SPECIAL REPORT: South West’s multi-billion naira water projects abandoned, leaving residents stranded (1)

Olode Water
Olode Water

Billions of naira worth of water projects in Osun and Ogun states have failed to materialise or are in bad shape after being abandoned or poorly excuted, an investigation by UDEME, an accountability project of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, has shown.

The projects were awarded between 2012 and 2016 for over N5 billion as part of capital projects in the South West. Some started as state government projects but were expanded by the federal government.

Most of the projects were awarded by the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority. But years after, many of those projects have not been implemented. The few that have been executed were so poorly done that they are already falling apart just after a few years, this newspaper found.

The Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority, Abeokuta, is one of the River Basin Authorities established under Decree No. 35 of November, 1987, to pursue the objectives of harnessing, developing, conserving available land and water resources in the River Basin.

This was done to improve the standard of living and quality of lives of people living within the catchment area, through irrigation agronomy, livestock, fishery and forestry and supply of water for both human and animal consumption, through continuous cost reduction, efficient communication and better services.

Under this legal mandate, the river basin authority has powers to award water project contracts for the benefit of residents of the area. But while billions of naira have gone into enforcing that mandate, there is quite little to show as results, as the experiences of residents of the area show.

In Olode community of Osun state, as an example, 63-year-old Funke Agboola, who sells roasted maize cannot afford to sleep beyond 4 am each day because she must walk for over two kilometres with her two kids, Amina and Bashira, to fetch water for domestic use.

Also, waking up as early as 4.am has also become a routine for Rashida Biliaminu, who sells pap and Akara. She walks some three kilometres for water, or she must be ready to spend N500 daily to buy water from vendors.

At the local stream, it is a survival of the fittest among residents. Whoever gets there first, gets the cleanest water. They use the water for bathing, washing, drinking and other domestic chores.

“Since I got to this town seven years ago, I must wake up early and go to the stream to fetch water,” Mrs Agboola said to this reporter. “I must wake my daughters up as early as possible so we can join our neighbours to go to the stream. That is where all of us in this village get water.”

But just 50 metres from Mrs Agboola’s house is a huge reservoir of about 1000 litres capacity, built to supply water to the community.

Residents told this reporter the reservoir was erected some years ago when some people came to them, saying they wanted to provide potable water for the village, from the federal government. Community members were happy.

However, their joy was short-lived as the spree of poor project execution and abandonment by the Ogun-Osun water basin authority was extended to Olode community, a town of over 50,000 inhabitants.

The women (Agboola and Rashidat), as well as many of the residents this reporter would later interview, wished the multimillion-naira water project inaugurated several years ago would work, but, unfortunately, the water supply scheme functioned for only two months.

“It is over 10 years they erected that reservoir in Aye Oba. We have no good water to drink. We have also been living in darkness for even seven years,” Mrs Agboola said.

“The dam has dried up and the whole community has been suffering from the lack of water and electricity. A lot of politicians have come around, promising to help us, but it is all same story.

“Every day, for us to get water to drink and other purposes, we have to trek to far away Igbalo (about 5 kilometres from here). There is a river there.”

“This place is located on the mountain top, so there’s no well that will supply water, no matter how we dig the ground.

“We can only rely on the government to help us with intervention like the water supply, but then, it just worked for two months, in the last six years.

“Whenever there is no water, we usually pay. “We also buy water from Hausa men who sell a 25-litre keg of water for N100. “So, if you need water that will last you or a whole month, you will spend an average of N10, 000 monthly on water,” she said.

“If we give them three jerry cans (we pay like N300. I usually send my small children to fetch most times because I don’t have the strength to carry it (the water). Instead of that water project they wasted money on, they should give us more boreholes,” Mrs Agboola said.

Millions of naira spent with no result

Built with N192 million, the Olode water supply scheme was supposed to serve the community and adjoining villages; but it did not function beyond two months after it was commissioned.

The contract, handled by the Ogun Osun River Basin Development Authority, was for the improvement of Olode water supply scheme in Ife South LGA, Osun State and was awarded to a company in 2009 for N200 million.

According to the 2016 audit report, documents revealed that the contract was 95 per cent completed after a total of N192 million was certified paid to the contractor.

The audit report revealed that the concrete work done was damaged and the river bank was eroded beyond its normal level, and another contract was awarded at N40 million in September 2014.

