August 08, (THEWILL) – Residents of Onicha in Ubulu-Uku, Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State, have urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to re-open it’s file and investigate the alleged misappropriation of N245 million released for the rehabilitation of the Onicha-Uku/Onicha-Ugbo road, which was awarded in 2015.
The community has also called on the State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the World Bank, to come to their rescue before erosion sweeps the entire community away.
In a peaceful protest, the community said the money was released for the rehabilitation of the deplorable road, which links Abuja, Lagos and Asaba, by the NDDC, but nothing has happened in terms of work done.
The present state of the road, according to the placard bearing protesters, has brought untold hardship, claiming that both the state and federal governments have abandoned them to their fate, leading to the resort to unsustainable self help efforts.
Spokesman for Onicha-Uku people, Mr Ephraim Osaji, who read the content of a save-our-soul letter, said they have been deceived on several occasions by officials of the NDDC, who pretended to be working on the road, but disappeared after achieving their sinister motive.
Mr Osaji said, “In 2019, some persons came to parade themselves as workers, who came on instructions of the Senator representing Delta North, Peter Nwaoboshi, who incidentally was representing us in the NDDC Senate Committee at the time.
According to him, “The workers came with their tools, including bulldozers and other equipment. Few days after loitering around, the workers disappeared with their tools.
“We later found out that the so called workers appeared in our community ostensibly to give impression to the EFCC team visiting Delta State at the time to investigate some NDDC abandoned projects that work was in progress”, he added.
As a result, the spokesman called on EFCC to re-open investigation into the road project, which he described as a scam and conduit pipe, since the NDDC had failed to leave up to expectations as far as the project is concerned.
Besides, Osaji appealed to the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, to prevail on his running mate and governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, to fix the road which he claimed, was in the 2022 state budget.
“The community had always voted PDP since the inception of democracy in 1999, Osaji vowed that 2023 would be different, threatening that their over 6,000 votes would be mobilised for the party and candidate that give them succour.
“It is not a threat, but without mincing words, we shall be making a categorical statement. We want to remind our dear aspirants, that our votes must count this time around, because we have seriously enlightened our people, including the youths, on how best to use their PVCs this time around.
“Without exaggerating the situation as it is, we hasten to say that all of us gathered here, are seeing it with our own eyes. For clarity sake, let it be emphasised that Onicha-Uku and Onicha-Okpe Quarters, are situated on Ubulu-Uku-Onicha-Ugbo Road. We are predominantly farmers, even though our children are scattered all over the world in search of greener pastures.
“Regrettably as you can see, the only access road to our community, which is like express road to other communities, especially Onicha-Ugbo, in Aniocha North, Edo State, even Delta State capital, Asaba, is in a very deplorable condition. We have been totally cut off from other communities, even in the same town, Ubulu-Uku. On this axis, only the courageous and strong youths can access the road.
According to him, “It is no longer news that our elderly, the sick, non courageous, weaklings and our children cannot attempt to access the road, as passing through is like walking through the valley of death. Many people have been sent to their early graves, while others, who were lucky to survive accidental falls, broke their limps, and ended up in the bonesetter’s homes or orthopaedic hospitals.
“We are definitely tired of paying hospital bills. As you can see, our elderly and the kids are trapped in their homes. Many of our people who died outside our community are buried where they died, as we no longer bother to bring them back to our ancestral home for burial because of the impassable road.
“In reality, we love home very well, but our children in the diaspora have refused to return home, during festive seasons, especially Christmas, New year, Easter, and our annual traditional fiestas; New yam (fejokwu), Inne and Iwu festivals, obviously due to the bad road.
“Moreso, we are predominantly Catholics and Anglicans, whose priests used to come and administer Communion to the sick and elderly. The priests have ceased coming to perform such religious rituals because of the fear of breaking their limps as one of them did in the past and ended up spending huge amount of money in the hospital.
“We need to point out also that since there is no road to harvest our farm produce and take them to the market, our young farmers have taken to commercial motorcycle operation (Okada riding) outside our community, and abandoned their farmwork. The implication is that food scarcity is looming.
“There are able hands who complied with the Federal Government’s advice to return to agriculture, but were forced to abandon their farms because of bad road. Following this development and the successive governments’ neglect of the road, we wrote many letters of appeal to stakeholders; World Bank, State and federal governments, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“In the year 2O19, we received good news that the NDDC had awarded contract for the rehabilitation of the road. Some persons had come to parade themselves as workers who came on instructions of the Senator representing Delta North at the National Assembly; Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, who incidentally was representing us in the NDDC Senate Committee at the time. The workers came with their tools, including Bulldozers, and other equipment.
“Few days later after loitering around in our community with no evidence of work done, the workers disappeared with their tools. We later found out that the so called workers appeared in our community ostensibly to give impression to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) team visiting Delta State at the time to investigate some NDDC abandoned projects that work was in progress.
