By Constance Meju
Sometime late December 2018,while presenting the 2019 Federal Budget Proposal to the joint session of theNational Assembly in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari claimed that work on theOgwashi-Uku Dam has been completed and commissioned. Normally, such informationwould have been allowed to go the way of most budget items as has been the casewith 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 stillneeds to be done; meaning that no project has been commissioned there asclaimed by the presidency! And whatfollowed? Nigerians reacted. The television stations and social media made it anational issue for days decrying government’s propensity to make false claims.Focus beamed on Ogwashi-Uku as the media went to work confirming the postingand debunking earlier claim by the federal government, a pointer and notice toNASS that some holes are existing in the budget, for in reality, thisOgwashiuku Dam incident is but one of the numerous projects budgeted for eitheruncompleted but declared commissioned or not even done but reported ascommissioned.
Situate Ogwashi-Uku properly andyou find that the ancient and historic town that celebrated its centenaryanniversary some three years ago has been struggling with power and watersupply for years. Even though in the 70s and 80s the town, home to apolytechnic, federal prison, offices, etc. had a reservoir and was supplyingwater to neighbouring Ubulu-Uku and Ibusa towns. Water has become an issue.Even though the state budgets money for water annually, this town has waterproblem with residents resorting to harvesting and storing rain water or buyingwater from tankers (sourced from streamsor 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 sonsofthe land like Mr Awele Nwabuokei tried to fix the reservoir issue supportingwith part replacements anddiesel supply, old pipelines and non-linkage to newareasspringing up as the town expanded, thwarted his efforts. Visits to thestate Water commissioner yielded little result.
Residents were therefore,thrilled when the federal government under the Obasanjo/Jonathan era awarded acontract for the constructionof the dam, an opportunity to boost water andlight supply. When it appeared a change to the current APC government wouldthreaten the project, concerned citizens sent petitions and delegations toAbuja. It was thus no surprise that the project was in public eye with enoughpassionon stand-by to see the project tocompletion. That explains the passionthat fired the quick exposure of the lie of government by the Citizen Journalistwhouploaded the video that went viral.
That move isencouraging moreaction.Theleadership of the town, the Ogwashi-Uku Development Association, ODAexecutive has taken up the monitoring campaign and is inviting more Ogwashi people to join the struggle to actualize the Dam andit’s promised gains.
Giving an update on the DamThursday January 24, 2019 on the Ogwashi-Uku Forum Facebook page, the ODAreported thus:
“The President General, Mr NdikanwaEmmanuel Ashinze, past PG, SirNwankanma Okafor and the PRO Mazi Elue Adigwe were at the Ogwashi-Uku Dam tosee the extent of work done and what is outstanding.
“They met with one EugeneCollins Onoh who,said he was specificallysent to attend to the road project and repair the damaged speedway. Thejobs of installing the Water Treatment Plant and the ElectricityGeneratingEquipment areyet to be awarded and are not part of the job of the engineeringcompany currently working at the site.
“The team learnt that a lotof work still needs to be doneto get the dam operational and provide necessaryservices (water, electricity supply, etc.) to Ogwashi-Uku and other communitiesit is to serv.”
The body called on sons and daughters of the townwith enough muscle and access to step in and lobby government to ensureoutstanding contract for component parts of the Dam project are awarded thisyear .
Only communities can makegovernment walk their talk and be accountable. When citizens see projects sitedin their communities as their own and make governmentknow thateyes are watchingandready to ask questions and speak out if things are not going according toset plans, contractors and supervising officials will do the needful and whenthey do so, life will e easier for all with necessary modern and efficientlyinstalled and managed facilitiesin place. That means development, the beginningof good governance, end to unending budgeting for non-executed or poorly doneprojects and for women, less stress, better health, economic opportunities andabove all, peace with less number of youths idle.
So, letus put everything to work to lift our communities; let us use social media,traditional media as well as our community pressure groups topush forsustainable development and end corruption and an era of blatant impunity ingovernance which has crippled our economy. Each stolen fund is a deprivation ofthe peoples’ right to good governance.
#Gender And Accountability
By Constance Meju,Port Harcourt based publisher of National Point Newspaper and Gender andEnvironmental Justice Advocate