The report of financial impropriety leveled against Mr. Eddy Ogidi-Gbegbaje, Permanent Secretary, Directorate of Government House and Protocol, Asaba, Delta State, as published in Sahara Reporters, came to us in the Nigeria Civil Society Desk, as an attempt to smear his reputation, thereby causing distraction.
Though the motive is still sketchy, we thought it necessary to put the records straight and discourage prospective faceless alarmists from creating confusion with the intention of derailing the activities of government.
Having resolved to know the facts, we visited the Office of the Directorate of Government House and Protocol, Asaba, the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Energy and the State Fire Service. Our findings revealed, among others:
-that the renovation of the VVIP Guest House, Asaba, comprising of 8(nos) Duplexes, which is the subject of the allegation, was carried out in 2017, by contract through the selective tendering process;
-that the renovation works is the only major works so far carried out on the buildings within the premises since 2015;
-that two separate fire incidents had earlier occurred at House 1 and House 5 of the 8 (eight) Duplexes at the VVIP Guest House, prior to the incident of Tuesday, 21st February, 2017. This necessitated the extensive renovation and electrical maintenance works.
-that the State Fire Service was always on hand to put out the fire on each occasion, while the Ministry of Energy was duly notified of the fire incidents; and that the Contractor is yet to be paid for the job it executed.
The Nigeria Civil Society Desk has also verified this claim with the Ministry of Housing which supervised and issued Certificate of Job Completion.
As the Accounting Officer of the Directorate of Government House and Protocol, Asaba, one of the responsibilities of the Permanent Secretary is to author memos to His Excellency, the Governor, on matters as considered necessary.
In this case, the Permanent Secretary forwarded a memo for the renovation works based on a Bill of Quantities (BOQ) received from the Ministry of Housing.
As an investigative medium, Sahara Reporters should have exhausted all means of exhuming its facts before they are reported, bearing in mind the implications of false reportage on the person of Mr. Ogidi-Gbegbaje.
We are therefore constrained to ask Sahara Reporters to visit the Ministry of Housing which supervised the renovation works in 2017 to find out the extent of works at the VVIP Guest House. Sahara Reporters should also visit the Ministry of Energy, possibly to confirm if reports of fire incidents at the VVIP Guest House were made by the Directorate. Sahara Reporters can also corroborate the report it would get from the Ministry of Energy, by visiting the State Fire Service.
Having said these, will it be appropriate to state that the buildings which were destroyed by fire were only painted, and could possibly be ideal to accommodate personalities like the Commander, 63 Brigade, the State Commissioner of Police and other top Government Functionaries?
Sahara Reporters knows too well that we must be guided by conscience in all we do, as whatever we give so also we shall receive. Conscience is like an open wound, it is only truth that can heal it. You owe all men a duty of care.
Our advice to Sahara Reporters would be that it should carry out due diligence of its claims and let the world know its findings.
Comrade Emeh Friday
Comrade Peter Nwokolo
National Publicity Secretary