For many Rivers State residents, hopes of having drinking water may have been dashed, it was learnt yesterday.
The World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB), which had approved some loans for massive water projects, suddenly pulled the brakes on the facility.
Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi called yesterday for the probe of Finance Minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s role in the stalled deal, which had been approved by the National Assembly.
Amaechi urged the House of Representatives, which is making laws for the state as a result of the crisis in the House of Assembly, to summon Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and Minister of Water Resources Mrs Stella Ochekpe over the matter.
The governor spoke when the House Committee on Water Resources, accompanied by Executive Directors of the Niger Delta Basin Development Authority, visited him at the Government House in Port Harcourt.
He said the state government had fulfilled all requirements to receive and benefit from the loan scheme with the World Bank and the ADB, adding that his administration was ready to allow the Minister of Finance award the contract to any person of her choice to provide potable water for Rivers citizens.
He said: “The people who are dying and deprived of the potable drinking water are Rivers people who don’t have water in their homes.
“In fact, if you whisper to those agencies (World Bank and ADB) that she (Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) has refused to sign off, a woman of that international standard, maybe she wants to join the fray of quarrel. It is like two wives quarreling over a husband. It is embarrassing, completely embarrassing for somebody who has been Managing Director of World Bank to neglect the impact water has on the citizenry.
“The National Assembly has approved it and we have fulfilled all requirements with the World Bank and African Development Bank (ADB). We are now at the point of release of the funds for execution of the water projects for our people, and she (Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) has refused to allow the release of the funds to us,” Amaechi said.
The governor added: “The Minister of Finance is using her position to undermine the safety and health of the people of Rivers State. I can’t afford to give all Rivers people bottled water, but all I can assure you is to ensure the provision of potable drinking water and the Minister of Finance has refused to release it and I think, I should put that before you (House Committee on Water Resources). They want Rivers people to die. We can do an assessment of people who have been infected with water borne diseases, if she wants to do that, so she can see what she is doing to Rivers people.”
The committee’s chairman, Aliyu Ahman Pategi, said the lawmakers were in the state for over-sight functions to verify the execution of various water projects to ensure value for money.
He praised Amaechi on the “remarkable achievements” of his administration in the provision of infrastructure.
“I wish to also extend my hands of fellowship to the good people of Rivers State. Despite these challenges, we have noticed quite a number of remarkable projects. We saw the monorail project, for instance, the dual carriage system, which can only be found in Abuja. I am proud of such projects in Rivers State.”
On November 18 the Finance Minister’s spokesman Paul Nwabuikwu reacting to the accusation that Dr Okonjo-Iweala refused to sign the African Development Bank (ADB) loan for Port Harcourt water project, said: “the loan in question has been appraised but it is yet to be negotiated.”
Before the minister can sign it, Nwabuikwu said “it has to go through the negotiation process and be considered and cleared by both the Board of the African Development Bank and the Federal Executive Council. So the issue of the minister refusing to sign it simply does not arise.”