-John Okiyi Kalu
12. It is important to note that the World Bank financial intervention in this Ndiegoro project is a loan as against a grant.
The implication is that Abia State Government will pay back the portion of the money invested by the bank on the basis of agreed terms. When you review the debt profile of the state and see a spike, it is because of this project and other necessary similar interventions. It is also wrong for unscrupulous politicians and their hirelings to claim that the project is not a state government project because it is the state government (on behalf of the people of the state) that is ultimately paying while World Bank is only bridging a funding gap.
13. After winning his landslide re-election in 2019, Governor Ikpeazu moved again to get the Ndiegoro project commenced. By the end of that year he received assurances that all was done, dusted and just a matter of few months before the funds would be provided. His government subsequently paid the required counterpart fund as agreed and he smartly paused further work along Port Harcourt Road, which was then state funded, to allow for synchronization of its storm water management plan with that of the World Bank project which is expected to intersect with parts of Port Harcourt Road. Note that not all of Port Harcourt Road fall within the scope of the World Bank project but the storm water management must align to deliver a lasting solution to the Ndiegoro area.
14. In March 2020, the government of Dr Ikpeazu unveiled its total plan for the Ndiegoro area including the following:
a. Reconstruction of Ngwa, Uratta and Obohia Roads as part of the World Bank project.
b. Reconstruction of Ohanku and Cemetery Roads with drains, to be funded by the state government to align drains and also end flooding of Cemetery market, provide good access road along Ohanku Road which was left in a mess by APGA and remains in very terrible state. Those two projects will have drains that will flow into the mega underground drain envisaged with the World Bank project so the pace of work of the state funded projects must align with the emergency project of the global funding institution.
c. Establishment of underground drainage system using a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) for the first time anywhere in Nigeria to ensure that houses along the path of the NEWMAP drainages are not knocked down within the high population density areas of the city.
d. Connection of Ngwa Road to Opobo junction area of Ogbor Hill to ease traffic on waterside bridge which the state government undertook and is funding.
e. Reconstruction of Ngwa Road market in phases to ensure safety and protection of the traders as part of the mega efforts to bring about a new city within the area popularly called “azu Aba” (back of Aba or Aba slum).
15. In May 2020, while the country was battling with COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu announced that the contract for the Aba Emergency Flood Mitigation works for Uratta and Umuagbai flood plains project has been awarded at the contract sum of N27.4b and that work was expected to commence with the leading contractor being Hartland Construction Company, a division of Setraco Construction Company that won the international bidding process supervised by the Workd Bank itself.
16. Recall that in March 2017, the World Bank supervised a transition from “statement of expenditure” (SOE) accounting method to the “interim financial report” (IFR) method. The IFR requires that each state “project management unit(PMU) submits a request for funding based on projections on activities that had received a “No Objection” from the World Bank. Under this “result based disbursement” (RBD) pattern, Abia state NEWMAP like all other state PMUs made a submission which included projections for the Aba Flood Mitigation Works and all on-going/outstanding works. In May 2017 Abia State got $54.4m dollars from this RBD in addition to the replenishment of a little less than $2m already in her account. This money was deposited in the Abia State NEWMAP account. Every expenditure by Abia NEWMAP since May 2017 has been from this account. The World Bank and the Federal Government have audited this account annually till date. The World Bank approved the award of the Uratta and Ndiegoro Flood Mitigation contract based on this fund and have recently noted the balance in the said account and what will be required to complete the project and all outstanding commitments.
17. For emphasis, the fund for the Ndiegoro project had been deposited in a project account which can only be drawn according to agreed milestones with World Bank approval. Indeed, the state government cannot access the money, even if she wants to, as only a “no objection certificate” from the World Bank will authorize the bank to release any part of the fund. With this arrangement, only a criminally minded person will falsely claim that the government misappropriated money from that account.
18. The planned duration of the Aba Emergency Flood Mitigation works is 30 months with the contract signed April 30th, 2020 and the site handed over to the contractor on the 6th of June, 2020.
19. With the raging COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent EndSARS protests, it was not until January 2021 that effective work started along Ngwa and Obohia Roads. The global consequence of the pandemic unfortunately ensured that a key equipment required by the contractors, TBM, which had never been used anywhere in Nigeria before now, couldn’t be imported into the country by the contractors as planned.
20. The original emergency works were designed as underground drainage channels to be constructed by means of open cuts and backfill along sections of Uratta, Port Harcourt, Obohia and Ngwa Roads. This had a huge implication for demolishing of virtually all buildings on both sides of these roads to achieve the required depths for gravity flow. Such demolitions carried grave cost implications for compensations which neither the state government nor the World Bank could bear. To avoid this, the option of using a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) was introduced.
21. The delay by the contractor in acquiring the TBM is subject of recent review by the World Bank project team. The primary issue is the execution of civil works by the contractors appointed by World Bank, Hartland and NBHH of United Arab Emirates. Absolutely nothing about state government mismanagement was on the table or discussed at all as such does not exist. Yet, the direct engagement of Governor Ikpeazu with the World Bank team in Abuja on Thursday smoothened the grey areas and generated alternative courses to deliver the project.
22. For the avoidance of doubt, the World Bank has not terminated the N27.4b contract. Any information to that effect is coming from the same crowd that never wanted the project to take off in the first place just because of their own selfish political reasons.
23. To those who may not know, hence engage in propaganda of spreading fake news and false narratives, each state expresses interest in any multilateral agency intervention according to their needs in writing, then goes on to meet the funding and implementation requirements which include the payment of counterpart funds among others. NEWMAP, RAMP, which is now RAAMP, FADAMA, CSDP, which is now CSDA, ABSACA etc are some of the programs which the state indicated interest in. NEWMAP was literally dying and could not implement any of her civil works until Dr Okezie Ikpeazu came on board and started providing the much-needed counterpart funds for compensation activities. Today there are over 10 of such World Bank assisted programs running in Abia state.
24. Prior to the coming of Governor Ikpeazu in 2015, it was difficult for the state to participate in these programs because of several challenges which the Governor has been able to tackle thus creating the needed room for the programs to flourish in the State.
25. The current efforts being explored by Abia state government in the Ndiegoro project with active support of the World Bank is to find alternative ways of achieving the desired results of evacuating storm water from these flood plains within the time left for NEWMAP as a program to end nationally. The deployment of the Tunnel Boring Machine has been bugged by several de-facto force majeure incidents like the global lockdown due to COVID-19 for the greater part of 2020 and the #EndSARS protests that followed on its heels.
I have taken time to detail all these because of the tendency of professional politicians and political professionals to mislead and obsfucate facts to achieve their anti-Abia political objectives. Indeed, there is nothing I’ve stated here that is not available within the public sphere in the state and only those conspiring to punish the people of Abia State for their political choice in 2015 and 2019 will claim ignorance or attempt to use subterfuge to sabotage the project of the people of the state.
The people of Aba South State Constituency and Ndi Abia in general must now rally round Governor Ikpeazu to reciprocate his goodwill, that of his government and party, the PDP, of focusing on delivering to them in the midst of several attempts at distracting him and sabotaging the Ndiegoro project by those who obviously do not mean well for them and the state.
There is absolutely no cause for alarm except that our people must remain alert and prayerful against the devices of the enemies of progress.
-John Okiyi Kalu is an Aba boy and citizen of Abia State