Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How Ibori’s loot deprived Deltans of homes

Published:

The Delta State ministry overseeing housing gave a daring indictment of how lack of political will by that state’s successive administrations robbed Deltans, like majority of other Nigerians, the opportunity of owning homes.

As put on the state’s website, “lack of political will to focus on housing need in a large scale,” and “inadequate budgetary allocation,” are part of factors responsible for a huge deficit of over 400,000 houses, a figure which itself appears conservative for the state’s more than three million population.

At a cost average of N10 million per unit, the nearly N40 billion former governor, James Ibori, recently admitted before a UK court to stealing between 1999 and 2007, could have rolled back a minimum of 4000 houses.

After Mr. Ibori’s plea in February, outside the Southwark Crown Court in London where the trial took place, one of the investigators on the case hinted at a possibility of a much bigger figure: N61.8 billion (equivalent of £250 million) may have actually been stolen from the state coffers.

“The scale can only be described as huge. Vast sums of money which were used to fund his lavish lifestyle,” Detective Inspector Paul Whatmore reportedly said.

If true, then extra 2,180 homes would have been covered in the long-drawn effort to address housing challenges troubling that oil rich state, like any other state.

Mr. Ibori’s sentencing is slated for today and tomorrow. His tenure as governor, described as one of the nation’s most corrupt, scrabbled multiple projects and abandoned many in what now appears to have been a maddening rush at the commonwealth.

The 6,180 homes, sufficient to accommodate thousands more, provide a most ample depiction of how much the looted funds could have achieved for the state if deployed in its use.

The amount could have bankrolled a free maternal health service for the state’s pregnant and new born, a programme that only kicked off at the end of the tenure in 2007.

Incumbent Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration claims the programme has attended to about 631,457 since inception in 2007 and has reduced the state’s maternal mortality ratio from 276 per 100,000 births 2010 to 221 per births 100,000 in 2011.

Mr. Uduaghan, a cousin to the former governor, was secretary to government and played central roles under Mr. Ibori, proposed a budget of N383.4 billion for this year and hopes to half the mortality rate.

In contrast, just a little above Mr. Ibori’s loot – N82.5billion – is budgeted for the entire Anambra state, while Gombe state plans to spend N90 billion.

The disparity seems to highlight how large fund intake could spiral waste and mismanagement in many states. The N61 billion the former Delta state governor is accused of stealing as he left office in 2007, is today, five years later, the budget equivalent of an entire state.

Back in the Delta, the amount would have been more than enough to deliver on critical project that would have lifted the standard of living of the people.  

The design and construction of jetties at Bomadi, Patani, Kaiama and Obagbagbene, given meager interventions this year by the Niger Delta ministry at N110 million apiece, could have been comprehensively completed with that amount to boost economic activities.

The dualization of Effurun-Osubi-Eku Road, a key project of the present administration, awarded to three contractors at a total cost of N10.3 billion, could have received attention as well.

That road links the Effurun/Port Harcourt federal dual carriageway and terminates at Eku, along the Amukpe/Agbor/ Uromi federal highway. It provides access to the Koko and Warri Ports, Warri refinery and Delta steel plant, Aladja.

There is also the dualization of the 148.9-kilometer Ughelli-Asaba road awarded in three lots to three contractors at a total cost of N44.7 billion. The road is a major trunk road and a vital link between the Effurun/Port Harcourt (East-West) road and Benin/Asaba dual carriageway.

Then, amongst many others, is the dualization of the 33-kilometer Ugbenu-Koko road costing of N11.2 billion. The route links Koko to the Benin-Warri dual carriageway.

 

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