THE UNSUNG HEROS: Journey Towards ADFB Loan Of $263m to Abia State.
By Obinna Oriaku, former Commissioner of Finance.
The journey towards securing the African Development Bank, AFDB, loan of two hundred and sixty three million dollars( $263M), started in 2014, after Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu’s emergence as PDP governorship candidate.
Before his election in 2015, and during one of his numerous trips to Enugu for consultations with stakeholders and party meetings, I had taken one Chief Emeka Ononiwu to meet with Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu at Neo Court Hotel Enugu, where i lodged his team. At this time, I was still with First Bank Nigeria Ltd.
For the records, Chief Emeka Ononiwu, a consultant for international development agencies and World bank who incidentally reside in Enugu was introduced to me by Barr. Bob Ogu, a former Commissioner for Works basically because of this project as I told him about the visit of the PDP candidate to Enugu .
My relationship with Biggest Uncle , as I fondly call him, dates back to my days as a student of Abia State University, where Dee Bob Ogu was a young lecturer.
Chief Emeka attended the meeting with the design of Aba township underground flood control system built in the 1970’s. The designed master plan was credited to be the only solution to Abia’s perennial flooding problem. Note that at this time, Ikpeazu was still a candidate and not yet a Governor. Thus, the journey started before he assumed office as the Executive Governor of Abia State. That meeting presented me with an opportunity of meeting alot of political actors like Dee John Nwangborogu who was just announced as the Director General of Okezuo Abia Campaign Organisation and also a household name in the Ngwa political space.
Chief Emeka, during the meeting, gave a detailed explanation of the map for internal flood control of old Aba as at the 1970’s. He also revealed how much efforts the team employed during former Governor Theodore Orji’s administration to get get the facility but to no avail even with the attention and nod of world bank to intervene in Aba secured then.
Chief Emeka, said he backed out when the then government referred him to one of the aides of Governor T. A Orji, for further engagements, which did not go down well with him . Consequently, he walked away and shunned the project and the state.
After the general elections and four (4) days of assumption of office as Governor of Abia State, Barr. Bob Chidozie Ogu was made the Project Coordinator (PC) Abia Integrated Infrastructure Development Agency, with seven other members. This agency was saddled with the responsibility of theexecution of the project. To underscore the importance of the agency, it was the first formal appointment of the new administration after the appointment of three (3) aides to the Governor in the cadre of Special Advisers.
The late Chijioke Nwakodo who was to later become the Chief of Staff to the new Governor, was poised to give every required support to the agency, having concluded and convinced the world bank intervention would be the solution to Abia problems as it covered the hydra headed waste management, erosion control, urban and semi urban roads.
The design also included provision of pipe borne water for Aba but had to be removed due to inherent technical issues. Therefore, It was on this basis that the agency was created and later established through the requisite legislative backing of the Abia State House of Assembly. The Agency’s main responsibility was to see the realization of this project and its execution.
Soon after, work started on the project in earnest as presentations were made at the World bank office at Abuja and their subsequent visits to Aba and Abia for various inspections .
We followed up with numerous visits to Abuja to ensure this loan request was included in the national borrowing plan of the federation through the Ministry of Finance and National Assembly which is a prerequisite before we could move to the next stage.
We subsequently came for defence of this loan and presented before the two chambers;House Committee on Appropriation,Local & Foreign Loans and committee on Finance .The Senate committee at the time was chaired by Senator Shehu Sani, while Senator John Owan Enoh was the Senate Committe Chairman on Finance.
The presentation was professionally handled by myself as there was general consensus on my presentation and the need to support the project. Senator TA Orji was among the committee members that day. He was excited at the style of presentation. Hon Eziuche Ubani was also around to network among his colleagues.
After this presentation, regrettably, inexplicable war started as avalanche of petitions flooded the National Assembly on these Abia world bank projects.
However, we pushed and won at that level as we deployed all our contacts to wave off those against the project .These people waging this war, went to the extent of even visiting ADFB office at Abuja discouraging them from going ahead with Abia project while other states moved on .
