By Constance Meju Sometime late December 2018, while presenting the 2019 Federal Budget Proposal to the joint session of the National Assembly
By Constance Meju
Sometime late December 2018, while presenting the 2019 Federal Budget Proposal to the joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari claimed that work on the Ogwashi-Uku Dam has been completed and commissioned. Normally, such information would have been allowed to go the way of most budget items as has been the case with national, state and local government appropriation bills.
But because awareness on citizen responsibility to good governance is beginning to grow, a concerned native in that town, the headquarter of Aniocha South Local Government in Delta State, who believed that silence in the face of wrong doing is equal to supporting it, chose to speak out and challenge the lie. He took out his cell phone, visited the site and promptly uploaded his findings on YouTube for the public to judge.
What did he find? Much work still needs to be done; meaning that no project has been commissioned there as claimed by the presidency! And what followed? Nigerians reacted. The television stations and social media made it a national issue for days decrying government’s propensity to make false claims. Focus beamed on Ogwashi-Uku as the media went to work confirming the posting and debunking earlier claim by the federal government, a pointer and notice to NASS that some holes are existing in the budget, for in reality, this Ogwashiuku Dam incident is but one of the numerous projects budgeted for either uncompleted but declared commissioned or not even done but reported as commissioned.
Situate Ogwashi-Uku properly and you find that the ancient and historic town that celebrated its centenary anniversary some three years ago has been struggling with power and water supply for years. Even though in the 70s and 80s the town, home to a polytechnic, federal prison, offices, etc. had a reservoir and was supplying water to neighbouring Ubulu-Uku and Ibusa towns. Water has become an issue. Even though the state budgets money for water annually, this town has water problem with residents resorting to harvesting and storing rain water or buying water from tankers (sourced from streams or privateboreholes) at a prohibitive rateofN8,000-N10,000 per tanker load. Students, women, especially poor aged ones suffer because of this.
Even when public-spirited sonsof the land like Mr Awele Nwabuokei tried to fix the reservoir issue supporting with part replacements anddiesel supply, old pipelines and non-linkage to new areasspringing up as the town expanded, thwarted his efforts. Visits to the state Water commissioner yielded little result.
Residents were therefore, thrilled when the federal government under the Obasanjo/Jonathan era awarded a contract for the constructionof the dam, an opportunity to boost water and light supply. When it appeared a change to the current APC government would threaten the project, concerned citizens sent petitions and delegations to Abuja. It was thus no surprise that the project was in public eye with enough passionon stand-by to see the project tocompletion. That explains the passion that fired the quick exposure of the lie of government by the Citizen Journalist whouploaded the video that went viral.
That move isencouraging more action.Theleadership of the town, the Ogwashi-Uku Development Association, ODA executive has taken up the monitoring campaign and is inviting more Ogwashi people to join the struggle to actualize the Dam and it’s promised gains.
Giving an update on the Dam Thursday January 24, 2019 on the Ogwashi-Uku Forum Facebook page, the ODA reported thus:
“The President General, Mr Ndikanwa Emmanuel Ashinze, past PG, Sir Nwankanma Okafor and the PRO Mazi Elue Adigwe were at the Ogwashi-Uku Dam to see the extent of work done and what is outstanding.
“They met with one Eugene Collins Onoh who,said he was specifically sent to attend to the road project and repair the damaged speedway. The jobs of installing the Water Treatment Plant and the ElectricityGenerating Equipment areyet to be awarded and are not part of the job of the engineering company currently working at the site.
“The team learnt that a lot of work still needs to be doneto get the dam operational and provide necessary services (water, electricity supply, etc.) to Ogwashi-Uku and other communities it is to serv.”
The body called on sons and daughters of the town with enough muscle and access to step in and lobby government to ensure outstanding contract for component parts of the Dam project are awarded this year .
Only communities can make government walk their talk and be accountable. When citizens see projects sited in their communities as their own and make governmentknow thateyes are watching andready to ask questions and speak out if things are not going according to set plans, contractors and supervising officials will do the needful and when they do so, life will e easier for all with necessary modern and efficiently installed and managed facilitiesin place. That means development, the beginning of good governance, end to unending budgeting for non-executed or poorly done projects and for women, less stress, better health, economic opportunities and above all, peace with less number of youths idle.
So, let us put everything to work to lift our communities; let us use social media, traditional media as well as our community pressure groups topush for sustainable development and end corruption and an era of blatant impunity in governance which has crippled our economy. Each stolen fund is a deprivation of the peoples’ right to good governance.
#Gender And Accountability
By Constance Meju, Port Harcourt based publisher of National Point Newspaper and Gender and Environmental Justice Advocate