By; KENNETH ORUSI, Asaba
Jubilation rented the air and their joy knew no bounds as the people of Ikpide-Irri Community, Isoko South Local Government Area, Delta State finally got victory over the what the Isoko Monitoring Group (IMG), termed as “controversial Ikpide-Irri substandard road contract” purportedly awarded as “Kola-nut” contract to PORTPLUS Limited over N700 million as the state government insisted that the ongoing construction work must meet specifications as stated in the Bill Of Quantity (BOQ).
Speaking to newsmen Thursday shortly after inspecting the rigid pavement, the state Commissioner for Works, Chief James Augoye, said “I have gone round the project; I have seen things for myself. All the issues raised by Isoko Monitoring Group and other individuals as regards the failures of box curvets as well as the contractor not working according to specifications, I have seen all”.
He ordered for the immediate removal of the curvets that failed, “the other ones that have appeared to us to be solid have to undergo test. Because the truth is that you may look at it with your eyes and you will think that it is solid, until it goes through test, you may not know”, reiterating that they would be subjected through test to ascertain their qualities.
He disclosed that the test is geared towards knowing the durability of the curvets, “but if not, like I have told him, the entire curvets have to be demolished and we are going to work according to our specifications which has to do with the real curvets. I have told the Director and he is going to work with the field engineers and the contractor to ensure that what we are doing here is road that will stand the test of time”, he assured.
He appealed to members of the community to be patient and corporate with the contractor, pointing out that the petitioners wants the good of the community.
Hear him: “This is what we want. Communities should ownership of contracts of jobs that are being executed by the government in their communities, when you observed failures, please do not fail to inform us, we are there to serve you; you are part of the government and the government is yours”.
The Works Commissioner called on the leadership of the community not to see the petitioners as been confrontational “it is for the good of every one of us”, admonishing them to work together harmoniously.
Augoye, hinted that the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, believes that every project that he is executing must be done to specification, “what has happened here is an eye opener and it is going to help us in the inspection of projects in other parts of the state”.
Fielding questions from journalists, Augoye, hinted that the project was cited in the community to open up every area of the state to boost the economic activities, “this community is one community that is like a border town between Delta State and Bayelsa State and of course, we have our brothers and sisters; the Isoko people living in this area and so we must give them sense of belonging by opening up the area”, noting that the rigid concrete pavement was introduced because of the swampy nature of the area.
On the alleged refusal of the contractor to engage the indigenes, the Commissioner said, “it is our deliberate policy to ensure that our contractors engaged the locals where they are operating. We address the contractor on this rom time to time that it is only when you have the specialized aspect of your job and you don’t have the people in that area that you look elsewhere”, harping on the job creation initiative of the present administration for youth, “and so if you decided to bring youth from outside, it is not actually advisable. If the contractor is doing that we will speak to him, we will tell to please revert to our policy”, he assured.
He assured the community that he would have a meeting with the contractor net week where issues raised by the community would be deliberated to ensure that he works to specification and delivered the job as expected.
The commissioner was shocked to discover that the Community Liaison Officer (CLO), is a man in his 70s who is alleged among other purported community leaders who signed a counter petition from members of the community to the state governor o the substandard project.
Earlier the sited engineer in charge of the work, Engr. Sir Dr E.B.E Aloko, Director, Urban and Rural Roads South and Engineer Darlington Otete, a Lead Consultant in quality Management System and Project Assessment Processes, and member of the Isoko Monitoring Group which raised the alarm in a petition and have led several protests against the substandard Ikpide-Irri project engaged the Works engineer in a heated debate but he was rescued by the Works Commissioner.
The arguments put up by the Works engineer in defense of PORTPLUS Limited for constructing a box curvet in place of the approved rig curvet among other defects discovered were defeated by that of the Isoko Monitoring Group engineer who was able to convince the Commissioner that some materials used were substandard, and the failure of the contractor to work according to specifications.