We also have the front page of “ThisDay” newspaper of September 15, 2023. Headline: “Umahi: I inherited 18,000 km of road contracts worth N14.1 trillion. Says N431 billion currently available for immediate payments.
“The Minister of Works, David Umahi, yesterday said that the Bola Tinubu-led administration inherited about 18,000 kilometres of roads, with a contract sum of about N14.1 trillion.
The minister who disclosed that out of the N14.1 trillion, N4 trillion had been paid, made the remarks while meeting with all contractors handling road ‘dualisation’ projects and all zonal directors of the ministry at its headquarters in Abuja.
“Umahi told the contractors and stakeholders that the current administration has 18,000 kilometre of roads and inherited a contract sum of about N14.1 trillion and out of which N4 trillion is being paid in all those projects,” a statement signed by the Director of Information, Press and Public Relations Unit, Blessing Lere-Adams, stated.
Stressing that some of the projects had lasted between 10 to 20 years, the minister noted that some contractors had jerked up the contract sums by up to 100 percent, explaining that it accounts for why some of them had not been paid.
We are going back to the original concept of the projects and the necessity of any additional works and also see how we get a fair deal. Expecting an endorsement from the ministry for what is not acceptable to the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) is not possible,” the minister said.
Umahi also said that President Bola Tinubu understands how road infrastructure works. “If I come before him with a contract of N44 billion contract sum, I must be able to provide details of how the cost came about,” he maintained.
The minister further announced the ministry’s intention to focus on most of the “dualised” roads across the country. “Why we are here now is to announce our intention to face most of the dualised roads in the country,” he declared.
He added, “I want to remind you that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) is funding 50 percent of the contract sums and that funding goes up to 2025. “We have N431 billion of money that is ready for contractors to clear but there are no certificates for it. If you are doing a job under Phase I, make effort to make claims.
If your job involves augmentation, go back to your regional director for understanding before I sign the certificate. Any certificate I sign now, I have to take account for it, even when I have left office,” he maintained.
The minister tasked the contractors to move to one lace if their job had not gone up to 50 percent completion, stressing that he had also come up with performance bond, meaning that all new projects must be guaranteed for 10 years.
He urged all contractors that had built roads that he said cannot last up to 10 years to write to the ministry to either stop work or rebuild the road to last a decade. He warned contractors that he would not listen to stories of failures on the roads due to overloading, enjoining them to cooperate with him to build roads with concrete technology as it is done in India and Singapore.”
However, there are many who would argue that darkness is not the exclusive prerogative of the accountancy profession. There is darkness everywhere!! Here are a few examples:
(i) Front page of “Saturday Vanguard” newspaper of September 16, 2023.
Headline: “Fear grips Calabar residents over ‘disappearance’ of male genitals”
“There have been several reports of the disappearance of male reproductive organs in parts of Calabar and this is causing apprehension and anxiety in the city. In the past two weeks, there have been several cases of male organs disappearing by some male residents at handshake or body contact with strangers.
Over ten cases are said to have taken place with some organs being returned to the victims by perpetrators while some are said not to have been restored.
“An organ was said to be sold for six hundred thousand naira last week but owing to market forces and high demand the price has gone up to one million per organ” Chibuike, a spare parts dealer told Vanguard.
He said the organs are used for ritual purposes to make money and more people will fall victim if nothing drastic is not done by the authorities to stop the ugly state of events in the city.
“People now put bitter kola in their pockets or hold their private organs tightly while walking on the street or inside commercial vehicles”.
Cases of organ disappearance are said to have occurred at Atimbo, Ekpo Abasi, 8 Miles, Watt Market, Atakpa street and some other places in the city. “It happened in my area, State Avenue by Afokang this morning. Someone lost his penis and it took severe beating of the snatcher before he returned the organ” Blessing Ngi, a resident of Calabar South said.
The Cross River Police Command Spokesman, Ms Irene Ugbo said there is nothing as such thing as stealing of private parts in the city.
“Have you seen anyone whose private part was stolen? Bring him here for medical examination. People should discountenance the rumours and go about their normal businesses” She stressed.
(ii) Front page of “The Nation” newspaper of Saturday September 16, 2023. Headline: “Only God can understand my trauma, says man who lost wife, daughter, 14 other relatives in boat mishap”
“When Ahmed Mohammed bid his wife, three year-old-daughter, sisters and brothers’ wives goodbye as they headed for their farms in their old settlement across the River Niger last Sunday morning, he had no inkling that he was seeing them for the last time.
But midway into the journey between Jebba and Kanji Dam in Gbajibo Ward, Mokwa Local Government Area, Niger State, the boat in which they were travelling capsized after running into a water snag.
The boat, according to the Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA), had 100 passengers on board when it capsized on Sunday.
Speaking with newsmen during a condolence visit to the family of the deceased, Ahmed said the incident was still a nightmare he was praying to wake up from, adding only God could understand how he felt about it.
He said: “My wife, my daughter, my brothers’ wives and all my sisters were inside the boat. I cannot say much. I leave everything to God.
“I don’t have any explanation, because if I want to ask for an explanation as to what happened, who will give me the explanation?
“My mind is always going to them. I feel bad because since I came into this world, I have never experienced anything as bad as this.
“The way I am feeling, it is only God that can understand.”
Mohammed’s mother-in-law, Hajiya Kashi Mokwa, who also lamented the death of her daughter, grandchildren and other members of her family in the boat accident, described the incident as a severe disaster and great loss to the family.
“We are devastated by the mishap,” she said.
“Losing 16 members of your family is a severe disaster and it has happened to us. It has been a traumatic experience for me and the rest members of my family.
“When you lose 16 members of your family at once, how easy is it to bear the tragedy? We want government to come and help us. These boat mishaps are becoming too many.”
Mokwa explained that water transportation is the main means of transportation in the community as they always have to pass through the water to get to their farms and major markets.
Members of the affected communities accused the government of non-chalance in the provision of life jackets, calling on the government to stop making political statements regarding its availability.
They insisted that the number provided were far from adequate compared to the huge number of residents who must travel on water from time to time.
No fewer than 24 bodies were recovered on the first day of the rescue mission on Sunday, while six other bodies were recovered afterwards, bringing the the death toll to 30.
On Wednesday, the Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA) declared that there were no more bodies to look for as no one else had been reported missing.
The agency declared that 100 people were on board the boat when it capsized.
The Chairman Mokwa Local Government Council, Jubril Abdullahi Muregi, said during a condolence visit to the affected families that the incident would have been avoided if safety measures had been adhered to by the drivers and passengers of the boat, adding that the government would need to clear the underwater snags responsible for repeated boat accidents on the river.
Muregi said: “One of the things that the government should do quickly is to embark on an operation to clear these trees that are under the river so that the incident would not repeat itself.
“It is an avoidable situation. There is need for every passenger using water transportation to use a life jacket.
“We will have to come up with a clear government policy that will prescribe punishment for anybody who fails to use their life jackets when embarking on water transportation.”
The Council Chairman moved from house to house to condole the bereaved families and gave an undisclosed amount of money for funeral expenses.”
Text of an address delivered at University of Nigeria at the Conferment on Mr. Ben Etiaba on 20th September, 2023.