Contractors stage protest over alleged N11b debt in Delta
•Claims false, commissioner counters
Economic activities were yesterday paralysed in Asaba following a protest by contractors from the oil- bearing communities of Delta State over alleged N11 billion debt.
Under the auspices of Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) Indigenous Contractors’ Forum, the protesters numbering over 3,000, took to the major streets of the capital city before finally heading for the State House of Assembly along Okpanam Road.
Brandishing placards with different inscriptions, including ‘Delta Assembly, don’t allow DESOPADEC to die; Save DESOPADEC contractors from sudden death; We are hungry, pay us our money; Okowa, don’t tamper with the 13 per cent derivation fund meant for the commission; Stop selective payment’ among others, they claimed that some of them were yet to receive payment for jobs they allegedly completed since 2012.
They further claimed that the payment that was carried out in 2014 was selectively implemented.The irate contractors accused Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of deploying the derivation funds in an unacceptable manner, threatening to sue him.
The contractors’ forum chairman, Francis Obule, told newsmen that they resorted to the move in the face of the state government’s alleged indifference to their plight.
He noted that the alleged non-payment had visited untold hardship on his members.
Obule said: “We want proper implementation of DESOPADEC budget and the law establishing the agency. We need the 2015/2016 budgets to be implemented to pay us the completed and ongoing projects.”
He claimed that no contractor has been paid in the last two years except those close to the authorities.Maintaining that the extant law mandates that 50 per cent of the derivation fund be set aside for the development of the oil-producing communities through the agency, Obule, however, appealed to Speaker Sheriff Oborewori to ensure that the commission’s enabling laws are implemented to the letter as well as intervene in their crisis.
But in a swift reaction, the Commissioner for Information, Patrick Ukah, described the allegations as untrue.He said the current administration in the state does not get involved in tokenism, especially as it relates to the commission and its contractors.
Ukah urged the protesters to be civil and refrain from utterances capable of causing disaffection in the state, insisting that the governor was poised to delivering good governance to all citizens.