18 December 2012

Nigeria: Let There Be Light...and There Was No Light

Photo: amandabhslater/ Flickr
Oh Christmas tree.

When on October 27, 2012, LEADERSHIP Newspaper published a feature titled 'Festival of Lights, Defining Abuja'; everyone in the nation's capital expected the best. However, less than 10 days to Christmas, there is nothing festive about the lights.

'Festival of lights will enhance the city's aesthetics and tourism and make people see reasons not to travel abroad or elsewhere and enjoy the beauty of the season in the FCT. We want to give Abuja a face lift, so that during festivities - New Year's Day, Valentine, Sallah Day celebrations, Independence holiday or Christmas, people can come from all over the world and see what is happening. This would have cost them more if they go outside the country."

These were the words of Mrs Edna A. Owolabi, leader of Prime Lifestyle, an organisation involved in decorations, who promised to give this Christmas season different concepts and make it a moment extraordinary by lightening up the FCT through what she described as 'festival of lights'. She said her organisation is committed in making Abuja beautiful at nights. Today, two months later, and few days before the year runs out, what is seen is a shadow of what was promised.

LEADERSHIP investigations show that only a few places are decorated and the lights are nothing to write home about. Speaking on why her organisation could not keep to its promise of lighting the streets of Abuja, Owolabi says;" we are not a party to what you saw, it may interest you to know that my field workers saw the decorations and called me thinking that I brought other people to do the work. That is not what we promised and that is certainly not our work. We are well meaning Nigerians, we have a standard and that is certainly not our standard. We cannot offer a sub standard job to our father land, we have a reputation."

The bitter Owolabi adds that; "the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), said we are working together but we were the only ones spending our resources. Early November we saw that nothing was forthcoming; I asked the Coordinator, Arc. Reuben Okoya and he said there was no money. Meanwhile I had spent money in shipping these equipment which are not on the shelves- they were constructed, I paid consultants and field workers. I met him in his office on a Wednesday, he claimed to be in a hurry and asked me to come at 12 pm on the following Friday. I was there and waited for three hours thirty minutes but he did not allow me to see him. I sent him a text which he has not replied till today."

"They probably frustrated our efforts. Within two or three weeks, he got the money and gave someone else the work. It would have been better if he had met us and asked us to manage the money and do the work."

We initiated the project; it is on record that last year we decorated some areas like the Eagle Square, Sultan Abubakar Way and Bill Clinton Drive among others. Our plan was to decorate twenty two sites in the FCT. He even gave us introduction letter to solicit for and facilitate the procurement of funds in the form of voluntary donations from interested partners to aid in the Yuletide Decoration and gave us account numbers and two MTN numbers for confirmation. We called the numbers but no one has picked our calls."

Following these revelations from Prime Lifestyle Ltd, this reporter called the coordinator of the AMMC, Arc. Reuben Okoya incessantly, he refused to pick or respond to the calls.

When this reporter did finally manage to reach Okoya's special assistant, he was a bit dodgy: "I can't tell you anything concrete as to why you have not seen the lights as promised, but I'll get back to you after speaking to the coordinator," he assured.

After waiting in vain for his call for three days, this reporter tried to reach him again to talk, but he neither picked his call nor called back. He did not send a text, either.

This reporter resorted to try the office of the director, administration and finance, but the reaction was far from different.

It is safe, then, to surmise that one party beguiled the other into believing the deal/ contract to light-up the city had been signed and sealed, only for a full turn-around which nipped the afore reached deal in the bud. The question which will remain unanswered is, did the AMMC official who is responsible for approving the deal go back on his word because this official was not sure of a kick-back of some sort? Could it be that Mrs. Owolabi refused to play by the rules of the purchase and supply game? Could it be that Prime Lifestyle Ltd was assured of the contract, when, in truth, the contract had been awarded to a third party? The AMMC refused to grab an opportunity for fair-hearing and these questions, alas, will remain unanswered.

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