People of Ikpide-Irri, a riverine community in Isoko South Local Government area of Delta State, on Monday took to the streets in a peaceful protest against the "poor quality of job" being done on a road in their community awarded by the state government to Portplus Limited, a marine service company.
The N736.4-million concrete pavement road contract, which was awarded in March 2017 by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to his crony, has become a subject of controversy for the past two weeks due to the substandard materials being used for the contract.
Some youth and other indigenes who came out en masse to participate in the protest were scared away by parents and relatives for fear of victimization by power brokers in the community believed to be supporting the contractor, an indigene of the town.
The placards carried different inscriptions such as 'Portplus Give Ikpide-Irri Standard Road', 'Ikpide-Irri People Say No To Substandard Construction', 'Governor Okowa Call Portplus To Order All We Are Saying Is Good Job', 'Ikpide-Irri Deserve Standard Road Not Cut And Nail'.
Others read: 'We Say No To Use Of 10MM Rods For Construction Of Culverts', 'EFCC, ICPC Other Anti-Graft Agencies Must Hear This, 'Ikpide-Irri Road Contract Is Not Your Kola-nut But Our Right', 'Enough Of All The Lies About Ikpide-Irri N736 Million Ongoing Shoddy Road Contract' and 'Portplus Do Good Job Or End In EFCC ICPC Cell'.
The protesters called on the contractor to, as a matter of urgency and importance, follow standards in the execution of the contract or be ready to face anti-graft agencies.
Speaking during the protest, the leader of the protest, an activist and indigene of the community who doubles as the President of a Pan Isoko group, known as Isoko Monitoring Group (IMG), Mr. Sebastine Agbefe, lamented the substandard work by Portplus limited and called on the contractor to immediately destroy and reconstruct all the culverts in the community that were done with 10mm instead of 16mm according to the BOQ.
“This is a fraud of the highest order; this is pure wickedness and we can no longer fold our arms and watch anybody short-change us because of personal greed and selfishness. We are warning the contractor to destroy all the culverts done with 10mm and reconstruct same with 16mm according to the BOQ," he said.
“The contractor should also make sure that both side drainages are constructed on the road and must use standard materials specified on the BOQ. And again, Portplus must adhere strictly to the specifications on the BOQ and any attempt to compromise standards as far as this contract is concerned, Portplus will be made to face EFCC and ICPC.”
Agbefe condemned the statement said to have been made by the community President General, Mr. Michael Omojefe, that the contract was ‘kolanut’ from Okowa to his younger brother and chairman of Portplus Limited, Mr. Immanuel Omoefe, an indigene of the community.
However, he enjoined indigenes of the community, especially the youth, not to take the laws into their hands.
Addressing the protesters, the community chairman, Mr. Francis Ogoloyoyo Agbefe, said he was not interested in whether the road is constructed to standard or not but will only be thankful to God that such a huge project is being sited in the riverine community.
Last week during inspection by some officials of the state Ministry of Works, Asaba, one of the culverts constructed with 10mm rods collapsed.
When contacted, a representative of Portplus Limited and the site engineer, Mr. Frank Nnamdi Ajoku, declined to comment.
A source in the Ministry of Works who confided in SaharaReporters revealed that some senior staff of the ministry such as engineers and directors directly involved in the contract had been compromised.
"This substandard fight on the road project by concerned indigenes of the Ikpide-Irri community may not succeed because of the way and manner kickbacks are given to our engineers and directors here. There's this our director, simply known as Benedict, the only language he understands is kickbacks from contractors. The corruption going on in this our Ministry is enormous," he said.
"Few days ago,, he claimed that the Ikpide-Irri controversial contract is being done to standard when some of us know its a big lie following the emergence of pictures and video clips from the site. How can you use 10mm rods for reinforcement in a culverts in that kind of a riverine terrain? Benedict is a 'runs man'; we all know him very well. I will advise the indigenes to seek redress in EFCC and ICPC."
It would be recalled that concerned indigenes of the community had addressed a strong-worded petition to Okowa, signed by their counsel, Mr. C.F. Ebu, of the legacy chambers, Asaba, condemning the substandard job being done by the contractor and calling for strict adherence to the Bill Of Quantity, (BOQ) and the drawings.