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Cross River community decries abandonment of ₦297.7m NDDC road project

By Archibong Jeremiah

Residents of Ayeabam community in Akamkpa local government area in Southern Cross River State, are suffering due to an unfinished road project awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2014 and the Cross River Basin Development Authority (CRBDA) in 2021. Both contractors abandoned the project, and NDDC violated the Public Procurement Act of 2007, TheInvestigator uncovered.

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on Wednesday, 24th September 2014, contracted Bayou La Batre Ltd to construct the Ayeabam-Awi road in Akamkpa local  government area of Cross River State valued at ₦248,435,000.

On the NDDC website, the contract is listed as a completed project, but an investigation by this digital newspaper reveals otherwise.

Apart from lying that the project was completed, TheInvestigator established that NDDC violated section 16, sub 6(i) of the Public Procurement Act of 2007 in the contract awarded to Bayou La Batre Ltd.

The company was registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on Valentine’s Day, 14th of February 2012, its registration number is RC 1010063, and the directors are Ozigbu Johnbosco, Arigbodi Richardson, and Amangala George.

It was incorporated for “petroleum products sales and distribution” services.
Engaging it in constructing the Ayeabam-Awi road in Akamkpa violates section 16, sub 6(i) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 which mandates that a bidder must have “professional and technical qualifications to carry out particular procurements.”

Secondly, the company got the contract two years after incorporation which is not in line with the Public Procurement Act of 2007 that envisages that all contract-seeking entities would have been filing returns and paying tax, among other obligations, for three years prior by providing a tax clearance certificate.

Tax clearance for 3 years is sacrosanct, a mandatory document required for review and certification, not operating for three years.

Cross River community decries abandonment of ₦297.7m NDDC road project

 

An on-the-spot road assessment by TheInvestigator shows that Bayou La Batre Ltd abandoned the ₦248,435,000 project halfway. It began from the Mbarakom junction by the highway and ended at the stream that divides Awi and Ayeabam
communities.

Second Company Also Abandons Project

To complete the half-job done by Bayou La Batre Ltd the Cross River Basin Development Authority contracted Bluecream Investment Limited in 2021.

Rt. Hon. Daniel Asuquo, also known as Dansuki, a Member who represented the Akamkpa/Biase Federal constituency in the House of Representatives until 2023 facilitated the contract as his constituency project.

Records from GovSpend, an analytics site designed to give user-friendly access to information on daily spending at all levels of government show that Bluecream Investment Limited was paid ₦49,280,231.38 for the construction of internal roads in the Ayeabam community – ₦40,316,743.88 was paid on 26th July 2021, and ₦8,963,487.50 on the 15th of July, 2022.

Cross River community decries abandonment of ₦297.7m NDDC road project

At least Bayou La Batre Ltd did more than 55% of its job but Bluecream Investment Limited fell short of that because it abandoned the project in an early stage.

Bluecream Investment Limited graded the road, poured a stone base, and provided gutters from Ayeabam junction in the Awi section of the Calabar-Ikom highway, and ended close to the Government Secondary School.

Two years after receiving the second tranche of payment the company has not returned to the site, leaving the community residents to suffer.

The CAC incorporated Bluecream Investment Limited on 30th June 2000, and the registration number is RC 384030 while the directors are Alice John Ikpeme, Nene Ikpeme Asuquo, and Effiong Asuquo.

The Impact And Call For Action

As a result of the abandonment, Ayeabam residents are left to suffer because the road’s unfinished state is leading to difficulty in using the Ayeabam axis of the road.

Residents face difficulties in commuting and transporting goods due to the poor road conditions. Businesses in the area also suffer due to limited accessibility and potential increase in transportation costs.

Speaking to TheInvestigator residents called for quick intervention from the
procuring entities.

Mr Ebin Okon Ita, Youth Secretary of Ayeabam community said the state of the road makes him feel bad and the contractor should be made to return to the site.

