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We Are Not Witch Hunting Ochei Over IPP Probe --- Delta Assembly

By Kenneth Orusi

The Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA) has refuted allegations of witch-hunting its former Speaker, Rt. Hon. (Engr.) Victor Ochei, in the exercise of its oversight function over the planned probe of the failed Independent Power Project (IPP) in the state.

In the early month of February, it was gathered that the House initiated a probe on the award and execution of the controversial multi-billion naira IPP awarded to Davnotch Electrical Engineering firm, said to be owned by the former Speaker, during former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration.

The adhoc committee has five members who have been mandated by the house to investigate the conditions surrounding the execution of the project and make recommendations back to the house.

In a statement issued by the Chairman of the investigative committee who doubles as the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Tim Owhefere, the house said it expressed strict reliance on the Rule of Law and most importantly the Right to Fair Hearing to anyone indicted for whatever cause.

The project was awarded to Davnotch by former Governor Uduaghan in 2009 at the initial cost of N21.7 billion which was later reviewed upward to N23.2 billion in 2010, but the project has since been abandoned by the contracting firm, having gulped over N19 billion out of the alleged N23.2 billionn agreed by the immediate past administration.

So far the project has generated serious controversy among stakeholders in the state, leading to the setting up of the committee to unravel the mysteries behind the failed project and the whereabouts of the funds.

The adhoc committee members had visited the site of the project in Oghara, Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state under the supervision of the Director of Electricity Power Supply Department of Delta State Ministry of Energy, Engr. Felix Abojei.

In the fact finding mission of the committee, Hon Owhefere, who is the Chairman of the committee and former colleague of ex-Speaker Ochei, expressed sadness over the level of work at the site, vowing to probe all the parties involved in the project to ensure its completion for the benefit of Deltans.

He noted that the committee decided to visit the project site for on-the-spot assessment as it cannot base its report on hearsay, expressing worry that even a blind man who managed to find his way to the site will know that nothing has been done.

Hon Owhefere who stated that what is on ground at the site leaves much to be desired, however maintained that the visit was just the beginning of the investigation, assuring that the committee at the end of the exercise would be able to come out with a comprehensive report on how much has been spent on the controversial project, as well as how much was the original contract value and how much was judiciously spent.

But in the statement by the committee chairman, Owhefere said what the House has planned to do was merely an oversight function in line with constitutional provision but not aimed at witch hunting the former Speaker who was his colleague in the State House of Assembly.

Owhefere, who is also the House Committee Chairman on Information, said “It was never intended as a probe initiative against any individual”, just as he reaffirmed the commitment and resolve of the House to the fair and just in all matters that concern the welfare of all Deltans.

However, the state government has put the IPP Project on sale, noting that the previous administration that awarded the project began the move but could not before it left office on May 29, 2015.

It was alleged that the state governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, master planned the probe following Ochei’s defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2019.