Since the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970, the South East has been wearing the toga of the most marginalised part of the country. It is often not acknowledged that the Federal Government is the sole culprit. Contractors and sometimes so-called leaders from the zone are the people’s worst enemies.
A press statement, which should serve as an eye-opener, was issued last week by a non-governmental group known as the South East Development Initiative. However, the statement has not received the kind of traction it deserves. I am reproducing the statement in full, so that the necessary conversation on the Igbo condition can start. It is time for our people to do some soul-searching, rather than attribute every predicament to external forces.
Addressed to three South East governors, Engr. Dave Umahi, Governor, Ebonyi State; Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Governor, Enugu State; and Chief Willie Obiano, Governor, Anambra State, whose states represent the old Anambra State, the statement said:
We would like to start this urgent letter with a commendation of the work you have been doing on behalf of the people of your three states. You are among the most accomplished of the current set of governors in the country. Keep up the good job.
“Still, there is a lot of work to be done especially in the area of infrastructure development. This is all the more so in rural areas where most communities do not have access to potable water and quite a number have no electricity.
“Strangely, there have been two major contracts in recent years to solve the twin infrastructure problem in your states. We are referring to the contract awarded in 1991 for rural water supply in old Anambra State, which was financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) based in Cote d’Ivoire. The AfDB also financed the huge contract for rural water in many communities in old Anambra State.
“Both contracts were awarded to Kings Engineering Company and Triax Engineering, both located in New Haven, Enugu, and owned by Prince Arthur Eze. Eighty per cent of the contract sums were to be paid in United States dollars and the remaining 20 per cent (20%) in Nigeria’s naira. There was also a third contract financed by the AfDB, which the old Anambra State government awarded: the building of an Industrial Development Centre (IDC) in Awka, today the capital of new Anambra State.
“The markup in contracts by international firms like Shell and ExxonMobil is usually 10 per cent but the profit margin for each of the contracts was 20 per cent. This was really huge, all the more so since payment was guaranteed.
“It is, therefore, shocking to realise that the contracts running into millions of dollars were not fully executed. You owe the people of Ebonyi, Enugu and Anambra states the duty to explain to them what became of the contracts. After all, huge amounts are subtracted monthly from your state’s entitlements from the Federation Allocation Account to pay for the loans plus interest. And the deductions will go on for 22 and a half years. There was an initial moratorium of five years on the loans.
“It is remarkable enough that your states have been paying for the loans and interest rates straight from the monthly allocations from the Federation Account without knowing why. You may not even know that the execution of the AfDB contracts led to the exit of Bubakar Ndiaye, a Senegalese national, from the AfDB as its chief executive. The AfDB stakeholders were scandalised that, instead of ensuring the proper execution of the huge contracts, the AfDB director flew from the bank’s headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, to Enugu on Arthur Eze’s 727 Boeing aircraft. Worse, the AfDB went to Eze’s residence in Enugu and began to praise him without seeing the jobs being done!
“Your Excellencies, let us face facts: long-term loans like the above, which also have low interest charges, rarely come to the South East. The AfDB facilities came under the military regime because Dr. Chu Okongwu, the Minister of Finance in the General Ibrahim Babangida government, went out of his way to do something big and everlasting, which would serve as a development game changer in his state and its people. We wonder how Dr. Okongwu feels to know that the loans were abused and your states are paying through the nose to meet their contractual obligations to the AfDB.
“Your Excellencies, the unconscionable abuse of the AfDB loans to old Anambra State running into millions of dollars is too grave a matter to be swept under the carpet. Consequently, we demand that you investigate this economic rape of our people, their children and their children’s children since 1991. A period of two weeks should be enough to start action. If after 21 days you are, however, unable to start a probe into the heist against the people of Ebonyi, Enugu and Anambra states, we will be compelled to report the matter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as President, Commander-in-Chief, His Excellency, General Muhammadu Buhari, for prompt action. We trust President Buhari and the new EFCC leadership to come to the rescue of our longsuffering people. God bless you.”
The statement, signed by Engr. Joseph Onwe, Barr. Ikem Onwukwe and Chieg Chukwuemeka Nwodo, president, deputy president and secretary, is awaiting urgent attention.
•Obiezenyi is a lawyer and businessman in Nnewi, Anambra State