Gershom Bassey And The Incompetence of Cross River State Water Board BY OBONO OBLA

In Breaking News, Columnists, National News, Opinion, Politics

by crossriverwatch admin

Gershom Bassey, Chairman Board of Directors, Cross River State Water Board
Gershom Bassey, Chairman Board of Directors, Cross River State Water Board

The Cross River State Water Board Limited, the successor in title of the defunct Water Board, is one of the extra-ministerial departments created in the 1970 after the creation of the defunct South Eastern State of Nigeria on the 27th May, 1967.

In the 1990s, the defunct Water Board was changed into a full-fledged limited liability company and incorporated as the Cross River State Water Board Limited. This was sequel to meeting the conditions prescribed by the African Development Bank (ADB) to give a credit facility to the Water Board to build water processing plants in Calabar Municipality and Ediba in Abi Local Government Areas of Cross River State.

However, the Cross River State Water Board Limited despite the fact that it is a limited liability company is still tied to the apron string of the Government of Cross River State of Nigeria and this is one of the reasons why the company has remained stagnated despite the massive inflow of investments from the African Development Bank and other international donor agencies.

For instance, since 1999 the Chairman of the Cross River State Water Board has remained Gershom Bassey, one of the purported famed ‘three wise men’ of Cross River State politics.

The powers that be have not deemed it proper to change the Chairman of the Board of the Cross River State Water Board Limited and Gershom Bassey has permanently been given the mandate to run the Cross River State Water Board Limited in any manner he considers necessary. This is one reason the Cross River State Water Board Limited has become a cesspool of corruption and ineptitude.

The affairs of Government in the State are run as an instrument for patronizing political friends and associates of the Governor.

Gershom Bassey is a political associate of former Governor Donald Duke. The Cross River State Water Board Limited is perceived as one of the choice places for appointment because of the inflow from donor agencies, so Gershom Bassey was solely appointed Chairman of the Board not because he is competent but because Donald Duke wanted to reward one of his political associates and friend.

After the expiration of the tenure of Donald Duke, another friend and associate of Gershom Bassey, Senator Liyel Imoke took over the governance of the State and he decided to keep his friend and associate, Gershom Bassey as Chairman of the Board of Directors.

So the Cross River State Water Board stinks. The place has become a by-word for corruption and bumbling incompetence. Chairman Gershom Bassey is reputed to be one of the richest people in Cross River State. He owns one of the biggest mansions in Calabar. He has no industry whatsoever.

I will illustrate my grounds for coming to the above conclusion with my personal experience with the Cross River State Water Board Limited.

In 2003, I developed a country home in my home town, Ugep, Yakurr Local Government Area of Cross River State. After the completion of the building in November 2004, I decided to connect water to the house from the Cross River State Water Board Limited. I was advised to buy at my own cost pipes and other accessories to connect from the main to my house.

I spent a lot of money and my house was successfully connected. I did not move into the house for almost two years. The Water Board only installed a Meter after the connection.

The Meter was to enable the Water Board to bill or charge me for my daily consumption of Water.

The house remained unoccupied for several years until January, 2005 when I moved in. But despite the fact that the house was unoccupied, the Water Board unfairly and unjustly billed me for purported water consumption.

In January, 2005 I was billed N10, 000, In February, 2005, I was unjustly billed N11, 300.00. In March, 2005, I was billed or charged N2, 200. In April, 2005, I was billed N300.00. In May, 2005, I was billed N13, 500.00. In June, 2005, I was billed N8, 431.25. In the month of July, 2005, I was billed N100.00.

In August, 2005, I was billed N1, 500.00. In September, 2005, I was billed N33, 400.00. In October, 2005, I was billed N16, 200.00. In November, 2005, I was billed N17, 170.00. In December, 2005, I was billed N11, 900.00. In January, 2006, I was charged N14, 535.35.

Curiously the Water Board Limited did not furnish or serve me bills or charges for October, September, August, July, June, April, May, March, February and January, 2006.

