Delta Riverine Community Youths Protest Against N1.5 Billion Substandard Road Project By Marine Firm, Vow To Jail Contractor

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Riverine Ikpide-Irri community youths, under the umbrella of ‘Concerned Indigenes Of Ikpide-Irri’, Isoko South Local Government area of Delta State have protested against a firm, Portplus limited handling the community’s N1.5 billion road project with a vow to send the contractor to jail for continued execution of what they called ‘substandard’ work.

The protesters who resumed their protest following the resumption of substandard work on a new phase of the project 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.

Delta state governor Ifeanyi Okowa had in 2017, awarded a N736.4-million concrete pavement road contract in Ikpide-Irri community to one of his of his ally’s firm, Portplus Limited, a Lagos based marine service company owned by an indigene of the community and after series of protests against shoddy work on the road, the governor reviewed the contract upward to the tune of N1.5 billion naira even as the contractor continued with the shoddy job.

The concerned indigenes of the community in 2018 in a strong-worded petition addressed to governor Ifeanyi Okowa, signed by their counsel, C.F. Ebu, of the legacy chambers, Asaba, had condemned the substandard job being done by the contractor and called for strict adherence to the BEME and BOQ.

The community’s indigenes Monday took to the streets in a peaceful protest against the ‘substandard’ work by the firm, Portplus limited, saying despite several warnings and protests against the poor quality of job by the firm, the contractor, a son of the soil remained adamant even as they vowed that until the needful is done, they will fight with the last drop of their blood in making sure the contractor is sent to prison at the end of the day.

Speaking during the protest, one of the leaders of the placards carrying protesters who identified himself as Blessing Ese and chairman of Ikpide-Irri Progress Union, Ughelli branch, disclosed that despite several protests against poor quality of job by the contractor for the past three years, no meaningful changes have been seen and he continued to use substandard materials for the project.

Ese, however expressed displeasure on the continued usage of substandard materials, lamenting that “The most painful aspect is that the contractor is an indigene of the community. For over three years we have been protesting against his shoddy job, he refused to change for the better. Following our protest, his governor friend, Okowa reviewed the contract upward to almost two billion naira yet he continued to use substandard materials for us. God bless the executive and members of the Isoko Monitoring Group, (IMG) for all the supports and speaking against the shoddy project.

“We are therefore warning and calling on Portplus limited to as a matter of urgency and importance, execute the contract according to the state government specifications using the approved BEME and BOQ for the contract. Can you imagine, this kind of swampy terrain, the contractor used 10mm rods for the construction of culverts instead of required 16mm rods according to the BOQ. I pity some hungry leaders in the community who have been bribed by the contractor to seal their lips.”

Some of the placards carried by the protesters have 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’ ‘EFCC, ICPC Other Anti-Graft Agencies Must Hear This, ‘Ikpide-Irri Road Contract Is Not Your Kola-nut But Our Right’ and ‘Portplus Do Good Job Or End In EFCC ICPC Cell’. 

Speaking in the same vein, a visibly angry protester, who simply identified himself as Emmanuel stated that the President General of the community, Lucky Edemo and his executive have shown how weak and afraid they are as such not capable to lead the community, alleging that some of the directors and engineers of the state ministry of works have collected bribes from the contractor hence his boldness to continue with shoddy job in the community.

According to Emmanuel, “Enough is enough, already the Delta state government said indigenes must take charge of projects domiciled in their community and monitor such projects. This people have taken us for a ride for too long. Just imagine, the former President General of Ikpide-Irri, Michael Omojefe, elder brother to the contractor handling the project telling people that the contract is a ‘kolanut’ from governor Okowa to his brother because of his financial contribution to Okowa’s governorship elections in 2015.

“Government and private monitoring teams of engineers have visited this project, all condemned the shoddy job. In 2018, the Delta state government condemned this same project and described it as shoddy. This is a fraud of the highest order; this is pure wickedness, greed and we will no longer watch anybody to short-change us because of personal greed and selfishness. Portplus is defrauding us, a job of almost two billion naira, you can’t do a standard job for your own community but maximizing huge project. We shall send you to prison just watch and see.”, Emmanuel said.

When contacted as at the time of filing in this report, a representative of Portplus Limited and site surveyor, Iyke Chidindu, said, “Since the commencement of the contract, there has been series of one complain to another and protests upon protests following internal issues among indigenes. They keep saying we are not doing the right thing and I don’t know the right thing they want us to do.  I don’t want to talk more than this.”

It would be recalled that following the series of past protests in the community, the immediate past community President General, Michael Omojefe, elder brother to the contractor had told our correspondent that the “contract was ‘kolanut’ from governor Okowa to my younger brother and chairman of Portplus Limited, Immanuel Emoefe, because of his financial contribution to Okowa’s governorship elections in 2015. As such nobody has the right to challenge my brother or protest against him in any way.”

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