Tuesday, 21 December 2021

IN THE MATTER OF FIVE MISSING ENGINEERS IN EBONYI STATE: SETTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT... EBONYI GOVT


 IN THE MATTER OF FIVE MISSING ENGINEERS IN EBONYI STATE: SETTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT



1. It has become imperative to put the records straight on the allegations and misrepresentation of facts conveyed to the public from certain quarters over the unfortunate  incident that befell Engr. Nelson Onyeme of Nelan Consulting firm and other four Engineers whose services we suppose, were hired by Nelan Company to work in the phase two of the African Development Bank sponsored section of Abakaliki Ring Road Project as  they are not in the list of employees submitted to Ebonyi State Government by Nelan Consultants.


2. Based on the Police Investigation report on the incident, we view as disheartening the unfortunate circumstances that led to the sad news. We therefore extend our heartfelt condolences to all the families and the Nelan Company for this dastardly act by criminal elements while hoping for a comprehensive crackdown on the perpetrators.


3. However, we are constrained to correct certain impressions contained in the information dished out to  the public by Mrs. Nelson Onyeme as we know that she spoke out of emotions  and we believe that some politicians have  also taken advantage of her state of mind, otherwise there were things that she said against the State Government that were unnecessarily  misleading. We therefore cannot join issues with her. 


4. We are also compelled to set the records straight on the utterances of one of the Engineers of  Nelan Company,  Mr. Benjamin who speaks from both sides of the  mouth (telling the State Government one thing and telling the public another thing)  and who is extremely economical with the truth about our contractual relations with Nelan Company.


5. Contrary to the insinuations contained in the interview granted with   Arise TV by Engr. Benjamin Nzeagwu on the status of the Ring Road project vis-a-vis Nelan Consulting firm, Abakaliki Ring Road is a project of Ebonyi State Government funded through a repayable loan from African Development Bank and not a grant and so the services of Nelan Consulting firm were hired by Ebonyi State Government through International bidding processes. 

6. As the employer, we are aware that during the tenders, Nelan Consulting firm offered the lowest cost and we insisted that because of paucity of funds, the Company should be allowed as the lowest bidder to do the job, bearing in mind that the Company is not the original designer but was drafted to review the design and supervise the job. 


7. The contract agreement is very clear about what constitutes a breach but we will not take offence by his unguided utterances which runs contrary to the provisions of some clauses in the contract agreement because of the mood of the moment, but that has not derogated the powers of Ebonyi State Government, as the employer of Nelan Consulting firm to determine their services for breach of the confidentiality of the contract.


8. It is noteworthy to mention that there are two sections of this job one of which is handled diligently by  another Consulting firm and they have never raised any issues of interferences or altercations, so the utterances of Mr. Benjamin are deliberately sensational and malicious, and mischievously calculated  to attack the integrity of the State Government. Where it is not utterly factual, it is obviously fictitious, Ebonyi State Government as an employer does not need extraneous assistance to determine the contract when it is not performing and our Government cannot be blackmailed to give up its monitoring powers as that has been the secret of the fiscal performance and developmental hallmarks recorded by our administration.


9. For the records, Ebonyi State Government and the personnel executing the contract job were never contacted or informed about the coming of the officials of Nelan Consulting firm on the fateful day. The State Government had a meeting with all Companies/ Contractors involved in the Abakaliki Ring Road Project over the security situation in a few points within the project locations. Nelan Consulting firm is merely a supervising firm whose job supervision commitment was going to be 8 days per month in the whole of 24 months project duration. The resident Engineer and main contractor being supervised by Nelan Consulting firm has never shown presence till this moment. All we gathered from Security report after the ugly incident was that it was the contractor, Marco Nigeria Ltd that had contacted Mr. Nelson Onyeme to go to site.


10. Furthermore, the immediate report from the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the area where the job is situated and the statement volunteered to the Police by the representative of Marco Nigeria Limited indicate that they all agreed to meet at Ohaukwu Local Government Police Headquarters so as to get the Police personnel to go with them to the site. But the Nelan Officials did not avail.  


11. Let it further be noted that Ebonyi State Government presided over by the Governor had diligently met with all the contractors, consultants and stakeholders from the project locations especially the flash points where it was agreed that before any contractor moves to project site, that the community leaders, traditional rulers, town union presidents together with government officials from such area must swear affidavit committing to the protection of the contractors and consultants. This commitment was consummated in the first section of the project site where the other consulting firm is supervising.


12. It will be reiterated that the contractors for the project site to be supervised by Nelan Consulting firm have not even mobilized to site. The contractors merely got their award letters and this buttresses the fact that the allegation that the Nelan team was coming in and going out of the project site and there was no crisis is a figment of the imagination of Mr. Benjamin more so as the period he was referring to was before the Effium communal crisis which started on January, 22nd 2021. 


13. The facts are therefore inviolately correct that it was agreed amongst themselves that the main contractor, Marco Limited and the Consultant, Nelson Onyeme together with the Divisional Police Officer-in-charge of the Division would get the Police personnel to accompany them to the site. But for reasons best known to Mr. Nelson Onyeme, he chose not to pass through the Police Headquarters and the Local Government Council but rather went through a flash point from Nwezenyi axis and thus ran into the hot spot of the communal crisis where, according the Police Investigation report, they were abducted. 


14. While it is not our duty to reel out the full details of the Police report, the essence of this narrative is to put the records straight and correct the impressions that may have been created by the misleading information shared in some quarters by mischief makers. It is therefore most unfortunate that people can politicize a very sensitively horrible situation such as this.


15. It is heartbreaking and reprehensible that instead of dissipating energies and resources in pursuing the cause of justice for the victims, the likes of Mr.  Benjamin chose to divert attention by investing resources in media platforms to twist the matter for his personal aggrandizement. They even accused a siting Governor of having interest in one of the project vehicles. What an insult! The project vehicle was purchased with the resources of Ebonyi State and not even the resources of Africa Development Bank or that of the Consultant.

 


16. For our contractual relations with Nelan Consulting firm, we would allow some weeks for them to still sort their contractual problems out and go back to site. It is  important that the issues be sorted out on time and they should find a way to replace the Resident Engineer, (though not among the missing Engineers) who is  key person from Nelan Consulting firm who is not yet on the job.


17. Our administration will continue to keep faith with our social contract with the people which is to ensure that the scarce resources are applied for the right course of development.


Thanks and God bless.


 *Signed* 


 *Hon.  Barr Orji Uchenna Orji* 

( Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Ebonyi State)


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