Vanguard Newspaper 07 April 2018
42—SATURDAY Vanguard, APRIL 7, 2018 26 YRS AFTER CREATION OF DELTA: Okowa tackles most difficult project in Asaba •To spend over N30 billion on 8 storm drainage channels, discharge points •Speaks on Fulani herdsmen Emma Amaize Regional Editor South- South, Festus Ahon & Ochuko Akuopha SINCE August 27, 1991, nearly 27 years ago when Delta State was created, none of the Governors that ruled the state, civilian and military, mustered the finances to deal with the flood problem facing Asaba, the state capital, yet it was noticeably the major impediment disquieting the capital city. Each year, flood overruns Asaba, the boundary between the state and neighbouring Anambra state. Both government and private establishments are not spared. While residents wondered if there was no government in place, visitors brood over why the capital of an oil-rich state should be such a tragedy. With only three to five rainfalls in Asaba, this year, the people already have their hearts in their mouths, but the state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who embarked on the construction of storm drains, months ago, told journalists in an interactive session that his government was doing everything to stop the yearly humiliation. Taking the bull by the horn To check flood in Asaba and environs, Okowa, however, said his government would spend more than N30 billion on the construction of eight storm drainage channels, including discharge points. “We have taken the bull by the horn as regards flood control in the state; we wanted to be sure that we were on the right path, we did not just want to start constructing drains all over again without bringing solutions to the flood issues in Asaba. So our consultants worked with the Nigerian Society of Engineers to provide us with eight options of drains. “Storm drainages that we had to undertake as a state, which was put at a total cost of a little above N30 billion and out of the eight strategic network of drains, we chose to work with three as they were very critical and the total cost of the three is about N11 billion.” “The first one we started with was the one that is going to be within the area of Direct Labour Agency, DLA Road through Jesus Saves Road, Agric Road area and that is the construction that is ongoing straight from that area through the Nnebisi Road to the Amilimocha River and I think that the project has gone very far,” he said. Project going on well Governor Okowa explained: “We have been promised that the project will be delivered by the end of May, this year, and we are happy to announce that from my inspections, the project is going on very well and I am sure that a lot of us would have had the opportunity to see this construction and for those of us who may not have, I must appeal that for us to be able to do proper reporting, there is a need for us to visit the projects to see what is on going.” He added: “There are two other projects, one of them is the drainage project that will take us through Ambassador Ralph Uwechie Road to discharge to the Anwai stream and that project is already ongoing; the project was awarded about a month ago and work is ongoing and it will take 12 months to complete.” 2019 completion date “So we may not be getting all the relief within the Okpanam areas all through the rainy season, but it is our hope that before the next rainy season, they would have completed the project. So hopefully the project will be delivered by God’s grace by the end of February, 2019 and once it is completed, it is going to drain the larger part of Okpanam, while part of the water coming from Okpanam will be drained through the project that has a discharge point at the Iyi-Abi stream that is across the Asaba/Onitsha expressway. “And I am happy to announce that the company working on the Okpanam project has stepped up their pace of work; the third of the storm drainage projects is the one that is going to drain the Delta Broadcasting Service, DBS, area and the adjoining areas around the DBS and that project is a 12 -month project and I hope that they all will be delivered on time because the impact of the projects will only be fully felt in the year 2019. It is my hope that we can reasonably go far enough before the rains sets in this year,” the governor stated. Count me out of contract scam On the accusation that he was executing the state’s new Secretariat and other projects through cronies, Okowa laughed, saying: “I do not know how many of us have been to that secretariat that is being built, I am sure that you are proud of what is going on there. If Dr.Okowa has the competence to own a company to build that kind of project, I would be very proud of myself, unfortunately, I do not.” His words: “And the company is not hidden, it is a Chinese company, and those who went with us then saw the Chinese who are there. But I must commend the management because out of the over 160 people working on that site, only 11 of them were brought from China, the other 150 are Nigerians. And the level of organisation, the quality of the work is something that we must be proud of, I am actually proud of them.” “When they first came in, I was scared initially until we actually proved from their embassy that they were very competent, and truly with the speed, level of work and organisation at the work site, they are actually people to be proud of. I am convinced from what I have seen at this stage that it is something that will come out well. “ Probably, I am part of the Chinese government because the company is a Chinese- owned firm. If I have that level of connection in China, I am sure I would have been able to do much more for Deltans, I wish I could but I am not,” he said. Asaba Airport hullabaloo with contractor Speaking on the disagreement between the state government and ULO Consultants, the former contractor handling the Asaba Airport project, who dragged the government to court after his contract was terminated, he said: “ULO ask for