By Codratus Godson
A federal team is in Rivers State measuring and assessing projects said to have been built by the Rivers State government on behalf of the government at the centre. This seems to boost hopes that refund may happen after all.
The host governor, Nyesom Wike, had spoken with vitriolic gushing in the past months against what he regarded as silence over the refund quest and felt it was politically motivated. This was also how his predecessor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, used to cry out against the Goodluck Jonathan-led FG saying the centre hated Rivers State, even when a Niger Delta son or Port Harcourt boy (Jonathan) was president for six years.
The scenario of hostility between the state and the centre seems real and began in the very last days of Peter Odili administration. Odili was close to clinching the presidency to the chagrin of his former friend, President Olusegun Obasanjo. Odili had built the Airport Road that had defied a federal contractor for many years. He also rebuilt the runway of the Port Harcourt International Airport or at least provided the funds. These were said not to have ever been refunded. Other states who copied the Rivers model were said to have later got some refund, before the presidency put harder rules on such claims.
By the time Amaechi was leaving, he put a demand for N105Bn and included this as ‘money’ left behind for his successor, Wike. His argument was that Wike was part of the Jonathan team that sat on the refund and should thus inherit it. This means Wike is expected and is right to pursue the refund. Now, Amaechi is part of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led FG that Wike accuses of sitting on the refund. Many wonder if it is a case of one bad turn deserving another.
Wike is building three flyovers on federal roads at the cost of N21Bn. He has paid 70 per cent. If this is added to the Amaechi claim of N105Bn, the state would be expecting N126Bn, but the FG has issued its own guidelines. The FG says it was not involved in evaluation most of the projects that states now put claims on.
Now, the FG has assured the Government and people of Rivers State that it would effect a refund of monies expended on those projects. Addressing government house reporters after embarking on the verification of the projects, Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, said that the Buhari Administration would always abide by set rules.
He said: “The Federal Government has always cooperated with the people of Rivers State which is the strongest economic base of the country and anything that the FG will do for the people of the State, the FG will respond accordingly.
“The President is a stickler for the rules. We have addressed this everywhere, except for five states, that we are now verifying. No state has had an issue.” He said that the Rivers State Government over the years did a splendid work in the construction of key projects in the state.
“The Governor has taken us on extensive review of more than the six projects that we came to inspect,” he said, and expressed happiness with the tour of federal road projects executed by the Rivers State Government.
He said: “I am glad we took time out to go and see all of them and verify them physically. We are really sure that the State Government has done what is right. ”
In an interview, Gov Wike said he is confident that the Federal Government will effect a refund. He said: “The Minister has come with his team and I believe they will refund us the funds expended on the road.
“We have made submissions for refund, but we are yet to receive any refund from the Federal Government. I believe this last verification will come to fruition. I have confidence that they will refund us the money expended on Federal Projects.”
Governor Wike said if the Federal Government fails to effect the refund as promised, the Rivers State Government will raise an alarm.
“If they don’t refund , we will raise alarm and tell the world to help us ask we are being denied the refund.
“Now we are talking of governance and we need these funds to do more projects for our people. He has given us assurance that the Federal Government will effect a refund this time around”, he said.
The tour commenced at the over 41.26 kilometre dualisation of the Airport-Isiokpo-Elele/Omerelu Road, the reconstruction of Ikwerre Road from Education to Agip flyover junction, construction of flyover at Agip-Rumueme-Abacha Roundabout and the
construction of flyover on East-West Road at Obiri-Ikwerre with rotary turning and service lanes.
The verification team also visited the construction of Eleme Junction flyover and interchange and the construction of Ada George Road phase one and two.
Governor Wike also led the team on an inspection of Flyover Bridges under construction by the Rivers State Government.