This is the first time I will be making a public input on issues of governance of our dear state since after the March 18th Governorship elections.
As a true democrat, I believe that electioneering periods are over with the emergence of various leaders across board, and thus, now is the time for governance, while we also patiently await the verdict of the pending cases at the elections Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja.
It is important for a government to initiate policies aimed at improving the socioeconomic wellbeing of its citizens. Programs such as construction of roads and other basic infrastructure are critical especially with regards to being part of one of the developing economies of the world.
While Governor SIMINILAYI FUBARA tries so hard to live up to his vision of consolidating on the achievements of his benefactor and former governor, Nyesom Wike, however, consolidating on wrong policies and flagrant abuse of laid down rules of engagement of governance as enshrined in the laws of our state should not form the nucleus of his administration.
I have carefully studied details of the Port Harcourt Ring Road Project flagged off on Monday July 17,2023 by former governor Nyesom Wike.
According to the project description,
the 50.15 kilometers dual carriage road will traverse six Local Government Areas including Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre, Etche, Oyibo and Eleme.
The Port Harcourt Ring Road Project starts at the UTC junction and will have six flyovers and one river crossing bridge.
It would be recalled that the contract for the project construction was signed between the state government and Julius Berger Plc at Government House, Port Harcourt last Wednesday.
The governor speaking after the contract signing, explained that the best time to start a project that has a completion period of 36 months is now, which is precisely why 75 percent of the contract sum (N150Billion) of N195.3 billion has been released, to make Julius Berger give the required urgency to the project.
Now, this was sequel to his signing the supplementary budget of N200 billion recently passed into law by the Rivers State House of Assembly.
In all of these, I am particularly worried how the Governor Fubara led state government has bypassed all laid down procurement processes as enshrined in the laws of our state, to do as it seem good in their eyes.
My argument is born out of the desire to ensure transparency and accountability in governance, as our collective resources are only held in trust, and not part of a personal estate of any government official.
To this end, it is important for the Sim Fubara led administration to provide answers to these pertinent questions:
- How did the Rivers State Government arrive at the N195.3Billion contract sum for the project?
- Which firm carried out the bill of quantities survey?”
- Which medium was a capital project like the Port Harcourt Ring Road bid advertised that brought about the contract being awarded to Julius Berger PLC?
The Rivers State Public Procurement Law No.4 of 2008, PART V – PROCUREMENT METHODS (SERVICES AND WORKS ), section 21, subsection one to four, talking about Open Competitive Bidding, clearly states:
“Except as [provided by this Law, all procurement of goods, services and works by all procuring entities shall be conducted by open competitive
“Any reference to open competitive bidding in this Law means the process by which a procuring entity based on previously defined criteria, effects public
procurements by offering to every interested bidder, equal simultaneous
information and opportunity to offer the goods, services and works needed”.
“The winning bid shall be that which is the lowest evaluated responsive bid which has been responsive to the bid with regards to work specification and standard”.
“Notwithstanding, the provisions of this law, with respect to the award of contract, the Governor shall have power to award contract for the execution of projects and other jobs which total value shall not exceed 30% of the total annual budget approved for the execution of projects and other jobs in the State:”
Furthermore, section 22, subsection (1), (iii), says: “Every invitation to an open competitive bid shall: in the case of goods and works, under international competitive bidding, the invitation for bids shall be advertised in not less than two national newspapers and one relevant international publication, an official websites of the procuring entity and the Bureau as well as the procurement journal (if any) not less than six weeks before the deadline for submission of the bids for the goods and works;
“In the case of goods and works valued under National Competitive
Bidding, the invitation for bids shall be advertised on the notice board of
the procuring entity, any official websites of the procuring entity, at least
two newspapers (one of which must have national circulation), and in the
procurement journal (if any) not less than six weeks before the deadline
for submission of the bids for the goods and works”.
From the foregoing, it is totally unacceptable to have this show of executive rascality and complete abusive of office primarily for purpose of personal aggrandizement, and not for ensuring the socioeconomic wellbeing of the state as they try to make it appear.
According to a publication by The Network for the Actualisation of Social Growth and Viable Development (NEFGAD) titled ‘N195bn for 50km’ — Rivers Should Be In Guiness Book of World Records For Most Expensive, Outrageous And Questionable Road Contract.
In the said publication, the group alleged that the Rivers state government is spending beyond what is normal on road construction.
Executive Secretary of the group, Akingunola Omoniyi, confirmed that the state’s 50.15 km Port Harcourt Ring Road project worth N195.3Billion is the most expensive contract in the history of public procurement in Nigeria and globally.
It means that “The 50.15km road contract awarded at the cost of N195.3b stands at approximately N4Billion per kilometer.
Going by a World Bank report published in 8th March 2021, it says the cost of constructing 1km of road in our Naira equivalent the world over is N238m., and the indeces or parameters used to arrive at this rate took into consideration all topographic differences.
Thus, according to NEFGAD, this figure is the benchmark that should not be surpassed regardless of several factors except with vested interest that usually characterizes public contracts in Nigeria.
The award of this N195.3Billion ring road project has rather subjected the state to public ridicule as such that the NEFGAD lampooned the state in its publication that, “The only thing left out of the contract is for the Rivers state government to apply to the Guinness World Record (GWR) for verification and certification as the world’s most expensive contract”.
This is sad, a complete abuse of office, an institutionalization of corruption and breach of public trust, and therefore, must not go unchallenged.
State Officials are mischievously hiding under the so called perpetual injunction barring any investigation of the financial dealings of the state government by antigraft agencies.
But the good part is that, such order does not take away the right of citizens of the state to demand how their collective resources are being expended by those who hold them in trust.
MY PRAYERS THEREFORE ARE:
- That the national assembly should launch an inquiry into the award of the contract of the Port Harcourt Ring Road Project.
- That members of the civil society and well meaning individuals of the state should unite to challenge and vacate the so called perpetual injunction barring any investigation of the state financial dealings, in order to save the state from complete plundering of its resources.
High Chief Hon. (Amb) Sobomabo Jackrich (Egberipapa)