Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State recently had an interactive session with journalists in Asaba where he responded to a number of issues bothering on the administration of the state since he took over on May 29, 2015.
Auctioning of unserviceable items of the state has been characterised by allegations of fraudulent practices involving the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and the chief auctioneer, one Nwachukwu who is your cousin. How would react to this?
There is a lot of rumour that goes around particularly in the social media, but when you sit on this kind of seat you have to tolerate all manners of things because it is only just fair to so do. But sometimes it is good that we carry out investigative journalism before coming out to make certain assumptions. Yes I will look into the issues but in the first instance, Nwachukwu is not my cousin, and secondly I am aware that long before I came into government, Nwachukwu has been a licensed auctioneer for so many years right from the defunct Bendel State. As for whether there are corrupt practices, it is for me to check and see what is going on. I like people to bring out information for me but please ensure that the information is credible because it is not fair to accuse somebody wrongly. I have enough confidence in my SSG.
Staff of the state owned broadcasting outfits both in Asaba and Warri lacked tools to work and this is affecting their output. Particularly for DBS, Asaba, the flood of last year almost sack the entire station, what are you doing to revive the broadcast stations?
As for Delta Broadcasting Service (DBS) lacking tools to work, I will look into that, even at a meeting I had with my people in Government House, they did say that they needed more cameras, and I think that we are looking into that. If their tools are bad, there is a process in government, if I am properly informed, I will do the needful. On my not visiting the broadcast house even after the flood, it is not about grandstanding, if I have started to do a project that will address the problem that is the important thing. I am not the kind of person that walks around and wanting to create attention with the press but the thing is driving the process that will solve the problem, that is more important than going to grandstand, and get all manners of publicity and nothing is being done. The work that is being done by Setraco, I think by the time it is completed, we will be proud of it. So it is finding solution to the problem that matters and not going to gain publicity.
It is being alleged that you are the owner of the company presently handling the construction of the new ultra modern state secretariat at the cost of over N12 billion. How true is it?
I don’t know how many of us have been to that secretariat that is being built, I am sure that you are proud of what is going on there. If Dr. Okowa has the competence to own a company to build that kind of project, I would have been very proud of myself, unfortunately, I don’t. And the company is not hidden, it is a Chinese company, and those who went with us then saw the Chinese who are there. But I must commend the management of the company because out of the over 160 people working on that site, only 11 of them were brought from China, the other 150 are Nigerians. And the level of organisation, the quality of the work is something that we must be proud of, I am actually proud of them. When they first came in I was scared initially until we actually got proof from their embassy that they were very competent, and truly with the speed and level of work, and organisation at the work site they are actually people to be proud of. I am convinced from what I have seen at this stage that it is something that will come out well. If I have that company, probably I am part of the Chinese government because the company is a Chinese owned firm. If I have that level of connection in China, I am sure I would have been able to do much more for Deltans, I wish I could but I am not.
It is less than a year to the 2019 election, and it is clear that, that gigantic secretariat will not be completed before the election. If you don’t return, will it not be another abandoned project?
A project is a project, it is going on but the first case is that I know that I am coming back by the special grace of God. I will be coming back with my deputy. The fact is before the end of this first tenure, the project would have been almost completed if you watch the way they are going and they are right on course. The consultant supervising the project briefs us regularly and I know that by their projection, they should be completing the project in 2019; it may not be before May 29. I know that there will be no question about the project being abandoned that will not happen. I am praying that they could work a little faster to see if I can commission it before I enter my second tenure.
Delta people will like to know how money is being generated internally every month. Can you share it with us?
The Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) varies from month to month, it is not hidden. There are some months we generate over N2 billion, and some N3 billion. On a few occasions, we have actually crossed N4 billion. We were hoping that by now, we should be able to drive the process beyond N5 billion but because of the recession, many companies are actually not able to pay. The bulk of the money comes from PAYE, many oil service companies are no longer strongly alive to pay and to employ people. And for some of them who are paying, they are no longer paying the allowances, the huge allowances that enable the PAYE to rise, it is no longer so. For instance, the least we get from Chevron in the past is over N1.5 billion but it has dropped to as low as N700 million. Shell that used to pay about N1 billion monthly has left Delta State, so for the skeletal services they provide, the highest we now get from Shell that is SPDC is about N82 million.
What is your administration doing about keeping the state clean because we have observed that the state, particularly Asaba, is littered with refuse?
The waste management board is doing its best but the truth is our people are not helping matters, we have the Private Sector Participants (PSPs) who are supposed to collect refuse at very little cost from our homes but we are creating a nuisance value for ourselves. Why will somebody dump refuse on the highway? And these things are actually done at night, so when you clear, it comes back the next morning, it is very unfair. People now package refuse and dump at the median of the road which is not acceptable. People are not ready to be committed to the PSPs who charge very little to clear the waste from their homes. I want to appeal to residents to develop the habit of cleanliness. I am told that the incinerator in Ibusa, the contract was for the contractor to operate it for some time, and it is still within the period that the incinerator is supposed to be operated. The incinerator is not functioning optimally. It is not able to take care of the amount of waste that was anticipated. The contractor had abandoned the place for about six months, he came back and fixes the equipment, he is now doing eight tonnes a day, and he has promised that in three months, he will meet up with the 20 tonnes daily. There is the need to understudy him for us to take over. Like the Warri ADP Water project, we spent several years in building it up as a state but we failed to understudy the process. At the time they were nearing completion we did not develop the capacity of personnel that could run the scheme because of its nature. That is why we are now trying to enter into a partnership agreement with one of the companies to complete the rest of the work to be done and to run it because if he leaves without developing our capacity, we will be staring at it without doing anything. So I hope that we understudy the man or let him run the incinerator going forward. He is supposed to run the place for three years.
How much did the state government spend to conduct the January 6, 2018 local government elections?
The electoral umpire, Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC) did ask for a little over billion naira but what we did approve for that election was N700 million. And that was what they worked with apart from the two elections that had to be repeated for which they asked for additional N20 million bringing the total to N720 million that was spent. I want to believe that, that was very prudent spending considering the fact that the bulk of the money actually goes into the payment of staff that are engaged on ad-hoc basis. We have over 3,000 units across the state, and each of the unit was manned by a polling officer and two poll clerks. That is quite a lot apart from the payment of other staff that are engaged and the security. So they were quite prudent with the elections compared to what we know is being spent in such elections. That is the situation.
The Asaba central hospital project which was awarded by the previous administration appears to have been abandoned. What you are doing to complete that job?
The contractors are back to site at the Asaba Central Hospital, I have told the commissioner for Health to put more pressure on them. I am worried as you are but you must realise that this is a contract we met. And we are hoping that the place will be completed. We can’t start operations half way because it will not be healthy for patients. So we are taking our time not to create health hazards for patients but we are pushing hard. I know that they are discussing with the contractor who was awarded the contract for the equipping of the hospital because the contract was already awarded before we came in. You can’t bully the contractor out. The contractor can go to go court, we are careful not to allow things go to court because once things go to that kind of stage, we would have lost a lot more time. So we are managing the contractor as much as we can to make sure that we deliver appropriately. But I have not hidden it from the contractor that I am not happy with the pace of work.