The Abia State Government has said that the Member representing Aba South State Constituency in the House of Assembly, Obinna Ichita is merely advertising his crass ignorance following the viral letter he recently wrote to the state Governor.
Our correspondent reports that Ichita through a law firm, Adulbert Legal Services, led by his Counsel, Barr Aloy Ejimakor in a letter dated 28th February, 2023 requested the state government led by Ikpeazu to furnish him with important information on financing of notable projects in his constituency.
Ichita through Ejimakor demanded, “The accounting details of how the Government of Abia State spent the N27.4 billion (Twenty-Seven Billion, Four Hundred Thousand Naira (or the equivalent sum in dollar) which the Government of Abia State had received in full from the World Bank for road construction and erosion control projects in Aba specifically Port-Harcourt Road, Uratta Road, Obohia Road, Ohanku Road and Ngwa Road.
“The name and business address(es) of the Contractor(s) that executed any of the projects mentioned in the preceding paragraph; and copies of the contract awards documents and the cost of the execution of each project.”
In the letter, Ejimakor stated that Ichita made the request for information in pursuant to the provisions of Freedom of Information Act, which requires compliance within strict deadlines and demanded the Governor’s timely response.
Abia State Government in a statement signed by the Secretary to State Government (SSG), Barr. Chris Ezem urged Ichita to get himself acquainted with the topic he wrote letter on, as everything he said showed high level ignorance on the issue he talked about.
Ezem said that Abia government did not receive any such sum stated by Ichita from the World Bank for road construction and erosion control projects in Aba, specifically Port Harcourt Road, Uratta Road, Obohia Road, Ohanku Road and Ngwa Road.
“Your client being a principal officer of Abia State House of Assembly which has performed oversight function over several activities in the state should know better or at least should have made his investigations well before his hurried ejaculation.
“At this juncture it will be right to stop the response until his question is put correctly but to show him that there are no skeletons in the cupboard and to prove that he is merely advertising his crass ignorance, let me educate you both on the true state of the project in question.
“The contract was for the ‘Construction of Flood Mitigation Measures at Uratta and Umuagbai Flood Plains in Aba Municipality.’ The contract was awarded to Messrs Hartland Nig. Ltd/NBHH JV of 23 House 24, Usman Halilu Street, Life camp, Abuja after a rigorous International Competitive Bidding process supervised by the highest procurement committee of the World Bank at Washington DC, at the value of N27.4b.
“The contract was signed on 30th April 2020. At the NAFEX exchange rate of $1 to N413 this contract sum was $66,394,939,22. The site was handed over to the contractor in the first week of June 2020 and the contract duration was 30 months from the time of site take over,” Ezem replied Ejimakor.
The SSG added that the scope of work was for underground box culverts from Uratta pond through Port Harcourt Road, then along Ngwa Road and Obohia road to discharge storm water into Aba River at the end of Ngwa Road, and for the reconstruction of Obohia and Ngwa Roads after the box culvert works.
“The only road construction components of this principal contract was for Ngwa Road, Obohia Road and a section of Uratta Road from Uratta pond to Port Harcourt Road by Ngwa Road. This contract did not at any time include the construction of all of Port Harcourt Road or Uratta Road or even Ohanku Road as you and your client have erroneously claimed.
“This project was executed under a World Bank loan facility managed by Abia State Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project, ABS-NEWMAP. The official life span of the intervention was to end by June 30th, 2022.
“The World Bank and the State Governor met severally and settled that since the World Bank would no longer extend the life span of the intervention beyond June 2022, and would not abandon any project;
“and since the State Government does not have the funds to complete the project if the World Bank withdrew by June 2022, that closure works be proposed which would be done to ensure that the site is left safe and devoid of any environmental and social safeguards issues. This was done by the state Government,” Ezem said.
He said that in this closure works the state government included the construction of Onyemaechi Road, a section of Ogwo Road, and other connecting roads to Ugwunagbor water front starting from Ngwa Road; Construction of an underground discharge culvert from Ogwo/Mbaise Road to Aba River, Construction of Okoro Street, Ibadan Street, and Uratta Road.
He equally mentioned others included as the de-silting of the Underground tunnel from School Road through Asa triangle to Cemetry and Uratta pond; the tunnel from Ibadan Street ponds 1 and 2 through Ohanku and Owerre Aba to Aba River, de-silting of the major School Road open Channel acroos Ahia Ohuru into Aba River.
The SSG said that the construction of an underground box culvert from Uratta pond through Crystal Park to Obohia Road, discharging at Umuagbai pond and the discharge structures from Umuagbai pond into Aba River which were done with large side drains to take runoff from these areas into Aba River were also included.
According to him, “having reduced the scope of the initial works, the state government refunded the sum of $15m to the World Bank which represented the components that would no longer be done. The new contract sum became N19,279,237,117.68.
“Out of the above stated sum, the contractor earned the sum of N17,491,888,544.93. So far, the contractor has been paid the sum of N16,825,965,056.71. The outstanding payment is N665,923,488.22. Details of these payments are available for inspection at Abia NEWMAP office any day.”
He told Ejimakor that his client, Ichita was never present at any of the several community engagements with his beloved constituents who he claims to be fighting for.
“Your client was never present at all the appearances of Abia NEWMAP before all the committees he was a member of (appropriation, environment, etc throughout his stay in the house). Your client does not know the real worth of the works being done for his constituents.
“Your client does not know the status of the works. Your client never showed concern throughout the troubling times when the state almost lost this project. Your client has severally made bogus claims of how $54m or $56m or any amount he dreams of had been given by the World Bank for his constituents.
“Your client had also claimed that the state government got $800m to share to indigent citizens of Abia State from the World Bank. All these are in the public domain. At each instance the state government responded with facts and figures, yet he could not even use the simple “google search” in the phone he is carrying about to educate himself.
“This is the kind of client you have retained. He will certainly bring you to shame. This is the person who wants to be deputy governor of Abia State. His principals are already tired of his loquacious attitude,” the SSG said.