He said, “The contractor should come back to the site because the state in which they left the road is worse than when we were managing it.”

Pleading, the Youth Secretary said “Our plea to the government is that there should be a modality such that if a contractor is going to carry out any contract in a community he should first meet the community and let us know the designs and dimensions of the project so that we also will monitor the job.

“It is our own, if the government has remembered us we have so many communities and it remembers a community like ours it is not something that the contractor will come and do a shallow job believing that we don’t have anybody who will question them,” Mr Ebin said.

Furthermore, he enunciated “It makes me feel bad because these contracts are awarded through the politicians that we voted to go and represent us. My message to them is that, as the representative of the people, there is no way you can share money with every individual in this community but everybody can benefit from this
road.”

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Sharing some of the challenges the unfinished road posed he said “People have been having serious injuries from this road because of the bad nature. Whatever the government has given to you to take to your people please do it with all amount of sincerity.”

Relatively, Mr Joseph Itanjok also called for the contractor to return to the site, soliciting that to ensure compliance with standards, community members should be part of the contractors’ team.

He said “From the look of things, we need a real hand that will assist us to make sure the road is awarded and worked according to standard. We beg the people handling this project to see how they can facilitate the project to completion.”

Mr Itanjok revealed “Now we use our manpower to see how we can fix it to a manageable state, without using our manpower we wouldn’t have the possibility of moving the way we do.

“From the look of things, in one way or the other they embezzled the money. When they are sending contractors the CSO should come from the community so that they will insist on standards but when there is nobody from the community they will do what they like.”

Government Should Not Be Praised For Road Construction – Ukeme

The Cross River State Coordinator of We The People, Ukeme-Obong Ekong berated the procuring entity for failing to deliver on the project. She noted that the government does not need praise when they do their job because it is their social contract with the people.

Her words “When government do roads it's not something anybody should clap for any government. This is the responsibility of every government, what they signed in their social contract, this is the right of the people to have access to good motorable roads so that they can have access to market for their products. It is giving your citizens an enabling environment they need, to enable them to go about their day-to-day activities.”

She called on citizens to be more conscious about government projects around them. “There is no point for the government to come up with policies it cannot keep. Citizens need to understand that when these contracts are awarded they should be in the know.”

Ukeme-Obong urged the government at all levels to ensure they adhere to the provisions of the procurement law.

NDDC, CRBDA, And Facilitator Can’t Explain

An FOI request dated 24th of March 2024 asking for details of the contracts was made by TheInvestigator to the Managing Directors of Niger Delta Development Commission and Cross River Basin Development Authority, Dr Samuel Ogbuku and Engr. Bassey Nkposong respectively.

They did not respond within 7 working days after receipt of the request as required by the FOI Act.

NDDC’s contact number available on its website, +(012) 345 6789 was called severally but could not receive calls. Another request was made through the website contact form. Still, TheInvestigator has yet to get a response from NDDC regarding why they awarded the contract in procurement violation and why the project was abandoned.

The Spokesperson for the Cross River Basin Development Authority, Dr Jackson John was contacted over his official line 08185461116 by TheInvestigator on Friday, 29th March 2024, he gave this reporter an appointment for Tuesday, 2nd April 2024, where he asked for a fresh copy of the FOI requesting for information about the contract.

Between Friday 29th March to 9th May 2024, the Spokesperson for the Cross River Basin Development Authority and TheInvestigator spoke on eight (8) different occasions, and the FOI is yet to be responded to.

The facilitator of the second phase of the project, Rt. Hon. Daniel Asuquo, until 2023 represented the Akamkpa/Biase Federal constituency in the House of Representatives. He was mailed on 7th April 2024, to provide details of the contract and answers to why it stalled, but it went unanswered.

WhatsApp messages were also sent and delivered, but TheInvestigator received no response. He was called over 5 times and didn’t take or return the
calls.

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TheInvestigator produced this story through its Environmental and Accountability Reporting  (EAR) project with support from CITAD and the MacArthur Foundation.

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