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ASABA AIRPORT: Okowa To Okpunor, “I Do Not Care If I Step On Any Toe To Do The Right Thing”

By Kenneth Orusi, The Nigerian Voice, Asaba
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As controversies still surround the disengagement of ULO Consultant

Limited from the Asaba degraded airport project, the Delta State

governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, has pointed out that he would step on toes

without batting an eyelid.
“The Asaba airport project has been a major issue for us as a people.

A lot of people may be reading about all kind of things been said in

the newspapers and in the social media. I have failed to speak about

Okowa gave the warning during his quarterly press briefing held in

Government House, Asaba, recently.
He noted that no person is more important than the state as the

interest citizens, particularly those living in Asaba, the state

capital and its environs are dear to his heart.
Said he: “But it is just important that we realize that the state is

bigger than anybody and the interest of the people of Delta State

particularly those living in the capital and surrounding is foremost

in my heart. So, I do not care if I step on any toe to do the right

thing because my commitment is to the people and not to any particular

individual contractor”.
The governor revealed that despite pressures mounted on the airport

contractor to expedite his pace of work for early completion, ULO’s

work has remain slow amidst over mobilization.
Hear him: “We thank God that with all the pressure that we did put,

the contractor unfortunately, his work remains very slow even when we

have mobilized and even over mobilized the contractor. Because this

was the contract that was awarded about 21st of May 2015 just eight

days to my swearing in and we came in we did not believe that we need

to distort the process.
“We went to the bank and took loan in order to get that project done

knowing fully well that you cannot joke with the runway and other

auxiliary facilities at that airport and the contract as approved by

the past administration requires a 50 per cent mobilization and we

actually did the 50 per cent mobilization on that project.

“That obviously is enough encouragement for any contractor to quickly

rush to the project and get it done and the contract was supposed to

be completed in four months. Unfortunately, two years plus down the

line, right from October 2015 when money was released up till November

when the contractor ask to withdraw from the contract itself”.

He lamented that two years on, only 24 per cent of the job has been

done just he said such was not acceptable to anyone in his/her right

senses not to talk about a reasonable government, “In the space of two

years and one month, only 24 per cent of the job was achieved. You

will agree with me that that obviously was not acceptable to any

reasonable government and we are quite glad that the contractor

himself did ask to withdraw on the contract given all manner of

He revealed that the state government has repudiated the contract,

stressing that in few days or weeks, the new contract would be awarded

to another contractor, “But by the grace of God we have accepted the

withdrawal and repudiated the contract. By the grace of God in a few

days or weeks the new contract will be awarded to a very reputable

company and I hope that that project will come alive and be finished

in good time”.
On the Maryam Babagida way Okowa said, “We are also looking at the

Maryam Babagida road which also was under the same contractor ULO…. I

don’t know whether it is ULO Limited or PLC. You people are telling

me. I am sure that a lot of you are his friends. He also my friend but

when it comes to government job I have no friend. I do what is right

and what is right is what is right. So, he is due to meet with the

Ministry of Works, the Attorney-General of the state and the Ministry

of Finance to look at the details of who owes who but I am confidence

that the state is been owe a lot of money and we will by the grace of

God recover our funds”.
“In managing a contract process, it is very important that you

understand it holistically because if you manage it wrongly and the

contractor takes you to court, the effect is that the contract will

stale while you are in court process and that is not what any Deltan

will wish for Asaba airport.
“We have already suffered a lot concerning that airport. We knew the

state of the airport and how several planes were coming here and Delta

State was actually becoming a hub around this area but we are know

where it is today.
“So, we needed to manage the process and God willing the contractor

himself at the time we were pushing him and getting to the places that

we needed to go, the contractor himself decided to withdraw.

“There is an advance payment guarantee which you cannot call until you

are at the end of the guarantee time. We have called for that

guarantee around October or September because it was coming to the end

in the last week of the guarantee to that was given for the monies

that was initially released.
“I believe that that process actually led to the contractor

withdrawing because he knows the implication of that guarantee that we

have called. So, there have to be reconciliation because we must

recoup all monies at the end of the reconciliation all monies that

have been given.
“But the question that was asked, what was the contract? There were

six different contracts by the past administration but this particular

contract on the reconstruction of the runway and some ancillary

facilities was just a little over N5 billion. So, the mobilization was

N2.5 billion because that was the contract the previous government

entered into. So, the man was mobilized with N2.5 billion and the

contract sum for these six contracts but they were existing contracts

included the initial construction of the runway, the airport building,

the airport fencing and some other facilities and also part was to

bring down the hills that we have at the airport which blocks the

views of airplanes that were coming in to land.
“And so, those other contracts, we are looking at the whole of it now

but the one that is very critical to us is the reconstruction of the

runway of which the contractor was mobilized with N2.5 billion and

that mobilization was in October 2015 that he was given the money and

he was supposed to finish the contract by March 2016 but unfortunately

we are now in December 2017”, the governor added.