By Codratus Godson
The FG gave the traditional rulers of the communities on the route of the 34km road from Bodo to Bonny one week to guarantee peace for work to resume, but a Bonny-born federal lawmaker, Omopusenibo Randolf Iwo Oruene Brown, has rather levied the blames back to the contractor, Julius Berger PLC and the FG.
Brown has no appeal to the communities or suggestions on how to meet the deadline but said in a statement in Bonny on Wednesday, one day to deadline, that he suspects that the FG was looking for excuses to deny the people the project. He pointedly accused Julius Beger of sabotaging the project.
The minister of works, power, housing, Babatunde Fashola, had addressed prominent traditional rulers from the route with Julius Berger, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), as well as the Council of Elders from Ataba, and Gokana, among others, at the ministry and issued warnings to the communities and asked them to get their houses in order within a week or risk having the project suspended.
The road project which is expected to open the first ever road route to Bonny Island which will come from Bodo in Ogoni has been hampered from going on account of funding constraints. It is expected to improve the lives of communities along the route such as Bonny, Ogoni, Okrika, Eleme, Andoni. The project is funded equally by the FG and NLNG at N60Bn each.
The minister said it took much pressure to persuade the NLNG to part with their own N60Bn for work to start, but the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, berated the FG for not putting their own share on the table. Now, the FG says the communities have prevented the contractor from starting work, making demands of compensation.
Now, the lawmaker who said he moved the motion that gave attention to the sensitive road on March 1, 2017, said Julius Berger has been working successfully in Bonny for decades and wondered why it is finding this road project difficult.
He said; “You also are aware of the maximum cooperation and peaceful atmosphere promoted and championed by the King, his Majesty, the Amanyanabo of Ancient Grand Bonny Kingdom in ensuring the smooth commencement of the much-lingered project. I see this as a clear act of sabotage by Julius Berger Plc and the Federal Government. I cannot remember any occasion when security challenges affected their operations.
I have strong evidence that Julius Berger has been disrupting the peace of the Community and creating an atmosphere of rancour in order to sabotage the project and short change our people without minding the economic benefits to our people, our cooperate citizens and the entire country.
“The Federal Government should not make Rivers people and Nigerians believe that there is an orchestrated plan to create problem in our neighbouring communities and deny us this project. It was this same government that has unleashed all kinds of military operations never before known in our history. Are they telling us that government is not capable of her delivering on one of its cardinal constitutional roles of providing security for the lives and properties of the governed?
“If this road was to be sighted in some other part of the country, would the government be threatening fund withdrawal? Now that the project is in the Niger Delta region, the FG wants our people, who have suffered deprivation, despoliation and degradation of their environment, to provide security for the project.
“Let me inform, that bonny kingdom under his majesty King Edward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III, CON, JP, Perekule XI Amanyanabo and Natural Ruler of Ancient Bonny Kingdom, has been peaceful and had maintained mutual co-existence with all her sister communities and cooperate bodies. The king in collaborative efforts with NLNG has set up high-powered committees saddled with responsibilities of midwifing the processes of smooth start and maintaining enabling environment which so far has performed creditably well.
“Nigerians and the world should note that Federal Government of Nigeria and Julius Berger Nig Plc have perfected plans to scuttle the much desired Federal Bonny-Bodo Road. Our people would not condone this shadiness as well are determined to pursue its completion by all available legitimate means.”
Fashola had bitterly said if the communities did not allow work to start, the NLNG would be made to take back their fund and wait for when peace would be available. He said other projects were waiting for release of funds while the Bonny Road had fund but was waiting for peace. He asked the chiefs to meet the contractor and discuss issues and not impose workers or conditions.
The lawmaker did not however make any call to the communities to give peace a chance. In the Niger Delta, chiefs and youths demand for large payouts called ‘compensation’ to allow construction projects to even start. Former governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, attracted anger of the natives by trying to impose prison terms for those stopping development and progress this way.