approach was especially slow in terms of improving life expectancy, literacy rate, access to water and roads, among others, when compared to its neighbors.
He said that some state governments focused on developing the urban areas while the rural areas received little or no attention, noting Bayelsa had keyed into the SEEFOR project to change the narrative in the rural areas.
Jonah commended the SEEFOR project for not only providing more than 10,000 jobs for the teeming youths in the state in the previous phases, but also for constructing roads for farmers to evacuate their farm produce.
He emphasised that the successful execution of SEEFOR projects would attract more projects to the state.
Jonah also said that the greatest challenge facing Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in the country was lack of access to funds that would attract minimal interest, enough time to execute projects as well as pay back loans.
The deputy governor, who called on the participating states of Edo, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa to have equal SEEFOR assessment, participation and benefit, enjoined them to take the peer-review sessions seriously, especially in the area of public financial management.
Joshua Ongore, the state Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, said that the objectives of the SEEFOR project were in line with the development agenda of Gov. Seriake Dickson-led administration.
He said that the Bayelsa Government prioritised youth empowerment through training, entrepreneurship and employment.
He described the scheme as an innovation that would open opportunity for peer-learning across the states, stressing that the SEEFOR project was active and responding to the challenges of innovative and better ways of doing things. (NAN)