repudiation of contract and we did and gave it to somebody else. He is already in court with us. It is already a subject of litigation, so we have to go the full hug of the court.” “ We are aware that he is owing us some money, but he said ‘no,’ that the state is owing him. We have done our calculations and we know that he is owing us. We will meet in court and we are quite convinced that it is only a matter that he will pay back our money,” the governor said. Beleaguered Delta Line On an allegation that Delta Line workers were stopping the takeover of the company by God is Good Motors, the Governor asserted: “On the Delta Line, work is in progress. I guess the committee has signed the necessary agreement, the process of takeover is about now. I have to help in paying two months salaries because I hear they are still owing them. We are trying to offset the salary arrears. They are not preventing God is Good from coming in, I think they are identifying the vehicles and where they are.” “Initially I was told that they were not able to account for 92 vehicles but I have been told that they have been accounted for. The next thing now is to find out which workers are likely to stay back, and which workers are supposed to laid off and paid off. It could be a little slow, but it is better to get things right than rush things wrongly,” he stated. Police handling herdsmen breach in Uwheru Concerning reports that herdsmen had taken over three communities in the state, he said: “There was this headline in Channels and I think it was over exaggerated. When the Assistant Inspector General, AIG, in charge of Zone 5 came, I had to raise that issue because I was fresh from a town hall meeting in Ughelli where we were actually told by the Uwheru community that the problem has been lingering on there about herdsmen destroying their crops” “ So, the Uwheru community is a ward, but it has several small villages and I am told that in three of the smaller villages, the herdsmen had actually taken over their bush, not where they live and that they are insisting, according to the President General, that they can come into the bush,but they must pay money and I had to raise it because it was a worrying situation, because that is the first time I had heard about that. “I know that some work is being done, the Commissioner of Police briefed me as to what they want to do. In fact, he had discussed with the Inspector General of Police on the matter, some decisions has been taken, which I cannot publicly tell you because it will not be right to let out what plans are being put in place by the police, but obviously, we are working hard to address that situation,” he said. Delta/Edo boundary dispute According to him, “The boundary dispute between Abraka and Edo community is something that has been on, and we are still waiting for the Boundary Commission and I hope that soon, they will be able to give a date. We are prepared as a state for the purpose of boundary delineation, but they have not been able to give a date and I heard that two previous dates that were taken, it was not possible to start the process because it is something that is going to take several weeks when they come in. So we are working hard to get a new date for the boundary delineation. Governor Okowa dismissed insinuation that he squandered money on the just concluded local government elections, proclaiming:’DSIEC did ask for a little over billion naira but what we did approve for that election was N700 million. And that was what they worked with apart from the two elections that had to be repeated for which they asked for N20 million bringing the total to N720 million that was spent.” He added: “ I want to believe that that was very prudent spending considering the fact that the bulk of the money actually goes into the payment of staff that are engaged on ad-hoc basis.We have over 3000 units across the state, and each of the unit was manned by a polling officer and two poll clerks. That is quite a lot apart from the payment of other staff that are engaged and the security. So they were quite prudent with the elections compared to what we know is being spent in such elections. That is the situation.” Companies not paying tax because of downturn He asserted that there was no hanky-panky on Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, in the state, stating: “The IGR varies from month to month, it is not hidden. There are some months we generate over N2 billion and some N3 billion, but on a few occasions, we have actually crossed N4 billion. We were hoping that by now, we should be able to drive the process beyond N5 billion but because of the recession, many companies are actually not able to pay. The bulk of the money comes from PAYE, many oil service companies are no longer strongly alive to pay and to employ people.” “And for some of them which are paying, they are no longer paying the allowances, the huge allowances that enable the PAYE to rise, it is no longer so. For instance, the least we get from Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, in the past was over N1.5 billion, but it has dropped to as low as N700 million. Shell that used to pay about N1 billion monthly has left Delta state. So for the skeletal services they provide, the highest we now get from Shell is about N82 million.
