Interview: Ohakim left 540 million naira for UBE project, but it disappeared under Okorocha – Emma Ibe

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Emma Ibe is the chairman of the contractors inImoState under the name “Imo Development Partners (IDP)”. In this short and spontaneous but well informing interview with Global Reporters Vienna, he spoke about the plight of contractors in Imo State under the leadership of Rochas Okorocha, lamented the regrettable deaths of his two colleagues he alleged to have died as a result of non-payment of projects they had completed for the Imo State government and warned that many might die if nothing was done urgently. He also accused Okorocha of abandoning due process in awarding government contracts to his personal company, ROCHE, and equally revealed that the former Governor, Ikedi Ohakim, left 540 million naira in the bank for the payments of the UBE projects in question, but that immediately the government of Okorocha “came on board”, the money vanished from the bank.

Excerpts
Global Reporters Vienna: What is the situation like now with the contractors in ImoState and the government?
Emma Ibe: We signed an agreement with the state and we have finished our projects in the 27 local governments’ area in Imo State and the children are using these completed projects but the government of Okorocha has refused to pay us. The irony of it all is that the former administration left 540 million naira in the Central Bank of Nigeria in one of their branches in Owerri for this project and this government came on board and took this money away from the bank and they left us without any payment, and we borrowed money from banks and individuals to execute these jobs. Today many of us have lost our friends and two of our members have died because of this.
Global Reporters Vienna: Do you know the names of those that died?
Emma Ibe: Yes, if I dig I will get them. One is from Akwa Ibom State, she is dead and one is from Okigwe in Imo State and the daughter now represents the company and she was with me last week. Two of them died and many more will die because of lack of medication. In Nigeria, you have to pay when you go to hospital or you die. We have children, we have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters to take care of and we do not have money to do that and the government is not making any effort to pay us. The governor or the government is not listening to our cries.
Global Reporters Vienna: You said the government of Ohakim left 540 million naira in the Central Bank branch in Owerri. How did you come to know this and was the money meant for the payment of the contractors of these projects?
Emma Ibe: The money was part of Universal Basic Education (UBE) project and it was for payment of the contractors, the chairman of SUBEB told us so in several meetings.
Global Reporters Vienna: What is the Government of Rochas Okorocha saying?
Emma Ibe: They have not said anything more than we should wait and I do not know how long we should wait. Some of us have lost their capital even if they should pay us now. We borrowed money with the hope that we will return the money to the lenders as soon as the jobs were completed.  Unfortunately it is nine months going to one year now. As we are talking now, we do not know when they will pay us. We have not actually heard any official statements from the government. Nothing! We have sent letters to the State House of Assembly, the Attorney General of Imo State, and the Commissioner for education and the Governor himself we have also sent letters.
Global Reporters Vienna: The situation must be really very bad for these contractors right now?
Emma Ibe: The situation is bad. Ya, very bad, very bad, really very bad for us! And many of us are regretting. Like myself these are my 18, 19 years in this contract business starting from the military. We are not just run away contractors and I can tell you that we have had it so bad under this government. Even under military we did not have it so bad because when you finish your work you get paid. In this government we are having it so horrible. You borrow money and execute jobs and you do not get paid.
The government has assessed our works and confirmed them well finished, why hold our money? It is really unfortunate. Most of the projects we did were renovations of schools that are on ground for everybody to see and the children are using them. The government is talking about free education and if we had not done these projects these children would have been under mango trees to learn. I do not know why this government does not want to pay us. They are putting us into many problems, many do not sleep in their houses again because banks are pursuing them with police, but this government does not want to see our problems.
Global Reporters Vienna: Do you think that the free education is working effectively as projected?
Emma Ibe: It is only in the western part of Nigeria you can talk about free education. Here is not the true situation.
Global Reporters Vienna: Are you saying that there is no free education in Imo State?
Emma Ibe: If it is so the government should have seen us as partners in progress because we did solid things on ground for them and they should have embraced us but they are not doing that.
Global Reporters Vienna: And how are the contractors in Imo State faring under the administration of Okorocha?
Emma Ibe: The government of Okorocha is putting us out of business. The projects we usually do following due process are no longer so. The due process law in Nigeria is, you publish a project and then everybody will partake. But right now the government here even under UBE has perfected everything for it to execute the jobs by itself using one company called ROCHE. So, they are more or less putting us out of business. They want to send us to the village and it is not a good news for people like us that take care of our families through this kind of business.
Global Reporters Vienna: Do you have any message for the public or Governor Okorocha?
Emma Ibe: We are appealing to the Governor of Imo State, let him pay us our money and embrace us also as partners in progress. We are not political contractors. We are on ground. Many of us are 20, 30 years in this business and we are not fake people. For the projects we have finished, they should please pay us so that we can settle people we borrowed money from and take care of our dependants. Is not good that we are living and we cannot take care of our responsibilities. The policy of this government is a calculated attempt to destroy us. We voted for this government and the government said it has come to rescue us but it is not rescuing the citizens. It is destroying us gradually. If this government continues this way many of us are going to pack out of this state and maybe begin to wander on the streets begging for money to eat. It is so bad.
We also applause the government for what it has done that includes roads, but human beings have to walk on roads. Is it dead people that walk on roads? So they have to take care of our welfare. We are not begging money from the government we are begging that our lives should not be destroyed.
We are begging Rochas to pay us our money because a labourer deserves his wages. We worked and the evidences are there.
We signed an agreement with this government but many of us do not want to go to court even though we know that we will win but that will take a longer period of time with the Nigerian system before they pay us. The banks do not want to know what you are saying and your interest is increasing multiple on daily basis.
Global Reporters Vienna: Do you know how many people that are involved in this issue?
Emma Ibe: Yes, we are over 100 contractors.
Global Reporters Vienna: I heard that you people are planning a protest tomorrow (being today 28.05.2012), can you confirm that?
Emma Ibe: I cannot confirm that now. We are not prepared for that yet.
Global Reporters Vienna: Thank you Mr Emma Ibe for this spontaneous interview and I hope to call you again on this and other issues concerning Imo State.
Emma Ibe: Thank you very much and I will be very glad to receive your call anytime.
Note! They actually had the protest yesterday (28.05.2013) but as we learnt during their protest, they wanted the idea to be secret amongst them to avoid the government intimidating them to submission.
Source: Global Reporters

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