As at when this reporter went to track this project, it was observed that the concrete work done on the water project was badly damaged and the river bank had eroded beyond its normal level. As a result of the damage, water could not build up to the level where the intake structure could extract water.

The auditor general report said another N40 million was, in 2014 awarded to the project, to correct the damaged river bank with two months completion period.

However, as at the time this reporter visited the site of the project in September 2018 (four years after) it was observed that there was no significant work executed on the project, while residents continued to suffer for lack of water.

A big reservoir, which was supposed to house water pumped from the water dam, is dried up and the office where the machines are have been deserted.

The site has been turned to a mechanic workshop.

About four pumps, which have never served the functions for which they were erected, stood at different locations as symbols of hope of potable water, for the villagers.

An official of the Osun State water corporation who does not want to be named (for fear of victimisation), expressed disappointment in the government on the way the project was handled.

“This project has been on for a long time here in Olode. We once enjoyed it for few months. We, the water supply workers, are not happy.

“Initially, it was a project conceived by the government of Osun State. It was commissioned in 2004. The expansion work done by the federal government is more like a total waste of money. If you go to the machine room, you will see a lot of machines, wasting away. I have personally approached my boss to proffer solutions, but they would not listen.”

Ifewara Water Supply Scheme

This reporter arrived Ifewara in Osun State, with the notion that an earth dam, which was captured in the 2015 budget, would be a landmark.

However, some structures were identified in a very bushy location.

Kabiru Salawu, who led this reporter to the site, said his friend was employed four years ago when the construction work started and that he was not sure if his friend was still working there.

At the project site, the gate to the dam was under lock, in a scene that seems the place had not been put to use for many years.

A few pipes, which have never served the functions for which they were erected, stood at different locations from the reservoir.

When this reporter got to the community, away from the dam, residents were full of unpleasant narratives about the abandoned project and how it has remained there for many years, without serving its purpose.

The narrative from Ifewara community was the same as that given by the residents of Olode community. This same water supply scheme was implemented by Ogun Osun river Basin development. However, as is apparent, the purpose for implementing such projects seem to have been defeated.

A resident who identified himself as Engineer Ademola, narrated his experience about the water situation in the community and expressed displeasure on the quality of work done on the water supply scheme.

“When they introduced the project, we were happy that the challenges of water in the town will be over but it was not so, unfortunately,” he said.

“The water supply was not properly implemented. Many years ago, when the project was commissioned, the water it supplied was not clear, it was as dirty as palm oil.

“It was until recently that we saw some people come from Abuja to repair it. Even when they came, they just painted the tap and left, the water worked for a day and ever since, we have been suffering, especially during dry season.

“Even though we have like 10 rivers surrounding us, locating those rivers is always not a pleasant experience and they are located far away from here.”

Oluwole Komolafe, a native of Ifewara in Osun State, expressed disappointment in the project.

“It worked for some months and since then, it stopped working. We never get to enjoy water. The project just functioned for a day, and ever since, it has not supplied water for us,” he said.

“We only get water from the river or sometimes, we just had to buy water during dry season. We thank God for some people who can afford to dig well in their homes, that’s another source of water for us.

“Ours is a forgotten community, we have no good schools, teachers in those schools are not sufficient, drug supplies in our health care centre has disappeared, we are just on our own and the government seem unconcerned about us.”

A major problem with the contractors is that they never carried residents along while they were working on the project, according to Kabiru Adelaja, another resident.

“They only come here without explaining to citizens who are beneficiaries of the project to explain what they need. They just come and do the job shabbily without solving our water problem,” he said.

“Anytime we ask them how far about the project, they will always frown and reply that they are not answerable to us but the government that awarded the contract.

“Now, they have come and gone. The government is not here and our problems of water scarcity remain unsolved,” Mr Adelaja lamented.

N20 million was allocated in the budget of the agency to construct the IFEWARA water supply scheme between 2013 and 2017. Yet, residents are unable to obtain potable water.

N50 million earth dam project abandoned

The Iragbiji earth dam in Osun State is another failed project in Osun state being implemented by OORBDA..

Ahmed Marouf, the motorcycle rider who rode this reporter to the site, complained bitterly on the state of the road leading to the land.

“They have stopped working here for a while now. I used to bring some workers here when the project was still ongoing,” he said.

This newspaper observed that there was no signpost to indicate the project, and there was no one on the land set aside for the project.

