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 US Dollars, under the control of Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority, Naze, Owerri, both indigenes and non indigenes of the area shedded tears of joy that they would soon fetch water from the facility at their door steps.
But alas! the dream was shattered as even after more millions of naira was sunk into the project, after Babangida administration’s exit and till date, there is nothing to show for it. Like an Igbo adage which says that a dog does not eat a bone hung in its neck, some hoodlums suspected to be working under government parastatals, out of criminal and selfish intention, allegedly vandalized all the installations, set it ablaze and ensured that the project could not be completed.
According to reliable sources, Nigeria has over 200 hydro projects spread across the nation yet non of them could generate and supply uninterrupted electricity. This is as a result of the alleged rampant vandalization of government installations by the same government officials.
According to a community source, during the regime of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the aggrieved host community petitioned him, demanding that the project should be completed and made to become operational and consequently, Obasanjo doled out another N850 million, outside the $36 million Dollars originally mapped out for the project, for the installation of Hydro-electric components of the water scheme for water reticulation.
Again, the contractors allegedly repainted the water basin, used water tankers to fill up the concrete basin with water from Imo River and invited Obasanjo to commission the project at about 8.15 p.m.
After the commissioning ceremony, Obasanjo, at the last days of his tenure, suspected that the contractors might have fooled him and directed the then minister of Water Resources to go and find out the true position and on arrival, the Minister was said to have discovered to his chagrin that the concrete basin was not only empty, but non functional.
Further more, the host community petitioned President Yar’Adua who doled out another N650 million to complete the project but unfortunately, the fund went into the grave with Yar’Adua from where it was drained through the conduit pipe.
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 Imo State Water Corporation and the Imo State Water Board which have management authority over the Amuro water scheme.
The community confirmed that up till date, the water scheme could not be completed after all the monies sunk into it by the federal government, because of the criminal activities of the contractors in collaboration with the officials of Imo state water board, accusing some fraudulent state water board officials of sending some vandals who from time to time, had exchange of gun fire with the community vigilante operatives, shortly after leading the delegation to Ekweremadu.
According to Prince Muo, it is regrettable that top government functionaries sponsor and fund vandalization 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 to escape criminal justice sanction.
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 vandalization, arsonists suspected to have been sent by the same government officials, set the administrative block of the water installation ablaze on December 24, 2015 and ever since then, the police investigation has been swept under the carpet with administrative silence.
Muo stated that it was more worrisome that the report of the federal fire service on the December 24, 2015 fire disaster at the administrative block of the water scheme showed that the fire was ignited when some Amuro indigenes went into the premises to hunt for bush rats, adding that it is ironic that the community which does not eat bush rats as a matter of tradition are being falsely accused of hunting for the rants to the extent of setting the valuable water scheme ablaze.
Muo therefore appealed to the Minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Dambazzau to publish federal fire service department investigation report of Amuro Okigwe water works fire disaster of December 24, 2015, so as to trigger of thorough investigations by the appropriate authorities because those involved in the arson and vandalization 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 whereabout of three sets of vandals who the community vigilante operatives apprehended, 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 come and complete the project, despite of all odds, 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.