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Budget Padding: Buhari Threatens Sanction Against MDAs

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President Muhammadu Buhari has threatened that his administration would not hesitate to punish Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that fraudulently present new projects as ongoing projects in the budget.
This is even as he warned that his administration will sanction those who bring in personnel into the public workforce by illegal recruitment, pad their payroll and retain ghost workers.
According to a statement, yesterday, by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari made the threat at the 3rd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in Public Sector, with the theme: ‘Corruption and Coat of Government New Imperatives for Fiscal Transparency’, organised by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
According to him, “We reduced the cost of governance by maintaining our promise to complete abandoned or ongoing projects commenced by previous administrations and have ensured that MDAs do not put forward new capital projects at the expense of ongoing projects.
‘‘Government has, however, noted from the activities of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) that some MDAs have devised the fraudulent practice of presenting new projects as ongoing projects.
“Necessary action and sanctions will continue against the heads of such errant MDAs. I am confident that ICPC will continue to maintain the vigilance required of her by the ICPC Act in this regard,” he said.
The president described the summit’s them as auspicious, saying that: “it reminds us of the negative impacts of unnecessary cost of governance and offers an opportunity for critical stakeholders to offer suggestions on ways to further reduce the cost of governance and promote transparency and accountability in government expenditure.
“I am delighted that the Legislative and Judicial arms of government are also under focus on managing the cost of governance because government is a collective and is not the business of the Executive branch alone.
“On August 19, 2020, the Federal Executive Council adopted the National Ethics and Integrity Policy which I launched on September 25, 2020.
“I am delighted that some public officers continue not only to demonstrate the core values of ethics, integrity and patriotism but have been identified for their sterling anti-corruption disposition in their workplace,” he said.
A highpoint of the event attended by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad and a representative of the Senate President, Dr Ahmed Lawan was the presentation of the 2021 Public Service Integrity Awards to three distinguished Nigerians.
They are Deputy Director, Legal, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Nelson Okoronkwo; Assistant Commander of Narcotics, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Muhammad Ahmad; and a PhD student from Imo State, studying in Japan, Ikenna Nweke.
Okoronkwo, who was recognised for his consistent acts of integrity in the different ministries where he served, is a committee member on fertilizer distribution that led to the recovery of billions of naira from racketeers with collaborators within the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
He was credited to have reported corrupt practices that led to the Ogoni clean-up investigation in the Federal Ministry Environment.
As chairman, Committee on Illegal Recruitment in the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, the Deputy Director facilitated the detection and removal of over 3,000 fake employers from the service thereby saving the government millions of Naira in terms of salaries and emoluments.
The NDLEA officer, Ahmad, was recognised for demonstrating the highest ideals and standards of the public service in the discharge of his responsibilities.
Also a recipient of the Chairman/Chief Executive Award for Outstanding Performance and Integrity, Ahmad recently recovered and declared to his agency the sum of $24,500 offered to him as bribe by a drug baron to compromise an investigation of 27.950kg of cocaine, worth billions of Naira.
Nweke, the Nigerian PhD student in Japan who found a wallet containing a very large amount of money and other valuables returned it to the Japanese police.
He declined 10per cent of the money offered to him as a reward.
The Nigerian, who joined the event virtually from his base in Japan, was recognised for his act of ‘‘honesty and integrity,’’ by the president.
On Nweke, Buhari said: “I am also happy to note the ICPC special award to Ikenna Steve Nweke, a Nigerian PhD student from Imo State studying in Japan.
“He has done Nigeria proud in far-away Japan by displaying traditional Nigerian values of honesty and integrity and returning a wallet containing a very large sum of money and other valuables to the police.
“He also declined 10% of the money found as a reward offered to him.
“I join the ICPC in declaring him ICPC CITIZENS ANTI-CORRUPTION VOLUNTEER GROUP ICON.
“He is, indeed, an icon and a beacon for our youths. I also congratulate all those to be awarded the ICPC Certificate of Integrity through their agencies.”
In his remark at the occasion, Chairman of the ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, revealed that the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, are among government establishments implicated in cases of illegal recruitment being investigated by the commission.
He also said the review of the 2021 Budget led to the discovery of 257 duplicated projects with a combined worth of N20.138billion.
Owasanoye, who spoke on the theme of the summit: ‘Corruption and Cost of Governance: New Imperatives for Fiscal Transparency’, expressed concern that the cost of governance in the country has perpetually been pushed up by corrupt practices, including illegal recruitments, unilateral and illegal increase of salaries and wages, procurement malpractices and budget padding by some government establishments.
