INVESTIGATION: Communities suffer as abandoned constituency projects litter Ondo

One of the completed libraries at Idepe High
One of the completed libraries at Idepe High

Aponmu Lona, a village under Idanre local government, in Ondo Central Senatorial District, cuts a picture of many neglected communities across Ondo State. The sorry picture begins at the entrance to the village through a detour off the Akure-Ondo expressway. The rocky road is impassable and difficult to drive through. The dearth of basic amenities is palpable as one approaches the village square.

To mitigate the troubles of the residents of Aponmu Lona, the construction of a Medium Basic Health Centre was earmarked in the 2015 federal budget at N8 million as a constituency project. Although the project was listed since 2015, not a single block has been laid for it three years later. Constituency projects are usually listed by federal lawmakers and implemented by the government in their respective constituencies.

When PREMIUM TIMES visited the village as part of its constituency projects tracking, only a basic health centre built over 12 years ago under the administration of Governor Olusegun Agagu, stands at the end of the village. The community’s only health centre lacked basic amenities, and had no toilets or bathrooms. The community had longed for either an upgrade of the old centre or a better one for improved services, unaware that such provisions had been made for them in the budget.

Sick residents needing better medical care would have to travel the long distances either to Akure, the state capital or to Ondo town, or alternatively to Idanre, which is another long distance from the village. Sina Olanade, Public Relations Officer of Aponmu Lona Health Committee, told PREMIUM TIMES that the four bedroom health centre was built without toilet and bathroom and had no exit door, when it was constructed.

“We have to break a wall behind to create and exit door and there we used iron roofing sheets to do a little enclosure so that patients can take their baths there,” Mr Olanade said.

He said there was no other basic health centre in the town and they had expected the interventions of the various tiers of government to come to the aid of the village but nothing positive was forthcoming.

This development seems to duplicate itself in other parts of the state under the constituency project scheme of the government as witnessed in other similar health centres billed for Atosin, in Idanre and Okeigbe, in Ikare, Akoko North East. They were either abandoned amidst thick bush after the structural work is done, or simply abandoned uncompleted in the midst of overgrown weeds. The projects were expected to bring health care to the doorsteps of the residents, but long after they were initiated, the people are still waiting for the work to be done.

In Idanre

The proposed health centre built at Atosin in Idanre has had its building completed. However, nothing is currently happening at the site except that it is in the midst of overgrown weeds, completely abandoned. This project and another located at Akindana has a total of N8 million voted in the 2015 budget. Atosin is not very far from Idanre, the town noted for its mountainous picturesque which has drawn tourists to the town.

The senator, representing Ondo Central Senatorial District, Ayo Alasoadura, could not be reached for his comments. He neither picked his calls made to him nor replied text messages sent to him on the observations made by PREMIUM TIMES regarding the state of the projects.

In Akoko

A similar health centre is currently under construction at Okeigbe, Akoko North East, and was started during the 2011-2015 dispensation and at the time it was under the facilitation of Gani Dauda who represented the constituency in the House of Representatives. As it was uncompleted, the project was continued by Stephen Olemija, the present representative at the federal House of Representatives, with a total of N20 million voted for its continuation in the 2017 budget. At the time of PREMIUM TIMES’ visit, the project was still far from being completed. Although roofing and glass windows had been installed, doors were absent, leaving the complex for goats that had messed up the place with their dung. The structure is left amidst overgrown weeds and access to it is difficult.

A former chairperson of the Primary Health Care Association in Akoko North East and a retired nurse, who gave her name as Mrs Ajisafe, said the Okeigbe health centre is a project she and other community leaders are awaiting its completion and activation. “We are waiting for them to come and complete it, we don’t know what is delaying it,” she said.

Although a state-owned health centre is located at the entrance of the town, it is clearly inadequate for the sprawling community with an ever increasing population following developments and the influx of people into the community.

Boreholes

To ensure adequate provision of potable water to indigent communities in Ondo North senatorial district, a number of water projects in the forms of hand pump and motorised boreholes were proposed for the different constituencies. While a good number of them were executed, some of them were not executed as witnessed by PREMIUM TIMES in its tour of the project sites. It was observed that a good number of them provided were not being maintained, resulting in abandonment and damage. The affected communities are plunged in a renewed cycle of lack of potable water.

For instance, a water supply project (hand pump boreholes) for Ugbe communities of Aunti Bisi and Tanimowo, in Ikare Akoko, were completely absent. They were part of 10 hand pumps worth N20 million to be provided in the different communities in the constituency in the 2016 budget. When PREMIUM TIMES visited Tanimowo, only partially functional borehole was seen built over 10 years ago by the Olusegun Agagu government. Residents complained that the borehole, besides its being ineffective in producing enough water for the community, is unfit for drinking. At Antie Bisi, the borehole listed for execution was not found. However, an older hand pump borehole exists nearby.

At Okeagbe, in Akoko North West, the motorised borehole had been abandoned for four months when PREMIUM TIMES visited in July. The borehole was one of six solar powered motorised boreholes worth N50.8 million for the constituency in the 2016 budget. Residents at Oge street where the borehole was located complained that the facility had been left unrepaired after it malfunctioned, forcing the community to rely on a dug well nearby. A look at the well showed that it was not a hygienic source of water for the community.

Mr Olemija, while responding to PREMIUM TIMES enquires on the projects, said the Auntie Bisi and Tanimowo boreholes had been completed and sited at the locations, arguing that the PREMIUM TIMES team failed to locate the address. He promised to provide the addresses, adding that the boreholes were functional and serving the relevant communities. On the Okeagbe water project, the lawmaker said the broken down motorised borehole was a problem caused by the supervising agency which failed to ensure that the contractors execute the projects according to specifics and carry the lawmakers along in monitoring the payments and execution of the projects.

