By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Six Rivers State communities covered in the European Union-funded Niger Delta Support Programme (NDSP) for provision of water and sanitation have raised concern over the suspension of the state from the programme due to non-remittance of the stateâ€™s N100 million counterpart funding.
The communities have therefore called Governor Nyesom Wike to intervene and cause the release of the N100 million already approved by the governor.
The EU, under NDSP is executing Water and sanitation projects in communities that are worst hit from lack of potable water in five states of the Niger Delta, namely Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta and Edo states, with Rivers State as headquarters.
The six affected communities in Rivers State are Abonnema, Abisa and Kula in Akuku-Toru and Opobo, Nkoro and Kalaibiama in Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Areas, which are said to be suffering from lack of portable water.
While the EU would provide Â£2.4 million for the project, Rivers State was expected to provide N200 million as its counterpart funding. The state has so far paid N100 million, leaving the state in a deficit of N100 million.
Addressing a press conference in Port Harcourt yesterday, the Chairman, Federation of Akuku-Toru and Opobo/Nkoro Water Consumers Association (WCA), Mr. Iwarimie Diri, said the state was to flag off the works tender for the projects yesterday (Friday) but was stopped by the project managers because of the non-payment of the counterpart funds by the state.
He however disclosed that the NDSP had given the state up toÂ Tuesday next weekÂ to pay or forfeit the project.
â€œWe came here to appeal to His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Rivers State, ChiefÂ Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike, who had earlier promised to be part of this project. His Excellency graciously approved the release of the fund needed for the project. We are very grateful to him. We also know that to approve and the release of money do not come the same time because of government procedure.
â€œYesterday, we were slammed with a mail from the EU and Niger Delta Support Programme (NDSP) because the tender for the project was to be launched today and we were expecting it yesterday. But instead of the launch of the tender, we got a mail from them suspending the launch of the tender. In fact, that sent shock on our spine and we have to start calling our members and asking of what to do and up till now, most of us have not slept well because of the efforts we have put since 2014 when this project started and the commitment we are making even in our various communities to make the project come through.
â€œThe last time we came here, market women, those who sell periwinkle, those who sell firewood made contributions towards our own five per cent counterpart funding to see to the success of this project in our communities. We do not know how to get back to our communities to tell them this news,â€ he lamented.
He appealed to Wike to facilitate the release of the N100 million which he had already approved so that efforts of the people since 2014 would not be a waste.
He said the project which started in 2014 had already trained personnel to be involved in the execution of the project expected to employ over 1,000 persons.