By: Israel Umoh
Owing some intrigues in delay in releasing funds for completion of the cottage hospital, the contractor reacted to show his side of the saga.
The contractor of the project, Mr. Enobong Jimie Idiong, the MD/CEO of Global Corp Ltd, had in press release written ”My company, Global Corp Ltd successfully bided for the construction of the Cottage Hospital at Ukanafun, Akwa Ibom State and the Contract was awarded in August 2008 in the sum of N1,120,036, 491.42.
”By even government’s account and records, the mobilization in the sum of N400, 973, 063.93 was paid on 23/12/2008 upon submission of Advance Payment Guaranty (APG) and Performance Bond from our bankers. The APG and the BOND were discharged after ‘above 50% execution’ of the contract as stated by the Ministry though, by our estimation about 70% of the work was done in 3 months. Our performance received the Ministry’s commendation.
”The 70% work done within 3 months was achieved through my enthusiasm as an indigene of Ukanafun to complete the hospital in record time within the 6 months as stipulated in the contract for the good of my people. So I went out to borrow more money from our bankers and others to do the job, hoping that I would be paid according to the contract terms within the 6 months period.
According to him, ”But when Governor Akpabio knew through his administration machinery of the contract that it was my company that got the contract, he personally orchestrated the delay in the payment of the next two IPCs of N163, 059, 010.23 and N53, 347, 266.71 respectively put in May and June 2009, through their consultant, Oliver Ebong of Olkem Nig Ltd, which the Ministry of Health officials caused me to pay them the sum of N100 million before my further IPCs could be processed. The 1st IPC in N163, 059, 010.23 was then paid in November 2009 while the second one was still pending.
”Because of the willful delay in the payment of the IPCs, my bankers refused to advance me more money to progress on the work and because of my mounting debt to the bank and suppliers further work on the project stalled for almost 2years until July 2011 when they paid the second IPC in N53, 347, 266.71.
”Hoping that we had reached some amicability with the payment of the second IPC in July 2011, I borrowed again to continue the work and put in 2 more IPCs in N81, 153, 389.85 and N178,481,313.21. They paid only the first one of N81, 153, 389.85 in October 2011 but refused to pay the second one in N178,481,313.21 until July 2013 after a lot of haggling, begging and crying as I was by now thrown into heavy debts with my bankers and suppliers.
”So it was only by July 2013, five years after the award of the contract, that the government paid a total of N877, 014, 051.95 but what came to our purse after the forced payment of N100,000, 000 to the consultants was only N777,014, 051.91 till date.
”This is a contract that was to be completed within 6 months and we did our own best from the beginning to beat the deadline but the government’s unwillingness, for reasons only known to them, to process and pay the IPCs as and when due within the six months period dragged the contract completion till the 7th year, today.
”During the Town Hall Meetings in 2014 when Governor Akpabio visited Ukanafun and the issue of the Hospital was raised, he asked how much work had been done and his Ministry official said over 84%.
”This is on tape recording of the Town Hall meeting. I am glad to say that the work done even at the Ministry’s estimate of 84%, although our estimate was at 90%, is more than the percentage of what we have been paid at 78% of the contract value.
”It was then that the Governor told the audience that the hospital project would be completed in the “next two months” and asked to see me. I was told of this development and I made several efforts to see him thereafter but never succeeded.
”Before this time, I had put in a variation of about N300 million to complete the job because of rising cost of materials after 7 years which was never attended to but I was surprised to hear recently that the Governor had directed that our contract be terminated since March, 2015 and is being re-awarded to a designated contractor for about N600 million, something I had asked for only N300 million since last year to complete the project.’’
The contractor considers this a breach of contract and sued the Akwa Ibom state government. In suit HUK/8/2015, Mr Idiong and his company, Global Corp Limited, are seeking the award of N1.2 billion as damages against the state government for breach of contract.
Why the hospital has not been completed – Akwa Ibom State Government
The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Health, Augustine Umoh, said the hospital has not been completed due to the lawsuit initiated by the contractors, Global Corp Limited against the state government, following the termination of the contract.
In the Premium Times interview, he told the reporter “Government desires to finish that hospital like we are doing in other places, but the only problem is that that place is under litigation. And once it is under litigation, you can’t move further with it until it is sorted out,” he said.
He said the state government terminated the contract because the firm failed to live up to the terms of the agreement.
“They’ve been dragging since that contract was taken off their hands in February 2015 for nonperformance. Mind you, that was not even done by this regime but by the former regime. This is five years after, they’re still dragging it.
“As long as they continue to fight and drag the government to court like that, that project is likely to continue stalling. And then, the people there plus the contractors, including the government who would have wanted to complete that facility for the benefit of the people, will be the ones to lose. Clearly, no one is winning,” he said.
Settle the matter out of court– Evangelist urges
The area is yet to recover from the shock of cult war that that rocked one of the commercial nerve centres of Annang people for more than two years.
Over the years, many politicians had promised to ensure the completion of the project, but to no avail.
Ekong Udom, a community evangelist, wants the matter to be settled out of court. ”Let the state government invite the contractor for a meeting to ensure the matter is settled out of court and for the contractor to return to site to complete the cottage hospital.
”When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. I want the government to look for a community-based solution to thrash out the case. Many people are dying due to lack of a functional hospital in the area.’’
But, Ufok Ibekwe, an Abuja-based lawyer, said the abandoned hospital had become nothing but a political campaign material.
In an interview with The Premium, Ibekwe said “Over the years, many politicians have used that hospital project as campaign material for their political aspirations. They all promised to complete it if voted into office, but disappeared afterwards,” he decried.
In January 2017, during an interdenominational service in Ukanafun tagged Prayer Project, the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, expressed his commitment to the completion of the cottage hospital project.
Mr. Emmanuel, who was represented at the event by the late Udo Ekpenyong, the then commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs and later state PDP Chairman, thanked the people for their support in his election and said the state government was taking concrete steps to resolve issues with the contractor out of court.
Dr. Charity Ido representing Ukanafun in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly also visited the cottage hospital site in November 2019, and left with similar promises.
”If the people of Ukanafun are to be served, let the unexpected demise of Hon. Udo Sam Ekpenyong become the watershed in the legal dispute over contractual liabilities concerning the project. A possible out-of-court settlement could pave way for the completion and inauguration of the Ukanafun Cottage Hospital by the time of the first anniversary of the death of Ekpenyong,’’ Kfre Emmanson, a community leader advises.