So I vehemently objected to the bills or charges for January – June, 2005 because I considered them unjust, unfair, un-reasonable, spurious and illegal because nobody was living in the house and I never had cause to consume or use Water supplied by the Water Board. I told the Water Board that I was seriously disputing these bills or charges.

However, despite the protests/objections, Water Board never took steps to address my objections. The Water Board rather disconnected Water supply to my house.

Surprisingly and curiously the Water Board continued to serve me bills despite the fact that it had disconnected Water to my house. I was given bills from July, 2005 to January, 2006, even after Water supply was disconnected to my House.

I considered these bills unreasonable, unjust and arbitrary because I did not consume nor had water supply from the Water Board to justify such outrageous charges or bill.

Despite this, the Water Board gave me a bill of N104, 935.35 charges for July, 2005 – January, 2006 when water was not supplied to my house because Water Board had disconnected me.

So I decided to go to the Water Board‘s office in June, 2005 to protest these outrageous bills for January – June, 2005. However, my complaint was treated with utmost levity by agents/officials of the Water Board then.

The issue became dead locked, I had to seek redress in the High Court. I filed Suit No. HUG/ 18 /2007 in the High Court seeking the following reliefs against Cross River State Water Board Limited thus:

1. A Declaration that the Defendant’s billing or charges of the Plaintiff for the Months of January – June, 2005 in respect of Water supplied to the Plaintiff’s house at Lekpankom, Ijiman, Ugep, Cross River State is wanton, oppressive, spurious, unreasonable, illogical, unjust and wrongful.

2. A Declaration that the disconnection of Water supplied to the Plaintiff’s house at Lekpankom, Ijiman, Ugep, by the Defendant on the ground of the Plaintiff’s alleged failure to pay the purported bill or charges is unreasonable, wrongful, oppressive and arbitrary.

3. A Declaration that the Defendant billing or charges for purported Water supply for the Months of June, 2005 – January, 2006 even after the Defendant had disconnected Water Supply to the Plaintiff’s House is wrongful, oppressive, unreasonable and illegal.

4. An Order setting aside the Defendant’s purported billing or charges of the Plaintiff for the Months of June, 2005 – January, 2006.

5. An Order directing the Defendant to restore Water Supply to the Plaintiff’s house at Lekpankom, Ijiman, Ugep, which was disconnected in June, 2005 within forty-eight (48) hours of the delivery of Judgment in this case.

6. General/Exemplary Damages of N5 Million.

The justice system in Nigeria is scandalously slow and cumbersome so my case became bogged down for several years in Court. The Counsel to the Water Board Limited tried all manner of tricks in the books to keep the case mired.

In October, 2013, the Counsel who took over from the previous Counsel approached me for a settlement of the case. I told him I was not really interested in extracting damages from Water Board but that the case was filed solely because Water Board gave me unjustifiable bills and disconnected water supply to my house.

I told him if the water board agrees to write off the bills and restore water supply to my house, I will discontinue the case. Gladly Water Board agreed to these two conditions and the case was eventually withdrawn and struck out.

The General Manager of the Cross River Water Board in charge of operations is Mr. John Buchan, a Briton. He has a very positive attitude. He was aghast that Water Board allowed a consumer to sue it. He promised that water supply would be restored to my house twenty four hours after settlement of the case. Truly Water supply was restored to my house.

However the water supply could not flow to the over head tank to enable it service the house. I have reported this development to the Water Board Limited and it promised to rectify the problem. Until this moment, the problem has not been corrected. I do not have water in my house but in December, 2013, the Water Board to my consternation and chagrin gave me a bill of N79, 000.00 (seventy nine thousand naira) for water I had not consumed.

My horrible and harrowing experience with the Water Board Limited shows how Nigerians are being short changed and abused by public utility companies from the Water Board, Airlines, Electricity Companies to the Telecommunications.

We must awake from our slumber and fight to ensure that utility companies such as Cross River State Water Board Limited give us value for our money for their products.

Okoi Obono-Obla

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