“They projects are there, it is just that you cannot find it. You see, when they do the geophysics and they cannot find water in the designated area, they move to another spot within that area where they can find water and that is what happened at Auntie Bisi and Tanimowo,” said Mr Olemija.

“The contractors and the agency, which is the Benin-Owena River Basin Commission, have created problems. We had argued that there should be a link between the contractors and the facilitators, whereby the contractors will not just go and collect money so that we can ascertain the level of work done.”

He said he had petitioned the agency to urge the contractors to go round and rectify the broken boreholes, adding that the contractors reportedly went round to do some work rectifying some and leaving out others.

On the Okeigbe PHC, Mr Olemija said he inherited the project from his predecessor, but delays from the supervising agencies in releasing funds to the contractors had stagnated the completion of the centre.

According to him, the contractors appealed to him to make more money available for the work, but their request came too late in the year and would have to wait until the 2019 budget when it would be included for its completion.

Owo

A motorised borehole located at Ulede Market, Owo, Ondo North Senatorial District, has yet to produce a drop of water since it was constructed in 2017 even though N10 million was voted for it in the 2016 budget. The borehole had been completed, but traders at the market said the borehole had never been put to use since its completion. Although the market is in dire need of a reliable water supply, traders needing water would walk nearly 150m down the street to fetch water from a borehole owned by a private individual. “The borehole had remained locked since they completed it,” said a female trader at the market. “If we need water, we will have to go down the street to fetch from a man’s house down there.”

A spokesperson said the facilitator of the project and senator representing Ondo North, Ajayi Boroffice, was not aware of the situation with the non-functional borehole. His chief press secretary, Kayode Fakuyi, told PREMIUM TIMES that his principal had facilitated a good number of projects in Owo and other parts of the senatorial district, which had remained functional and serving residents of the area.

He said the senator was not aware of the problem at Ulede Market, noting, “Senator Boroffice has indeed facilitated many water projects in Ondo North senatorial district and the projects have continued to serve residents with steady water supply. Therefore, I will make efforts to verify your claim and if there is any need, Senator Boroffice will intervene.”

Ilaje/Ese Odo

Igbokoda is the headquarters of Ilaje Local Government, an oil producing community of Ondo State. A major water project initiated under the 2016 constituency project worth N20 million has also been abandoned. The project consists of the purchase of a MAN diesel water tanker of 20,000 litres capacity, 15 GP water tanks and the construction of five public toilets.

The project was aimed at supplying drinkable water free of charge to the riverine community, which suffers acute lack of potable water particularly in the dry season. Igbokoda lacked an organised public water supply scheme, despite the fact that the water available in well and streams is not clean enough for consumption. The alternative sources of drinkable water were from mechanised boreholes.

The water project, facilitated by the representative member for Ilaje-Ese Odo federal constituency, Victor Akinjo, reportedly functioned efficiently when it was started in 2016/2017.

When PREMIUM TIMES visited by end of June, 2018, the water tanker was no longer in operation and the various plastic tanks across the town were completely dry. Instead of the truck being used to deliver water, it was parked beside a military checkpoint at the entrance of Igbokoda, apparently for its safety. The implication was that the residents had to seek for water supply through alternative means. A resident confided in our correspondent that the truck was initially parked by a petrol station nearby after it broke down, but had to be moved to the military check point after the battery of the tanker was stolen.

Another resident, Fidelis, confirmed that the water project recorded success at its inception, but the water supply had been stopped. He also said that the people were not facing any water crisis at the moment because of the availability of rain water, which has become a major source of water for the residents.

Also, a tour of the town was done, but nowhere was any public toilet sighted. Residents, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES, said they were yet to set their eyes on any public toilets in the town.

Mr Akinjo also failed to respond to enquiries sent to him on the projects within his domain, as it affects the water supply projects. He would also not pick several calls made to him and refused to respond to a text message to him.

In Irele/Okitipupa federal constituency

Ode Irele is in a major town in the southern senatorial district under the Irele/Okitipupa federal constituency. The people of the area had consistently complained of neglect in terms of infrastructure. It is also well populated by high schools and needed well equipped libraries. The construction of three libraries at Idepe, Igbotako and Irele worth N40 million was also provided for in the 2016 appropriation under constituency projects.

Curiously, there was no such library in all the secondary schools visited in Igbotako, in Okitipupa/Irele federal constituency. The principals of the schools visited affirmed that there were reports of a library for Igbotako, they were yet to see its implementation in the town. A principal who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, said he was at the commissioning of the library at Idepe, but was not aware that a library was slated to be built at Igbotako.

However, at Idepe High School, Idepe, a library had been completed with books on the shelves. A teacher in the school told PREMIUM TIMES that although books in the library were useful, more books were needed to fully meet the needs of the students.

The library listed for Ode Irele, was not however located at the town, but at Jowiri Community High School in Ajagba, about 4kms away from Ode Irele. The library had been fully completed and was already in use when PREMIUM TIMES visited.

A member of the House of Representatives who facilitated the library projects, Mike Omogbehin, said the funds were not released for the construction of the Igbotako library project and that was the reason it was not constructed.

“UBEC is supposed to explain what happened, because the commission gave out the projects to their contractors based on their bidding system and based on available funds,” he said. “You may have xy sum in the budget allocated to a particular project; in the final analysis only x amount will be released, and the MDAs would only finance the projects based on the amount released and that is what has happened.”

This investigation was done as part of the UDEME project.

UDEME is a social accountability platform that tracks the implementation of developmental projects and how funds released for such projects are spent. 

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