Thursday 28 March 2024

Road Contracts: Why Osun Govt Must Bow To Public Scrutiny... By Waheed Adekunle

Nothing is as hilarious, but at the same time disturbing as the way and manner the affairs of the State of the Living Spring is being administered under the watch of the incumbent governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke. This is so, when one takes into account, the myriad of socio-economic and political infractions bedeviling the 15-month old government.

However, as discerning citizens, we must continue to be reminded that public scrutiny of government activities will indeed strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government only if we collectively work in unison to hold government accountable, especially this very one that appears too careless about our collective feelings and aspirations.

Empirically speaking, the loss of fundamental principles of governance - etiquette, accountability, openness, transparency, integrity, honesty, probity is too glaring in the current administration.

No doubt, the current government has clearly invested a sense of doubt in the public minds from its very first day of Governor Adeleke in office, as manifested in the monumental failure recorded so far due to the inability of Adeleke's government to fulfill many of its electoral promises and as well champion the core value of stewardship in running the affairs of the state.

An American-Russian Technology Specialist, Edward Snowden once said: *"There can be no faith in government if our highest offices are exempted from scrutiny - they should be setting the example of transparency".* In other words, the performance of any government can only be judged by its adherence to the principles of openness, transparency, accountability and social justice.

Borrowing a leaf from the aphoristic-philosophical assertions of the noble minds, it is crystal clear that the present administration has lost the grips of  governance to frivolities, greed and selfishness not minding the hues and cries from the governed.

Recall that Governor Adeleke's administration was reprimanded by the members of the public for lack of transparency when it reeled out its failed borehole projects, as people particularly journalists; members of the Civil Society Organizations and major stakeholders in the state, bashed and queried the rationale behind the project which many described as a misplaced priority coming in 21st Century, where virtually every neighbourhood except the ruralites has alternative sources for water supply system.

Taking an inference from the incidence vis-a-vis the myriad of the unanswered questions posed by the discerning citizens to elicit meaningful responses from government officials on the  controversial borehole projects then, it is disheartening that the government, up till this moment, turned a deaf ear to public yearnings.

While it is imperative for the citizens to be allegiant, faithful and diligent to the laws governing the affairs of the state, in the same measure, the government is also expected to demonstrate high sense of transparency and accountability in the management of public treasury since it owes them a duty to letting the public know how they have been governed and how the common patrimony is being used to advance general aspirations of all and sundry.

But rather than sticking to the path of trustworthiness, the government has chosen to be distorting facts, rolling out sentiments to cover up; coining lies to deceive unsuspecting members of the public, and promoting all manner of propaganda in contents and in actions just to bully the public, cow the roar voices, silent policies challengers and divert public attention whenever the issue of transparency and accountability is raised and subjected to public debate and scrutiny.

It is laughable that it took Governor Adeleke's administration several months before it came out to publicly announce the contract cost of some of the self-acclaimed and self-glorified borehole project that was claimed to have been dug and completed in all the 332 wards in the state. We should not forget that this was coming after it was alleged by the opposition that each of the boreholes was awarded at the rate of 14 million naira then before the government later claimed that it only expended 1.5 million naira on each of the alleged 'audio boreholes', several months later. But even at that, till date, government officials still give conflicting figures on the actual cost.

Despite the terse comments from the citizens demanding the cost of Akoda-Oke-Gada-Ede-Prime dual carriage road when it commenced around February 2023 by the Adeleke government, no meaningful response was provided until late February 2024 when the government came up with humongous, inexplicable and very outrageous costs approved by the Governor to execute some of the road projects being awarded and this came to the limelight after it has been seriously criticized by the public for lack of sincerity and probity in the management of the public resources.

This scenario, overtime, had made many Osun citizens and residents to lose confidence in government, believing that the entire system has been compromised, manipulated and parochially skewed to favour a few loyalists of the PDP and its government.  The backlash that trailed the figures reeled out by the Adeleke government recently on the ongoing roads project in the state was enough to form an opinion as to whether the government is truly transparent or not. 

Recently, the opposition party constructively criticized the state government for running the affairs of the state in secrecy and challenged the Governor Adeleke led-PDP government to make public all the costs of the infrastructural projects claimed to have been executed so far as this was re-echoed in some of my past write-ups to hold the government accountable no matter 'whose ox is gored.' But it was quite unfortunate that nothing meaningful has been done in this regard.

However, the Information Commissioner, Kolapo Alimi, while responding to some of the claims, said the dualization of the Old Garage-Okefia-Lameco Junction (2.24km) had been awarded to Acumen Forte Construction Company Limited at a total sum of N5,822,105,829 while the construction of 7 span bridge at Okefia intersection, Osogbo was awarded to Askorj International Nigeria Limited at a total sum of N10,764,206,257,58. Similarly, he affirmed that the construction of 4 span bridge at Lameco intersection, Osogbo had been awarded to Kimzee Global Investment at a total cost of N8, 521, 632, 257, 28.

According to him, the dualisation of Akoda- Baptist High School, Ede (5.50km) was awarded to Great Enyork Tech Limited at a total sum of N12,200,512,000 while the dualisation of Baptist High School - Oke-Gada, Ede (3.86km) was awarded to Enginec International Engineering Limited at a contract sum of N11,090,838,764 just as the construction of 4 span bridge across Osun River and dual 2-span bridge across Erinle River was given to Raregeode Company Limited at a contract sum of N3,937,072,827,00. 

But the questions agitating the minds of the discerning citizens are: why did it take the government so long before unveiling the costs and the identities of the contractors handling the public projects? What are the criteria used to determine competence in the selection of the construction companies that bided for the contracts as there were insinuations that some of the benefitting companies do not have clear-cut construction details and impeccable track record on the Corporate Affairs Commission's (C A.C) websites to be awarded road contracts or handled road projects?  Why must the government award contracts worth billions of naira to companies that have no construction history? Has the government forgotten that its action is contrary to the principles of accountability, amounting to gross violation of the Osun State 2015 Procurement Laws? Why is the government still keeping mute in revealing the true identity of the so-called contractors it had awarded contracts, at least, to clear the air and dispel whatever speculations about the issues? Why did the state government award about 10 billion naira road project to two companies traceable to the sitting Osun Deputy Speaker, Hon. Akinyode Abidemi Oyewusi? Is the government not aware of the implications of such? 

Assuming without conceding that truly the Deputy Speaker had resigned his position before contesting house of assembly election, why the choice of his companies out of hundred of competent roads construction companies owned by the citizens of the state?

These and many other questions must be answered satisfactorily if truly the current government really know what it is doing and mean well for the state and her people.

As citizens, we must not forget that accountability is one of the steps that must be taken to maintain and increase public confidence in any government performance hence the Governor Adeleke's administration to take cognisance of the fact that accountability in terms of ethics and governance, is equated with answerability, culpability and liability to succeed. 

The time is now for the incumbent government to submit itself for public scrutiny by unveiling the true identities of the contractors handling the so called public projects most especially some of the ongoing roads in Ede, Osogbo respectively.

Like I said at the beginning, let me reiterate here that, as discerning citizens, we should continue to be reminded that openness will indeed strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government only if we collectively work in unison to hold government accountable.

*May God heal our land!*

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