“We were also told that the road contract was awarded many times from 2015, but that in 2015, in particular, the Sum of N245 million was collected for the temporary repairs of Ubulu-Uku -Onicha-ugbo road. We want the EFCC to step in and investigate the NDDC in respect of this allegation.
“Few years ago, we also saw a sign post bearing World Bank project. We saw some white men accompanied by some of our people in the LGA, who came and started doing some measurements on the road.
“As it turned out to be, we became confused as we did not know what is really happening. More so, the State Government at a time told a group of Journalists that they have put the road project in the 2020 budget. We are still in confusion of who and what to believe. As successive governments have abandoned us to our fate, we decided to resort to self efforts.
“Over the years, we have spent millions of naira in sandfilling the road, during the dry season, but once the first rain comes, it washes off the sand and we will come back to square one. But that notwithstanding, every dry season, we task ourselves to sandfill the road to enable our children in the diaspora to come home for Christmas and New year celebrations. That is the reason we always bury our dead ones only during dry season. But the bad news is that the first rain will always wash away the sand we bought with millions.
“We have written to the appropriate quarters, even published in the Newspapers, yet there has not been any response from anywhere, except from the Aniocha South LGA, under the able leadership of Pastor Jude Chukwuwike, who gave us succour, when he sandfilled the road for us in the year 2021 and our children were able to visit home in large numbers.
“Unfortunately, all his efforts were washed away by the flood soon, as rain came. We know that the road is beyond what the LGA can do, hence Hon. Chukwuwike would have done it for us. We thank him for the good job that he is doing in the LGA.
“However, we were told that through his vision for road network, the State Government, under the leadership of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, put the Ubulu-Uku -Onicha-ugbo road into the 2022 budget. Sir, we are appealing to you to come to our rescue by giving the road a face lift.
However, we also use this medium to appeal to the World Bank, Federal Government of Nigeria, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, the State Government, to come to our rescue before we are totally exterminated. As currently evident, some of us use ladders to climb into our compound. The erosion and flood have continued to wreak havoc on us and our properties.
“We are specifically calling on the NDDC to wade into the road contract scam. We also call on the EFCC, under the leadership of Abdulrasheed Bawa, to reopen its’ file on the investigation on the road project.
“We also want to call on the People Democratic Party Presidential flag bearer, Mr Atiku Abubakar, to prevail on his running mate, Senator Okowa, to do the needful and repair the road and write his name in gold. We have been voting for the PDP since democracy and we have over 6,000 eligible voters who have acquired their PVCs. We shall make a statement soon, concerning our preferred choice of candidate for the presidential and Governorship candidates for the 2023 General elections and our choice will be determined by the governments action on the deplorable state of Ubulu-Uku-Onicha-Ugbo road. It is not a threat, but without mincing words, we shall be making a categorical statement. We want to remind our dear aspirants that our votes must count this time around because we have seriously enlightened our people, including the youths on how best to use their PVCs this time around”, Osaji explained.
On his own, the Alo of Ubulu-Uku, Chief Alfred Mordi- Ojulubi, said, “Without mincing words, some workers from the NDDC, had met us in the palace while in a crucial meeting that they were sent by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and told us that they would start the road construction. We were happy and told them to commence work.
“They came with bulldozers and other equipment. They dug small gutter and disappeared from 2019 till today. That is why we are calling on the NDDC and World Bank to come to our rescue, while we call on the EFCC and other relevant agencies to investigate Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, his workers and all those who ate the money and bring them to book.”
A retired School Principal, Mr Jacob Ofune, said the community had made several attempts to draw the attention of the State Government, but all to no avail. We are appealing to Senator Okowa, NDDC, World Bank and other relevant agencies to come to our rescue. I have a car, but it is trapped. All the retirees and elders here with us can’t go to their farms or Banks. We are trapped at home. We know that our son, Okowa, will soon wind up as the Governor of the State, but there is still opportunity to help. If our son can’t do the road, I wonder if a stranger will do it for us.”
Comrade Christopher Oji said the road is an eyesore, insisting that, “we shall make statement with our PVCs. We have suffered enough and enough is enough. We have been subjected to torture by successive governments, that is why we will be speaking to our people on who to vote for come 2023. We have over 10,000 people with PVCs, both at home and in different parts of Nigeria. We are an indivisible family devoid of politics, when fighting for our rights.
“We are communicating and we shall make categorical statement on who to vote for. The repairs of this road will determine who we shall vote for. When someone dies in our community, it is a big problem, because the community will start contributing money to sandfill the road. Just yesterday, someone broke his legs. Few weeks ago, another person broke his legs, limps and tongue. This is what we are hearing on weekly basis, yet we have a government. What then are we benefiting from the governments?” Orji queried.
About the Author
Anthony Awunor, is a business correspondent who holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Linguistics (UNILAG). He is also an alumnus of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria Kaduna State. He lives in Lagos.