Controversy Over The FCFA 106 Billion Loan For B’da Ring Road Project -GOOD DECISION, BUT BAD TIMING

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– Money being borrowed by the same Gov’t that attributed the abandonment of Babadjou – B’da Road to insecurity

– Fear that money being borrowed from African Development Bank for Ring Road Project will be diverted elsewhere

– Separatist group Vows to attack equipment, materials and workers of any company that will accept a contract for the Ring Road Project, when war has not ended

The Cameroon Government recently signed a controvetsial loan agreement with the African Development Bank, AfDB, for the latter to disburse the sum of FCFA 106 billion that the Government says is meant for the 365 km Bamenda Ring Road Project whose total cost is said to above FCFA 150 billion.
The Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Alanine Ousmane Mey, signed the loan agreement for the State of Cameroon, while the Managing Director of the African Development Bank for Central Africa, Serge Marie N’Guessan, signed for the financial institution.
Both the President of the Northwest Regional Council, Prof Fru Agwafor, and the State owned CRTV, said that the loan for the Bamenda Ring Road Project, is a major fallout of the so-called Major National Dialogue that was organised in late 2019.

Importance Of Ring Road Project

The importance of the B’da Ring Road Project to the Northwest Region in particular and Cameroon as a whole, cannot be overemphasized. As I have stated in a number of articles thus year, the Ring Road is indisputable the most important road network on the Northwest Region, as it links the headquarters of as many as five of the seven Divisions of the region.
To be precise, the Rind Road takes off from Bamenda which is both the Northwest Regional and Mezam Divisional Headquarter, through Bambili to Ndop ( Ngohketungia’s Divisional Headquarter), to Kumbo ( Bui Divisional Headquarter), to Nkambe ( Donga and Mantung Divisional Headquarter), to Wum (Menchum Divisional Headquarter), and back to Bamenda through Bafut.
It is not for nothing that the Ring Road Project has been one of the major demands or concern of the people of the Northwest Region, since reunification in 1961.
During President Biya’s official visit to Bamenda in 1991, that is 30 years ago, he promised in his official address to the population of the Northwest Region, that he would personally supervise the construction of the Bamenda Ring Road. But when the President returned to Yaounde, he again went silent. During the past 30 years after President Biya’s promise to personally supervise the construction of the Bamenda Ring Road, the only thing that happened on the 365 km long road, was that some patches of work were done like the Wainamah Hill between Ndop and Jakiri that was tarred. But most of the patches of work that were done especially at the Ndop plain (Ndop – Babungo) were so even poorly done, and today there are potholes all over the place. Thus the entire Ring Road of 365 kns broken road needs to be properly constructed.

Wrong Timing

Meanwhile, what makes the granting of the FCFA 106 billion loan by the AfDB to Cameroon for the Ring Road Project a controvetsial issue, has to do with the timing. Since late 2017, a war has been ranging on between Government troops and separatist fighters in the two Anglophone Regions (Northwest and Southwest). The war is an escalation of the Anglophone Crisis that sparked off in late 2016, as a result of the persistent and deliberate failure by Government over the years, to resolve the protracted Anglophone Crisis. Many Cameroonians as well as the International community, have since the escalation of the Anglophone Crisis been calling on the Biya regime to organise a veritable inclusive dialogue to end the crisis two that has led to thousands of deaths, caused the displacement of
tens of thousands persons, as well as caused, a huge destruction of property, and has brought untold misery to thousands of families. Unfortunately the Biya regime has so far refused to organise a real inclusive dialogue, and has instead continued to erroneously think as the former US Secretary of State rightly observed, that there can be a military solution to the conflict.
Also , though the Biya regime today claims that the situation in the two Anglophone Regions is under control, it is no secret that the situation on the ground is very much different. For example late last week that the FCFA 106 billion loan agreement was signed in Yaounde, half a dozen Divisional Delegates in Ndian, Southwest Region, were kidnapped by suspected separatist fighters also known as Amba boys, and one of the Delegates was killed the next day. As by the time I am doing this analysis in the night of Saturday, June 26, breaking Sunday , June 27, 2021, the remaining Divisional Delegates that were abducted are apparently still in the hands of Amba boys, who are said to be demanding a huge ransome for their liberation.
Also, last weekend two soldiers were reportedly killed on the Ring Road precisely at Bamali Village in the Northwest Region, by a group of separatist fighters led by one ‘General No Pity’. A video of the late soldiers unfortunately circulated on the social media. Again, this week, the residence of the DO of Bali Kumbat in Ngohketungia Division was reportedly attacked by a group of separatist fighters.
The military on their part have reportedly also ‘neutraluzed’ a number of separatist fighters during clashes in many parts of the two Anglophone Regions like in Kumbo, in the last one month. These and many more incidents reported in two Anglophone Regions in the last one month, are clear indications that the war between the Government military and separatist fighters in the Anglophone Regions, is not only still on, but that the situation continues to worsen with each passing day.

