Edo: Challenging the challengers

Last month, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state announced that his administration had re-awarded the five -star Benin Central Hospital after a section of the medical institution collapsed in June 2012.  PATRICK AHANOR takes a look at the investigative panel report on the incident and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s  denunciation of the  move

Built during the pre-colonial masters era and targeting only a handful of patients, (as it were then), it was clear that the Benin Central Hospital has been over- stretched beyond its limit and as such, was desirous of a total overhaul.
Lying in the city center between the State House of Assembly Complex on one hand and buildings housing some government ministries  on the other, a first time visitor to the area could easily be misrepresented for a monument due to its obsolete outlook.

At the last count, the hospital’s complex was said to be 130 years old. And as one who had made qualitative medicare as part of his priorities, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state flagged-off the construction of 5-star (200-bed) in the complex sometimes around 2011 at the cost of N2.7bn.
The gesture, was by no means, an immeasurable feat for the comrade governor, just as the people sang his praise high; because, according to them, successive administrations saw nothing wrong with the archaic structures – after all, some of them (the leaders) and their relatives seek foreign medical attention whenever they are indisposed.

Three years down the lane however, fate of the health institution is hanging in the balance after a section of the building collapsed less than a year into take off (construction) and therefore put a halt to work in the site.
The incident occurred after a construction crane carrying concrete from the base severed and hit a section of the complex under construction on June 2012. Besides, the project manager of the Italian Construction firm handling the project, Sinces Chimentim Limited and five other construction workers were trapped in the tragedy.
While the workers was pulled out of the rubbles alive, the project engineer was however not fortunate as he was pulled out stone-dead.

Consequently, the government constituted a probe panel in November 2012 to investigate the remote and immediate cause of the ugly incident and made appropriate recommendation.
Undaunted by the setback and a resolve to deliver on his electoral promises, Governor Oshiomhole last month announced the re-arward of the contract to a new firm (Messrs S & A Construction Company) with a completion period of nine to 12 months.
Nevertheless, the erstwhile labour leader  renewed attempt to the people of the state a befitting hospital complex seems on the line due to threat of litigation from the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The PDP, at a press briefing addressed by its state chairman at the party’s secretariat, Chief Dan Orbih raised alarm that the government re-awarded the hospital contract with due recourse to the probe panel findings which according to him, admonished the government to bring the entire structure down before work would commence.
Orbih who stated that the original contract sum of N2.7bn was later increased to N3bn dared the governor to disclose the amount it paid to the original contractor (SCInt) before he re-awarded it, even as he challenged the government to publish the probe panel’s report.

“We cannot fold our arms and watch the government endanger the lives of the entire state; because the lives of the people are dear to us. We are going to challenge this in Court. The government must be courageous to accept fault ”, Orbih stated.
Apparently in doubt if the opposition party would be in possession of a report of an investigative panel inaugurated by government- even when the comrade governor was yet to act on or make the panel’s outcome public, the Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Publicity Prince Kassim Afegbua denounced the PDP chairman’s allegation and challenged him to make the document public.
And in what looks like an unending challenge and a move to cleanse itself of a likely public backlash ‘of raising false alarm’, the opposition party threw the purported documents to the ring 72 hours after ; declaring that the government was playing with the lives of the people.

Displaying the document before journalists in Benin City, Orbih said the state government “erred by awarding a contract worth over N3 billion to a company that has no qualified structural engineer and architect.”
While lauding the state government for appointing qualified professionals into the probe panel, which he said included representatives of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Nigeria Institute of Architects (NIA), Council of Registered Builders and the Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors, he blamed the state government for its refusal to implement the report.
A flip through the executive summary of the investigative report indicated that the panel indicted the government. “there was project management failure that led to the lapses which resulted to the building collapse”, the panel stated

The panel held that four principal actors including the Edo State government were responsible for the lapses that led to the collapse of the building, pointing out that “the state government could not provide the enabling environment for the consultants to finish what they started by refusing to engage the architect and engineers in the post contract services including implementation and supervision of the project.
“The non-inclusion of relevant technical professional team to remedy all lapses before and during the period that the contractors took over site resulted in the collapse of the wing and the “sick” entire complex is negligence on the path of the client”, the report added.

Besides, the panel stated that the main contractor (SCInt), was selected without any input from the project architects (TDC) and that the project architect, TomIkimi Design Co. erred in the design of the raft foundation of the project.
The report further reads in part, “Clearly, there was no proper project planning for this construction project. In this case, proper monitoring and quality control by Government, Ministries, and the Consultants were conspicuously ignored. Ministry of Works failed to meet up with the challenge of overseeing the successful completion of the project.”

However,  Afegbua said he was yet to be convinced by the PDP’s claim, even as he described the panel report as fake. He was nevertheless silent on the findings as contained in the “authentic report”
“Reports of the panel set up by the state government are not submitted at the market place or the PDP secretariat; they are submitted to Governor Adams Oshiomhole. The state government has not said that its document was missing, so the one they are brandishing might be that of their own probe panel.

“The PDP cannot assume the role of alternate government in Edo State. If they have concocted their own report that they are brandishing to the unsuspecting public,  good for them”, Afegbua stated.
As the counter and counter challenges linger, Edo people are of the view that right steps be taken by the authorities to ensure that the dream of a w orld class hospital complex (free of waiting time bomb) is realized, because a stitch in time saves nine!

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