By Richard Elesho
These are interesting times for the people of the Confluence State. An election to choose who will govern the state is under way and people are daily treated to myriads of playlets by holding the present occupants of Lugard House to account.
Documents are also flying around purporting on certain financial indiscretions of how the Governor Yahaya Bello led administration has underdeveloped the State in the last three and half years.
A set of such documents shows how the administration has frittered a humongous N1.8bn for the construction of a nonexistent bridge at the popular Ganaja junction in the heart of Lokoja, the State capital.
The documents show how in October 2016 the funds changed hands between officials of the State government and Tec Engineering Nigeria Ltd, the alleged contractor. The documents also beg for reconciliation.
According to some documents flying around, the bridge was to cost N4.6bn. Out of this sum, the Commissioner for Works, Engr. A.A Sadiq got approval for N1.8 advance payment to cover plant mobilization.
That was in early October, 2016. Asiru Idris his counterpart in charge of Ministry of Finance processed the money for payment of the same period and a Due Process certificate was issued on 13th. October 2016. TEC Engineering Nigeria Limited also acknowledged receipt of 1.5bn from the state Sub-Treasury Lokoja.
Details of the transaction were made public by Senator Dino Melaiye representing Kogi West and a new entrant into the already crowded race for the Governorship contest.
The Senator on his Instagram page accused the administration of shady deals. Indeed, more than three years after the money was paid and with the Bello administration already winding up, Ganaja junction is yet to witness a semblance of the bridge. Except for a faded, lonely and almost obscure small signboard placed on the boarder of A.A Raino petrol station advertising the flyover bridge, nothing else indicates the dream.
The project was an initiative of Bello’s predecessor, Capt. Idris Wada. After agreements were signed with TEC Engineering, the preferred contractor, the former Governor performed the ground breaking ceremony about a month to the expiration of his tenure. At the ceremony Wada explained that it was going to be constructed on a Public/Private sector joint sponsorship arrangement. Wada disclosed that the state government was not required to pay any mobilisation as the contractor had agreed to begin the work while government would defray the expenses gradually. It was something similar to a BOT i.e Build, Operate and Transfer arrangement.
All that however changed the moment Wada lost his occupancy in Lugard House, the Kogi State seat of power. The new Sheriff hurriedly acquainted himself with the records and amended the rules, culminating in the payment of the huge mobilisation fee. Since the transaction became open, not a few persons have joined in accusing the government of shady deals and demanded explanations from it.
Major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a statement by its Publicity Secretary in the State, Bode Ogunmola accused the administration of inappropriate diversion of the funds. He asked the government to either execute the project or refund the money to the treasury, failure which he risks a probe at the end of his tenure.
State Coordinator of Save Kogi Movement, a pressure group, Commodore Folusho Daniels challenged the state Government to come out clean on the allegations, stressing that government’s silence was unfortunate. “For weighty allegations that has been making the rounds and in public space, which ought to have elicited reaction from any responsible government, it is lamentable that the present administration still finds it comfortable to keep mute. The government should stop taking the people for granted.”
As pressure pilled on government to shed light on the allegation, it eventually found a voice in the Director General of Media and Publicity to the Governor, Kingsley Fanwo. In a paid advertorial he admitted to the charge of fund diversion hinging it on the need to execute other projects of more relevance to the grassroots.
“After raising the initial certificates, the Kogi State Government paid the sum of 1.86 billion Naira to the company which started casting beams for the flyover at their Yard in Lokoja,” he stated adding that “the State Executive Council later determined to prioritize the more pressing infrastructure needs of some communities in the State.
“Accordingly, through a Resolution to that effect, Council approved for the company to use the already released funds by way of virement to handle some other projects which would have more direct impact on a larger number of our people.” He listed the new projects to include “Ankpa Township road, Idah – Anyigba road and Mount Patti road.”
According to him, each of the projects is in different stages of completion. “While the Flyover Project itself has not been jettisoned, in view of its huge cost outlay there is need to review the funding parameters before commencing full-fledged construction to avoid creating an abandoned project which would worsen a bad traffic situation indefinitely.
“Moreover, the project is on a federal road which presents its own unique set of challenges. It must be noted that the virement option and selection of the alternative projects to which the funds were applied followed due process and was done with due approval of the State Executive Council of the State.” Not a few persons have condemned the explanations as lame duck and untenable afterthought.
A native of Idah who preferred anonymity punctured Fanwo’s claim on Idah-Anyigba Road. “They are not telling the truth. Technically speaking, there is no road called Idah- Anyigba road. If you are going to Anyigba from Idah, you either burst out at Ejule junction or Ochadamu junction to a federal road coming from Itobe. So which of the roads did they say they constructed?” he queried.
In a related development, Achadu Dickson, State PDP Director of Research and Documentation faulted government’s explanation. “That statement further shows the charade of the Bello ‘No Direction’ administration. The Mount Patti road they claimed to have diverted part of the fund to has been in the condition former Governor Ibrahim Idris left it 7 years ago. They cannot pull the wool over our faces. They have frittered away the money in loose living. They will surely account for it.”
Time will tell. For now Kogites eagerly await the construction of the bridge