Compliant Of Insecurity

So the question is how the Government intents to carryout the Ring Road Project in the midst of the ongoing war in the Northwest Region. Is it not the same Government that has been blaming the long delay in the rehabilitation of the Babadjou – Bamenda Road to insecurity emanating from the escalation of the Anglophone Crisis.
Cone to think of it, that the Babadjou – Bamenda Road can be said to be on the outskirt of the Northwest Region. Now, if there is insecurity on the Babadjou – Bamenda Road due to the Anglophone Crisis as the Government complained, what more of the Ring Road which is deep inside the Northwest Region where the Amba boys are very active?

Kumbo – Ndu Road Blocked

The Government claims that relative peace has returned to the war torn Northwest Region, and that the construction of the Ring Road can take place. The Government is citing as example, the ongoing contruction work on the Nkambe – Misaje Road in the Donga and Mantung Division. To take Nkambe Sub – division as well as neighbouring Misaje Sub-division as an example to show that peace has returned to the Northwest Region, as evidence that things are under control, smarts of dishonesty on the part of Government.. This is because it is no secret that Nkambe has never been seriously affected since the Anglophone Crisis escalated in late 2017. Schools and State Institutions gave been functioning normally in Nkambe. Neighbouring Misaje Sub-division has also since returned to a form of normalcy. But that is all.
Take for example the Kumbo – Ndu Road. For several months today, the Kumba – Ndu Highway which is an important part of the Ring Road, has. reportedly been blocked by separatist fighters in Bui Division, who are quoted as saying that the act is a punishment to the people of Donga and Mantung Division, that they accuse of « betraying the struggle ».
Vehicles that leave Bamenda for Ndu, Nkambe or any part of Donga and Mantung Division, have for several months now been forced to instead go through Bafoussam and Foumban in the West Region, move into the Adamawa Region that shares boundary with Donga and Mantung Division, and then cross into Donga and Mantung Division. To travel from Bamenda to Nkambe by public transport these days, is said to cost atleast FCFA 25,000 instead of FCFA 5000 that used to be paid to travel from Bamenda to Nkambe through Kumbo.
Now, in such a situation, how will the Kumbo – Ndu stretch of road be constructed. What about the Ngohketungia Division where Amba boys are also very active. Another big challenge is the Bamenda – Bafut – Befang – ,Wum stretch of the road, where the Amba boys are also observed to be very much active.

Warning By Separatist Group

Meanwhile in a video message posted on social media, the Communication Secondary of the Sako faction of the Ambazonia Interim Government, Chris Anu, claims that the FCFA 106 billion loan granted the State of Cameroon by AFDB for the Bamenda Ring Road Project, is money meant to finance the ongoing war between Government troops and separatist fighters in the two Anglophone Regions. He has warned the African Development Bank that separatists will not allow the construction of the Ring Road to take place, while the war ranges on. « We will raze every piece of equipment deployed at any construction site, and we warn any humanbeing passing for a worker on any such sites that he or she shall have himself or herself to blame », Anu declared.