According to him, the commission also uncovered a syndicate of individuals within the service who corruptly employ unsuspecting Nigerians, issue them fake letters of employment, fraudulently enroll them on IPPIS and post them to equally unsuspecting MDAs to commence work.
He disclosed that ICPC is already prosecuting one of the leaders of the syndicate from whom were retrieved several fake letters of recommendation purportedly signed by Chief of Staff to the President, Hon Ministers, Federal Civil Service Commission and other high-ranking Nigerians.
Owasanoye added that ICPC’s projects tracking covered 1,083 projects across the country with exception of Borno and Zamfara due to security challenges.
He said the exercise verified implementation of executive and zip projects of legislators, adding that so far action has been initiated against 67 contractors and forced them back to site and ensured completion of 966 projects worth N310billion some of which were hitherto abandoned.
Addressing Buhari, he stated: “ICPC is committed to supporting the programmes and projects of government one of which is restraining the spiralling cost of governance. This is why the theme of this summit is: ‘Corruption and the Cost of Governance: New Imperatives for Fiscal Transparency’.
“Your Excellency has publicly acknowledged a number of times that your government inherited a number of challenges since 2015 when you assumed office including but not limited to an empty purse and the lack of savings when the economy boomed. A major aspect was the astronomical cost of governance at the federal and sub national levels. This has continued to reflect in the huge wage bill on personnel and operational cost standing at about 70% of annual budget.
“Your Excellency sir, a major push factor on high cost of governance and rising personnel budget is illegal recruitment, illegal and unilateral increase in wages and remuneration by some MDAs, indiscriminate local and international travels, unreasonable demands by some political appointee board members of MDAs without regard for extant circulars on cost management; procurement fraud, budget padding, etc.
“ICPC investigation of some cases of illegal recruitment forwarded to us by Head of the Civil Service of the Federation has so far implicated Ministry of Labour and the University College Hospital Ibadan and a number of corrupt staff of other MDAs at a lower level. This abuse of power is consummated with complicity of compromised elements in IPPIS. These cases are currently under investigation.
“At another level, a syndicate of corrupt individuals within the service corruptly employ unsuspecting Nigerians, issue them fake letters of employment, fraudulently enroll them on IPPIS and post them to equally unsuspecting MDAs to commence work. ICPC is prosecuting one of the leaders of the syndicate from whose custody we retrieved several fake letters of recommendation purportedly signed by Chief of Staff to the President, Ministers, Federal Civil Service Commission and other high ranking Nigerians.
“Sir, the third phase of ICPC’s projects tracking covered 1083 projects across entire country with exception of Borno and Zamfara due to security challenges. The exercise verified implementation of executive and zip projects of legislators. We have so far initiated enforcement actions against 67 contractors and forced them back to site and ensured completion of 966 projects worth N310billion some of which were hitherto abandoned.
“Our findings indicate that the same malady of corruption afflicts executive as well as zip projects thus undermining government projections, escalating the cost of governance and denying Nigeria value for money. These maladies include poor needs assessment that disconnects projects from beneficiaries; false certification of uncompleted contracts as completed, deliberate under performance of contracts incessant criminal diversion and conversion of public property by civil servants, to name just a few.
“Other challenges relate to duplication of projects in the budget. ICPC review found that 257 projects amounting to N20.138billion were duplicated in the 2021 budget leading us to submit an advisory to the HMF which was promptly actioned by the minister to prevent abuse”, he said.
Owasanoye further revealed that the harmony between boards and managements of some establishments had been disrupted because of disagreements bordering on abuse of power and other malpractices
He further said: “Your Excellency, a number of MDAs have mini civil wars going on between the board and management and sometimes within the board. These squabbles revolve around abuse of power prohibited by ICPC Act and unreasonable demands by some board members for privileges contrary to extant circulars and laws and government’s resolve to minimize cost of governance.
“Your Excellency sir, let me commend government’s posture against illicit financial flows that drain resources from the nation. The time to further block leakages is now that government revenues are dwindling and practically threatened.
“ICPC is contributing to government’s efforts by its IFF focused project that has resulted in a major advisory to government with recommendations including prohibiting confidentiality clauses that facilitate fraud and money laundering, prevention of tax evasion, prohibition of illegal tax waivers and all practices that undermine government revenue projections.”
