Govt Raises Alarm over Attempted Arson to Destroy Records.
Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, and his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, are once again engaged in heated exchange over the controversial N30 billion storm water project initiated by the latter. Obaseki had on Monday resolved to probe the contract award, describing the project as “a fraud”. The opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress, APC, however fired back, daring the governor to go ahead and probe and make its findings public so that the very enlightened and informed Edo people would know the truth of the matter. It berated the governor for failure to showcase any project in his first 100 days in office but chose to chase shadows by threatening to probe a project he supervised its take-off and later abandoned.
The matter took a new twist on Tuesday when the government raised the alarm of an attempted arson at the state secretariat housing the ministry of environment and public utilities which superintended over the project, with the aim of destroying the records.
Obaseki had expressed his resolve to beam his searchlight on the execution of the project when he inspected the Textile Mill Road portion of the erosion control project. Addressing journalists and government functionaries who accompanied him on the inspection, the governor said “You can see for yourself that the so-called storm water project was a fraud; it was a contract to defraud Edo people. From what I can see now, the storm water project in this catchment area was never designed to take water away from the area. The area was never drained. You can see the level of what we are doing now as compared with that of the previous administration.
“It is almost two-meter difference. There is no way you can drain water from a low land into a higher ground. We say we have experts and paid over N30 billion for this project. The person that supervised this project today calls himself a minister supervising bigger projects for the Federal Government. This is not acceptable.”
According to the governor, “They spent N30 billion claiming that they want to take away the suffering of Edo people, de-flood the area and restore value to the people’s property. Look at what has happened now to this project for five years.
“With what we have done now with less amount of money, we are going to finally drain this area and bring back life to the people in this catchment area. I don’t like probing, but this time, we have to set up a panel to get the facts of what happened. We can’t throw away such a large amount of money. People must be made to account for their time in service in government.
“They have to explain to us how they spent the N30 billion on a project they claim will drain water from a community. But the project drains the water to nowhere. They have the boldness to claim that we abandoned the project which were never made or designed to work in the first place. Clearly, we will take the necessary precaution to recover all the money due to Edo people that was stolen from this project”.
But challenging the governor to carry out his threat, the state chapter of the APC said in a statement signed by its publicity secretary, Chris Azebamwan that “Edo people know that the project was jointly handled by the State Environment and Public Utilities and Works with several commissioners including the present Secretary to State Government, Osarodion Ogie, who was in charge of the Works Ministry, deeply involved”.
The APC noted that “While the project was ongoing, Obaseki (as chairman of the Economic Team), regularly accompanied his predecessor to inspect the progress of work after he played the key role of sourcing the first N25 billion from the Capital Market through his company, Afrinvest, which reportedly got N1.5billion commission from the deal”, adding that “The commission paid to Afrinvest was for acting as Consultants to the project and drafting the project proposal which, Obaseki as the Head of Economic team presented for approval to the State Executive Council and followed it up by short-listing contractors for the project”.
According to the APC, “It will be comical and equally ingenious of the Governor to carry out this probe. It will not only be revealing but end up as a milestone which could well turn out to become a benchmark for the country”.
Meanwhile, the government said in a statement on Tuesday that it had deployed security operatives on Monday night, to safeguard the premises of the State Government Secretariat also known as Palm House, in Benin City, following intelligence reports of an arson attempt at the Ministry of Environment and Sustainability offices, to destroy critical documents pertaining to the N30 billion Benin storm water project.
The statement, signed by Osarodion Ogie, secretary to the state government, said “Following the commitment of the Edo State Government to probe the N30 billion Benin storm water project, the state received intelligence of a possible arson at the offices of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainability, which houses vital documents on the project.
“The government immediately deployed security operatives to guard the premises of the Ministry overnight to protect its assets. We have successfully evacuated these vital documents to a safe location to ensure their integrity and in readiness for a probe”. The government vowed that it would ensure that it “uncovers the details surrounding the project and its execution and also assure that all those culpable are brought to justice”.
According to the statement, “We will do right by Edo people as always and work assiduously to ensure that our people get value for our money as regards the execution of the N30 billion storm water project”.
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