Delta govt, contractors at logger heads over N100bn debt

From Osakhare Erese, Asaba

Fresh trouble is currently brewing between contractors and the Delta State Government over unpaid executed projects.
The Delta State Government had last week through the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. David Edevbie told journalists at a news conference that the State Government owed contractors a neighbourhood of N100 billion, adding that the debt was accumulated as a result of alleged negligence and described the payment methods as disheartening.
According to him, “I am not happy with the payment system at all if I am allowed to speak my mind. The payment method is disheartening hence the accumulated debt and I have not been happy about it at all especially the unnecessary delay” but the contractors who claimed to be under the umbrella of “Unity Contractors” described the N100 billion unpaid debt by the State Government as untrue, saying that the State Government since 2007 to date had refused to pay a total sum of N450 billion for executed projects.
One of the contractors who spoke to journalists yesterday in Asaba on behalf of aggrieved others, Mr. Afam Joseph alleged that successive administration from 2007 to date had shown no traces of payment even on the face of some of their members’ death, adding “we have been carrying file from one office to another after we have completed the job on specification, the State Government has refused to pay us our money instead it shifts blames, we shall soon embark on protest to press home our demand and disrupt ongoing projects in the State until our money is paid.”
Expectedly Governor Ifeanyi Okowa had recently blamed the high profile debt in the State apart from the contractors being owed, on paucity of funds and attack on oil facilities by militant groups in the State and the Niger Delta region, disclosing that on assumption of office, irregularities as regards payment of contractors, others confronted him.
He however assured that the State Government would do everything possible within its limit to ensure payments are made to various creditors in the State. He said “on assumption of office I was confronted with high profile burden of debt, but I can assure Deltans that the State Government would do everything possible within its limit to ensure payments are made to our creditors, unfortunately the State has been facing financial crisis until recently that peace has returned to Niger Delta where we can breathe the air of freedom to meet our financial obligation.”
Investigation revealed that most contracting firms operating in the State from 2007 to date had closed shops after allegedly taken huge sum of loans that could not be returned, especially in anticipation of payments by the State Government on projects executed but proved abortive.
While some officials of various ministries in the State handling the files of the contractors are alleged to be “neck deep” in bribe takings, sources said that the high profile debt in the State might cripple infrastructural developments if urgent steps are not taken by the State Government to address the situation.
Speaking further, Mr. Afam Joseph said “we borrowed money to execute most of our contracts, now we are hungry, our rents have expired, this Government of Okowa is insensitive to our present situation” but in a swift reaction, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Charles Aniagwu dispelled the allegation of insensitiveness on the part of the Government saying that Governor Okowa is committed to the yearnings and development of the State.
Meanwhile, a Federal High Court sitting in Asaba presided over by Justice T. B. Adegoke has struck out two suits filed by anti corruption integrity forum against the Accountant General

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