Fears That Money Will Be Diverted

There is genuine fear by many observers in the country that the FCFA 106 billion that Cameroon has borrowed from AfDB for the Ring Road Project, might be diverted to something else, or that the money is actually meant for something else. The Government knows so well that it will be very difficult to carryout the Ring Road Project at this time, due to the ongoing war between Government troops and separatist fighters in the Northwedt Region. Even without the warning by one of the separatist leaders in the Diaspora, Chris Anu, the Government knows so well that separatist fighters will try by all means to attack any construction company that will be awarded the contract on the Ring Road, especially in areas where the separatist fighters are arguably in control. The regime also knows so well that when a construction company is attacked, the tendency will likely be that the company would withdraw from the project.
This is why some people even suspect that the Biya Government’s strategy is that when a contract is awarded to a construction company, and Amba boys attack and the company, and the company withdraws from the project, the regime will then have an excuse in the name of insecurity, to divert the funds for the Ring Road Project elsewhere.
The funds for the Ring Road Project might even be embezzled. If some members of the regime could afford to embezzle money borrowed from the International Monetary Fund to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, what more of money borrowed for a road project in the Northwest Region.

Another PPRD – NW/SW?

The issue of the controversial FCFA 106 billion loan for the Ring Road Project, looks like another Presidential Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the Northwest and Southwest Regions, headed by a CPDM elite, Paul Njukong Tasong, who is also the Minister Delegate at the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development. He is assisted by an SDF elite, Njong Donatus, the former Mayor of Kumbo, who was appointed to the post by CPDM Government,
even if the SDF swears that the party has nothing to do with the CPDM
That aside, despite the insistence even by the French Ambassador to Cameroon, Christophe Guihou, that no concrete or real reconstruction can effectively take place in the war torned Northwest and Southwest Regions until the ongoing war stops, the Biya Government has been arguing to the contrary.
But then as was revealed during a recent visit by the Prime Minister, Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute, to GICAM in Douala a couple of weeks ago, FCFA 3.5 billion out of the FCFA 10 billion so far allocated to PPRD – NW/SW, has scandalously already been spent already, while not even a hut has been constructed anywhere in the two Anglophone Regions.

Financial Crisis

It is no news that Cameroon is in a financial crisis, and that the crisis started before the Anglophone Crisis sparked off in late 2016. With the outbreak of war in the two Anglophone Regions since the end of 2017, the financial crisis has worsened, as the Government has been desperately hunting for money to finance the war.

The Biya Government has been constantly borrowing money left and right in the name of funding development projects, and diverting much of the money to finance the war.
The Government never says anything about the sources of the funds that she has been using to finance the war.

The Case Of FCFA 1 Billion Subvention To PAMOL

In late 2018, precisely in the months of November and December, Cameroon Government raised a loan of FCFA 150 billion through the sale of public bonds on the financial market. In the document that was presented to investors and reporters at the launching ceremony of the operation which took place in Douala, it was indicated that FCFA 1 billion will go to PAMOL Plantations as subvention. The same amount of money was also allocated as subvention to SOWEDA, while FCFA 2 billion was supposed to go for a project to construct a second entry into Bamenda from the direction of Bafoussam, starting at Mile 8 Akum in Santa Sub-division.
In principle, when the Government borrows money through the sale of public bonds, the money is kept in a special account at the Central Bank, from where the money is disbursed straight to the different Institutions and projects for which the money was raised. In principle also, the money which the Government raised from the sale if public bonds in late 2018, was supposed to be disbursed to the different Institutions and projects in early 2019.
But then when in 2019 the then General Manager of PAMOL Chief Charles Mekanya, waited for sometime at the company’s headquarter at Ekodo Titi and did not see the FCFA 1 billion subvention, he traveled to Yaounde for it. He was also under pressure from workers and suppliers who had heard that Government had allocated a FCFA 1 billion subvention to the company. Some people even started accusing him of having embezzled the money.
Meanwhile to Mekanya’s surprise when he got to Yaounde, the Minister of Finance instead directed him to go to the Public Treasury. This meant that the FCFA 1 billion in the account at the Central Bank that on paper was meant for PAMOL, had been withdrawn and diverted elsewhere.
Meanwhile when the then General Manager of PAMOL went to Yaounde Central Treasury, he was told that there was no money. Mekanya travelled to Yaounde several times for the money, but was repeatedly told at the Treasury that the coffer was empty.
During one of the trips, the Director of the Yaounde Treasury disclosed to Mekanya that since war erupted in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, the coffer of the Treasury is often empty, because any little money that comes in goes for the war, which the Government has priortised for funding.
But then the General Manager who was increasingly being accused by PAMOL workers and suppliers to had embezzled the FCFA 1 billion subvention that Government gave the company, got so frustrated that at one point he exposed everything in an interview he granted Equinoxe TV in Ekondo Titi. He among other things disclosed what the Director of the Yaounde Treasury told him, how any little money that enters the Treasury goes for the war in the two Anglophone Regions.
There is no doubt that the Government was angry with with the disclosures that were made by Mekanya, and it is suspected that the issue contributed to his sacking in October 2020. He was replaced by Solomon Tapea Mbile.

