Contractors flee as N2bn facilities rot away in C’River

The abandoned swimming pool

Sports facilities in Cross River State are in a pathetic state of abandonment and disrepair despite gulping a whopping N2bn, reports Mudiaga Affe from Calabar in this special report

Abandoned sports projects at the U.J Esuene Stadium, Calabar, and other locations in the Cross River State capital have gulped over N2bn without much to show for it, SATURDAY PUNCH investigations have shown.

The projects, which are at various stages of rot, were awarded during the administration of the immediate past governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke. These projects include an ultra-modern indoor sports hall, hostel complex for athletes, swimming pool, handball and volley ball pitches, lawn tennis courts, hockey pitch and football pitch, among others.

While the bulk of the abandoned projects are sited at the U.J Esuene Stadium, others located at the Calabar campus of the Cross River State University of Technology and Calabar Lawn Tennis Club, have not attracted public criticisms due to their locations.

According to our findings, the ultra-modern indoor sports hall was awarded at the cost of N2.2bn. Other projects include the tartan tracks awarded at the cost of N124m and re-grassing of six football pitches for N74m, while the swimming and training pools cost N433m.

The only project that has been completed, according to the state government, is the tartan tracks at the main bowl of the stadium.

Our correspondent learnt that the state’s failure to host the National Sports Festival in 2014 and 2015 was as a result of the abandoned projects, thus eliciting criticisms from sports stakeholders, who lambasted the state government for failing to complete the projects.

Rosemary Akpan, a sports enthusiast, lamented that despite the large funds sunk into the projects, there were no results to show.

 “It is painful that so much money has been sunk into these facilities with nothing to show for it. Cross River State has not been able to host the National Sports Festival for some years now due to the gross neglect of these facilities and projects. Most of the athletes have also dropped out because they have been abandoned to their fate,” she stated.

Another sports follower, Kunle Salami, added, “The state government is unserious about hosting the festival. Why should they embark on projects that they cannot complete?”

One of the visibly abandoned facilities at the U.J Esuene Stadium is the multi-purpose indoor sports hall, with materials meant for its completion littered inside different places in the sports arena.

The project, which was estimated to cost N2.2bn as at the time of awarding it in 2014, is said to have only been 40 per cent completed.

But while the contracting firm handling the project insisted that only N900m was released for the project, the state government said over N1.3bn had been expended.

Mr. Ozolua Giwa-Amu, Chairman, Henley Brecon and Mayfield Ltd, the contracting firm in charge of the project, blamed the Governor Ben Ayade-led administration for the lack of continuity and completion of the project.

He added that the bulk of the materials needed to complete the project, which he said was estimated at $22m in 2014, had been left to rot away at the Onne Sea Port in Rivers State.

While admitting that about N900m was remitted, Giwa-Amu also blamed some top government officials in the last administration of complicating matters.

He said, “When we started the project, we were mobilised. We were to be paid 30 or 35 per cent as mobilization. But instead of receiving that percentage, we got something less, 12 per cent, and when we inquired why it was so, the then Commissioner for Special Projects, (name withheld), claimed that it was for special governor’s consultancy fee.

“Immediately we went to the governor, he said he never heard of that kind of fee but the commissioner came back to say that it was deduction for statutory fee, which ought to come at the end of the project.

“From then on, we had all kinds of problems with the commissioner. They gave us a second payment of N370m, which we used to import materials. Those materials are stocked at Onne Port in Rivers State. We have written to the present administration of Governor Ben Ayade, telling them that we are incurring demurrage but no response.

“Since then we have received no more funding. We have received only two payments that amounted to about N900m. The painful thing is that the price of the whole project has skyrocketed only because of failures at some points.”

But the state Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Asu Okang, disagreed, insisting that the over N2bn that had been sunk into the various projects, including the indoor sports hall, might have been misappropriated.

“I do not understand why a contractor who has been given N1.3bn would not have gone far. Upon deeper findings, we understood that certain under currents took place. The state government has put in over N2bn on sports projects. As for the swimming pool, N390m has been paid out of the N450m contract sum.

“As of today, we need N650m to complete all other projects but unfortunately we do not have that money because of recession. Again, the rise in dollars has affected the projects. No government will want to abandon its own project,” he said.

The indoor sports hall is not the only abandoned project that has defaced the stadium. There is also the Olympic-size swimming pool and a training pool that has become the home of all manners of bacteria.

Although the contractors handling the project could not be reached, Okang said the contracting firm was holding the state hostage after receiving N390m for a job of N450m.

When our correspondent visited the swimming and training pools, it was discovered that the foreign contractors had fled the country and abandoned their equipment at the site.

A security guard at the abandoned swimming pool project site said the office had been locked up for over one year.

“There is no ongoing job here. The yard has been abandoned for over one year now and the equipment left under the sun. The quality of equipment inside the closed caravan might also expire with time. This is a monumental waste,” the security guard said.

Yet again, another sports enthusiast and a civil servant in one of the state ministries, Mr. Arikpo Arikpo, lamented that the deplorable state of the stadium has affected the psyche of athletes.

“Majority of the state athletes have dropped out of the state team because they no longer have training venues. Cross River State has always topped school sports competitions in past years but the situation is no longer so because the athletes have gone their separate ways. This is sad,” he said.

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Source: punch