On the commission’s Ethics Compliance Scorecard of MDAs, Owasanoye said only 34.6% of the 360 establishments scaled above the average mark.
He explained: “ICPC’s Ethics Compliance Scorecard of MDAs report for 2021 shows that only 34.6% of the 360 MDAs assessed scored above average in Management Culture and Structure. This poor finding is not unrelated to unstable Boards unable to effectively oversight the institutions.”
Reacting to the ICPC disclosure, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said he was the one that initiated an investigation when he discovered the employment scam in his ministry.
In a text message he sent to journalists, he said: “No it’s an ongoing investigation initiated by me. They committed the fraud between May 29, 2019, and August, 2019, when I was temporarily away as minister.
“I raised the alarm in FEC (Federal Executive Council) necessitating HOSF (Head of Service of the Federation) to do preliminary investigations and write ICPC after the internal ministry investigation committee set up by me was stalled by the then permanent secretary.
“ICPC should conclude investigation of 2019 by now…two and half years instead of making it look like a new development.”
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, in his opening remarks said in three years the 60per cent of its overhead expenditure were on travels, maintenance, welfare and stationery in three years.
The SGF stated that it was no longer acceptable for the country’s resources to be expended on frivolities, fake projects and meaningless capital projects.
He added that the federal government is working towards reducing the cost of governance and utilising its resources efficiently.
“As I welcome all of us to the Third National Anti-Corruption Summit, I want to use this opportunity to commend all the Anti-Corruption Agencies for the progress being made in this very necessary campaign that would see Nigeria having more resources, which would have hitherto been unscrupulously diverted, to tackle our development challenges.
“In line with the theme of today’s summit, I speak on the role of the Executive arm of government to lead, as it has been doing, the constant quest for improving cost of governance by ceaselessly reinventing itself. This is imperative because we are dealing with systemic corruption and this implies that corruption has permeated the fabric of society including governance thus the institutionalization of corrupt practices in the machinery of governance must be ruthlessly rooted out.
“Systemic corruption prevents government from maximizing its potential of providing good governance for the people with available little resources especially at this time of COVID-19 pandemic.
“Government is highly worried that about 60 per cent of Federal Government’s Overhead Expenditure in three years (2012 to 2014) was spent on travels, maintenance, local and international training, welfare, office stationery / consumables, honoraria etc. Recent data from the Budget Office indicates that “actual MDAs recurrent spending is still on the rise viz. from N3.61 trillion in 2015 to N5.26 trillion in 2018 and N7.91 trillion in 2020.
“President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, has, therefore, been unrelenting in making sure that our little resources will no longer be budgeted and/or used for frivolities, hidden in fake projects, unnecessary travel, wasteful overhead costs, meaningless capital projects and remuneration of ghost workers. We also remain focused on getting back our resources that have found their ways into the private pockets of those who fraudulently orchestrate the budget process for their selfish desires.”
The SGF said government’s concerns have always been and would always be continuously reflect and take measures to mitigate the negative consequences of unrestrained cost of governance.
He said: “It is increasingly becoming public knowledge that our anti-corruption agencies, especially ICPC, are doing a lot in the area of prevention and also recovery of diverted or stolen public funds, building the capacity of MDAs to resist corrupt practices, promoting ethical values through the National Ethics and Integrity Policy of government.
“Some of the capacity building measures include System Study and Review of operations of MDAs; Corruption Risk Assessment and the establishment of Anti-corruption Monitoring Units in all MDAs. Recoveries of public funds in recent years have no doubt demonstrated the strong resolve government to stem financial hemorrhages and promote initiatives towards curbing illicit financial flows”.
He added that the Buhari’s administration has so far demonstrated and still continues to demonstrate its determination to fight corruption and improve governance no matter what it takes and howsoever corruption fights back with the stolen resources at its disposal.
He urged Nigerians to support the anti–corruption agencies in its fight against graft, because the fight against corruption is a collective responsibility of all.
In his goodwill message, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, said the Nigerian Judiciary has been in the forefront in the fight against graft.
He said: “We have put in place a robust mechanism of introspecting periodically to do a self-assessment to see those areas where corruption could surreptitiously creep into the system and quickly nip it in the bud from the outset.
“The National Judicial Council has been carrying out regular disciplinary actions against erring judicial officers to effectively tame the monster within the system. It is not a hidden fact that for any nation to prosper and make meaningful progress, the judiciary must be firm, independent and insulated from any extraneous interference and orchestrated influence, either monetarily or otherwise.”