The only thing done on the land is a bridge separating two roads and an excavator used to carry out the project.

When contacted by telephone, Abdullahi Ajiboye, who functions as the personal assistant to the king, told this reporter that the government had failed to carry the elders in the community along, on the project.

“We are not aware of the reason why they stopped. I will ask the King. So call me back tomorrow by 10am. The king will be around,” he said.

PREMIUM TIMES and the UDEME team later spoke directly with the king on the abandoned project.

“You see, Dam is in stages. The first stage is digging, the second stage is construction of treatment plant, reservoir and electricity. The third stage is reticulation on how the water will supply the community. They have only completed the first stage. While others have not been done. That’s how far they have gone,” the monarch said.

PREMIUM TIMES and  UDEME’s investigation also revealed that as part of the budgetary allocations for capital projects in the South-West between 2013 and 2017 in the national budget, approximately N84 million has been allocated for the construction of earth dam in Iragbiji which, obviously, has been left uncompleted for years.

N26 million flood and erosion control project ‘missing’

“Oteda is along Oshogbo road and I do not think there is any flood and control work done or ongoing in this community. A community must first be disturbed by flood before you think of construction about flood control. No project of such is in Oteda,” a resident of the community who simply identified himself as Mr Sola said as his wife helped this reporter to get motorcycle leading to Oteda.

“I did my PhD thesis on flood control and I know exactly what you are talking about. If it is in Oteda, no project of such but I will direct you to the place to see things for yourself,” he added.

Oteda is a road side community along Owode-Ede road, Ede North Local Government Area in Osun State.

Ahmed Sodiq, the motorcycle rider, strutted the road for several minutes, trying to locate where the acclaimed flood control work was located.

All efforts were unsuccessful.

At Oteda, some of the residents who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES and UDEME said there was nothing of such in the past and presently did not have an idea of a flood control project by the government.

“You are in Oteda, starting from that side to the other end,” a resident said pointing from left to right. “For many years now, we have not been disturbed by flood.”

Awere suffers flood despite allocation

At Awere, loogun-egbeda road, Ede South Local Government Area in Osun West, same senatorial district with Oteda, it was realised that despite the funds allocated, some parts of the area were flooded.

After a heavy downpour, this reporter was unable to cross the main bridge with flood walls that led to the outskirts of the community, as a result of the flood.

Mr Sodiq said the bridge has been in existence for over two years and that the flood walls have been constructed before the presentation of the constituency projects being tracked by this reporter.

Documents obtained through a freedom of information request revealed that N26 million has been released for the construction of food and erosion control work at Awere and Oteda communities in Osun West Senatorial district, Osun State. All attempts to get the location of the project were unsuccessful.

As with situation in Oteda, there was no signage to indicate any ‘flood control’ project located in Awere.

At the time the auditor general released his report, the public relations officer of the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority, Saliu Niyi, told PREMIUM TIMES he could not comment on the findings. He directed this reporter to the head of audit of the agency, identified as Mr Asore, who did not respond to calls and text messages to his phone.

Daniel Iyiola, the assisant director for works and service, also declined to comment on the project. He advsised this reporter to write an official letter to the agency stating his complaint.

However, one of the engineers in the procurement department of the agency who asked not to be named said contractors were back to site on most of the projects identified by this reporter.

“Let me clear that of Irabigi. I was the one who inspected it of recent. It has been completed. Olode, I was also there, it is also ongoing. So all those ones, none of them is abandoned. If you went to interact directly with the community, the community is not likely to give you the fact because such projects they will always be in hurry to get it completed, but not much fund is released from federal government, as expected in other to quickly complete these projects, but all these ones you are talking about they are all ongoing, they are not abandoned.

“You may want to come to the head office and see the file for yourself, you will see the last minute on those files, the files will talk for themselves.

“We are also working tirelessly to ensure all ongoing projects are completed but the only thing I think we can do is to keep pressurizing the ministry of water resources to help us fastrack releasing funds to complete these projects.

“You see, some of these completed water projects that refuse to supply water despite completion, the fault sometimes lies with state water corporation of those states because when we completed these projects, it has to be handed over to the state so that the state now complete whatever they are to do there. But if we complete our own, it is now left for the state that is if there is provision, to take over and do the needful to the community concerned.

“So the community just have to be patient because we are not the one taking these decisions here, we are just like the middleman, If fund is released, definitely it will be completed.”

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