Those who were against this project used the National Assembly bureaucracy to stagnate us while the other seven states that presented with us which includes; Enugu, Kano, Kaduna, moved on.
There was a debilitating spanner that was thrown in the wheel of progress for the Abia project at the office of the clerk of the National Assembly. Their intention was to deliberately frustrate the Abia project.
For instance, an official communication to the Ministry of Finance and the (SGF), Secretary to the Government of the Federation conveying their approval was dented with deliberate errors and this was done on two different occasions.We lost over five months at this particular stage causing frustration and disenchantment, which was palpable among members of Abia team. I must confess that there was paucity of funds to carry on this project as 80% of the cost of travels, hotel accommodation and other logistics were borne personally by members of the agency and the team.
At a point, We even reached out to the then Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and other Abians at the National Assembly to step-in to resolve the problem .
The design of these projects became a problem and they were turned down over 3 different times at the world bank . They demanded 100% perfection in all these projects. When I left office, the team kept pushing which led to the visit of the Governor with a team to Abidjan Cote d’ivoire on an ADFB meeting . All these were to assure the bank about our resolve to partner with them on this project.
The delay made ADFB to almost chicken out of the transaction but for the resilience of the key actors(The Governor, Emeka and Bob) and personal relationships established during this period, the commitment, and sincerity of these gentlemen .
I must first thank God for His grace towards the realization of this project; Barr. Bob Ogu for his interest and subsequent introduction of Chief Emeka Ononiwu, a passionate Abian who though formally engaged as consultant to the state on World bank and development agencies was not paid a KOBO for all his services to Abia since 2015 . From the $54m NEWMAP, $50m RAMP and this current $263m ADFB.
Its instructive to note that ADFB on noticing the commitment of the state towards the actualization of the project graciously approved grant of $1.5m for the designing of all these projects using their approved contractors.
I can recall how one of the Governors offered mouth watering offer that ran into hundreds of millions for some of these World bank interventions to be moved to his State which we all refused because we believe in our dear state, Abia.
I make bold to say that while I served as Commissioner for finance from 2015 to 2019, no KOBO was paid as consultancy fee for all there services. It was free and sacrificial for the love and
development of the state . Any voucher or document seen as consultancy or facilitation fee for any of these projects should be thoroughly investigated as no payment was made to anybody to the best of my knowledge.
God will bless you more , even if the state fails to acknowledge and appreciate your contributions.
The following people deserves acknowledgement and appreciation for their contributions even if the state fails to do so:
1. The former Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and his team that went to Abidjan, Cote D’lvoir in March 2020. They toiled daily to ensure it was realised and yours faithfully Obinna Oriaku
2. Senator T.A Orji whose administration first stated this romance with the World Bank .
3. The former Deputy Governor Udeh Oko Chukwu, who also followed up and assisted.
4. Chief Necheta Omerekpe, who used his contact being a national assembly contractor to step in when it mattered most .
5. Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe who followed up with his colleagues to ensure the sabotage at the National Assembly stopped .
6. Hon Eziuche Ubani who also followed up among his colleagues.
7. Hon Emeka Longman Nwachukwu, the then Commissioner for works during Sen. TA Orji administration.
8. The then Abia 6th Assembly, led by Rt. Hon. Martins Azubuike for their legislative backing
Special appreciations to our Amazons in diaspora; Madam Ngozi Okonjo Iwuala, Arunma Oteh and Lady Vivian Irondi currently at World bank headquarters, New York. These amazons are truly Abians as they assisted at one point during this period .
Like i said ealier, credit goes to Abia and the entire team that worked for over Seven years to see to the realization of this project.
The duty of the new administration is to see to the speedy commencement of this project while learning on the mistakes of the past government on world bank projects . They demand 100% compliance to their agreement .
We must see Abia first in all we do…
Former Commissioner for finance 2015/ 2019(Glorious era) First runner up at APC Governorship Primaries 2022