————–By Shedrack Onitsha——————-
New facts are beginning to emerge to show that contrary to the narrative of the Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa on the circumstance which led to the cancellation of the Oleri wildlife park project, the governor might not have told Deltans the whole truth.
This is just as investigation by ADVOCATE, reveals that contrary to claims by the governor that the state government spent a few billions on the project, the company in charge of the project, Sarner PFM Resorts Limited actually terminated its MoU with the Delta State government owing to the inability of the government to pay its financial liability to the company in excess of one billion naira
Giving reason why the project which has gulped over N8b was cancelled; at a mid-term media briefing at Asaba recently, Governor Okowa said that the state government was deceived into believing that the project was viable and could create jobs.
He also stated that while the state has invested few billions into the wildlife park project, the supposed investors have not brought in a kobo and that there is nothing on ground to show at the park that the state has invested billions on the project.
He noted that faced with this painful fact, the state decided to pull out of the contract by cancelling it, rather than allowing the core investor to continue to rip-off the state government in the guise of public- private partnership.
The governor accuse the investor of turning itself to become the main contractor of the project, without bringing a kobo, and nothing on ground to justify the billions the state government as spent of the project.
According to Okowa, “on the return of land in Oghwashi-Uku and Oleri, in looking at these program, I think the past administration initially thought it would be a job spinner but am trying to stay away from criticizing any decision of the past government, but it appears from what is available to us that the ‘private investors’ who were suppose to fund this program, as the intention was not for the state government to fund it because they didn’t have the finances from the beginning, and from the records in the file, the private investors were suppose to come in, the government provides the land, while they provide the funding for the project but it appears to me that the state government was deceived into these two programs.
“And the situation at the Oleri park, while there is nothing at all to talk about in the park, with no sign that a kobo has come from outside from the private investors, the state government has already spend a few billions on the park and to us, we are studying a few things as the investor started turning itself into the contractor.
“So, whatever that has been done in terms of the billions, there is nothing that directly relates to a theme park and to have a proper theme park, it is going to run into a lot of money which the state government cannot afford at the moment and never is that so called investor bringing in any money. I do not think I would like to be continually deceived as state governor and a government going through that process.
“The wildlife park at Ogwhashi-Uku, wide span of land was accommodated and I was even told there are security guards in the place but several years down the line, there is no sign of a wildlife park in that pace and that is supposed to be a private sector driven investment. When you realize that you have made a mistake as a government, it’s important that you take the right decision.
“As long as we do not have other investors coming in and the other investor not showing signs that they are fully investors, it means that the project as it stands today, I don’t want to use the word viable but the state do not have the capacity to fund both projects neither do we have the capacity to run it even if we have the money to fund it. Considering all these, as far as we are concerned, it is a project that will not be sustainable by the state government and we think the best thing to do is to look elsewhere.
However, independent investigation by ADVOCATE shows that the governor was not total correct on the Oleri park, as the state government was expected to provide a counterpart funding of the project.
And just like the Ogahra Independent Power Plant, IPP, which the state has expended over N27b on, the governor also pulled out of this signature project in order to conserve fund for his on projects, since according to source, he might not benefit financially from these projects.
According to a letter made available to ADVOCATE, it was discovered that the company in charge of the Oleri Park project, Sarner PFM Resorts Limited through its counsel on July 18, 2015, terminated its contract with the State government, owing to what it described as the failure of the Delta State government to maintain its own side of the agreement it entered with the company in 2009.
The letter which was addressed to the State Commissioner of Culture and Tourism and signed by one Idowu Benson, reads in part: “It is our clients instructive that we formerly present before you its intention to terminate the MoU executed in November 2009 between our client and the government of Delta State of Nigeria for the following reasons.
“Continuous refusal of the Delta State government to cease to act in ways unsupportive to the project funders, refusal of the Delta State government to pay outstanding liabilities to Sarner PFM Resorts Limited in excess of one billion naira and failure of the state government to provide security at the project site since the year 2013.”