An Owerri Urban Water Supply project initiated by the Federal Government in Imo State at the cost of over N800 million through the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has been abandoned and the site turned into farm settlement.
The project, which was awarded to BTG Ltd. at the cost of N810.98 million in October 2010 and to be completed in Dec. 2018, was abandoned since 2013 and the site turned to a farm settlement.
The project site, measuring 5,580 m2 (60m x 93m) situated at Naze Industrial Cluster owned by the Imo Government and about 70 per cent completed, had already gulped over N624 million paid to the contractor, while the consultant had received over N71 million.
The project was handed to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs by the officials of Imo Government – the Imo State Ministry of Lands and Housing and Imo State Water Development Agency on Jan. 21, 2011.
Mr Samson Eletuo, the Head of Accounts and Team Head of Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) Abuja Monitoring Team, who visited the area, expressed displeasure at the non-completion of the project.
He said the team was on a monitoring tour of Federal Government ongoing projects in Imo State which included the Naze Water Scheme, ongoing projects in FUTO and the Nigeria Immigration Services to ascertain the level of work, challenges and possible completion of the projects.
Eletuo said the Federal Government was concerned by non-completion of its projects geared toward improving the welfare of Nigerians.
He said the Owerri Water Scheme was meant to provide potable water to communities in the Naze axis of Owerri town.
Eletuo said the works comprised drilling of four boreholes, fabrication, construction and installation of 1,800m3 capacity ground level steel raw water tank, 225m3 raw water/aeration tank, and 900.2m3 capacity elevated steel fresh water tank on a 12-metre-high steel tower.
Others are the supply of water treatment plant, supply and laying of 80km length of pipe distribution mains, construction of perimeter fencing of the site, pump house and office/store buildings and supply and installation of 100KVA generating set.
Eletuo called on the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to contact the contractor handling the project and take necessary actions to ensure the work was completed.
The already four boreholes, fabrication, construction and installation of storage tanks, 900.2m3 capacity elevated steel fresh water tank on a 12-metre-high steel and a 1,800m3 capacity ground level steel raw water tank had been put in place on the site.
Also, at the site is a gate house and office building, generator house, pump house, fencing of head works compound, 3-km pipes, two generating sets and a transformer.
The outstanding work on the site, according to the FRC monitoring team head, included connection of boreholes to storage tanks, installation of fittings, boreholes testing, flooring of waterworks site (landscaping) and general finishing of head works compound.
Others are painting and general finishing of structures in headworks, coupling of water tanks, internal bracing, water reticulation and testing of electrical works.
The commission, therefore, instructed the contractor to reinforce built fence by introducing buttresses at strategic locations (3m apart).
The project consultant was requested to submit new reticulation profile as the one used to award the project had become obsolete due to massive roads and buildings infrastructure introduced along the project locality.
The representative of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Azeez Oyeniyi, a Deputy Director, said that the contractor had been contacted on several occasions on the need to complete the project.
He expressed dissatisfaction with the progress of the work, adding that the contractor had complained of challenges from the host community, adding that the office would once more contact the contractor and if he failed, the contract would be determined.
The team also visited the Federal University of Technology in Owerri (FUTO) where the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Francis Eze, through the Acting Director of Phsical Planning of the school, Rapheal Okeke, took the team to the sites.
Prof. Eze said that FUTO, a premier university of technology in Nigeria, was yet to have a perimeter fencing which had allowed encroachment into the school land.
He said that the perimeter fencing would have provided the security to avoid encroachment.
The FUTO sites visited include the School of Science Complex Phase 1 awarded in Oct 2013 to be completed in 2014, the Energy and Power System Research Centre Phase 1 and the School of Health Technology.
Okeke, who took the team round the sites, explained that the science project was 78 per cent completed, while the contract sum was adjusted from N249 million to N313 million because of the prevailing market prices.
He said that the Energy and Power Research Centre had been abandoned with only 26 per cent work.
The Eletuo-led team later visited the projects at the Nigeria Immigration Service where it inspected the new permanent Command Complex of the service at Avu in Owerri West where the Superintendent of Immigration, Mr Chieze Nwachukwu, said it was 85 per cent completed and 85 per cent payment made.
He said the project was a two-year project awarded in 2011 and managed by the Ministry of Interior and later handed over to immigration service but had challenges with the host community which was the major constraint to the completion of the project.
The FRC team also visited the Nigeria Immigration Service Training School at Orlu where it inspected the reconstruction of a two semi-detached female hostel of 40 rooms self-contain which Nwachukwu said was 45 per cent completed and the renovation of male hostel and administration block.
Eletuo was accompanied by Mr Emmanuel Udo, the Chief Monitoring Evaluator of FRC, Mr Alex Elikwu, Head of Policy and Standards, and some other FRC workers on the two-day visit.
When contacted, the contractor, Mr Linus Ijomah, said the project was abandoned as a result of problem from the host community which accused the government of trespassing into their land without adequate compensation.
Ijomah said that the Ministry of Public Utility got the land from the Ministry of Land and that there was a thorough transfer to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
He said members of the host community sued the Ministry of Niger Delta and the contractor and disturbed anytime he moblised to site.
He said that the case was still in the Owerri High Court.
The contractor said that the community was demanding the sum of N200 million before work would continue at the site.
He said he had offered to give them the sum of N3 million which they refused to collect but insisted on the amount.
Ijomah said he was still willing and ready to give them the N3 million and ready to complete the work within three months if they agreed.
According to him, both the police and some individuals had intervened in the matter to no avail, adding that most of their armoured cables and other equipment had been vandalised.
By Chidi Opara