How federal projects initiated by Saraki are abandoned, poorly implemented (2)

Malete dam
Malete dam

For residents of Abata Karuma in Ilorin East, Kwara State, life with erosion has been a hell they contend with daily.

A gully which stretches for metres has not only claimed the only motorable road in the community but has already eaten into the foundation of their houses.

“They will come, do meetings with us, promise they’ll do it but they haven’t. They come during elections. We’ve seen the sign post indicating that they’ve completed it but that’s false. We want them to assist us in doing it,” Bamidele Dada, a house owner in the community lamented.

Mr Bamidele was referring to politicians, in this case, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who in 2017 facilitated a N27 million erosion control project to the area.

A signage indicating that work is either ongoing or completed was erected at the entrance of the community, but when UDEME, a project monitoring initiative, made efforts at identifying the project, only about 50 metres of drainage structure was found on ground.

Residents, who have now resorted to mounting heaps of tyres to prevent further erosion of their buildings, complained bitterly.

They were not alone in the situation. The erosion had also washed away up to 50 metres of land belonging to Abata Karuma Primary and Junior School, a government school located in the suburb.

Residents said flood claimed the life of students in the school.

“We have been on this as far back as 1999. We’ve had many cases where flood ‘carried’ students away. In fact, whenever it’s raining, we are always on alert to either ‘shoo’ them (kids) away or jump into flood to rescue them.

“The rain that fell five days ago, assuming there were students and teachers in the school, nobody would have escaped. Thank God there was holiday. This place used to be a road but we can’t drive on it again,” Mr Dada, who took the UDEME team round the community said, pointing to a big gully.

Another resident who identified himself as Wasiu Efo bemoaned the deceitful nature of the signage.

“Even the part they did from the beginning of the road is blocked,” he said.

“We are always forced out of the house whenever it rains. They just did the small part and raised the signpost with the picture that they have constructed drainage.”

The residents wanted to know who was culpable in the abandonment of the project. They also wanted it done soon to ‘save their houses from total collapse,” Mr Efo said.

Quoted with the Abata Karuma project is an erosion control in Oke Aluko area of Ilorin. For this, the UDEME team found a roadside drainage few metres away.

We Are Worried — Saraki

The project director, Bukola Saraki’s constituency office, Olayinka Ibrahim, also condemned the poor execution of projects in Kwara State, especially the road project at Ero Omo Kilanko rural road and the Sheik Agbarigidoma road.

He blamed it on poor oversight by the implementing agency. He also narrated what may have led to the situation.

“These two projects you mentioned are for the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and we have expressed our dissatisfaction on these projects as well. The unfortunate thing that happened is that when they came for these projects to execute, they did not even inform the constituency office that they were around.

“When they first started the project at Agbarigidoma, the engineer only came once till they finished that project, he didn’t come back to check. How did they rate certificate of valuation? We need to ask them because when you rate certificate of valuation, you check the quality of job the contractor has done.

“After our complaint with them, they said what they can do was to come up with interlock on that road so that being a waterlogged area, that will solve the problem in that area.

“So I went to check after five months and discovered that there was pothole there. So, they asked the contractor to come, he called me and he promised to send his guys to come and remedy the potholes.

“But in the case of Kilanko, they did not even come to us, I did not even know contractors are working on it until they left. When I visited that site, I saw the bad state of the road. I have complained bitterly to the Ministry.”

PREMIUM TIMES visited the Agric Ministry earlier to seek reactions. The deputy director, Procurement Office, declined to talk about the projects saying he just assumed duty.

“Procurement department does not do supervision of contracts. What you are talking about would be on oversight function, due diligence and these projects you are talking about, I don’t know about them because I just resumed here last week. So you may know, procurement department doesn’t award contracts, it only processes contracts awarded by appropriate authorities.

“I am yet to even know about the department and what their functions are. I resumed (assumed duty) last week and have been going to series of meetings. I am the wrong person for you to come and ask questions because I don’t know much,” he said.

Saraki’s Completed Projects

UDEME team also tracked other projects initiated and completed by Mr Saraki within Kwara State. One of such is a skill acquisition centre in Eyenkorin, Kwara Central.

The project, fully completed, was initiated by Mr Saraki in his first term as senator but has never been put to use.

A guard on duty when the team visited said the site had been there for up to six years.

“It’s been like this (abandoned) for like six years. The contractor is still in charge. They are yet to hand it over.”

Another of Mr Saraki’s completed initiatives is a water project, initiated in 2015, also in Araro area of Eyenkorin.

Abandoned Projects In Kwara North

One of the abandoned projects in Kwara North Senatorial district is the Weru Bridge located in Moro Local Government.

According to the 2016 audit report, captured as a N45 million project in the 2015 budget, construction of the bridge was to be supervised by the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority.

When UDEME team visited in September, the construction was found half done and a few traces of equipment suggested the site has been abandoned a long time ago.

Instead of a bridge which would have been an easy passage for members of the community, six able-bodied men, who engaged in the business of ferrying humans and commodities across the bridge were on ground.

They charged a token for passage on a bridge for which millions of public funds had already been allocated and released.

