Thursday, August 29, 2013

Governor Uduaghan Accused Of Using Multi-Billion Naira Oleri Leisure Park As Conduit Pipe, Awards Contract To Daughter

Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State has been accused of turning
the Oleri Leisure Park, in which his state has sunk several billion
naira, as a conduit for looting state funds. "The park has nothingto
show for all the billions Delta State has put into it, and the
purportedinvestors have become contractors, collecting [the state's]
funds," said one of the sources who spoke to us on the issue.
Our sources, among them a former commissioner in Mr. Uduaghan's
cabinet, told a correspondent that the governor was misleading people
about the state's much-publicized tourism resort projects at the Oleri
Park in Udu local government council as well as the Wildlife Park at
Ogwashi-Uku, Aniocha North local government area.
Two sources asserted that the main contractor for the resort facility,
Sarner PFM, owned by Princess Abiodun Oyefusi, a daughter of Oba
Salaudeen A. A. Oyefusi from Lagos State, is actually a front for the
governor's daughter, Orode Okpu-Uduaghan. A lawyer who has
investigated aspects of the projects said he found out that Ms.
Oyefusi'sfirm, Sarner PFM, was officially registered only after the
state government had awarded the projects to her.
SaharaReporters learnt that the governor's daughter was able to
purchase a high-priced duplex in the swanky VGC gated residential
community in Lagos. Our sources said that the duplex cost about
N460million, and that the cash was exclusively provided by Ms.
Oyefusi. They added that the real estate transaction further cemented
the business ties between the governor's daughter and Ms. Oyefusi.
Uduaghan administration officials have often said that the park
projectswere inspired by the stunning landscape, showcasing the area's
rich anddiverse culture and wildlife. The parks were designed to cover
some 300hectares in the Warri and Asaba areas, and is projected to
cost N49 billion ($250 million) for the resort and $300 million for
the Wildlife Park. The state government has said that the $300 million
wildlife parkwill harbor five big animals.
Our sources alleged that the projected expenditure on the projects did
not account for several billions of naira that the state government
had already committed and other funds being spent daily.
Both the state and the contractor have stated that the attractions to
be built will a spectacular water park with wave pool and flume,
thrilling adventure rides, a dramatic waterfall, an animal reserve and
marine life center, a sports club and golf course, a cinema complex,
5- and 3-star hotels, luxury villas, a casino, an arena to host
colorful live shows, stylishrestaurants, a luxurious spa, and a top
brand shopping plaza.
In addition, the contractor has indicated that a center for education
and historical learning, a local crafts village, a cultural museum,
and children's interactive center will also be built.
A critic of the project drew attention to Governor Uduaghan's
disclosure that the sand-filling of the Oleri site alone was costing
the state more than N2 billion. "The question is: was the condition of
the land not discovered before the government chose the site?" the
critic asked.
Mr. Uduaghan also revealed that the road median from Effurun to the
park, which is being laid with interlocking tiles and street lights,
would gulp about N700 million.
The projects are conceived as a public/private partnership business.
Thestate government is expected to provide the land, security, and the
access road, including a bridge that cost N3 billion, while the
private investor is expected to take care of the rest. The project is
being executed by the state government and Africa Sarner PFM Resorts
Limited under a public-private partnership, while consulting services
are being provided by Bergsten Africa. Fast Approach Konstruction Ltd
is the main contractor handling the project.
In what those opposed to the project see as a case of deception, Mr.
Uduaghan once described the project as "a partnership between the
state government and an outfit that is involved in building parks and
zoos around the world. They are bringing about N40 billion, they are
theones bringing the money; it is not from the state government. What
the state government is contributing is the road and the bridge which
is about N1.8 billion."
But opponents insist that the state government has expended more than
N5 billion on the projects and still spending.
According to a former commissioner in the state, "Part of what they
say is that a 3-star hotel of 500 rooms as well as a 5-star hotel of
450 rooms tagged Tajmahal would be built in the park. The question is
for whom? Deltans are also being bamboozled to believe that, apart
from theleisure aspect of the resort, there are also structures that
will usher in activities that will enhance spiritual and academic
growth, and that the resort would emerge as the most beautiful in the
world. They are empty promises."
The state government has revealed that it would also build a
theological and research institution in the area in collaboration with
an institution inPretoria, South Africa.
Speaking on the benefits of the park during a recent tour of the site,
Mr.Uduaghan stated that, even though the construction was yet to
commence fully, the project was already reducing unemployment in the
state. He stated that no fewer than 2,000 people were already making
their living from the preliminary work going on, adding that when the
project is finally completed, at least 5,000 will be engaged. On her
part,Ms. Oyefusi told the governor that the reclamation of land had
been completed, pledging that the first phase of construction will
start in September. She added that the first stage of infrastructure,
including the Wild Life Park at Ogwashi-Uku, would gulp about $290
But several sources said that Ms. Oyefusi seemed unsure how to
financethe two projects. She had stated at one time that she would
sell shares and at another that some individuals and organizations had
promised to finance the projects.
Such uncertainty has fueled critics who allege that the projects are
being used to steal land from the communities. One source said, "These
are deceiving projects that will never and can never be actualized.
The state governor had announced a completion date of 2015, even when
a block has not been laid."
Another source stated that several documents had been doctored to give
virtual ownership of the projects to Sarner PFM, and that a few civil
servants who asked questions were summoned to Government House
The former commissioner said that the projects were being funded with
public funds but without proper accountability. He added that the
state has no experience with tourism. "Why on earth is a state without
any form of tourism structure and foundation wasting so much resource
in building such extravagant projects?" he asked. According to him,
"The two white elephant projects are the most expensive single
investments in the history of the state. And there is nothing to
suggest that Delta State is genuinely willing to develop and promote
tourism. Rather, they are using the sector to steal money and reward
The feasibility of the projects' completion date is another sore
subject. "It is obvious now that the completion of the first phase of
the resort by December 2013 and the official opening in April 2014
will only remaina dream," said a critic.
The former commissioner told SaharaReporters there was no way the
project can generate 5000 jobs when, in his words, "not even a single
block has been laid at the site."

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