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Imo community cries out as hoodlums vandalise, burn $36m water scheme

*Wants FG to complete project, bring vandals and their sponsors to book

By Nwabueze Okonkwo, Onitsha

When General Ibrahim Babangida’s military regime flagged off a contract for the construction of a gigantic water scheme at Amuro Community in Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo State, at the cost of $36 million, under the control of Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority, Naze, Owerri, both indigenes and non-indigenes of the area shed tears of joy.

But their joy was short-lived, as years after with millions of naira sunk into the project, there is nothing to show for it till date. Sources in the area claim that the project has remained uncompleted because hoodlums suspected to be working for some unscrupulous government officials allegedly vandalized all the installations there before setting the place ablaze.

According to a community source, during the regime of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the aggrieved host community petitioned him, demanding that the project be completed and made operational. In response to this, the Federal Government was said to have released N850 million for the installation of hydro-electric components of the water scheme for water reticulation.

•Vandalised and burnt multi-million naira Amuo Okigwe water scheme
•Vandalised and burnt multi-million naira Amuo Okigwe water scheme

Again, the contractors allegedly repainted the water basin, used water tankers to fill up the concrete basin with water from the Imo River and invited Obasanjo to commission the project. But after the commissioning ceremony, Obasanjo, who suspected all was not well, directed the then Minister of Water Resources to go and find out the true position of things. On arrival, the Minister was said to have discovered to his chagrin that the concrete basin was not only empty, but non-functional.

Furthermore, the host community petitioned the late President Umaru Yar’Adua who also doled out N650 million to complete the project. Again nothing concrete came out of this.

The community disclosed that in 2015, Prince Christopher Muo, son of Eze Muonago of Amuro, petitioned the Federal Government on behalf of the community and even made representations to Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President and intimated him of what they termed as systematic criminal stripping of the water scheme by officials of government who have management authority over the Amuro water scheme.

The community confirmed that till date, the water scheme could not be completed after all the monies sunk into it because of the criminal activities of vandals.

According to Prince Muo, it is regrettable that top government functionaries sponsor and fund vandalisation of national infrastructures such as the Amuro water scheme, adding that in most cases, the police are fingered at aiding armed vandals who are apprehended after a gun duel with community vigilante operatives.

Muo contended that on April 23, 2015, Solomon Biere Ndukwe, the Amuro community security operative whose statement indicted tin gods at the Imo State Water Board died under questionable circumstances, adding that not yet done with the series of vandalism, arsonists suspected to have been sent by same government officials, set the administrative block of the water installation ablaze on December 24, 2015, while the police investigation into the incident has since been swept under the carpet.

Muo also dismissed as laughable the report of the Federal Fire Service on the fire at the administrative block of the water scheme which claimed that it was ignited when some Amuro indigenes went into the premises to hunt for bush rats. He added that it is inconceivable that the community which does not eat bush rats as a matter of tradition and culture, is being falsely accused of hunting for rats and setting the valuable water scheme ablaze.

Muo therefore appealed to the Minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Dambazzau to publish the Federal Fire Service department investigation report of Amuro Okigwe water works fire disaster of December 24, 2015, so as to trigger off a thorough investigations by the appropriate authorities because those involved in the arson and vandalism are bent on concealing their atrocities which resulted in rendering the multi-billion naira water scheme non-functional.

He also called on the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, to publish the police investigation report on the whereabouts of the vandals apprehended by the community vigilante operatives and handed over to policemen at the Divisional Police Headquarters, Okigwe but who had disappeared after being granted bail by the Okigwe Police Division.

He further called on the Federal Government to initiate a process of completing the project, particularly now that the project consultant and presently the vice-chairman of Powtech Group Limited, Abuja, Goddy Duru-Oguzie, has accepted to work with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and any other contractor the ministry will engage to resuscitate the project.

Reacting to the development, the Head of Fire Service Investigation Unit of the Federal Fire Service. Abuja Headquarters, Mr. Adebukola Orimoguyi who confirmed the fire incident at the water scheme, said he concluded his investigations and handed over to the Comptroller-General of Federal Fire Service.

Orimoguyi who spoke on phone, said although he was the head of the investigation team, it is the responsibility of the Comptroller-General to brief the press about the result of the incident.

Also commenting on the incident, the Imo State Police Public Relations Officer, Andrew Enwerem, told newsmen on phone that he was not yet aware of the incident, adding that he needed some time to make inquiries to find out whether some vandals and arsonists were actually apprehended and handed over to the police at Okigwe Division and the role the authorities there played.

All efforts to get in touch with authorities of Imo state Water Corporation, proved abortive as all phone calls put across to them were not successful.

 


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