By Edem Darlington
The member representing Obudu state constituency in the Cross River State house of assembly, Mr. Stephen Upukpen has denied failing to deliver on a contract after collecting 100 percent of the sum.
Mr. Ukpukpen was said to be awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of the sacred heart primary school in Bedia community of Obudu by the Cross River State Universal Basic Education Board and the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, Mr. Agba Jalingo in an opinion article said despite the contract duration elapsing, he failed to deliver on the job.
But, a statement issued by the office of the lawmaker denied this.
The statement read: “The attention of the Member representing Obudu State Constituency in the Cross River State House of Assembly Rt. Hon Stephen Ukpukpen has been drawn to an article by Agba Jalingo which was published in the CrossRiverWatch online edition of April 1, 2018 with the above caption, where the writer maliciously attacked the person and office of the honourable member.
“Hon. Ukpukpen strongly feels disappointment with the ignobly cheap, petty and blatant lies by Agba Jalingo in the article that has all the trappings of defamation. It is a pity that the writer reduced himself to the despicable level of peddling cheap lies. It calls to question the integrity of an acclaimed journalist who thrives on falsehood and blackmail; who deliberately set out to invent mischief and manipulate unsuspecting members of the public to believing falsehood.
“It is worthy to note that it was pressure from Hon. Ukpukpen that paved way for the initial listing of the Sacred Heart Primary School as part of the SUBEB projects in 2016 and the subsequent award of the project. Emphatically, he has repeatedly enlisted the school in the budget of the state from 2013 until it was finally awarded. This claim can be verified in the budget office.
“The truth is not up to 30% of the contract sum has been released, contrary to Agba Jalingo’s claim that the full contract sum had been paid yet Hon Ukpukpen does not want to complete the project hence wants to ‘eat the money’.
“Sequel to Agba Jalingo’s unguarded attack on Hon Ukpukpen, the contractor of the job, Robert Utietiang made the following submission in a bid to set the record straight:
“The Contractor handling this project is passionate about it. He has demonstrated this by:
(I) moving to site before mobilization
(II) He commissioned the design and construction of toilets for staff and pupils when such is not provided for in the contract. (The foundation is on ground)
(III) SUBEB being a responsible body will not compromise its integrity to make full payment to a contractor for an abandoned project. Payments are often made according to milestones.
(IV) Plans are on ground to return to site without the provocation of this write up even though payment has not been made with respect to the current milestone achieved.
(V) The integrity of this structure was never compromised at any stage. This can be proven by a structural audit which is part of any job evaluation process.
(V) The topography of that location posed an obvious challenge which required placement of reinforced concrete columns to a section of the foundation, the cost of which no variation is provided. To have that location about ten big trees were uprooted and crosscut at a cost not captured in the bill.
(VI) The purpose of this reaction is to clear doubt in the mind of anyone that may have an honest misunderstanding of the facts.”
However, Mr. Jalingo had updated his article where he claimed that work had resumed on site and said there was no need to sing praises as the lawmaker was not doing members of his constituency a favor.
He wrote: “I am happy to announce that information from home say Hon. Stephen Ukpukpen has asked Robert Utietiang, the contractor to return to work and work has resumed on site at the Sacred Heart Primary School, Bedia.
“We will not shut our eyes or mouth until that project is completed. Steve is not doing us a favour. It is a transaction the government has given him on our behalf and has been fully paid for.
“And even if it wasn’t paid for, Bedia did well to send Steve to the House Of Assembly for the past 7 years. He can and should build a block of classrooms for Bedia. He can do it on credit and collect the money later.
“In the past 7 years of his membership of the House, Steve has built personal houses in Obudu and Calabar. I know them. The houses are very beautiful and worth tens of millions. He should build Bedia a befitting block of classrooms. Nevertheless, thank you Hon. Stephen for returning workers to site.”
But, Mr. Ukpukpen’s statement refuted this and listed the Ohong – Bedia – Okorshie road as one of the projects among other schemes he facilitated.
“It is unfortunate that Agba Jalingo would brazenly falsify his act of kindness where he, in appreciation of loyalty, willingly gave someone his watch after election monitoring. He was never attacked and his watch was never forcefully collected as claimed by Agba Jalingo.
“Moreover, Hon. Ukpukpen doles out thousands weekly to attend to the financial needs of his constituents ranging from school fees, hospital bills, house rents, transportation, marriage and burial supports etc; and until lately, Agba Jalingo had been a beneficiary.
“Many of his constituents including indigenes of Bedia through his intervention are today gainfully employed in federal, state and even private establishments.
“Again, on the claim about building personal houses in Obudu and Calabar, let it be known to Agba Jalingo that those properties were acquired during the member’s years in private sector.
“Then Agba was still a student. The Code of Conduct Bureau can be approached for verification.
“Hon. Ukpukpen’s stewardship speaks. He should be commended and not reprimanded. By all standards, he has been able to justify the mandate given to him by the Obudu people and no amount of mudslinging can dent his record.
“Evidently, Agba’s vitriolic attack was motivated by sheer envy and jealousy; perhaps, Agba is a dancer whose actions are being influenced by a masked drummer,” the statement read.
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