Oyo state and World Bank assisted flooding controversy

Makinde

All is not well with the World Bank-funded flooding project in Oyo state as there were rumours of the funding being withdrawned because of tardy preparation by the state government. BAYO AGBOOLA reports.

The history of flooding in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital could be traced back to August 1980 in the days of the old Oyo during the tenure of late Chief Bola Ige as governor under the platform of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, (UPN).

Since then, all eyes has continued to be on Ibadan and the fight against flooding which later in the years attracted attention globally culminating in the intervention of the World Bank.

The controversy

However, in the past few weeks, attention again shifted into the issue of flood control in Ibadan with controversy surrounding the purported withdrawal of the N26 billion World Bank- funded flood control projects in the state.

To some, the threat by the World Bank to withdraw the projects was as a result of alleged move by Governor Seyi Makinde to influence the project even though the state government denied anything of such especially by Governor Makinde to influence the projects in any form as alleged by some elements said to be playing politics with the matter in order to score cheap political points.

The first shot

The issue was first raised in February this year when a chieftain of Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 general elections hinted about the possibility of losing the project.
The AD chieftain alleged that after the contractors that would handle the project were selected based on global procedures and practices of the World Bank, Governor Makinde reportedly insisted that if the project would not be handled by his preferred candidates, it should be taken to another state and that the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) has initially withdrawn their support and involvement in the project when Governor Makinde allegedly refused to follow the best global bidding practices for the project.
The flooding project controversy assumed a fresh dimension in August when it became the leading topical issue of discussion on most of the electronic media in Ibadan with analysts resting the blame on the table of the governor.

Government’s response

Amidst the controversy, Mr Taiwo Adisa, chief press secretary to Governor Makinde came out emphasising that there is no truth in the claims that the project was cancelled as a result of undue influence from the governor. He insisted that Governor Makinde neither influenced the contractors nor tried to influence the contract.

Adisa said the governor should actually be commended for always insisting on value for Oyo state’s money and that the clear reason given by the World Bank for the cancellation of the project had to do with the timeline and the response of the state to the project. He said some mischief makers are deliberately trying to twist the World Bank’s letter dated July 30, 2021 signed by its country director for Nigeria, Western and Central African Region, Shubham Chaudhuri. According to him, the World Bank’s letter even recognised Makinde’s unwavering support for the IUFMP project and that there was no where the World Bank accused Governor Makinde of trying to unduly influence the contracts in the Second Pool of Long-Term Investments (PLT12) under the IUFMP.

“No, they are talking about the timeline and the response by the state to the World Bank has actually addressed that fully. So, there is no ulterior motive in the management of this project. The bank had during a mid-term review expressed satisfaction with the governor’s value-for-money initiative which was introduced to ensure that the IUFMP continues to deliver excellent service to the people of the state.

“Governor Makinde did not influence the contracts; he did not influence the choice of the contractors. There were issues in the past as to who got what in those projects. There are even issues as to what was delivered with the two-thirds of the 200 Million USD loan already spent or committed by the past administration and what was delivered. If at all, the name of the governor should actually be on the right side of this story, because all he called for when he came on board was what I can refer to as a value-for-money initiative.

“Now, we are just awarding contracts for 45 streams. Where were those 45 streams with the two/third of the money spent? Who are the people getting what? For the World Bank, there was a time some of their officials came in for a mid-term review at the secretariat and they were really satisfied with the initiative which the governor is bringing in to ensure that the project continues to deliver for the people of Oyo state.”

Adisa added, “Now, in those areas that the name of the governor has been mentioned, there are no facts in any of those reports. First, if you want to write a report, you need to rely on a document to write it, but in most of the reports I have seen, they were not directly quoting from the letters of the World Bank because the World Bank did not in any way say that Governor Makinde influenced a particular project or brought a particular contractor. It did not say so. So, if the letter, which is your source to communicate to the people, is saying something and you are saying another thing, you should know that there is divergence of opinions and certain influences are responsible for the lies being insinuated into that report.”

Apparently clearing the air on the cancellation, Adisa stressed that of the 200 million USD loan, the previous government had spent 50 million USD and committed about 100 million USD to several projects, leaving only 50 million USD to be accessed by the administration.

“People should not hide under one finger to be throwing stones at the white house thinking that other people would not know. People know some of these issues but we are not going to talk about the details of some of the things under the table that pushed some of the narratives that you see. Some interests are actually the problem.

“What we want is the value from this project or the money that the World Bank wants to loan us. If the value for money is in question, we could take our decision and say we don’t want the remaining part of the money again and we source for it locally or within our IGR. All the projects that the governor is doing now are not funded by loans. The APFA is not even a loan. So, if there are things we can take up within our own means, why not? So, people should not paint it out there as if Oyo state is losing money to the tune of N26 billion. No, they should let us talk about the facts of the matter.”

AD not impressed

However, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) governorship candidate in the last general elections, Engineer Hakeem Alao came calling again, saying, “Although, in a quick response, Governor Mákindé via Mr Taiwo Adisa, his chief press secretary (CPS) has denied the withdrawal, yet they said they had sent an ‘appeal’ to the World Bank. An appeal for what? Whether or not an appeal against the withdrawal has been forwarded to the World Bank, we’ll be playing our role as a constructive opposition.

“We’ll be doing a lot of disservice to our state if we continue to be docile, gloss over issues and refrain from telling the Governor Makinde the bitter truth all in the name of politics, favoritism, nepotism and unreasonable solidarity. Nobody is working against the government of Engr Makinde or doing what we’re doing to pull him down to seize his seat. All we are doing is to point the areas that need attention to the governor to have a better Oyo state because we all own the state and it’s nobody’s private property.”

The main question now is whether the World Bank has withdrawn its support as being purportedly threatened and what would be the impact on the state and its people concerning the war against flooding in and across the state. The fact however remains that the final decision of the World Bank would without doubt surely indicate the next line of direction on the controversy.