Many times it is important to remind a people about the past to avoid a repeat of a mistake. That is what this piece is drawn to achieve.
One issue that got the highest condemnation from the elites in the State against Obong Victor Attah’s first tenure as governor of Akwa Ibom State was the government’s policy of engaging the services of indigenous contractors for most of the construction works undertaken by the administration.
As it were, Obong Attah attempted to build the capacity of indigenous civil engineering experts by giving very high consideration during contract bidding to Nigerian contractors. But by the end of his first tenure, available statistics show that about 50 per cent of the contracts were abandoned and 20 per cent were on-going at a snail speed. In the end, a good number of the jobs were re-awarded; a few that were completed were not done according to specifications. With all of these, the State Government lost a fortune in those four years for daring to encourage her people.
Aware of the underhand games these contractors played with government resources and projects, Attah brought expatriate firms to salvage the government. His successor, Chief Godswill Akpabio did not play anywhere around indigenous contractors in spite of the devastating effects such capital flight had on the economy of the State. There were very few cases where direct labour was sought through the Inter-ministerial Direct Labour Programme to compensate some of the Governor’s allies “faithful” members of his Party. Again, billions of State funds were lost through that engagement in projects like the l000 housing units, 3l security villages, schools renovation and hospital project, particularly, General Hospital, Ukanafun.
Notwithstanding the diminutive trustworthiness some of these wonky contractors have shown, the Udom Emmanuel administration has awarded major and minor contracts to these businessmen even without an open bid.
During a recent project tour undertaken by members of the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, it was gathered that mostly indigenous contractors were handling the construction of roads and bridges in the State.
Some of the companies are Seyang Construction Company, Benest Technical Services, Verini, Hensek Engineering, among others.
This should be a plus to the State, but with the bright memories of the distant past, Akwa Ibom people are concerned about their resources, particularly with the fact that some of those fronting these companies are the same people or allies of the same people who once used other mushroom company names to defraud the State. This has given the people many reasons to worry.
The government through the Ministry of Works, and Bureau of Technical Matters and Due Process should not take this concern as a fat chance; it is an early warning to avoid a fatal error.