SATURDAY Vanguard, APRIL 7, 2018—43 Why Obaseki sacked Commissioner, others over street sweepers protest •Dismisses crisis with FG over Benin Industrial Park project SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY Since he assumed office as governor of Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki has repeatedly told people, particularly government officials about his resolve to wield the big stick against any official that tried to sabotage his efforts in making the state one of the best in the country. As a matter of fact, on the day of the swearing in of Commissioners, Obaseki declared that “this administration intends to industrialize the state and make Edo an investment haven. And any Commissioner who fails to key into the Edo project will be shown the way out¨. He is popularly referred to as the ¨Wake and See Governor¨, following his ongoing beautification of the cities and road constructions across the state. However, the people of the state woke up last Wednesday to hear of the sacking of a commissioner, Permanent Secretary and Mr Aiyemenkhue Akonofua as the General Manager of the state Waste Management Board. After that announcement, a major shake up was equally witnessed in most of the Ministries in the state where Permanent Secretaries were redeployed. This is the first time most people were seeing the other side of the governor. The problem of the officials of the Ministry of Environment started last Tuesday after Women and youths who were engaged to sweep the streets of Benin City by the Edo State Waste Management Board, stormed the state government House, protesting non-payment of their six months salary. The street sweepers carried brooms and palm fronds, casting aspersions against the government. They battled security agencies at the Government The huge crowd was expected. The top political stakeholders in attendance were expected. The outpouring of genuine solidarity and support from a grateful people adorning T-shirts proclaiming loudly the latest slogan in town: TOGETHER, WE WILL actually confirmed that Hon. Declan Mbadiwe Emeluba, a one time senior editor in Vanguard Newspaper, a former ranking member of Imo State House of Assembly is still popular among the constituents of Oru West, Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta Local Governments that make up the Federal Constituency in Imo State. It also meant that the people were still appreciative of his glorious stewardship which set a bench mark and new pace of representation in the entire area. Although the people had been putting pressure on Emelumba to contest the House of Representative seat, he had to first consult with God. After that he sought the approval of his family, the very first casualty of his busy schedule, and finally the major stakeholders. In accord Concordia (apologies to late K.O. Mbadiwe), the stakeholders affirmed with their presence at the formal declaration of Hon. Emelumba for the House of Representative seat, that they support his bid. From Oru West Local Government Area came Barr. P.C. Mgbenwelu, Chief G.G. Iheaka, Chief Fab Ogbonna, House gate and forced themselves into Government House. They alleged that the state government was responsible for the non payment of their salaries, having sacked the contractors earlier handling the street sweeping. One of the protesters who gave her name as Osarodion Ogechi claimed that Chairman of the Board, Prince Aiyamenkhue Akonofua, promised to pay them before the Easter holidays but nothing was heard from him. According to her, “We have been working for the past six months and we have not been paid. They promised to pay before Easter but they failed to keep to their promise. We are here to demand for our money. When the contractor failed to pay us, we protested and the state government decided to handle the payment themselves. It is the Edo State Waste Management Board that is supposed to pay us but we have not seen the money.” Another protester, Mrs. Gladys Nkpor, said many of them have been evicted by their landlords over inability to pay house rents. “They have not paid us. We come out as early as 4am to keep the roads clean but we don’t get paid.” Saturday Vanguard gathered that the protest embarrased Obaseki especially after seeing the old Prince Chika Onyemenem, Barr. Azubuike Ilokasi and the LGA party Chairman Comrade Kenneth Akunakwe. At Ohaji/Egbeme, Hon. Tony Okere, Hon. Ben Johnbosco, Hon. Golden Nwosu, State Publicity Secretary of PDP, Damian Opara and the LGA Party Chairman Damnia Ezerue showed with their presence that Emelumba remains their choice. The scenario was not different in Oguta local government area where Hon. Gerald Ironna, a national officer of PDP, the State Deputy Financial Secretary Hon. Okedo and LGA Party Chairman, Fred Opiah led other top PDP Stakeholders to welcome Emelumba to the local government as he took the first all important step of getting the approval of the people in his political quest. Apart from the large turnout of people to all the three local government areas, one thing that stood clear was the admission by speakers after speakers that Hon. Emelumba is not only qualified for the seat but also his antecedents when he was in the State House of Assembly, naturally puts him at a higher pedestal above his cocontestants. They were also thrilled and excited that his message centred on the people; his mission on the people and his manifesto on the people. True to the ideology of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which proclaims that power belongs to the people, Emelumba made women lamenting alleged neglect by government which the governor felt was not the true situation. On Wednesday, April 4, Obaseki was said to have arrived the state Exco Meeting an angry man, expressing his disappointment about the way and manner some officials have been conducting the affairs of government. He particularly frowned at the protest staged by the sweepers attributing the problem to the failure of the concerned officials to do their jobs. The governor further lamented what he described as sluggishness in payment of contractors and others despite approvals and vowed that henceforth he would not hesitate to show erring officials the way out of his government. Few minutes after the Exco meeting, the government in a statement signed by the Secretary to the state Government, Osarodion Ogie, announced the sack of the Commissioner for Environment and Sustainability, Mr. Reginald Okun and the General Manager, Edo State Waste Management Board, Mr. Aiyamenkue Akonofua.The governor also directed that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Mrs. Obahiagbon R.E., be redeployed. The statement •Mbadiwe Emelumba it abundantly clear that he looks up to them as his platform and power base. If the people were gratified about such a humble disposition from the journalist, publisher, author and former Special Adviser (Media) to Governor Achike Udenwa, they were convinced beyond doubt that he meant business when he rolled out his manifesto entitled: Mission 2019: Service to the people. Succor for the needy. Under this mission statement encapsulated in the broad objectives of the PDP, he catalogued service to the people to include (a) Pure legislative duties (b) Enhancement/Enforcement of 13% derivation principle (c) Economic empowerment (d) Accountability and directed the affected officials to “handover their assignments to the most senior government official in their offices with immediate effect. They are also to handover any government property in their possession to the appropriate authorities.” In the statement, the government thanked the disengaged officials for their service to the state and wished them well in their future endeavours. Shortly after that, Obaseki redeployed top civil servants across Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs). The redeployment affected permanent secretaries, who were reshuffled across MDAs, even as six newly sworn-in top officials were assigned offices. At the swearing-in ceremony, Obaseki tasked civil servants to be diligent and committed to their duties, adding “this administration is committed to strengthening the state civil service for optimal productivity. Civil servants should be ready to contribute their quota.” He maintained that capacity building and training for civil servants would be given top priority in his administration, as they will be used as criteria for promotion. “Strong institutions are needed to drive development and we are determined to fix our civil service to ensure its reforms¨. Obaseki also used the opportunity to dismiss the claim by the PDP that (e) Promotion of Federal Constituency through social integration. Under succor for the needy, Hon. Emelumba who lost the mother at a tender age spoke emotionally of his desire to consummate his work of charity by ensuring that widows and orphans receive a special treatment from him if God favours him and the people elected him as a member of the House of Representatives in 2019. Although all the envisaged programmes resonated with the people, the aspects of economic empowerment and promotion of Federal Constituency through social integration connected with them more. Under the economic empowerment, Emelumba promised to provide 60 graduates from the three local governments that make up the Federal Constituency jobs. One hundred and forty youths will receive training in skills acquisition of their choice and provided equipment. Similarly 400 indigent women will receive N20,000 each to improve their petty trade. And because Emelumba did a similar thing when he was a member of Imo State House of Assembly between 2003 and 2011, they believed him. They were also enchanted when he promised to organize Annual Cultural Festival in honour of late Nze Obi of Egbema; institute an annual Senator Arthur Nzeribe leadership lecture series as well as empanel an essay competition among secondary schools in honour of the state was at war with the Federal Government over the Benin Industrial Park project initiated by his administration. According to him, ¨The project is currently being developed at a considerably fast pace. Government is already receiving subscription requests for space within the facility from investors within and outside the country. To buttress this, three codevelopers have already indicated interest to work on the project, even as we expect that over 1000 companies will be hosted at the park. Also, it appears that the tale bearers within the Edo Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have forgotten that there is harmony in governance between the Federal Government and the Edo State Government. It is laughable that they will try to concoct a non-existent feud between both levels of government, which are being efficiently run under the same political party, the APC. It is understandable that some people within the ailing Edo PDP, who do not wish Edo people well, are apprehensive about the huge success being recorded by this administration in industrialising the state. They are worried by the frenetic pace with which major industrialization projects in the state, including the Benin Industrial Park, Gelegele Seaport and others are being implemented. So they are concocting lies and outright falsehood with the intention of misinforming Edo people and Nigerians¨. Emelumba: Pushing for participatory representation late Secretary to Imo State Government, Nze Ignatius Umunnah. It was also interesting that Hon. Emelumba brought a fresh idea on how to rejuvenate the 13 percent derivation principle for oil producing states which for sometime has been cornered by governors. He pledged to sponsor a bill which will compel the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to directly allocate the 13 percent fund to the oil bearing communities. This proclamation received a standing ovation in both Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta local governments which are oil producing communities. It is on account of the two local government areas that Imo derived its status as an oil producing state. Hon. Emelumba who flaunted his legislative experience, including the seven years he has spent at the National Assembly as one of the legislative aides, said the people should take it for granted that he will provide quality, effective and participatory representation. According to him “In essence, I do have a solid pedigree which has been further fortified by my sojourn in the National Assembly in the last seven years. I can say without much fear of contradiction that to a very reasonable extent, I do know the essentials of the in and out of Chamber politics of the National Assembly.