On October 7, 2014, Ganiyu Solomon, then minority whip of the Nigerian Senate, gathered local chiefs, his constituents, and party members at the Ikorodu Town Hall in Ikorodu, Lagos State. Amidst pomp and party sloganeering, artisans, party chieftains and other appendages of power danced, sang and hailed Mr Solomon to high heavens.
The occasion was the official declaration of Mr Solomon’s intention to contest the 2015 governorship election in Lagos State as a candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC. The declaration also coincided with the inauguration of his campaign office in Ikorodu.
Speaking at the venue of the declaration, Mr Solomon boasted that he offered to serve the people of Lagos due to his track record, the status of the state as the economic capital of the nation, and because ‘’Lagos (therefore) needs constant improvement and regeneration of infrastructural facilities and the people deserve the best possible.”
As a confirmation of his competence to rule, the lawmaker reeled out the numerous programmes he had executed while occupying different positions.
But the lawmaker cleverly ignored the projects he did not complete even when funds were released for their completion. A few kilometres away from the venue of the gathering is one of such projects, a decrepit building, which was supposed to be the only health centre serving the people of Ewu-Abiye community of Ikorodu––some of whom were gathered at the venue.
The building, which is now abandoned and overgrown with grasses, is one of numerous community health centres midwifed by the legislator and spread across the state––many of them abandoned for many years and left to decay despite huge budgetary allocations for their construction.
Mr Solomon did not secure his party ticket to run for the governorship seat, as the APC chose in his stead Akinwunmi Ambode who was later elected governor of the state. The senator did not also return to the senate.
These developments apparently ensured that the projects were permanently abandoned, while affected communities continue to suffer in silence due to poor health service.
Huge allocation, abandoned structures
For more than nine months, PREMIUM TIMES tracked several ‘constituency projects’ midwifed by lawmakers in Lagos state with results showing that millions of naira had gone into the projects that were either abandoned or never saw the light of the day.
The issue of constituency project execution has been a subject of intense criticism in Nigeria, largely due to the abuse it is always subjected to by lawmakers.
This investigation focused on the Lagos lawmakers’ projects between 2014 and 2015, across the three senatorial districts.
While most of the projects had been abandoned, a few were either completed or totally non-existent.
Ewu-Abiye: the rough road to quality healthcare
The road to Ewu-Abiye community in Igbogbo area of Ikorodu is as poor and dilapidated as the abandoned building that was supposed to be the health centre proposed for residents in the community. For more than 45 minutes on the first day of visit, PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter rode on motorcycle from Ikorodu main bus terminus to the community, navigating sharp bends, huge potholes, erosion-ravaged culverts and muddy road.
On about three occasions, the reporter walked past the location of the health centre building without realising it was the site of project as the proposed N33 million primary healthcare centre had been abandoned, amid thick bushes and long grasses, making the building invisible to passersby.
“For many years, the building was there and is now abandoned. Ewu-Abiye has no single health facility; we go to faraway Ikorodu town for every little health concern,” a community resident who identified himself simply as Jacob, told our reporter on a second visit in the first quarter of 2018. Mr Jacob explained that they received no attention by government officials ever since.
Although the Ewu-Abiye community of Igbogbo in Ikorodu is under Gbenga Ashafa, the senator representing the Lagos East Senatorial District, a former senator representing Lagos West, Ganiyu Solomon, requested for a space for the project, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
When PREMIUM TIMES first visited the site in 2017, Olajide Animasaun, whose elder brother is the Baale (local chief) of Ewu Abiye, said they were overjoyed when they heard a primary healthcare centre was coming to their community.
“In fact, I was part of those that searched this place for them when they (Senator Ganiyu Solomon) asked the family; we were the ones that took them there,” said Mr. Animasaun, who is the assistant secretary of the Ayan-gade chieftaincy family, in Ewu Abiye.
