Re: Anambra: The limits of propaganda
I HAD the opportunity to read the piece titled, “Anambra: The limits of propaganda”, written by Mr. Chudi Offodile, a politician of the PDP stock, though a legal practitioner by training, from Anambra State.
I feel constrained, having been involved in the government of His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, Governor of Anambra State, from its inception, to correct some of the fallacies contained in the write-up of Mr. Offodile.
I must concede to Mr. Offodile the right to assess and even criticize the performance of Mr. Obi as Governor of Anambra State. However, for such assessment or criticism to be constructive, it must be based on verifiable facts or data and not on rumours and speculations. I shall address a few of the issues raised and canvassed by Mr. Offodile in his piece from my personal knowledge, as someone who has been involved, in order to show that his conclusions are unfounded.
On the issue of SABMiller Brewery at Onitsha, Mr. Offodile did not in fact refute the claim that this facility was attracted to Anambra State by Mr. Obi. His quarrel, however, seems to be centered on “the rumour making rounds in the State concerning the ownership of 22% of SABMiller shares,” which rumour, he expects the Governor to address. With due respect to Mr. Offodile, who incidentally is a lawyer, it is not the business of the Governor of Anambra State to address rumours on a matter which is in the public domain.
It is elementary that the share ownership of every company is public information domiciled with the Corporate Affairs Commission, which can be obtained by any person on request. The ownership structure of any company should not therefore be the subject of rumours. I am aware, however, that due process and utmost transparency was observed in setting up the ownership structure of the company. All the share holders are known corporate entities and no shares are held in an assumed name. If Mr. Offodile made the effort to conduct a search at the Corporate Affairs Commission, I have no doubt that the result will dissipate his concerns regarding the alleged rumours.
Further on this point, the SABMiller Brewery which undoubtedly was attracted to the State by Mr. Obi is a facility of $100 million which will create thousands of direct and indirect employment and whose business activities will impact positively on the economy of the State. Quite honestly, I think Mr. Offodile ought to have found space in his write-up to commend Mr. Obi for this outstanding feat.
On Orient Petroleum Plc, again Mr. Offodile did not dispute the fact that the government of Mr. Obi has invested heavily in the company. His grouse, most strangely, seems to be that it was not Governor Obi that conceptualized the setting up of the company, but Dr. Mbadinuju. I agree that Dr. Mbadinuju conceptualized the setting up of the company when as governor of Anambra State, he constituted an Oil and Gas Committee for the State. For that foresight, I commend Dr. Mbadinuju.
I am, however, baffled as to the crime Mr. Obi committed on seeing a good concept of a previous administration and building on it. I was privileged to have served as the Company Secretary to Orient Petroleum Plc and I have no doubt that the heavy investment of Anambra State Government under Mr. Obi contributed in no small measure to the successes which this company has recorded so far.
By God’s grace, Anambra State will soon join the league of oil producing states, thanks to the undaunting efforts of the company and the unflinching support of Mr. Obi. I would not want to believe that Mr. Offodile is advocating that Governor Obi should have turned his back on Orient Petroleum Plc because it was not conceptualized by him. It is to me a mark of good governance for an administration to continue with worthwhile and beneficial projects inherited from previous administrations. From Mr. Offodile’s showing, that is what Gov. Obi has done with projects like Orient Petroleum, Anambra State University, Women Development Centre, etc.
Mr. Offodile raised the issue of transparency and due process in the award of contracts, using the Onitsha Hotel and Convention Centre as a case in point. As the former Chairman of the State Tenders Board, I can, with due modesty vouch that due process has always been observed in the award of contracts in the State. The State Tenders Board was also made up of persons of integrity, such as the former Commissioners for Justice, Works, Public Utilities, Science and Technology as well as Youth and Sports. I must make the point that due process in the award of contracts include open, selective and negotiated tender processes.
Government employed any of these tender processes depending on the nature of the contract and other relevant considerations of particular projects. Government also availed the Board a team of consultants made up of quantity surveyors and civil engineers who made needed technical inputs to guide and assist the Board.
Again, in compliance with due process, all contracts which required Executive Council approval were religiously presented to the Council for its consideration. Indeed, even after obtaining the Council’s approval, the Governor in some cases was able to prevail on some contractors to further reduce the cost of projects before the contract documents were signed.
On the particular case of the Hotel and Convention Centre project at Onitsha, I will demonstrate that Mr. Offodile again failed to verify the story he heard regarding the project. The contract was awarded to Constain (WA) Plc for the sum of N5,599,625,670.12. At the time the contract award was approved, the State Executive Council directed that the project be scaled down by removing one floor in the hotel and reducing sitting capacity of the convention centre from 800 to 700 so as to further reduce the cost of the project.
After the project had been downsized as directed by Council, Constain (WA) Plc for inexplicable reason and contrary to government expectation submitted a fresh bid of N8,063,282,213.87 as its new cost for the project. The company was invited to a meeting at which it insisted that its final tender figure for the project was N8 billion. This of course amounted to a fresh offer, which government rejected.
Following the above development, the tender process for the project was started afresh and this time, the project was phased, starting with the hotel and external works only. Four companies tendered, namely: Interkel Nigeria Limited, Brunnel Limited, Akiota, Works Limited and Formwork Limited
At the end of the tender process, the contract for the hotel and external works was awarded to Akiota Works Limited at the contract sum of N1,980,000,000 and work is presently progressing satisfactorily. Mr. Offodile asserted that due to lack of due process, serious companies avoid working in Anambra State, but nothing can be further from the truth than that.
To mention just a few, R.C.C. Ltd, CCC Ltd, Nigercat Ltd which are very reputable companies are engaged in various projects in Anambra State today.
Mr. PETER AFUBA is a former Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Town Planning in Anambra State