When the present administration in Bayelsa state led by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson came on board on February 12, 2014, it didn't initially fashion the habit of patronizing indigenous contractors. He preferred using foreign construction giants such as Julius Berger and other contractors outside the shores of Bayelsa state, at least.
The governor, perhaps, was judging from tales of bitter experiences between past governors and indigenous contractors who executed various contracts in the state. The memories of the contracts of over 56 internal roads awarded to indigenous contractors by his predecessor, Chief Timipre Sylva that were shabbily executed were probably still very fresh on Dickson's mind. In less than three years, almost all those roads got dilapidated and deplorable, thereby forcing government to reconstruct same with huge sums of tax payers' monies which would have been channelled to other critical sectors of development.
There are several other projects awarded to local contractors that were poorly executed with impunity, not minding the hazards such inferior projects could cause to the society. It is most probably based on the foregoing that Dickson strictly abhorred the temptation of using Bayelsans to do projects of vital importance.
That act was, however, faced with stern criticism from different quarters that earned the governor a name of an insensitive leader that never encouraged local content. As a result, Dickson later bowed to pressures from the people and toed the line of successive governments.
Today, Dickson is full of regrets. His discomfort with the conduct of native contractors that government has favoured to execute some key projects in the state no longer has a hiding place. Even in public functions, Dickson has been expressing his disappointment.
Last week, Dickson publicly scolded the contractor handling the refurbishment project at the Samson Siasia Sports Complex in Yenagoa, Mr. Ebi Egbe, owner of Monimichele Construction Company, for abandoning the project halfway, despite receiving full payment.
The governor was visibly furious at the contractor while delivering a speech to mark the grand finale of the Restoration Cup tournament held at the facility. It was observed that spectators who crowded the stadium to watch the final game between Pere-Torugbene and Opu-Nembe communities were seen sitting on bare floor due to lack of chairs. It was also observed that there were neither floodlights nor scoreboard in the facility which has already gulped N150million. Poor drainage system is also said to be a case at the facility.
Angered by the ugly development, the governor said though the synthetic turf on the pitch was one of the best in Nigeria, the contractors should do well to finish their own part of the agreement since government was no longer owing him. "The contractor should come and finish his job. We are not owing him. We have given him all his money. There are things still needed to be put in place.
We are tired of so many stories. We don't want to hear more stories. The job must be completed up to standard and specification,” Dickson queried.
This is not the first time the governor would openly lampoon the turf expert who hails from Kolokuma/ Opokuma Local Government Area, over his unsatisfactory handling and delay of the sports complex reconstruction work. Early this year, the governor had, during one of his monthly transparency media briefings held at the banquet hall of Government House, described some indigenous contractors handling projects in the state, including Monimichele as "tsetse fly on one's scrotum".
He singled out Monimichele as one among several indigenous contractors that had bored him with cases of 'variations upon variations' in the course of executing the Sports Complex project.
Dickson's grouse with the Opokuma born contractor was recently underscored in a statement credited to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) which says that the Samson Siasia stadium in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state was not fit for international football matches. The CAF Medical Committee member, Dr Peter Singabele said CAF came up with the decision after the stadium failed rain flood control test.
Speaking during the Restoration Cup draws and kits presentation ceremony in Yenagoa, he said if nothing was done fast, the condition may affect the chances of the state owned teams from using the newly renovated stadium.
Reacting to the decision of CAF, Dickson reiterated that last year the state government made full payment for the construction of a standard drainage system at the stadium to Monimichele Construction Company.
He said the state government also paid upfront for the refurbishment of the turf at the stadium but wondered why the stadium could be put to use for international football matches.
“Bayelsans are my witness. I have no hand in the delay of the construction of the stadium; rather it is the contractor that is indebted to Bayelsa State. I hearby call on the contractor to complete the project with immediate effect."