He said: “Worried by the delays associated with the trial of criminal cases by our courts, particularly those relating to corruption and financial crimes, we decided to set up the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) in 2018, with Hon. Justice Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, as chairman.
“The sole aim of this committee is to fast-track the trial of corruption and financial related crimes in the country; and it has since been working assiduously with various heads of courts, to bring about a significant rise in the dispensation of corruption and financial crime cases in the country.
“Even with the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in virtually the whole of 2020 and a better part of 2021, a total number of 746 corruption cases were dispensed with. Similarly, the number of forfeited non-cash recoveries made, include 51 automobiles, 16 real estates, 11 barges/tug boats and two schools.
“Between January 2, and November 14, 2021, a total number of 1,144 suspects were convicted of various corruption and financial related crimes, while the number of non-cash forfeited assets has also risen to include: eight aircrafts, seven filling stations, 48 real estates and 149 vehicles, amongst others.
“Similarly, various cash forfeitures were made in hundreds of millions of Naira. We shall not rest on our oars until every trace of corruption and undue exercise of influence to negatively secure unmerited advantage over others is stamped out of our clime.
“It is my fervent belief that if all of us work in harmony with one voice and renewed determination, corruption and allied vices will certainly be on their way out of our beloved country and our voice shall, once again, be loudly heard and respected among the comity of nations.”

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Celebrate, We’re Liberated, Fubara Tells IYC …Says Detractors Now Victims Of Their Ploys

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has acknowledged with delight the assurances of brotherly support from the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), and urged Ijaw Nation to key into the on-going celebration of the liberation the State is enjoying now.
Governor Fubara gave the charge while addressing the national and state leadership of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), who were on solidarity walk to Government House in Port Harcourt yesterday.
The solidarity walk was staged as part of activities to celebrate the heroic exploits of the late Major Isaac Adaka Boro, 56 years after his death, which is observed on 16th May every year.
Governor Fubara noted that Major Isaac Adaka Boro genuinely stood for equity, justice, and fair play, and pursued his course to ensure liberation for the Ijaw people and their clans.
The Governor emphasised that every genuine Rivers man is a liberator, adding that he was delighted to receive them on such auspicious day to re-enact the common purpose of liberation that they shared.
Governor Fubara, who thanked the large crowd for their assurances of being available to respond to his call and stand by him, should the need arise, said there would not be any need to cause disruption of the peace, as according to him, the enemies of the State have been defeated already.
He said, “Because he stood for that unique thing, even after his death, we still celebrate him because he was a liberator.
”Every Rivers man, it doesn’t matter whether you are Ijaw or upland, the most important thing is that every genuine Rivers man must be a liberator.
”And I’m happy that you have come here today. I have also received you because we have one common purpose: to liberate our dear State. We are not going back on that.”
Governor Fubara said: “I am happy that you’ve told me this morning that when I call on you, you will respond. But there is nothing to call on you for. Because we have already defeated them.
”By the special grace of God, what they thought that they would have done to us while we were celebrating our one year in office, they are the ones sleeping with their two eyes open. It shows that we have the Ijaw blood. And what is that blood: it is the blood of action; less talk, more action.”
Governor Fubara appealed to Ijaw youths to conduct themselves peacefully as they celebrate the Major Isaac Adaka Boro Day, and also be good ambassadors of the entire Ijaw Nation.
He emphasised that it should be done in the same spirit that had enveloped the State now celebrating victory over his political detractors.
Governor Fubara promised to support the IYC Eastern Zone to have a befitting Secretariat in Rivers State.
In his speech, the National President of IYC, Mr Jonathan Lokpobiri, described the day as historic because Ijaw people were meeting with their Governor on Major Isaac Adaka Boro Day of memorial.
Mr Lokpobiri said it affirms that the gods of Ijaw people are at work, and warned all detractors to retrace their steps, and allow the Governor, who has the full mandate of the people, to discharge his duties to Rivers people.
He commended Governor Fubara for his courage, bravery and commitment to good governance, insisting that his struggle and triumph resonates with the hope of all Ijaw people.
On his part, Chairman of IYC, Eastern Zone, Mr Tamuno Kpokpo, clarified that their visit is not to signify an ethnic war but to lend support in protection of the interest and continuous development of Rivers State.
Mr Kpokpo said IYC will stand to resist anybody or group of persons anywhere who dare to cause any distraction of governance anymore in the State, and appealed that the Governor be allowed to govern the State peacefully.