“Senator Ganiyu Solomon is the one that influenced it (the health centre) here. It might be his constituency project then, I may not know, but they were looking for space and we were able to provide, when they brought the idea to us, it is a good thing, it is something that can boost our community, so we agreed to bring them in.
“This year we haven’t seen them on the site at all. The other thing they said they would do is solar borehole, they were building it simultaneously with the health centre but it never worked since it wasn’t completed, in fact they did not work there throughout 2016.”
Upon another visit to the site in January 2018, the entire space had been taken over by grasses. A woman who took our correspondent round the project and identified herself simply as Shade said the community was in dire need of the health centre.
“We don’t have road and the health centre that we felt would be a dividend of democracy too has been abandoned. It is pathetic,” she told PREMIUM TIMES in Yoruba. “Our children are dying, the aged are falling sick; nowhere to treat them.”
Officials of Igbogbo local council, who declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak about the projects, also corroborated her claims.
Meanwhile, PREMIUM TIMES’ resolve to contact the contractor handling the project was thwarted as the signboard containing details of the project had been washed off, its location taken over by thick grasses.
Abandoned, non-existent projects across senatorial districts
Apart from the abandoned Ewu-Abiye health centre, PREMIUM TIMES investigation also revealed that there are numerous other primary health centres across Lagos West district midwifed by the senator, which had all been abandoned.
At the Amuwo Odofin Commercial Scheme, there is another primary healthcare centre billed to be constructed at a cost of N35 million by Mr Solomon, but the project had been abandoned. The uncompleted building, situated at the entrance into Peace Estate at Maria Road, had a fence being erected around it when PREMIUM TIMES first visited late 2017.
A construction worker seen around the site, who declined to be interviewed on the record, said the building had been there since 2007.
“There are many of these types of uncompleted projects around,” said the construction worker, who craved anonymity for the fear of being victimised.
Mr Solomon served as the senator representing the Lagos West Senatorial District twice: first between 2007 and 2011 and later between 2011 and 2015.
He had earlier served as a member of the House of Representatives representing Mushin Federal Constituency 1 between 2003 and 2007 and as chairman of Mushin Local Government in 1999 up till 2003.
When our reporter re-visited the proposed Amuwo-Odofin healthcare site in January 2018, the fenced building had been taken over by the Lagos Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA). The abandoned, now decrepit building meant for the health centre, however, stood by the side of another one-storey building built by the agency.
A security guard who craved anonymity told PREMIUM TIMES that the agency “borrowed” the site for its own use.
A resident, Theophilus Joe, said the health centre building had been abandoned for long, although residents would have been glad if it had been completed.
“It’s been more than six years this building was erected. Sometimes people from Abuja come around and go but nothing has been done ever since then,” he explained.
“Many of us don’t even remember there is a facility here again. Infact, many people in the area may not know about it if you ask them because it’s been long the building was abandoned. And many people continue to suffer due to the negligence of the government.”
Similarly, in Oke-Ira Nla area of Ajah, another N34 million health centre proposed by Mr Solomon to serve the community remained abandoned despite that it had been fenced. Painted in blue, the expansive building had been overtaken by thick grasses.
Joseph Adams, a resident of the area who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES, said the project was abandoned shortly after the 2015 general elections.
“After the 2015 elections, we just didn’t see anybody here again; the contractors, the workers, the politicians… all of them,” he said.
“And our community needs the project, we always have to go to Ajah for basic health care and it is terrible. You can see our bad road too; no road, no hospital, no school, nothing. We need this project,” he cried.
Another resident who declined to be named said the security guards placed at the abandoned building left the building when their monthly stipend stopped coming. He called on government at all levels to help them complete the project and commission it for use because the people are suffering and are in need of health facility.
A resident who identified himself simply as Baba Aremu, told PREMIUM TIMES that the community was deprived of many basic facilities. He also called on the government to investigate why the building was abandoned after it had been completed from the outside and was left to rot away.
