By Adeola Adenuga
The Special Committee set up by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to ensure speedy completion of work on the 15 soil erosion and flood control projects in the South-East states has concluded the first phase of its assignment; with inspection visit to eight ecological projects in Imo and Anambra States.
The presidential team, headed by the Director-General of Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Engr. Emeka Ezeh, has other members drawn from the Federal Ministries of Environment, Works, Water Resources, Lands and Urban Development, with Mr. Jude Mekwunye, Director Soil Erosion and Flood Control of the Ecological Fund Office, as the Secretary.
The committee’s tasks include inspection of on-going erosion control project sites in the zone, funded by Ecological Fund Office, assessing extent of work done and the capacity of the contractor to deliver on the job. It is also to examine the scope of contract execution in each site, assess the impact and advice on what is needed to mitigate the effects of erosion menace at the sites; as well as assess all other critical ecological situations in the region and make recommendations to the Federal Executive Council.
The team carried out in-depth inspection of all the project sites, asking questions and demanding for documents to ascertain the managerial and financial capabilities of contractors, the professional qualification and competence of consultants, ascertaining the adequacy of project engineering designs and whether or not the respective designs conform to standard engineering practice.
The projects include Nanka/Oko landslide project, the Nkisi Water Works erosion control project in Onisha, the Sakamori/Nwangene Flood Control/Dredging Project also in Onisha, the Okpolo/Ire Ojoto erosion control project in Okpolo Local Government Area and Alor Town Flood control and road improvement project in Idemili Local Government Area all of Anambra State and the Nekede, Saint Kzito Secondary School in Umuchima and the Umuoza- Ugri erosion control projects in Imo state.
Meanwhile Ezeh has emphasized the need for consultants to engage in intensive study of ecological problems in order to come up with knowledge-based engineering design that will stand the test of time. He gave this advice after his committee was told that reclamation work at the Nanka erosion control project site contributed to further aggravation at the Oko axis of the area. He said such problem would have been avoided if a holistic study of the problem had been carried out.
The chairman also hinted that his committee will advise the Federal Government on the need to design a performance bond and insert a clause in project contract agreement that will commit the contractors/consultants to bear the full cost of expenses incurred while indemnifying the Federal Government from all liabilities in event of project failure.
At the Nkisi Water Works, Ezeh expressed dismay that the water project on which the Federal Government has given out contracts on two occasions and released substantial money was abandoned and the facilities allowed to deteriorate, promising that the FG will bring to book those who have short changed the people of the state from enjoying potable water.
The chairman also described as unhelpful a situation where consultants make designs primarily to satisfy money made available, rather than solving a given problem. He was also not happy that the contractor, rather than exporting materials, is importing earth materials from site to sand fill the gully being reclaimed; saying the practice portends grave danger to the structures on ground.
In the meantime, the need to complete the Sakamori soil erosion control project in Onisha has received a boost from Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State who, while accompanying he presidential team to the site, gave a two-week matching order to owners of structures obstructing drains and channels in the are to remove them; failure which they will be demolished. The governor, who said his directive did not exempt churches, business houses and private buildings, assured that there was no going back on the move to restore sanity to Onisha.