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Ex-Rivers Lawmakers Have Forfeited Their Seats, PDP Insists …Denies Pressure To Restore Ex-Lawmakers

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has dismissed claims that it was under pressure to compromise its position on the status of former members of the Rivers State Assembly who forfeited their seats on account of their decision to dump the party.
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, said this in a statement in Abuja, yesterday.
He declared that nothing will make the party change its position on the vacation of seats by former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly who defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Ologunagba said, “The Party also clarifies that it is not under pressure from any quarters to compromise its position in Court wherein it had already clearly stated that the former Rivers State lawmakers are no longer members of the Rivers State House of Assembly from December 11, 2023, when they publicly announced their defection from the PDP to the APC.
“This clarification is a refusal of a mischievous report in a section of the social media falsely claiming that there are plots to compromise the party’s position and provide an unattainable lifeline to the former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly to return to their seats which they have constitutionally vacated.
“Our party therefore stands by its position that the affected members have since lost their seats in the Rivers State House of Assembly having arrogantly committed an unpardonable constitutional breach.”
He further stated that, “For the avoidance of doubt, the PDP in its Counter Claim by its National Legal Adviser, Kamaldeen Ajibade SAN in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1681/2023 filed at the Federal High Court Abuja stated clearly that the former Rivers State lawmakers “are no longer members of the Rivers State House of Assembly from December 11, 2023, when they publicly announced their defection from the PDP to the APC.
“For emphasis, the PDP in the said Suit seeks among others the following Declaration/Orders against the former Rivers State lawmakers.
“A Declaration that by provisions of Section 109 (1)(g) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the seats of the plaintiffs have been vacant since 11th December 2023 when the plaintiffs announced their defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“A Declaration that the plaintiffs are no longer members of the Rivers State House of Assembly having defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on 11th December 2023.
“An Order directing the first defendant (INEC) to conduct bye-elections in the respective constituencies of the plaintiffs in compliance with the provisions of the laws.
“An Order of perpetual injunction restraining the plaintiffs from parading themselves and/or further parading themselves or from performing or further performing the functions and duties of members of Rivers State House of Assembly…”
Ologunagba further said, “Happily, there are plethora of Judicial decisions from the highest court in our country in support of the position taken by our party.”

 

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Don’t Hurt Anybody, Else You Won’t Be Forgiven, Fubara Warns LG Chairmen …As Mbata Flags Off 33.5km Elele-Egbeda-Omoku Road

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has warned that any out-going local government chairman in the State who hurts any well-meaning Rivers person will not be forgiven.
The governor pointed to an event that happened on Tuesday, where miscreants attacked some persons who attended the inauguration of the Aleto-Ogale-Ebubu-Eteo Road project, on their way home, and said such show of animosity was utterly needless.
Fubara gave the warning at Egbeda community, venue of the ceremony for the official flag-off of the Elele-Egbeda-Omoku Road project in Emohua Local Government Area, yesterday.
The governor, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Nelson Chukwudi, said, “Let me also say this here. When we left Aleto the other day, some people went there and attacked our people. There is no need for that.
“Nobody has the monopoly of violence. I should even be the one who should come out and shout that I will do this and that. But I don’t need to do that because both sides belong to me. I have taken oath to protect all.
“So, I am advising those people who call themselves local government chairmen: you have a few days in office. Please, conduct yourselves in a peaceful manner.”
Fubara drew the attention of the local government chairmen to the reality of life after office, which should help them to become more circumspect.
He said, “Politics will come, politics will go, but we will still live our lives. Let nobody deceive you, if you deliberately hurt anybody, because of expressing your useless support, nobody will forgive you. You will pay for it.
“So, I’m begging everyone, please, conduct yourselves. As a matter of fact, I am the one that is most hit, and abused as a Governor who doesn’t know what to do with power. Is it not? Have I said anything?
“So, please, just endure until when you finish, then you go your way. I don’t want trouble. I don’t want anything that will bring any problem in this State. I know what they want to do, but we will not give them the opportunity”.
Fubara further said: “We have made our promise to our leader, who happens to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that we will take the path of peace and that is the part we are taking.
“We will continue to take that path. Don’t mind what they say. Don’t mind what they do. Peace remains the path to take. While taking the path of that peace, it does not mean that we won’t defend ourselves, or let me describe it this way: we will not just be like a tree seeing someone coming to cut it down, and won’t do anything. No, no no. We need to also protect ourselves in a lawful manner.”
