This is my rejoinder to Odimegwu Onwumere’s article with the title “Rivers without Water”. N250 billion for water project in the state sounds like a lot of money, like he said. But I think it is not the sum alone that should be reported for consideration.
River State is partly riverine too, and not all solid ground. Cost is a function of many things. As this is PDP government, obviously part of the money is not going to go to productive values. That is obvious.
My take is that the Commissioner of Water Resources may be allowed to use about 40%, going by PDP productivity and thieving structure. What is important is that the commissioner clarifies the engineering design she has proposed.
There are many levels of engineering. If she is refurbishing existing systems that can more times cost more than scraping what is existing and starting from fresh. To scrap and start from afresh requires that those existing pipes that will be in the way be removed completely, and this can be very expensive to fit.
Going by the growing size of Port Harcourt (PH), the best alternative will be to phase in construction by replacing existing pipes with larger supply bandwidth. A good job can easily cost more than the estimated sum if they will actually do it well.
Water supply is heavy on infrastructure and machines/systems that process, store and transport water. But the truth under PDP is that they will not go for the gold. They will go for some paper weight design so they can steal 60% of the funds. That is what has kept PDP as a party dysfunctional, when it comes to proper utilization of the oil fund in developing Nigeria. No other party in the history of Nigeria’s development has failed as largely as PDP.
Reasons Constructions Become Very Expensive In Nigeria:
1. Kick Backs to party officials
2. Lack of Local competent and qualified technicians – even valued laborers come from overseas
3. Foreign workers must be transported, guarded from kidnappers, and housed in expensive hotels
4. Dishonesty amongst politicians also cause contractors to triple their asking rates because government is unstable and they may not be paid in full, so they want to be sure that the first installment is enough to pay their cost and whatever gets paid latter is profit.
5. Distrust of government by the people – folks tend to steal anything government, because they know those in power are nothing but senior thieves, thus justifying the speed with which workers connive to sleet and loot government. Once Oga gives them the go and get some order, they take advantage to get more than necessary for themselves too.
6. Lack of credible and skilled house engineers that give authentic initial estimates based on projected design structure and use intent. I read somewhere that in most cases, the in-house engineers do give far larger cost estimates than the contractors, so they too can get their own when the project is awarded.
7. In Nigeria, success in politics does not come from fulfilled promises to the people, but from what purse size one could steal for themselves for use after their political careers. To become permanently rich following 4years of service is the main behavior driver and if that did not happen, society judges the politicians as a miserably failure.
Mazi Onwumere, there are more, but suffice it to say that even if this lady gets the N250billion in cash, Rivers State will not have adequate water supply in the next 20 years. Unless we grow our own technologies and experts with conscience to serve, no amount of money can buy us development from the foreign market. So, worry not about the money being staged, worry about what part of it will actually be put to good use and pray that they do.
River state is the richest of all states. She could afford better things than what I saw on the ground in PH these past few months. People are crowded and disorderly in a very small part of the state. And the notion that PH alone can develop self without contributions from the larger eastern region is why it gets too expensive to do.
Certain ventures are better on a regional scale and water is one of such. The other is food production and agriculture. Another is transport and education. The governor can build glorious schools in Rivers but unless he can also produce glorious teachers from the state, it is a waste.
Amaechi needs glorious teachers from all over Nigeria and more importantly from her next door states to make Rivers education superior. That means such teachers must have been also trained in glorious conditions as to be able to give glorious services. So, Rivers can bury all her money in Rivers but that will not make them what they seek. Development cannot be state- restricted but must be regional in structure to make it meaningful.
River state has spent the past 40 years trying to be better than her Igbo neighbors, but it is not happening structurally because development that is not regional will not mature. No state can be an island.
The soldiers divided the regions to make it easy to control and rule them. But the regions must realize the important of large scale economy if they wish to development so as to do so collectively.
What will save Rivers State is the new effort to remove state of origin from employment requirements in Nigeria. By so doing all the Igbo that constitute more than 60% of the population of Rivers State can then become available for government and political jobs by law. Unless they wish to spend their money fighting discriminations law suits from Ndi’Igbo who were from Imo, Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and others, like those from Calabar and Akwa Ibom.
PH is the Lagos of the East and no one small group can stone-stake claim to making it what it should be. Diverse and competitive skills are needed. Note that the entire Easter Nigerian is smaller than the size of Texas or California in USA. So, what they call states are merely cities comparatively. But when it comes to water and electricity many states in the USA work together regionally and even Canada is part of the electrical supply grid in the USA. When there is problem in one sector power is infused from the other.
No matter what Rivers State does its water will not be cheap if it does not come regionally to include a cooperative venture by all states in the region. What kill development in Nigeria is the small scale divided by small efforts by states that amount to nothing.
It was a very bad idea to be given development oil money to individual states rather than a consortium of states in a region. The best strategy will be to go back to the regional formula that was instituted by the British, when it comes to economic development.