In 2012, the Federal Executive Council approved the sum of N1.2 billion for the construction of a specialist hospital in Ikom Local Government Area in Cross River State. But after nine years, the hospital is yet to be opened because the building which was half-done is now deteriorating.
The hospital, a one-story building with a total floor area of 7052m2 was to be constructed and completed in 104 weeks, approximately 26 months. But the construction was abandoned in 2015 and the place is now farmland with a decrepit house, denying the people essential medical services.
Investigation by CrossRiverWatch shows that the contract was awarded to Emostrade Engineering Limited, a company owned by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba who was the Senate leader at the time the contract was approved by the Federal Government.
Senator Ndoma-Egba comes from Ikom.
The news of the approval and award of the construction of the specialist hospital had elicited jubilation among the people of Cross River Central Senatorial District who had expressed joy that Senator Ndoma-Egba had brought the “dividend of democracy” to them.
But the jubilation was short-lived after the project was abandoned by the company in 2015. At the time, the construction had reached about 50 per cent to be completed.
Chief Anthony Ndoma, a community leader in Ikom told CrossRiverWatch that he was disappointed by the failure of the contractor to complete the project.
“The inability of the contractor to complete that project has caused community members to suffer much and left us at the mercy of private hospitals and clinic owners, which sadly only the rich can afford,” Chief Ndoma said.
Since 2015 when work stopped at the site, a portion of the land has become a farm while the rest has been overtaken by grasses.
The sight of an abandoned specialist hospital and the inability of the people to get quality health care are frustrating to many residents, especially someone like Mrs. Blessing Lawrence who lost her 18-year-old son to cancer.
Mrs. Lawrence believed that her son would have survived if he was diagnosed on time.
“We were going from place to place with no good treatment. We went to different hospitals that gave different diagnoses. We visited General Hospital Ikom, General Hospital Obubra and another hospital in Benue State,” she said.
“I feel very bad that we do not have any good specialist hospital in Ikom. We have a general hospital but they can’t do so much,” Mrs. Lawrence added.
She said they were eventually referred to Enugu State Specialist Hospital but could not because they had spent all their money. She lost her son to cancer last September.
Senator Ndoma-Egba And NDDC Violated Procurement Law
Emostrade Engineering Limited, incorporated by Senator Ndoma-Egba and his brother in 1988 was not qualified to get the contract for the specialist hospital.
According to the Procurement Act, it is unethical and unacceptable to award a contract to someone who may have special dealings or influence with the procurement entity.
At the time the contract was awarded, Ndoma-Egba was the Senate leader.
“I founded the company but resigned in 2003 when I left for the Senate,” Ndoma-Egba told CrossRiverWatch, but he is still a Director in the company, according to information obtained from the Corporate Affairs Commission.
“Emostrade got the job not because I am in any way affiliated with it but because it has been doing projects for the NDDC,” Senator Ndoma-Egba insisted. “There was actually no conflict of interest when the contract was awarded.”
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The Vice Chairman of the company is Eta W. Ndoma-Egba, the current President of Calabar Chambers of Commerce and Industry who is a brother to Senator Ndoma-Egba who now claimed that he resigned from the company when he was first elected to the Senate.
But when he was canvassing for a third-term re-election in 2011, he mentioned a specialist hospital in Ikom as one of his priorities.
He eventually won the election and became the Senate leader. True to his campaign promise, he attracted the specialist hospital but the contract was awarded to his own company.
Despite the provisions of the Procurement Act 2007 that border on conflict of interest, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria insisted that there was no conflict of interest in the award of the contract to his firm.
On the sorry state of the project, Senator Ndoma-Egba said he did not have any knowledge of the contract sum and releases, claiming that he relied on what he was being told by the contractor who happened to be his brother.
“I can’t explain it,” Senator Egba said. “I feel so sad to see that several years later, the project is still not completed.”
The Federal Executive Council approved the contract on behalf of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which is the supervisory agency.
However, in October 2016, Senator Ndoma-Egba was appointed the Board Chairman of NDDC and still did not work to ensure that the project is completed.
Why The Project Was Abandoned
No one in the community knew why the specialist hospital project they once thought would serve them was abandoned. Taking a trip to the project site located at the base of Wemcoz hills in Ikom, the area was covered with thorny weeds, thick bushes while the walls and fences were covered with algae. Some parts of the building were being used for farming activities.
Senator Ndoma-Egba’s brother Eta Ndoma-Egba who manages the engineering firm pointed out “non- payment of contract sum by the government and other several things not incorporated” as reasons why the project has been abandoned for years without any hope of completion.
Asked for clarifications of his assertion, he said “I can’t get it off-hand. You just came in here and asked me what the challenges are, how do I tell you just like that,” he queried in a menacing voice. He curtly dismissed the reporter and requested a future meeting to enable him get his facts right.
He later told the CrossRiverWatch reporter that the engineer in charge of the construction had travelled and he could not give further details about the project.
“I can’t have that detail,” he said. “I have to make reference to the file to check my indices.”
Asked why the project was abandoned, he said a lot of things were not taken into cognisance because the contract was awarded in a hurry.
“When the job was awarded, there were several things not incorporated into the project because the job was awarded in a hurry,” Eta W. Ndoma-Egba said, adding that pillars, toilets, windows and doors on the bill of quantity were less than what the project has in reality.
He further highlighted modifications such as ramps, elevators and provision of a staff quarters that have to be made but were all lacking due to the speed with which the contract was awarded.
On whether the Procurement Act was violated in the award of the contract to his company, he boasted that he got the contract on merit.
He argued that Emostrade Engineering Limited is a registered NDDC contractor and that the company has been executing contracts for the commission long before his brother became a Senator.
The NDDC did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the project.
This story was produced in partnership with Civic Media Lab under its Investigative Reporting Project.