By Ozioruva Aliu, BENIN CITY
THE Minister of State, Budget and National Planning Prince Clem Agba has described as false allegations by Governor Godwin Obaseki that the multi-phased multi-billion naira Benin Water storm project was designed to defraud the people of Edo state.
Agba also claimed that Obaseki was aware of the details of the projects which he campaigned within 2016 as a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and in 2020 as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) adding that the plan to prove the project started when he on a visit to the Oba of Benin, appealed to Oba Ewuare II to prevail on the state government not to abandon the Beni. Water storm.
In the letter, Agba alleged that the not desilting of Benin City before the rains have been responsible for the return of flooding during the rainy season and that the governor may now begin to use the water storm project as an excuse for the flooding in the city during the rains.
He said “I resolved not to embark on any public engagement with you as doing so will certainly escalate the matter and cause avoidable media offensives which in my view, could distract both of us from the burden of leadership and our official mandates.
“However, sustained social and other media invectives on my person have necessitated that I do not stand back and allow my hard-earned reputation to be assailed for no justifiable reasons. This is why I have chosen this private medium to reach out to you and copy critical stakeholders.
“You will recall that the project is part of the long-term Stormwater Master Plan for the State, which demands the commitment of successive administrations for implementation. My decision to call on His Royal Majesty to prevail on your government to sustain the project was in good faith. It was not meant to denigrate your person or government, but rather it was motivated by my passionate love for Edo state.
“Recall that shortly after your swearing-in about five years ago, I sent you a series of WhatsApp messages on the need to continue periodic de-siltation of the drains to ensure that the drains are not blocked and consequently de-flood Benin City for which there was neither a response nor action from you.
“This, I did believe that we are on the same page on the question of love for Edo State and, therefore, rather than yield to the rash of ill-motivated counsel of crises entrepreneurs and discord peddlers within and without, you should appreciate my call for royal intervention in that context.
“It is strange that you raised the question of fraud on the project against me knowing very well that my role as Commissioner for Environment and that of Commissioner of Works, Osarodion Ogie, who incidentally is the current Secretary to Government of Edo State, was limited to only supervision as this was a joint project between the two ministries.
“Two other persons, Anselm Ojezua and Frank Evbuomwan, the current Managing Director of Edo State Geographic Information Service, also served as Commissioner of Works at different times and were involved in the supervision of the same project.
“Your Excellency, please rest assured that I wholeheartedly welcome and support your widely publicised decision to institute a probe panel to look into the Stormwater project, though you have already assumed the roles of the accuser, prosecutor and judge on the issue.
“It is a welcome development as all Ministries, Consultants and all other participants in the project would have an opportunity to state their own side of the story for posterity’s sake.
“It is in bad taste and a mark of dishonour to suddenly disown and declare the Stormwater Project a fraud.
“A project that you campaigned with on two occasions: first, with the All Progressives Congress and, second, with the opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party.
“ How and who were the parties to defraud on this signature project?
“Except for the intent at mischief, you have access to the true facts about the project and the expenditure thus far.
“Besides your silence on the extent and magnitude of the project, the sum of N8 billion, which was outstanding on the project was inherited by your government.
“With the expected commitment on your part, you had adequate financial resources to sustain the momentum on the project.
The current sorry state of the project is therefore inexplicable and raises concerns about the negative impact of the abandoned stormwater project on the wellbeing of our people.”
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