“People are dying because of little, little ailments in this community. Many don’t have resources to go to private clinics. When they started, we felt an end has come to our health issues but now, since the last election, they have abandoned the place,” he explained.
In what is perhaps a flagrant abuse of procurement procedures, there is no visible signboard indicating details of the project as required by law. It is unclear if the signpost had been destroyed or was never constructed.
In Ifoshi area of Ejigbo in Oshodi-Isolo Local government area, another primary health centre proposed for N30 million was never constructed. A member of the Community Development Association, CDA, in the area who declined to be named said there was no project of such in the area, saying the community carried out their projects themselves.
Another resident, Jaiye Alabi, claimed he overheard some local politicians saying that the foundation of an abandoned project was done in the area before the last general elections but the location was unknown. He spoke not-too-well of the former senator who represented the constituency, Mr Solomon, describing him as “Ghost Senator” whose impact wasn’t felt by many people in the area.
“Ghost”, he told PREMIUM TIMES, was the peoples’ corrupt version of Mr Solomon’s initials that also served as his nickname when he was in office: Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon, G.O.S.
When PREMIUM visited the Ejigbo Local Government Council for details of the Ifoshi healthcare project, many of the officials declined to be interviewed due to what they described as fear of their lives and security. A staff, who spoke under strict condition of anonymity, however, said there was no such facility in the area, adding that other health centres in the council were built by council chairmen.
Also in Bucknor, another health centre had been abandoned without commissioning. Officials at the Ejigbo council could also not give reasons why it was yet to be commissioned for use by the community.
“The problem is that we are just left to suffer. We need these facilities and people are dying everyday; but we don’t have them,” explained Mr Alabi, a resident.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the former senator, Mr. Solomon, in January, he gladly told our reporter that he was on his way to the mosque and would be willing to respond to this newspaper’s request sometime later.
The next day, PREMIUM TIMES sent the former senator text messages and revealed details of this newspaper’s findings at the various sites of the abandoned projects he facilitated while in office. This newspaper, however, received no response from the senator nor any message for details of a possible interview. When calls were subsequently placed to his lines, the telephone rang endlessly and the senator declined to speak afterwards. For weeks, he declined to pick subsequent telephone calls from the reporter.
For more than a month between February and March, several follow-up calls and text messages were sent to his known telephone numbers without any response.
Mute Supervising Agencies
Several months efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to confirm what went wrong from the supervising agencies in charge of the projects were futile as they all refused to disclose details surrounding the near-decrepit state of most of the projects.
The supervising agency in charge of primary health centres which was listed as the supervising agency for all the projects in documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), supplied no responses to PREMIUM TIMES enquiries.
In October 2017, PREMIUM TIMES wrote a series of Freedom of Information, FOI, request letters to the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and the Ministry of Health. But our reporter was referred to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, OAGF. Earlier in November 2017, following an FOI request letter on this matter, the Bureau of Public Procurement referred this newspaper to the affected ministries.
But documents made available to PREMIUM TIMES by the OAGF revealed the block allocations released to the Ministries, Departments and Agencies for the 2015 zonal intervention/constituency projects.
According to details of the document, the NPHCDA received a total of N1,723, 004,942 for the 2015 zonal intervention projects under which Mr Solomon’s primary healthcare projects appeared. Details of specific allocations to each projects were not captured in the document.
The document showed that in the first quarter of 2015, the NPHCDA received the sum of N233, 021, 807; it got N233, 021, 807 in the second quarter; and in the third and final quarter of the year, it received N466, 043, 614.
Also captured in the 2015 allocation for NPHCDA is a balance of N197,729,428 received for the fourth quarter of 2014;the sum of N197,729,428 also as balance of the second quarter of 2014; and N395,458, 856 for the third and fourth quarter of 2014. All of the allocations, the document revealed, were cash-backed.
