By Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor
Some readers reacted very angrily to how public funds are wasted/stolen through the various governmentsâ€™ abandoned projects and equipments all over the country.
A few of these readers believe that the only thing that can stop this practice is if the people who initiated the contracts and also the contractors,Â are prosecuted and jailed.
â€˜Hi Helen. Thanks for your write-up on abandoned projects.Â Nobody seems to care a hoot.Â All weâ€™re concerned about is second term/tenure.Â Whatever happened to the textiles factories, steel rolling mills, fertilizer plants, newsprint manufacturing companies, etc.Â Nobody talks of uplifting the manufacturing sector to create employment and grow the economy.
Until the petrol dollar is no longer accessible, abandoned projects will continue to dot the landscape. – Dickson, Enuguâ€™
â€˜Mrs. Ovbiagele, thanks for drawing attention to this terrible ill in our society.Â Abandoned projects and equipments should embarrass us if weâ€™re a forward-looking country that want to be respected by the enlightened world.Â What those who rule at any given time are concerned about is to accumulate wealth and acquire power.
We squabble over silly things like the federal character, which in my opinion is a retrogressive way of appointing people.Â Bring out a list of people appointed by government for anything, and people will get their pencils and start marking those who come from this state, local government, or this religion or the other.Â We should be embarrassed about abandoned projects and equipments, and other things which bring the nation down.
It shouldnâ€™t matter the tribe, religion, or ethnic group of the people in power.Â What should matter is the ability, integrity, and accountability to perform.Â When people are appointed on the basis of federal character, they feel itâ€™s the agenda of those who â€˜struggledâ€™ to get them appointed that they are there to carry out; not to serve the nation.
So, they give out contracts without any adequate thought,Â to compensate these people for their efforts, and those ones are not committed to executing those contracts at all, or executing them well.Â They collect money for the entire project and vanish into thin air. No-one pursues them for a refund, even where thereâ€™s been an outcry.Â Â Itâ€™s a very sorry case, madam.Â The world is watching us. Thanks.Â Â Jerry, Benin City.â€™
Helen, only a revolution can stop us behaving like idiots to the merriment and amusement of the entire world.Â Where you have rulers with integrity, there would be no abandoned projects or equipments.Â Why?Â Because, you donâ€™t just wake up and start a project in a sane country.
There has to be a need for the project and you have to look into your purse to find out if you can afford it.Â Â Then you put out tenders and go through the laid down proceedure for awarding contracts and appoint those transparently capable, with a good track record.
Some viable and responsible companies can even start the project without a mobilization fee, provided periods of payment are mapped out and agreed upon legally.Â You pay as each stage is completed.Â Even where thereâ€™s a mobilization fee, work is inspected at the various stages, and work done must be approved before going on to the next stage.
If there are repairs to be done they are done before you proceed again. In Nigeria, those who give out the contract collect their ten per cent right at the beginning, and this is why money for the entire work is sometimes paid before the work starts.Â After this, your guess is as good as mine.Â Yes, the work could be abandoned at any stage and no-one cares. – Yemmy, Lagos.â€™
â€˜Sister Helen, to stem the tide of abandoned projects, government should facilitate house ownership by giving housing loans to their workers at single digit rate with their original certificates as collateral.Â Besides, the privatization of NITEL and PHCN is long overdue.Â Nevertheless, those responsible for abandoned projects should be identified and punished. – Layi.â€™
â€˜Madam, who ordered those equipments for MTEL which are now rotting away/Â Just imagine the sort of country we live in.Â I was one of those, who with the interest of my country at heart, purchase an MTEL handset.Â Â I didnâ€™t want my money going into the hands of foreign investors, but wanted it to benefit my own country.Â My disappointment was great when MTEL failed woefully.
And now, thanks to the media, we know that equipments to upgrade their facilities and bring them up to the level of performance of the foreign telecomms were actually ordered andÂ brought into the country!Â Â Why werenâ€™t they installed?
Sabotage in favour of a foreign telecomms?Â Â It is alleged that even these equipments are now obsolete.Â Come on, my country people!Â Â The gsm came into the country only in 2001, and those equipments were alleged to have been brought in almost immediately.Â Does it mean that the MTEL people or their contractors purchased obsolete equipment in the first place?
Iâ€™m not an expert in these things, but I doubt if they would be obsolete now if they were modern and new at the time they were bought.Â Maybe there would have been need for modifications and some upgrading, but not that everything would be obsolete now.Â Same thing with air tower equipment and hospital equipment brought in and never installed.Â Madam, donâ€™t you think we should begin to do something drastic to those who waste public funds this way? – Fury, Ibadanâ€™
â€˜Sister Helen, I empathize with you on abandoned projects issue, but the initiators are usually the accounting officer, by proxy, the contractor.Â Â Have we ever sent anybody to jail for abuse of office since 1999? – Adebisi, Kaduna.â€™
Madam, as long as we allow round pegs to be put in square holes in public service, there will always be abandoned projects in this country.Â When you donâ€™t qualify, either by your credentials or integrity and spirit of accountability to occupy a position, you wonâ€™t know your right from your left, and anyone can come sell a project to you.Â Â You would accept on sentiment, and you and your office would be used to siphon public money into private pockets with nothing on the ground to show for it.
Someone who qualifies to occupy a position would have a sense of responsibility and accountability to choose only essential projects, and would see that they are executed effectively.Â Â Thanks, Babs, Agege, Lagos.â€™
â€˜Madam Ovbiagele, when the government at all levels start prosecuting and jailing those behind abandoned projects, be they still in office or not, there would be a drastic reduction in the act, and eventually, it would die out.Â Even a mere six-month jail term is enough to check these excesses.â€™
We thank all those who wrote in.