On the slopes of Ombo Hills lies the battered structure of what was to be a three-storey building that was meant to serve as the seat of national government in Migori.
The project site has been overgrown by grass and bushes after the contractors pulled out 30 years ago, with millions of shillings sunk into the moribund structure. Today, the structure has become a home for snakes and wild dogs.
The towering pillars have gone grey with age and stand forlornly like abandoned relics. The project was the brainchild of the late powerful Internal Security Permanent Secretary Hezekiah Oyugi. It was launched in the early 1990s and was meant to be a legacy project but was abandoned after the death of Mr Oyugi in 1992.
After the dream stalled, the government renovated old buildings located along a stretch of a road next to the county government headquarters. Some of the offices are tiny and congested, making delivery of services a big challenge to public servants operating from the premises.
Members of the National Assembly Administration and Security Committee, led by Limuru MP Peter Mwathi, visited the site and were shocked at the state of the abandoned project.
According to estimates given by the team, the revival and completion of the project is expected to cost Sh500 million.
Other committee members who visited the project were Homa Bay Town MP Opondo Kaluma, Teso North MP Oku Kaunya and Suna West MP Peter Masara.
“We are expecting money to be allocated for its completion from the supplementary budget. What had earlier been set aside was not enough and we will review the recommendations and allocate what can complete even the ground floor,” said Mr Mwathi after inspecting the site.
“It is shameful for a project of such a magnitude to be left to go to waste all these years despite the millions of shillings spent. We will ensure that the ground floor is completed as we seek to finish the entire building,” added Mr Mwathi.
Members of the committee said Sh200 million had earlier been allocated for phased construction of the office building but the committee was seeking to have the allocation raised by Sh300 million. Once complete, the block will become a one-stop shop for national government services. County Commissioner Meru Mwangi was upbeat about the development.
“We are working closely with the parliamentary committee to ensure that work resumes immediately the money is allocated,” said Mr Mwangi.
“The building was to become the headquarters of the greater Southern Nyanza district which covered Homa Bay and Migori counties. The launch of the project was meant to open up opportunities and develop Migori. At the time, Homa Bay town served as the headquarters for the South Nyanza region,” said Mr Elisha Otieno, a resident and journalist who covered the launch. Mr Tom Rachuonyo, a Migori journalist who also covered the launch, said Mr Oyugi was accompanied by the former Southern Nyanza District Commissioner Cyrus Gitwayi at the ground breaking ceremony.
“The project was quite a milestone. The plan was to ensure that all government departments were located in a central place to improve delivery of services. It was the first government storey building in the entire region and an architectural masterpiece,” said Mr Rachuonyo.
Mr Paul Owino, who worked as mason, said claims of corruption, misappropriation of funds, unpaid dues to contractors disrupted the works. Mr Owino said the death of Mr Oyugi dealt a blow to the project.
Former Migori Mayor and Suna West MP Peter Masara said attempts by officials of the defunct Migori Municipal Council to have the construction completed had failed.
Plans by the county government to take over the building and complete the project had run into headwinds after the two levels of government failed to agree on the matter.
“There have been several hurdles that have seen the project stall but with the ‘handshake’, we are upbeat that the project will finally come to fruition. That’s why we are keen on allocating funds to have the project constructed in phases,” said Mr Masara. In September, another team of lawmakers, led by former Kiambaa MP Paul Njoroge and former Migori County Commissioner Boaz Cherutich, visited the site.
“The committee visited the site to conduct a physical assessment and recommend the way forward for the revival of the project,” Mr Njoroge had explained after the visit. Migori residents are waiting with bated breath, hoping that plans for the revival of the project will finally take off. When complete, the building will give the border town a major facelift and transform Ombo Hills into one of the busiest places in Migori town.