EDITORIAL: Asaba Controversial Airport As A Conduit Pipe For Okowa

0
545

The vision of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta state to make the Asaba International Airport a passage for the eastern business moguls, with the attendant multiplier effect on the state and the expected business growth in Asaba has remained a mirage ten year after the conception of the project whose foundation stone was laid on May 7, 2008 by a former National chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Vincent Ogbulafor.

But today, instead of the manifestation of the Uduaghan led administration’s dream that gulped billions of tax payers money to come to reality, the airport has become a conduit pipe for the incumbent governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

The problem of the Asaba airport started with its award to an inexperienced indigenous contractor, ULU Consultants, owned by Uche Luke Okpuno, an indigene of Asaba. Since 2008 till date the airport is still under construction with huge annual budgetary allocations which the state government had failed to disclose because it falls under what was termed Special Projects.

The initial cost of the project was put at 6.47 billion naira, but it was later confirmed, following speculations by those the government preferred to call mischief makers, that the actual cost of the airport project was 27.7 billion naira. There was an additional cost of 7 billion naira for the demolition of hills said to be obstructing the movement of flights at the airport, which attracted strong criticism from many Deltans who saw the amount as outrageous.

Three years after the commencement of the project the first flight owned by Overland Airways landed at the airport on March 24 and 25 2011 with so much noise by the then Uduaghan’s government that what was meant to be achieved in seven years came to fruition in three years.

After that show of deception, then the thunder butt came on May 5, 2015 when the airport was downgraded with a severe ban on cargo aircrafts landing on the airport by the nation’s aviation authorities for failing to meet safety standards among others.

HardReporters has critically observed with keen interest that the Okowa led administration has penchant for conduit pipe contracts as well as destruction, scrapping and abandonment of his predecessor’s projects.

This medium could also recalled that in 2015, governor Ifeanyi Okowa had allegedly used the airport as a conduit pipe where part of the N5 billion he was said to have released to ULO company to resume  work at the airport was allegedly diverted to compromised judges who handled his governorship election tribunal and till date he has continued to use the project to amass wealth, forgetting that he made a promise shortly after his swearing in to complete the airport in three months.

Though Governor Okowa had assured that the airport would be fully operational by July this year, there are also the issues of over undulated runway, perimeter fencing, drainage and inadequate trained technical personnel as well as some sort of equipment especially the fire service and others.

The chances of Governor Okowa completing the airport within his first tenure in office are slim considering the fact that he decided to look the direction of the airport rather late after assuming office and in view of the soon to commence consultations, maneuvering and campaign for the 2019 general elections.

Following a rigorous oversight investigation by the Delta State House of Assembly and the subsequent recommendation, the firm handling the multi billion naira contract, ULO consultants backed out of the contract for obviously lacking the competence and expertise to continue with the job which paved the way for governor Okowa to again rewarded the contract to Setraco company.

Okowa speaking sometime in February this year during a meeting of members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta North Senatorial District, held at Kwale, said the Asaba International Airport will be functional in the next four months, noting that the Asaba International Airport is very important to the socio-economic development of Delta State and  neighboring states.

“I want to tell you that the contract for the construction of the Asaba Airport project has been awarded to Setraco; Setraco is a reputable company and in the last one week a lot of construction work has been witnessed in the airport. The company have a mandate of four months to deliver the project; the amount that Setraco quoted for them to deliver the job was lesser than the amount the contract was awarded the former contractor.” Okowa said.

HardReporters could also recalled that the Managing Director (MD), ULO Consultant Limited, handling the Asaba downgraded Asaba airport contract and the abandoned section (C) of the dualization of Asaba/Ughelli as well as the failed Maryam Babangida Way dualization road project, Uche Luke Okpunor had accused the chairman, Delta State House of Assembly House Committee on Works, Evance Ivwurie, of approaching him and making an “unholy” demand to terminate the ongoing probe of his company.

The house committee on works has been probing the MD of ULO company for not been able to complete the multi billion naira Asaba airport, his failure to complete the section (C) of the dualization of Asaba/Ughelli road project and the failed Maryam Babangida way dualization road project awarded to his firm by former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration.

Mr. Okpunor, who had disclosed that Ivwurie, allegedly came to him and requested for softener, (“unholy demands”) to halt the investigation on why the projects handled by his company failed after receiving billions of naira from the state government, claimed that he has the video clips of the meeting with Ivwurie where he allegedly came and demanded for incentive in order for the committee to suppress the inquiry.

But in a counter allegation, chairman of the House Committee on Works, Evance Ivwurie, had in a statement made available to this medium, debunked the allegation and said instead it was Okpunor, who allegedly sent him a text message to deliver a ‘welfare package’ to him and members of the committee for possible quashing of the probe.

Following the manner the Okowa led government has turned the project into a conduit pipe to save money for his reelection in 2019, the Conference of Political Parties, CNPP, Delta State, had last year called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to probe the Asaba Airport project, which it alleged has gulped over N50 billion so far under the People Democratic Party, PDP led government in the state.

State chairman of CNPP who doubles as chairman of Young Democratic Party, YDP, in the state, Mr. Gabriel Mamuzo, made the call in a statement made available to HardReporters, saying that what the PDP built was an airstrip, not an airport.

“We welcome the state government efforts in the upgrade of the Asaba Airport, but we equally call on the anti-graft agencies to probe the Asaba airport project that has gulped over N50 billion under the PDP previous administration. We recall that the PDP administration told us that Asaba is an international airport when it started in 2008, while then did it now change and name it something that is below domestic standard?

“The Nigeria Aviation authority downgraded the airport to below standard of domestic airport and ordered its closure in 2014 due to the shoddy job done by both the PDP led state government and the contracting firm. The amount spent on the airport project can conveniently give us the best international airport in Africa. Unfortunately, the PDP led administration gave us an airstrip that is being used by helicopter mostly and small aircraft that will carry less than 40 passengers.

“Recently, the new administration put in more money again in the name of upgrading the acclaimed cargo airport, while poor Deltans are dying of starvation, what a wicked world we are. They call it Asaba International Airport, yet we do not go on pilgrimage through it or to another international world, rather we pass through Port-Harcourt or Enugu airports.

“They should tell Deltans how much is the white elephant failed project and Deltans wish to know how much the state government have generated from that Asaba airport from 2008 till date,” he asserted. We are resisting such fraudulent and insensitive ways of governance”, CNPP chairman stated.

As at the time of this report, the airport is currently shot down for another five weeks and HardReporters as a matter of urgency and importance call on governor Okowa to make sure that this time around he gets it right on the airport and let Deltans get the value for their money, we also warn Okowa desist from using the airport project and other projects in the state as conduit pipes to starch away monies.

To Okowa, we at HardReporters are saying “Praemonitus, Praemunitus”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here