COVID -19 Funds

The Government’s strategy of borrowing money for one thing and diverting it elsewhere, can also be seen with the COVID-19 funds. The attention of the population has focused on the alleged scandalous embezzlement of part of the 180 billion that was allocated by Government to 22 ministries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The scandal is now commonly known as COVIDGATE.
But the fact of the matter is that the total sum of money that Cameroon twice borrowed from the International Monetary Fund last year purportedly to fight COVID-19 also known as Coronavirus, was FCFA 211 billion. If FCFA 180 billions were allocated to ministries, where us the balance of FCFA 31 billion?
Also, where is the financial aid that the World Health Organisation and other international organisations and friendly countries, gave to Cameroon to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic? What also about the money that was contributed by companies and individuals in Cameroon for the fight against COVID-19, which was reportedly put in a certain National Solidary Fund?
Scandalously and shamefully enough, the Cameroon Government is still running around trying to borrow more money, in the name of COVID-19. The Minister of Finance, Louis Paul Motaze, tried to justify the search for more loans in the name of COVID-19, when he argued to reporters in Yaounde on Monday, June 21, that Coronavirus is still around and that the Government needs money to buy more vaccines.
Everybody knows that Cameroon received for free 200,000 doses of the Chinese made Sinopharm Vaccine, and bought 400,000 doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine through the COVAX Initiative. These face a total of 600,000 doses of vaccines.
Since each individual is supposed to take two doses of vaccine, this means that the total of 600,000 doses of Sinopharm and AstraZeneca Vaccines that Cameroon received, are meant for 300,000 people. But statistics show that so far not more than a 100,000 people in Cameroon have gone in for vaccines, as many Cameroonians are unfortunately against taking taking the COVID-19 Vaccine. This also means that the Government still has a large stock of vaccines, and at a time when the COVID-19 infection rate in the country is said to be on a steady decline.
Yet the Government is running around looking for more money to borrow, claiming that the country needs more vaccine.
There is no doubt that the Biya Government is exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic as a passport tto borrow money and divert elsewhere.
It is for the same reason that many observers fear that the Government’s real intention to borrow the FCFA 106 billion from AfDB in the name of the Bamenda Ring Road Project, at a time that a war is ranging on in Northwest Region, might be to divert the money to something else.

30 Year Old Promise

Meanwhile CRTV says the FCFA 106 billion loan purportedly meant for the Bamenda Ring Road Project, is also a fulfillment of the promise that President Biya made to the people of the Northwest Region.
In fact the promise by President Biya that he would personally supervise the construction of the Bamenda Ring Road, was made in an address he presented at the ceremonial ground at the Bamenda Commercial Avenue, during an official visit to the Northwest Region in 1991, which was part of a nationwide tour.
That promise was made 30 years. The Anglophone Crisis only sparked off in late 2016, and degenersted into an armed conflict in late 2017. So there was relative peace in the Northwest Region for as long as 25 years after President Biya’s promise to supervise the tarring of the Ring Road.
That President Biya for 25 years when there was peace in the Northwest Region did not think that the Government could borrow money for the Ring Road Project, and only to borrow money purportedly meant for the Ring Road Project during the period of war, leaves many people wondering whether the FCFA 106 billion loan granted by the Africa Development Bank, is in reality meant for the Bamenda Ring Road Project.
Whatever the case, let’s wait and see

Joe Dinga Pefok

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