Ava Cement Factory: How Lucky Igbinedion fooled his victims
In this report, JOHN MAYAKI went down memory lane on how former Governor Lucky Igbinedion fooled his victims over a scam called Ava Cement factory in the twilight to the end of his inglorious administration in May 2007 and opined that his probe is better late than never.
In general terms, the entire Edo people are victims. In particular, and on this subject matter, the people of Akoko Edo have been fooled. They thought that when democracy dividends in Edo State under the Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion administration are to be counted, the people of would gladly say they had a fair share but it was not to be.
He had gathered his immediate victims at Egbigere, where the fraud was executed. It was the foundation laying ceremony of AVA Cement Company Limited that raised the hope of the long neglected people, who have been crying over lack of democracy dividends, and who thought they were being given a sense of belonging.
To the people of the oldest and beleaguered council area, they were treated like strangers in their own state. Igbinedion worsened the already pitiable situation. A pariah.
Oba Momodu Odamah, the Zaiki of Ikpeshi was there. He was deceived. He is, however, not alone, the Olokpe of Okpe (111) and Oba E. Saiki, Otaru of Igarra were ‘detained’ under a canopy to witness and give the fraud a semblance of truthfulness and sincerity.
Many dancing troupes both from Benin City and those at the local level were hired to add value and coloration to the fraud. A son of the soil was the then Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Kehinde Fashanu Udofe. He supervised the entire sham and watched the people dancing excitedly to the talking drums in symbolic prayers and praises for Igbinedion.
They fooled us saying establishment of the factory was informed by the evaluation report of the State Ministry of Environment and Solid Minerals through its consultants from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and Ambrose Alli University (AAU) on limestone and gypsum deposits in Edo North Senatorial Zone of the state, which are estimated to be about 6.4 billion tonnes for limestone and 526 million tonnes of gypsum.
They took turn to read speeches in their voluminous content, all to justify their never-quenching desire to undo the people and line up their pockets. To justify this, they said the fraud would be executed in two phases with associated power plant fueled by natural gas was the 2,500-tonne per day cement plant.
Besides, we were told that he stakeholders have mandated the New Era Engineering Corporation to carry out the Engineering, Procurement and Commissioning (EPC) of the plant, modern office complex, 150-unit housing estate with clinics, shopping mall, community centre, water treatment facilities, renovation of the state government-owned moribund Ojirami Water Works and dam, as well as limestone and gypsum mines.
Like I said, there was an insider; a son of the soil whose duty to make-believe was legendary. It was Kehinde Udofe who assured that the financial statements and analysis show that all indicators, including internal finance profit rate, investment earning period and investment profit rate, among others, are sound and the project has the wherewithal to service debts, make good returns to the investors and resist risk.
He took time to convince us that in order to complete the above activities, particularly the feasibility studies, the Chinese consortium visited Edo State and the proposed factory location, mineral sites and different stakeholders on four occasions.
In the process of staging the fraud, a 12-man delegation from China was said to have worked with the local technical committee set up by the state government and two Consultant Professors from Ambrose Alli University and Obafemi Awolowo University for a period of six months to gather data and prepare the pro-forma feasibility studies. The final feasibility study was put in place by the Louyoung Cement Research Institute, China. A copy of the study is with the State Ministry of Environment and Afribank Plc, we were told.
In the exact words of Kehinde Udofe, “after several activities were concluded, a firm of investment contractors was signed on by all the stakeholders on November 1, 2006 in Beijing , China”.
Besides, another activity completed before the contract signing ceremony was the introduction of the project and the Chinese investors to Afribank for support.
Today, Ava cement factory is not functioning but Igbinedion told us that “the people of Akoko-Edo are lucky people”. He said his administration believes in industrialization. “Some are already functioning and the rest are due for privatization”.
“I have no doubt that this project is going to be a huge success because of the huge raw materials here. For the youth, this is a golden opportunity to be educated so that you can be employable”, he had fooled us.
In his exact words, Igbinedion said “the people of Akoko-Edo are lucky people. It is not the government’s duty to run businesses but its prerogative to industrialize the state.
“I have no doubt that this project is going to be a huge success because of the huge raw materials here. For the youths, this is a golden opportunity to be educated so that you can be employable. The plant is going to have its own power generation, water and road. Edo State government is not the financier but a facilitator. Whatever they required, we have given to them and I know that the in-coming administration would also give them the maximum co-operation”.
The Royal Highness in whose domain the project was sited fell flat for the fraud innocently and unsuspectingly. Oba Momodu Odamah, the Zaiki of Ikpeshi, thanked the governor, the commissioner and the Chinese firm for their initiatives and “for siting the factory in my domain”.
The shoddy packaged fraud had a plan showing the site of the proposed housing estate, quarry site and factory location for the company. Specifically, there are three housing estates: low income on Igarra/Somorika/Ibillo Road, middle class around Utuo/Auchi Road and executive housing estate near Udofe Metals on Okpe Road. But these are all farce, charade and mockery of our people.
To further drive their message down, they used a white man; the President of New Era International Incorporated, Mr. Wang Yuefei. He told us that the project will bring in industrial civilization that would be a reality in a short time and that this industrial civilization will give us everything we want; our children will go to school, give us water and make us comfortable.
Also speaking, the Deputy General Manager, China Metallurgical Construction Company Limited, Mr. Yizhong Peng said he was present to celebrate with the people (Akoko-Edo) the ceremony, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of his company.
Peng said, “Our Company has accomplished numerous projects. We will do this project from the bottom of our heart and sincerely because we have done others before”.
Reality is dawn on us in Akoko-Edo that we have been scammed. How do you feel, if your father was the Royal Father who showed appearance at that ‘arrangee’ foundation laying that turned out to be a charade that was organized by a legitimate government? For me, therefore, I was scammed and we were all scammed. We are all victims of Lucky Igbinedion’s ‘smart’ activities when he held-sway as ‘the-talk-na-do-Governor’.