Seven months after PREMIUM TIMES published an investigation on the sorry state of Nigeria’s Nuclear Technology Centre, some abandoned projects within the centre have been completed.
Following the report of security loopholes in the investigation, the management of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) which oversees the centre also contracted a private firm to provide security for the centre.
In the two-part series published by PREMIUM TIMES in January, three projects were designated as abandoned as work had stopped on them.
Identified as uncompleted were the centre’s recreational and educational facility, instrumentation laboratory and waste management plant.
In the report, some workers of the centre complained of idleness due to the inadequate facilities
The report also beamed a search light on the porous security at the centre which is partly due to the management’s insensitivity to the centre’s peculiar needs and a failed surveillance project.
Chairman of NAEC, Simon Mallam, had defended the commission saying it was hampered by inadequate funding.
“There is nothing like NTC budget fundamentally,” he stated during an interview with PREMIUM TIMES. “What we do, government funds projects and they allocate funds the project. On the recurrent, even under SHETSCO, NTC never had a separate budget, it was SHETSCO budget. Somehow, we have one line budget without specifying which centre has what.
“For instance, our overhead cost (received) in the last two, three years is less than N12 million monthly, for all the headquarters and all these centres, you have to manage it. Last year we had an overhead of only eight months, this year we have had only six months. So there is no magic we can do,” he said.
Seven months after however, two of the three projects have been completed at the centre.
On Friday, July 20 when this reporter visited the centre to ascertain the level of work done, the recreational and educational facility and the instrumentation laboratory have been completed and is ready to use.
New Recreational Centre
The contract for the recreational and educational facility was awarded to Silhouttes AB + Turnkey at N274.5 million and an initial payment of N214.2 million was made.
When this reporter visited the site late 2017, the construction of the sports facility was still halfway.
Claiming it wasn’t abandoned, NAEC in an FOI response said the project “only suffered delays due to inadequate funding of capital projects generally over the years. For instance, there was no provision for the project in year 2016 and only about 11 per cent of the capital has been released so far in the current year (2017). The contractor has just been mobilised back to the site and further works on the project have commenced”.
Although no contractor was sighted on site until after the PREMIUM TIMES publication, the project had been completed by the time the reporter visited on July 20.
“After your publication we’ve seen so much improvement. As you can see the sports centre, they are putting some finishing touches on it. The instrumentation lab, the contractor is even on ground. And so it is for the waste management plant. Generally, things have improved,” a staffer of the centre who doesn’t want her name mentioned for fear of victimisation said.
Another staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason said the sports complex, when fully put to use, will increase productivity within the centre.
“All work, no play makes Jack a dull boy. The staff will have time to unwind, even at weekends and this in turn will amount to increased productivity. It’s a very good one and the management needs to be commended,” he said.
He noted the impact of PREMIUM TIMES publication in the achievement so far.
“There has been remarkable improvement. We were worried that so much money was sunk into these projects but since your investigation came out, we have seen appreciable progress.
“They mobilised contractors back to site almost the same time you made contact with them. We thought it would stop as usual but with what they’ve done, if they keep this pace, things will be better.”
The instrumentation laboratory was receiving its final touches on July 20 when this reporter visited. Works on the building have witnessed a great improvement unlike in 2017 when the building was under a heap of weed.
The laboratory, a component of the masterplan of the centre, is supposed to serve as workshop for students, researchers and others in the nuclear field.
The project was awarded at the cost of N829.6 million to Trois Associate Limited in 2012 and it is 68 per cent complete, NAEC’s response to an FOI stated – but it was abandoned.
“If the lab fully takes course, it will take some people off the labour market. For those in the academic sector, there will be more equipment for their researches. Not less than 30 people more will be employed to run that place,” a staffer of the centre said, expressing optimism.
Meanwhile, works have continued on the radioactive waste management facility at the centre.
Awarded at over N400 million in 2009, a building that was supposed to serve as the radioactive waste management facility was overgrown with weed when this reporter first visited September 2017.
Waste management plants and equipment comprise various devices and machines used for treating, converting, disposing and processing wastes from various sources.
The construction of low/medium radioactive waste management facility was awarded at the contract sum of N401.4 million to Commerce General Limited and so far, N312 million has been paid to the contractor, the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) said in response to a Freedom of Information request.
During the last visit, PREMIUM TIMES reporter observed the presence of the contractor at the site of the facility.
The management of NAEC did not respond to multiple inquiries on the rationale for redesign of the facility.
One of the staff members told this newspaper that the redesigning is unavoidable to correct the flaws of the contractor that first worked on the project.
He expressed optimism at the prospect of the facility.
“A lot of hazards will be reduced once it’s completed. As it is now, the country does not have a place to properly dispose our nuclear wastes. If it is completed and put to use, these hazards will be reduced. There is much to be benefitted if completed.”
When this reporter first visited the NTC in September 2017, there was little or nothing that distinguished the centre from a regular property in terms of security.
In fact, there was no security guard on sight as this reporter, who expected a security check entered the facility freely without being stopped or questioned.
However, this was not the case on July 20 on another visit.
Stationed at the entrance of the centre were two guards donning the uniforms of Profile Security Services, a private security firm.
Contrary to what obtained before, one of the guards stopped this reporter to ask for his details and mission at the centre.
But the level of security is not enough as expected of a nuclear technology centre says a staffer.
“The security is better but it’s not commensurate with what we expect in a nuclear environment. We commend the management for getting these people but they should give them orientation and we need armed security.
“There are differences. Before, if you come here, you won’t see anybody (at the gate). But now, it’s no longer like that. Even at weekends, you’ll meet them and policemen too. They are new and we feel that security of such places as this should be saddled with people that have at least basic educational level on nuclear technology,” he concluded.