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NGO Call For Community Participation In Open Contracting

A Non Governmental Organization, Public and Private Development Centre, PPDC has urged communities in Akwa Ibom State to always demand for contract details of any project before contractors begin execution of such project.

This, PPDC explained, will strengthen stakeholders' participation in open contracting and governance and also enhance strict implementation of such contract.

Speaking during  Community Engagement/ Town hall meeting held at the Community Secondary Grammar School Ebughu, Mbo Local Government Area on October 7, tagged, "Deepening Community Engagement and Action,  the PPDC Programme Officer Mr Onyekachi Chukwu, said community participation in open contracting will enable communities to own such projects in their area and protect them from vandalism.

He cited instances in some communities in Nigeria they have visited where projects especially in the health and education sectors were sited but not put to use by such communities because of their non-involvement by the contractor or sponsor.

He pointed out that, most times, contractors refuse to involve communities in the contracting for fear that they might be held responsible for any shabby or incomplete jobs.

The Programme Officer averred it was high time communities began to put forward their demands in order to get their rights and needs.

According to him, "some projects sited in communities stay wasted and unused by the community because such were not their needs, stressing the need for politicians or government to know the needs of communities first before siting any project to reduce the rate of unused projects in communities and waste of resources.

Chukwu cited an instance of two VIP toilet facilities at Community Secondary Grammar School, Ebughu attracted by Mr Nse Ekpenyong, member representing Oron Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives as his 2016 constituency project through Tekisvic Services Ltd as contractor, but still under lock and key and not used by the school.

He explained that during construction of the project, the school authority was not informed and on completion, it was not handed over to the school, hence, its abandonment.

Chukwu recalled that when PPDC monitored the project through their Community Based Monitor (CBM), they realized that the 2016 project was under lock and key for four years when it should have been put to use.

He reasoned that the community was not carried along to avoid being asked questions when there are issues in the project, stressing the need for citizens' participation which according to him, entails the people being involved in the contracting and their needs being known before projects are sited.

The Principal-General of the school and chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Akwa Ibom States, Comrade Etim Ukpong noted with dismay, attitudes of contractors who, according to him, often times walk into school premises and moved round to decide where to site a project without the knowledge of the school authority.

 He revealed an instance where two classroom blocks and two VIP toilet facilities were sited in his school compound without the knowledge of the school authority which has led to non-usage of the projects by students and teachers.

 The Principal-General stressed the need for government to come to terms with governance by allowing communities to own their projects and participate in any contract that concerns them.

 Ukpong, who is the immediate past chairman of Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) in the state, said "It is high time communities are made to own what they have because when this happens, such project would be prevented from vandalism and would not be abandoned.

He commended the effort of the NGO in making communities know their rights and what government owes them.

The paramount ruler of Mbo Local Government Area, His Royal Majesty, Edidem Okon Asukwo Abang, said they were in complete obscurity due to poor representations at the state and federal assemblies, as well as in the local government, thanking PPDC for bringing the awareness to Ebughu.

 He said if they were privileged to be enlightened in that manner long enough, what has befallen them would have been averted.

 A traditional ruler in the community, Chief Asukwo Nduong, observed that the problem in various communities in the state are caused by poor representations both at the state and national assemblies, recalling that promises are usually made by their representatives during campaigns but at the end, those promises are not fulfilled.

 He stressed the need for a workshop to be organized for different representatives in all levels of governance in the state.

 At the event, participants including a teacher in the school where the two projects are sited, frowned at the situation where a contractor enters a school compound, dig the ground and site a project without the community participating and the school being notified.

According to them, while the two classroom blocks were wrongly sited due to its closeness to the road and quite far away from the premises which is without perimeter fencing, the two VIP toilets on completion were wrongly handed over to the school, as the keys were given to the security man rather than the Principal.

Participants said, even if the issues accompanying the projects would be properly resolved in future, the two classroom blocks would not be used for security reason and safety of lives of students in the school.

At the premises of Community Grammar School, Ebughu in Mbo Local Government Area, The Pioneer observed that the two VIP toilet facilities in question said to cost N12,545,000 were locked with no sign of usage or entrance to the facilities.

 The project, The Pioneer gathered was constructed in 2016 by Mr Nse Ekpenyong through Tekisvic Services Ltd as his constituency project.

 The Pioneer further observed that the two classroom blocks, well painted are sited miles apart from other blocks and is close to the road.

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