By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
The Commissioner for Water Resources in Cross River State, Gabriel Odu-Oji has been suspended indefinitely by the governor, Benedict Ayade for lateness nearly 3 years after he was suspended by former Governor Liyel Imoke for failing to appear for an event.
Ayade who also suspended the Managing Director Cross River State Water Board Limited, Godwin Oju Igile stated this Monday, in Calabar at the water resources ministry premises along Marian road when he resumed his routine but unscheduled visits to ministries, departments, agencies and parastatals of government and taking roll call of staff present, months after he had stopped doing so pointing out that it will serve as a warning to others to sit up.
“This is about 9 o’clock, and the Commissioner for Water Resources is not at (his) duty post. The Managing Director of Cross River State Water Board is not in the office. I cannot understand why he is not in the office” Ayade queried. “I therefore with immediate effect, announce his suspension. We will appoint somebody to take over this office with immediate effect. Any single commissioner I find in this circumstance will leave” Ayade said in a rather stern voice.
When CrossRiverWatch contacted him, Gabriel did not take his call but he later called back and said that he had communicated with the governor that he was on his way to Obudu to inspect the Obudu water scheme which according to him is due for commissioning.
“When the governor was there (ministry of water resources), he called me and I answered and I told him that I am on my way to Obudu for inspection and supervision of Obudu water works which is due for commissioning.
“We were supposed to have commissioned that last month but because of the changes which we told the contractor to effect to ensure superior quality works and we are very conscious that, that is the governor’s local government and he told me that he would like to commission that project himself” Gabriel said.
CrossRiverWatch could not confirm from him whether the call came before the pronouncement of the suspension or after.
For the absent staff, Ayade directed that they be punished according to the civil service rules.
As Special Adviser, Forestry and Biodiversity to former Governor Liyel Imoke, Odu-Oji was suspended alongside 12 other Special Advisers and 7 commissioners in December 12, 2013 for failing to turn up for the world AIDS day event 24 hours earlier on December 1.
However, he alongside 11 other Special Advisers and 6 commissioners were recalled on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 while the environment commissioner, Sandy Onoh and special adviser on Mineral Resources Effiong Bassey were left hanging till the end of the Imoke’s administration.
In a related development, Governor Ayade lamented a situation where the Port Hacourt Electricity Distribution Company disconnected the State Water Board Limited from its grid after the state had paid about N14 million as bill and called on the federal government to compel electricity distribution companies to be answerable to state governments especially Cross River State which he says has invested a lot through the provision of transformers among others.
Also, He attributed the recent drop in water supply around the Capital city of Calabar to the lack of power supply and disclosed the complains about irregularities in the supply of water was vital in informing his decision to visit the ministry.