The move by the Edo state government of Godwin Obaseki to rid the state capital and its environs of illegal structures including constituency projects drew the anger of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in the state. PATRICK OCHOGA writes
Ahead of the forthcoming 2019 general election in Nigeria, the two major political parties in Edo state, the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)are in a battle of wit to gain political capital.
A drive around major streets such as Omoruyi, Plymouth, Vegetable Market Area, 3rd and 2nd Circular, New Benin, Siluko Road and Awo Street had solar-powered street lights influenced by some lawmakers of the PDP in the National Assembly as part of their constituency projects. These, however, may soon be removed from the streets of Benin City by the Edo State Government.
Senator Mathew Uroghide and Ogbeide Ihama had posters placed on the solar powered street lights erected, a strong sign of the PDP presence in the state
The solar streets light which add to the aesthetic beauty of the area also put away criminal elements who may want operate under the cover of the dark.
It was gathered that the state government has already approved street lights to be erected along some of the streets the lawmakers had placed their street lights as constituency project, a development which run contrary to plans of the state government in erecting streets light.
Government sources said the posters of the lawmakers placed on the street lights on roads under construction by the state government made the people believe that the road projects were part of the constituency projects.
However, investigation by our correspondent indicated that some of the solar power light fell short of the approved standard and specification by the state government, a situation which fuelled thinking that they were done with the sole intention of scoring political point against the ruling Obaseki-led APC in the state.
Prior to last week’s move by the administration to commence the removal of constituency projects, it had warned that the state government would not fold its hand and watch politicians distort its original plans in citing of projects and advised that such persons must first of all seek the permission of the state government before embarking on such projects.
The governor had subsequently ordered the removal of all substandard and unauthorised road furniture including similar projects on roads across the state.
The governor who gave the order after the state’s weekly Executive Council meeting said it was not right to erect substandard electricity poles that were either abandoned mid-way or lacked sustainable maintenance plan thereby posing safety risk.
Obaseki pointed out that the decision became necessary in order to streamline project execution across the state and eliminate the chaotic situation currently being experienced.
He stated that the growing trend of executing projects without recourse to the agencies of government that give approvals and licences for such projects, in line with laid down rules, was worrisome and must stop.
According to him, “The state is littered with substandard projects that disrupt the infrastructure master plan and violate laid down rules for such projects.
“The chaotic and indiscriminate execution of substandard and unapproved projects, which are not known to state government agencies and other tiers of government, is unacceptable. This ugly trend must stop.”
“We have a template for the wide array of developmental projects which are being implemented in every ward in the state and anyone who is executing any project in any part of the state should seek approval from the relevant government agencies.
“The right thing to do is to run your projects through officials of government saddled with the task to give approvals for such projects and secure the necessary approvals
“Currently, consultation has reached advanced stage to have a dedicated electricity line that will feed government hospitals, the state secretariat complex and other government offices, to ensure regular power supply in those offices. You cannot disrupt such a plan with a project that the approving agencies are not aware of, and have not approved.”
Barely two weeks after the governor issued the warning, residents of the affected streets where some of these solar street light woke up to discover that the banner bearing PDP federal lawmaker’s party logo and pictures had disappeared fuelling outcry by the party and the affected lawmakers.
First to raise the alarm was the senator representing Edo South Senatorial district, Matthew Urhoghide. He accused the Edo State Government of destroying all the projects he attracted to his constituency because he is a member of the opposition PDP.
Urhoghide said agents of Governor Obaseki had begun tearing down the labels on the solar street lights installed in various streets of the senatorial district.
A walk round the streets where the solar powered street lights are located showed that the posters of Urhoghide and Ihama had been removed from the street lights.
Urhoghide, however, noted that the removal of his poster was in preparatory to bringing down the street lights themselves as the government had earlier given indication to that effect.
A statement signed by the Senior Legislative Aide to Urhoghide, Neda Imasuen, said the action was condemnable, irresponsible and wasteful of tax payers’ sweat.
The statement read, “To destroy projects publicly funded is to spit in the face of the tax payers. The action of Edo State Government, however, will not deter Senator Matthew Urhoghide from giving good representation to his people which he promised on his campaign trail and which he expressly launched himself into from day one.”
The PDP on its part alleged that the state government spent N23m to remove pictures of PDP National Assembly members from the constituency projects they attracted and erected in their constituencies.
The party in a signed statement by the publicity secretary, Chris Nehikhare, also accused the state government of paying one Mutari Osifo Osagie N23m to vandalize Edo National Assembly members’ constituency projects.
According to the PDP: “This development is in fulfilment of the state government’s threat that since its consent was not sought, it will not allow the projects to stand.
“Edo PDP is dismayed at this ugly development. However, we are not surprised. We are aware that Governor Obaseki’s failings as a governor who after nearly two years in office has not been able to initiate, implement or commission any project is the reason for this “jealous feat” and executive vandalism.
“We know that Governor Obaseki and his party, APC, will be challenged to show or identify any of their projects as the election season approaches, but to resort to vandalism of opponent’s projects is unacceptable, evil and an acceptance of failure and cluelessness.”
Explaining government’s reasons for embarking on the removal of such projects the special adviser to Governor Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy stated that the removal of illegal structures, billboards, posters, pictures was because they run foul of the development imperatives of the state government adding that the decision was not targeted at any one.
Osagie noted that it was disruptive of anybody to place structures without due approval from relevant government agencies thereby upsetting development plans for public utilities and other social amenities.
He further added that the state government had a well-thought-out plan for the state and that no one was allowed to arbitrarily erect structures contrary to government’s vision.
According to him, “This decision is not targeted at any individual or group. The structures, billboards and posters being removed do not only deface public space, they also are not approved by relevant regulatory agencies.”
“It is disruptive of anybody to place structures without due approval from relevant government agencies, upsetting development plans for public utilities and other social amenities. Government has a well-thought-out plan for the state and no one is allowed to arbitrarily erect structures contrary to government’s vision.
“This decision is not targeted at any individual or group. The structures, billboards and posters being removed do not only deface public space, they also are not approved by relevant regulatory agencies.”
A political analyst, Deacon Paul Omoregie, who called for synergy and understanding among the lawmakers and government said dirty politics must not take precedence over the generality of the masses.
He added that erecting street lights was laudable adding however that the state government must be properly notified before such projects were embarked upon.
He said: “Can somebody come from nowhere and start painting your house without permission from you? The same way someone cannot just come to your house and change your roof without your permission. The answer is absolutely no. For God’s sake the state is governed by somebody. If anyone wants to develop the state you must first of all seek permission. What he did is good but do you know if the governor has given out the contract or has the intension to provide street light that meet the standard for the state?”
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