Commenting on the project, Fubara said that what is being done is to let the world know that his administration means well for Rivers State, and was transparently accounting for every kobo that had been received.
Fubara explained that the Elele-Egbeda-Omoku Road project would be funded with savings from the Internal Generated Revenue (IGR), adding that 50 percent of the total cost of N80.8billion has already been paid.
He said, “Why did we pay 50 percent? We understand the fluctuation of prices as a result of exchange rate uncertainties, and we don’t want to find ourself in a situation of too much variation. So, we sought EXCO approval, and EXCO approved that we should pay 50 percent, and we have done that.
“And, what is it that we are saying to the world? We are telling the people that we are transparent. That we are a Government that is ready to serve. We are a Government that thinks about the people first.
“This road is a 33.5kilometer road that has a bridge. It is a road that would connect Ikwerre, Emohua and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Areas.
“When this road is completed, commercial activities will become very easy, no more wasting of manhour on the road. And that shows that we are thinking about the people, and also caring for the well-being of the people.”
Fubara urged residents of communities in the three LGAs to support the contractor to deliver the project within the stipulated 24 months.
The governor said the contractor had already pledged to ensure the project was completed and ready for inauguration before his third year in office.
He said, “I know strongly, having confirmed the reputation of the contractor, I have no doubt that they will deliver. So, I want to thank everyone of you for your patient, continue to support us, we mean well for our people.
“This is not different from the Renewed Hope Agenda of Mr President. Our mission is not different from the mission of Mr President.
“Mr President’s mission is to give hope to our people. And we are here to give hope to the people of Ikwerre, Emohua and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Areas, genuinely.
“Genuinely, not because we have any economic interest here, not at all. We are doing it as a service to our people. We have started our journey in showcasing our interest, wishes, and what we have done in the past one year.”
Flagging-off the project, Senator John Azuta Mbata, who represented Rivers East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, described the dual carriage road project as the type within the capacity of the Federal Government to award but now being done by Governor Fubara.
He said, “We are, indeed, extremely delighted to have a Governor of your calibre. We salute your leadership on this occasion. We salute your humanity on this occasion. We salute your humility on this occasion.
“We salute your propensity and preference for peace and tranquility. We are very delighted to be associated with your humble self and our very presence here today, I believe, makes the point that we are your supporters.
“We don’t have to talk too much about it. Anybody who is a politician understands that my standing here means I am making a grand political statement.”
Senator Mbata further said: “We are the face of the people that are behind, and we are many, millions of people, Rivers people, chiefs, traditional rulers, elder statesmen, and businessmen. We make the silent majority that are behind, supporting the effort of the Government to emancipate the people and to bring development to Rivers State.
“I want to take the opportunity to call on all and sundry, all our people, wherever you are, to give your utmost support to the Government because for the very first time, Government has moved away from the time when the Governor was seen as a tin god, a time when the Governor demanded worship, so to say; to a time when the Governor has become a symbol, a rallying point for the people.
“A rallying point for accountability of resources of our people. A rallying point for bringing all our people into the same boat. We are in an era where there is massive and extensive consultation going on. This is the order of the day, when nobody’s view is thrown away.”
On his part, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works, Engr. Atemea Briggs, said the Elele-Egbeda-Omoku Road project is a state highway that will be connecting two separate Trunk-A federal roads.
He explained that it will be constructed as a dual carriageway with solar-powered street lights to provide associated benefits of improving the fortunes of the people who will be using the road.
Also speaking, General Manager of the contracting firm handling the project, Craneburg Construction Company, Mr Elie Aden, said the road is a 33.5KM dual carriageway, adding that it will have culverts, street lights and 99 meters long bridge.
He said that about 7KM length of work has already been accomplished, and promised that they will complete the project within agreed deadline.
In his welcome address on behalf of the communities, Chief Charles Bekee, recalled how the road, once reconstructed in 2001, collapsed a decade after, due to increased volume of vehicular traffic that plied the road.
Chief Bekee noted that the road remained deplorable for a long time until Governor Fubara graciously awarded the contract for the reconstruction, leading to the flag-off ceremony.
He assured that the benefiting communities in the three LGAs that the road traverses are already resolved to protect the project with high level of cooperation to give the contractor the impetus to achieve its mandate, adding that they will sustain unalloyed support of the people to the governor.

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