It is therefore not clear who pocketed the released money between the NPHCDA and Mr Solomon.
While Mr Solomon’s projects in Lagos West are largely uncompleted and abandoned, other constituency projects investigated by this newspaper in other senatorial districts were largely completed and functional. Many of such projects are located in Lagos East senatorial district. Gbenga Ashafa is the Senator representing the constituency.
At the Ishawo Secondary School in Ikorodu, a motorized borehole constructed at N13.2 million was still functioning when PREMIUM TIMES visited. A guard who refused to be named told our correspondent that the facility had to be repaired a number of times but it still serves the school.
Similarly, a N5.6 million 300KVA transformer provided at Agiliti Phase II Community of Mile 12 was functioning. Diitto two other facilities of same value provided for residents of Isawo, IfeOluwa CDA in Ketu and the people of Gunwa Garage in Ikosi-Isheri Ketu area of Kosofe Local Government.
Another 500KVA transformer provided for residents of Taike Street, Off Love All Street, Ikosi Isheri at N7.5 million was delivered and is still functioning.
At Ewu Balogun in Igbogbo/Baiyeku LCDA, PREMIUM TIMES confirmed that a N5.6 million 300KVA transformer was also delivered to the community.
At the Popo Aguda area of Lagos Island, a N10 million community low cost housing scheme comprising of 12 Units in a block of three floors was billed to be constructed. But Veronica Munis, a community leader, said she had not seen any community low cost housing.
“Since I was at Popo Aguda for over 40 years I have never seen anything like that (community low cost housing scheme comprising of 12 units in a block of 3 floors),” she said.
“I only know about our House of Representative member, Hon. Yakubu Balogun that at campus road, for the first time, gave some of our people here motorcycle and grinding machines.”
Another resident, who identified himself simply as Jamiu, told our reporter there was no such project in the area. “Nothing of such in this constituency,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
But Yakub Balogun, the member representing Lagos Island II at the House of Representatives, told PREMIUM TIMES that the projects were never constructed because despite his efforts to get funds released for the projects, the Works ministry did not help facilitate the release of the funds.
In Olodeokuta Street, Surulere, 15 solar street lights installed at N7.5 million have stopped working after they were installed. The Senator representing the constituency, Oluremi Tinubu, said she knew nothing about the project. The lawmaker at Federal House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the same thing.
But an aide to Mr. Gbajabiamila, Olanrewaju Smart, said the trend they noticed in the area was that hoodlums often cart away the panel of the power facilities, thus damaging the street lights. He also said the constituency office of the lawmaker was trying to liaise with community heads and youth leaders to help facilitate the safety and maintenance of street lights in the area henceforth.
A N2.5 million 27.5 KVA Mikano generator set allocated to chief imam in council at a Lagos Island mosque was however delivered, PREMIUM TIMES confirmed.
In Ajah, the proposed rehabilitation of the 5-Km Salu Obodo road in Okeira Nla with drainage facility was not executed. The road, which leads to Okeira, was in terrible state when PREMIUM TIMES visited in 2017. Ahmed Ajao, an Okada rider told PREMIUM TIMES that resident and businesses suffer because of the terrible state of the road.
“This road is terrible… economic activities here are always affected because people find it frustrating to ply this road, especially during rainy season,” he explained.
The project was captured under the ministry of works projects in 2015.
According to documents seen by our reporter, the Federal Ministry of Works and the Federal Road Maintenance Agency got a total allocation of N4,767,096, 490 for zonal intervention projects in 2015 – with both agencies receiving the sum of N4, 570,912,220 and N196, 184,270, respectively. Details of specific allocations for projects were however not stated.
The member representing Eti-Osa federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Akinloye Babajide, told PREMIUM TIMES that he knew nothing about the road project, adding that it might have been injected into the list of projects by some influential people from the constituency. He, however, added that the people had complained to him about the state of the road and he would investigate more about the project and seek solution.
This investigation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.