Before the bridge is Yeregi and Omoniju villages and after are Olowu, Karibuje, Onigbangbo, all of which are engaged in agriculture as means of livelihood.

But this means has been cut short as many cannot transport their farm produce for sale in the popular Five-day interval Malete market.

Pelumi Anigilaje, a resident and commercial motorcyclist bemoaned the situation.

“All communities after these river are agrarian. They have in abundant yams, yam flour, vegetables etc but there is no way to bring it to the market. Most of them waste.

“Sometimes they have to go and pass through Megida which is a very long way, at least three hours to Malete.”

The situation of Weru Bridge caught the attention of the Auditor General of the Federation in his 2016 report which captured the project as abandoned.

“Contract for the construction of Weru Bridge was awarded to a company at a sum of N98.7 million through award letter dated 10th November 2015, with a completion period of 12 (twelve) months.

“It was observed that contrary to extant regulations stipulating 15 per cent as mobilisation fees, the sum of N26.8 million representing 27 per cent was paid as mobilisation. A further payment of N16,8 million was made as preliminary expenses, including N2.9 million without proof of expenditure.

“During physical verification in April and May 2017, it was discovered that the contractor had abandoned the site. However, reasons for the abandonment were not disclosed,” the report noted.

Another abandoned project in Kwara North is the massive multi-million naira Malete water works.

Situated at the outskirts of the town, the N625 million project was intended to provide potable water for residents of Malete and adjoining villages of Alapo, Akodi, Peregi and the Kwara State University.

Though completed, the project has not been able to fulfil the mission for which all lawmakers in Kwara State in 2017 reportedly donated to construct.

The river has been expanded and all necessary works have been completed, UDEME team observed in September.

Apart from that, a transformer presumed to be the source of power, a block of office for administrative purpose and another building housing some machines were also sighted.

There is an office said to belong to the state water corporation a few metres to the water works but none of its staff were on ground to speak with this team.

The security guard employed by the corporation, said the project had never served clean water to residents.

“This place was a bush before, they came and expanded the river with the hope of channelling it to the towns. You can see the pipes, they supplied it in three full trucks. Its been up to six years now.

“They have delivered it to Kwara Water Corporation. This is where all villagers, including the Fulanis fetch water and do other things. They have laid the pipe into the towns but it’s not functioning yet. The workers use to come five times in a month. They’ll just come and go back.

“We have about four boreholes in town, coupled with fetching here, that’s what has been sustaining us,” he said.

On this day, most of the residents of the community have gone to the popular Malete market to either buy or sell.

Abdulrasaq Muftau, a farmer was on his way to sell his proceeds of two sacks of okra when the team accosted him.

He painted a sad picture of what residents go through in getting water.

“We come to this river to fetch. We trek from our houses and sometimes with bike. We use it for everything; drinking, washing and the rest. Even though they built this, we don’t have water in our houses. We allow it to settle drink it like that.

“They told us that they will finish it that there will be pipe-borne water in Malete and its environs. In fact, they have laid the pipe but there is nothing yet. We heard that the contractor has not been paid fully.

“Drinking this water is not good for us. It causes malaria most times. We want them to just make the river clean even if they can’t channel it to town.”

Damning Report

The Auditor General made an official comment on the poor execution of the Malete project, in his report. He commented on the “construction and grading of Malete Water Works, Ilorin awarded to a company in October 2013 for N1 billion.

”A complete payment was made for the project but when the AuGF visited the site, he noted that the project on the ground was not commensurate with the funds deployed.

“While full payment had been made to the contractor, there were some portions of the project poorly executed. For instance, the embankment constructed at the edge of the spillway is already being threatened by erosion,” the AuGF pointed out.

Reacting to UDEME’s findings, the Assistant Director at the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority (LNRBDA) in charge of the two projects, Kayode Sadiq, shifted blame.

“The Weru Bridge project is not an abandoned project, the problem with the project is insufficient appropriation for the project. It is whatever is appropriated to us that we get to spend; it is only what is released to us that we can spend on projects, but in 2018, we have made provision for the completion of Weru bridge.

”The contractor is trying to mobilise back to site and by the first week of December, he will return back to site for the completion of Weru bridge, he has done 90 per cent of the job.

“Malete waterworks is not our project so to say (speak); it belongs to Kwara state water corporation. The federal government is just assisting states in their areas of physical need, so that is why they call it ‘intervention project’. We were just there to provide additional facility that they require. We are not to operate the treated plant for them,” he said.

Completed Projects In Kwara South

The two projects tracked in Kwara South were found to be completed.

Budgeted for N100 million in 2014, the granite surfacing of the Okesa/Oke Ero Road in Ekiti Local Government has been a solace to the community.

A motorcyclist who plies the road said it has been helpful in transporting humans and agricultural materials.

“Our lawmaker really tried when he brought (initiated) that road project. We are very grateful. It’s easy for us to move agricultural produce now and people in the village move easily.”

The other completed projects in Kwara South is the Omipa Bridge at Idofin Ehin, Isapa Road still in Oke Ero.

The project was budgeted at N37 million and handled by the LNRBDA.

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