Okowa: How Contractor Messed up Asaba Airport Project

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Signs N308bn appropriation bill into law
Omon-Julius Onabu and Sylvester Idowu in Asaba

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has finally opened up on the underlying factors behind the stalling of work on the remolding of the Asaba Airport, saying the contractor handling the project messed up the job by performing far below par particularly regarding the pace of work.

Fielding questions at the quarterly parley with journalists at the Government House Asaba yesterday, Okowa revealed that the contractor clearly displayed unwillingness or incompetence in the execution of the important infrastructure project.

He stated that the contract would be re-awarded to another firm soon, stressing that the overall interest of the people of state outweighs the reported friendship between him and the chief executive of the defaulting construction firm.
According to him, “I don’t care if I step on any toes. Unfortunately, his work remained very slow despite the pressure we put on him, and having paid fully the 50 per cent mobilisation agreed with the previous administration.”

The Asaba Airport was conceived as international airport when work on its construction began under the administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, but it was downgraded in April 2015 by the Federal Aviation Authority, the country’s aviation regulatory authorities, which cited several deficiencies in its construction, including a substandard runway, high-gradient surrounding hills and porosity of the facility due to lack of perimeter fencing.

However, the contractor was forced to throw in the towel few days ago, giving a litany of reasons why ULO Consultants had to hands off handling the project, but Okowa told journalists in Asaba yesterday that the state government actually prompted the contractor’s action when it gave the company a ‘Yellow Card’ in October 2017 as it was increasingly clear they would not deliver the project.

The governor stressed that although fully mobilised in line with the original terms of the contract to the tune of 50 per cent, the level of work on the airport remolding project by the indigenous contractor, ULO Consultants Limited, had not really reached 25 per cent nearly two years after the project was mandated to have been completed and duly delivered.
The contractual agreement was for the contractor to re-jig the airport to specifications as directed by the Nigerian FCAA at a cost of about N5.01 billion with the work agreement stating that it would be completed in four months.

Okowa noted that he did not consider funding as the problem or cause of delay of completion of work as adequate loan facility was duly secured for the upgrading of the airport by the state government last year.
Explaining why the government awarded the contract for the Asaba Airport upgrade, involving six aspects to ULO Consultants, the governor said: “Funding was not the issue, and I regularly went to the airport simply to ensure that the project was delivered in good time and for us to have about the best airport in the country, but the pace of work remained very slow in spite of the pressure we put on the contractor to complete the project according to schedule.”

Conducting the governor round the facilities, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ULO Consultants, Chief Uche L. Okpuno, had continued to express confidence that his construction firm would eventually deliver a world-class airport especially with the installation of Instrument Landing System (ILS) almost completed in January.

Okpuno had told journalists during the said visit when the contractor said the project would be ready by the end of March next year that “I believe that in the next eight weeks everything will be completed. The rehabilitation work on the runway and taxiway is projected to end in March. All things being equal, we should be able to finish work by March ending.”
In another development, Okowa also signed into law the Delta State 2018 Appropriation Bill of approximately N308 billion during a brief ceremony at the Exco Chambers of the Government House Asaba, expressing optimism that the budget for the 2018 fiscal year would record 100 per cent performance.

He thanked the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, and the entire state legislature for the speedy passage of the budget estimates he presented to them, saying the cordial relationship between the state executive and legislative arms was positively affecting the lives of the people of the state.

On the Delta State remunerations, salaries, allowances, gratuities and pensions of certain public office holders and bodies amendment law 2017, Okowa expressed hope that the law will correct that anomalies in salaries and allowances so that people will earn what they are entitled to.