THE BIG STORY: Delta makes frantic efforts to defend why it continues engaging local contractors even as roads continue to fail

AUSTIN OYIBODE, EDITOR

Delta state government has given multiple explanations why it continues to engage local contractors drawn from various communities in the state even as some roads constructed and commissioned fail after few months of commissioning.

This is even as the people of Delta have continuously called for the construction of roads that could be sustainable for a period of years and the engagement of renowned contractors such as Julius Berger and Setraco that have made sustainable roads in other states and especially the federal capital territory, Abuja.

As in Asaba, roads constructed in the administration of James Ibori and governments prior to the emergence of true democracy in 1999 have remained flourishing while those constructed by former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and the present Governor Ifeanyi Okowa have continued to fall apart as pack of cards.

As in other states like Enugu and Akwa Ibom where roads are clean and very durable, roads constructed by the immediate past and present governments of Delta have been failing after few months of commissioning.

Following the failure of the roads, the people of the state have accused the government of employing local contractors who lack requisite skills and good equipment to construct durable roads as reasons for the failure of the roads.

But chief press secretary to the state governor, Charles Ehiedu Aniagwu, gave reasons why the state government has continued to engage local contractors even as he said that the present administration of Governor Okowa has awarded over 317 roads that is about 1000km across the state.

He told online journalists under the aegis of Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OMPAN) that the 1000km roads constructed in Delta are as long as from Asaba to Kano if put together, noting that out of the 317 roads, 114 have been completed, spanning about 405km while others are at different stages of construction.

While Aniagwu did not dispel the argument that some roads being constructed by the local contractors are failing, he argued that the fact that if two roads fail out of 200, it is not enough to say that roads constructed by the state government have failed.

He gave an analogy using a student who scores 75 out of 100 that the parents of the child will celebrate as the student is in the ‘A’ region, noting that the parents will ignore the 25 lost and celebrate the 75 percent score by the student.

Aniagwu said: “So, if we have given out all these roads and more than 80 percent of the roads are in good shape, let the remaining 20 percent not be reason why we want to throw away the baby with the bath water.

“The reason why we need to grow the local contractors is that in growing them, you are growing employment. The man in Rivers state will not employ your people. There are so many things involved in it, both political, economic and others.

“But most importantly is that the contractors are empowered to buy more equipment to do better jobs. When he becomes big, he can now go to Rivers and bid for jobs. He can go to Kogi and bid for jobs and have example to give that I did this and that road in Delta.

“But if we begin to say why give roads to local contractors, why not Julius Berger, look, giving roads to Julius Berger will bring about capital flight. Julius Berger can afford to employ a bulk of his staff from anywhere, you can’t control them.

“If we do not patronize local contractors that are doing well, if we do not patronize them by now they wouldn’t have gotten money to buy all the equipment they have. It is not mouth, it is equipment.  Solid job is solid equipment. Solid equipment is solid money.

“So, we just have to patronize our brothers, our local contractors so that they too can grow. When Julius Berger started in their community, they were also local contractors. There is no contractor that started as an international contractor. You must first all be local before becoming international.”

Aniagwu explained that the state government could only blacklist a contractor if his projects fail on a continuous basis but that if one project fails is not enough to blacklist such a contractor.

He added: “If you say you are not given him projects, the man in Rivers will not give him. He will die. Even if it’s two people the man used in the job, he has also empowered those people. So, all that money is not actually wasted.

“Some of the money went back to the purse of our people. Some people will just come up and say you wasted money on this and that. Look, we didn’t waste any money. The rods they bought in doing the drainages, they bought them from the shops, the boys who dug the ground, they are our people, they may not be my brothers, they may not be yours, but they are brothers of your friends.

“Empowering them also gives us security. For the sake of security, we need to engage these boys, it is worth it. Have you bothered to ask, how come there is peace now in the state. It is engagement, not rocket science.”

He told the online media practitioners that the empowerment strategy of the state government has led to the peace in the creeks, hence pipeline breaking and vandalism have ended, a development which he attributed to the empowerment strategy of the government of Delta state.

He said: “So, if we have done roads in the creeks, Ogulagha, Okerenkoko, Ogidigben, they will say what! So, it’s possible to tar roads in the creeks, they now see that their oil is beginning to work for them. The Ayokoroma Bridge that we are building which is at the point of completion, the people of that community will know that government is working.

“That is why we have to continue to engage our brothers and sisters. The issue of local contractors keep coming up,  we need them because they also need to grow. We need them for security. We need them to boost our economy. It’s not all about them building the road, the fact that they are able to engage our people, people who ordinarily would have become armed robbers, is enough to pay for the money.

“It’s not enough that you saw a pothole. That they are able to grow and buy equipment, it is to our own interest, so that when they grow, other people can also hire them. But if we say no, we cannot engage them, then when will they ever grow up, they will remain like Lilliputians.

“So, that is the reason why we continue to engage local contractors. So that a day will come we won’t need Julius Berger, our local contractors will do the work of Julius Berger. Do you know how much money Julius Berger took from this country back to their country?

“Yet Nigerian government has not been able to think on how to strengthen our local contractors. What Julius Berger does, Setraco is almost doing it. Setraco is a Nigerian company, maybe because it’s from Edo, those who use them do not know that they need to give them bigger jobs.

“CCECC collects your money and take it to China. The federal government must put effort to use local contractors. If they fall today, they will rise tomorrow. Before you know it, they will not fall again. But that they will not fall at all, that is not true. This Lagos road that is being patched, is it not done by Julius Berger?”

 

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