Delta State Government has finally certified the ongoing controversial N736.4-million Ikpide-Irri riverine community road project, awarded to Portplus Limited, in Isoko South Local Government Area of the State, as substandard.
Concerned indigenes of the Ikpide-Irri community and a pan-Isoko group, Isoko Monitoring Group (IMG), had petitioned Governor Ifeanyi Okowa over the usage of substandard materials in the execution of the project by the contractor, Emmanuel Emoefe, an indigene of the community.
His elder brother, Michael Omojefe, had stated that the contract was ‘kola’ given to his younger brother by the governor.
Recently, Emoefe, his elder brother, his brother in-law, Ross Uredi, one Pius Otolo and the member representing Isoko South 1 in the State Assembly, Orezi Esievo, had, during the period under review, arrested one Endurance Ukpethu, an indigene, over his stiff stance against the substandard job, just as the youths passed a no confidence vote on the lawmaker.
Inspecting the project on Thursday, James Aguoye, the State Commissioner for Works, summoned the contractor to report to his office in Asaba next week.
He expressed dissatisfaction with the work done on the project, stating that his visit to the community was as a result of the series of protests by concerned indigenes of the community and the Isoko Monitoring Group, (IMG).
According to the visibly angry Commissioner, the contractor compromised on the quality of materials used for the project, adding that the actions of the community to call the attention of the government shows that they have a sense of ownership and want the best on projects being constructed in their domain.
He said: "Well, I have gone round the project to see things for myself, and seen all the issues raised by the Isoko Monitoring Group and other individuals regarding the failures of the culverts as well as the contractor not working according to specifications. I must thank those who have petitioned because they have drawn our attentions to certain things that are happening, which, of course, is an eye opener in the inspection of other projects in different areas of the state.
"Those that have petitioned, it is not as if they do not want the contract to be done. This is what we want; communities should take ownership of contracts that are being executed by government in their communities. It is not confrontational; it is for the good of the community. Let me use this medium to appeal to communities where road projects are ongoing to notify government of any substandard jobs being done by the contractors.
"I want to appeal strongly to the community that they should be patient. The failed culverts will be removed immediately and the other ones that appears to us to be solid have to be subjected to test. If you look at it, you will think it is good. Until it goes through test, you may not know. We are going to subject them to test quality to see if they will stand the test of time, but if not, the culverts would have to be demolished."
While assuring the community of government’s prompt action in making sure that all the defects noticed in the job are brought up to standard by the contractor, the commissioner made it clear to all contractors to engage youths in the areas of operations, saying the measures would provide work for the youth and reduce youth restiveness on site.
He also enjoined the Ikpide-Irri people to remain law-abiding.
The commissioner’s attention was brought to a 70-year-old man, one Favour Udezi, who is the Community Liaison Officer (CLO), and called for his immediate replacement with a younger person.
Earlier, the IMG delegation, who accompanied the commissioner in the inspection, led by Engineer Darlington Otete, a Lead Consultant in Quality Management System and Project Assessment Processes, took time to lecture senior directors and engineers of the Works Ministry on standards in road construction.
He urged them to jettison compromise and commended the Commissioner and the State Government for the project and the prompt response to their petitions.
The group appealed to the State Government to direct the contractor handling the project to follow specification so as not to sabotage its efforts.
SaharaReporters reliably learned that some of the ministry's staff members, especially the director in charge of the project, Benedict Aloku, who were not monitoring the project, allegedly collected huge sums of money as bribe from the contractor, so as to certify the substandard job as standard after its completion.