By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
THE Commissioner representing Ijaw ethnic nationality on the Board of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Chief Favour Izoukumor, has described as fallacious the pervasive contention that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was ripping off oil communities in the state on mandatory allocation to the development agency.
Chief Izoukumor, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, also cleared the air on the notion that the commission was on its last legs since Okowa came on board, saying that contrarily, DESOPADEC has been repositioned for greater efficiency.
He, however, noted that “depletion in oil revenue and production output also slowed down the activities of the commission during the economic recession.”
Referring to the fleecing charge, he said: “This is absolutely not true; the governor usually releases the 50 percent to the commission based on his receipt of the 13 per cent derivation fund, which was abysmally low in the recession regime, which also affected the revenue allocation to the commission.”
“However, as oil production and price appreciated, more funds were also allocated to the commission which eventually resulted to the paying of DESOPADEC contractors on monthly basis which has drastically reduced DESOPADEC debt profile.
“More so, the current board is doing everything possible to fulfill her mandate through transparency and accountability, so no issue of siphoning of funds associated with this current board,” he said.
Izoukumor asserted: “For your information and the interest of the public, DESOPADEC is not moribund nor is it existing in name only, rather it is much more active in fulfilling its interventionist roles to the oil producing communities in Delta State. Some People may only feel so probably because less number of projects are now being sited to communities and awarded to few contractors compared to what it was in the past due to paucity of fund caused by the economic recession witnessed in the country.”
“This is premised on the fact that the current DESOPADEC board is geared towards keying into the Governor Okowa’s Smart agenda by ensuring that all ongoing projects inherited by the current board should be completed rather than awarding new projects that might likely suffer completion as well.
Why projects were not awarded for 2 years
“As a result of this, the commission for over two years refused to award new projects but rather deployed all available resources for the completion of ongoing projects in the various oil producing communities and this has eventually led to the completion and commissioning of several projects appeared to have been uncompleted in the past,:” he added.
On the claim that the commission was infested with financial malpractices, the commissioner said: “To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware that in the past, the commission’s financial transactions did not follow laid-down financial regulations.”
He, however, stated: “Our amiable governor is very much concerned with the activities of DESOPADEC with a view to ensuring better performance in its interventionist role. Hence, immediately when he was sworn-in as governor, he proposed a bill to the Delta State House of Assembly to restructure the composition of the board to promote transparency, accountability and prudent financial management in the cause of delivering its statutory responsibilities to the mandate areas of the commission, which the DTHA passed into law that is operational till date.”
Okowa’s interest in DESOPADEC
“Consequently, before any dime is spent, the management team proposes cash budgeting to the board for deliberation and scrutiny before approval and then the management team will still forward it to the governor for further scrutiny before final approval. The governor also takes it as a point of responsibility to carefully and meticulously dissect the appropriation bill of the commission before assenting. Also, he takes special interest to see that the budgets of the commission are implemented accordingly,” he said.
My report card
Izoukumor, who gave himself a pass mark, told Saturday Vanguard: “No doubt, more value as been added to the oil producing communities in my mandate areas in terms of projects execution and completion as well as youths and women empowerment. For instance, apart from budgetary projects, projects such as renovation of primary schools at Kokodiagbene, Lagos Junction and Ijansa primary schools, donation of two 300 KVA transformers to Ogbe-Ijoh town, construction of concrete walkway linking Ogbudugbudu and Ogbinbiri communities, construction of concrete walkway at Ogonoama Zion, Polobubor in Warri South West and Warri North Local Government Areas respectively were embarked upon and completed as part of community relations fund to my mandate area.”
He added: “Also, three major projects such as sand-filling/reclamation at Ijansa, five units of four bedroom bungalows at Okerenkoko and construction of concrete footbridge and construction of concrete walkway at Tsekelewu were embarked upon and completed under the centralized budget of DESOPADEC, which have never been the case in time past. All these are not part of the various projects sited and awarded recently to Ijaw oil and gas producing communities and contractors that cut across Burutu, Patani, Bomadi, Warri South West and Warri North local government areas.
The projects, according to him, include supply of speed boats to Ijaw communities, supply of medical equipment to Forcados and Torugbene towns , supply of school desk to Ijaw communities, construction of hostel at Kokodiagbene(ongoing), construction of hostel at Isaba Grammer School (ongoing),construction of Ajuju concrete jetty(completed), construction of Eniebogbene jetty (phase 1)completed, construction of Naifor jetty (phase 1)completed, construction of Ogbe-Ijoh slipway (ongoing), construction of shore-wall at salvation city (completed), construction of twins two bedrooms bungalow at Eweregbene (ongoing), construction of solar water at Buloama community (completed), Diebiri-Batan electrification(phase 1) completed, Renovation of Igade primary school, Batan (ongoing) and renovation of Ekpebide primary, Ogulagha (ongoing).
Others are construction of town hall at Obotobo (ongoing), construction of market at Odimodi (ongoing), construction of twins bungalow at Forcados (ongoing),Construction of twins bungalow at Igrangbene almost completed, Gbaramatu Trust Fund(Modular Refinery) ongoing, construction of concrete landing Jetty, Okrika(ongoing), construction of Exam Hall In Sanctus Rosarium Catholic School, Patani(ongoing), supply of medical equipment to PHC at Kpakiama(ongoing), construction of slipway at Ogbinbiri Waterside(ongoing), construction of walkway at Azama Zion, Opuama(ongoing), interlocking of Roads In Benikrukru (ongoing), Construction of Model Secondary school, Ogulagha ( almost completed) amongst others. Moreso , women and youths are empowered which are numbering over 400 persons across the oil producing communities in my mandate area.”
Runaway contractors back to site
Commenting on unexecuted and abandoned projects in Ijaw communities before he came on board, the commissioner disclosed: “Actually when I assumed office there were some projects in my mandate area that were somewhat abandoned while others reflected that level of job execution is not commensurate to the funds released to such contractors.”
“But the good news now is that we have engaged such contractors constructively and they have gone back to continue their projects and some of such projects have already been completed now. The problem was not totally the fault of the contractors but also the paucity of funds in the commission for contractor’s payment.
“However, that does not take away the fact that there were also some lazy contractors among them but today they have all been made to go back for their projects execution as more money has also been released for their payment,” he said.
Commission on course
Izoukumor revealed that due the commitment of the board to the governor’s SMART agenda, it now releases 25 per cent mobilization funds to all contractors that mobilized to site, which “has eventually lead to the speedy completion of most of the projects awarded recently.”
He disagreed that oil communities in the state has lost hope in the commission, saying: “For me, nobody in the oil producing communities in my mandate area has actually lost hope in DESOPADEC or in the current dispensation, rather the feedback from the communities clearly indicates that they are happy that things are now done more correctly than it used to be.”
In his opinion, “The commission is on course hence, contractors who were having running battles with banks over credit loans are today having full relief as a result of the continuous payment and more projects in the same vein which were somewhat abandoned are now completed in my mandate area.”