In South-West, more water, road projects are abandoned despite billions of naira spent (2)

Equipment on Igbojaiye project site
Equipment on Igbojaiye project site

In the second part of this investigation, Akintunde Babatunde reveals how billions of naira worth of water projects awarded between 2012 and 2016 for over N5 billion as part of capital projects in the South West (Osun, Oyo and Ogun states) have failed to materialise or are in bad shape after being abandoned or poorly executed.

Read the first part of the report here.

In Igbojaiye, a small community of about 29,000 inhabitants in Itesiwaju Local Government Area of Oyo State, residents face the risk of water-borne ailments as they are forced daily to consume dirty water.

People here remain deprived of good water because funds meant for providing this appear to have been mismanaged by officials.

Residents of the farming community were elated in 2010 when the construction of an earth dam was started.

The construction of the earth dam was for the supply of water for irrigation, domestic use as well as for fishing activities in Igbojaiye and neighbouring communities.

Farmers and dwellers in the town who thought the completion of the dam will provide clean water for them and neighbouring communities like Okaka, Otu, Baba Ode, others are today disillusioned.

The projects were handled by the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority.

‘An Inspector From Abuja’

The site of the project looks more like work never started. The security personnel who has been there for many years was very reluctant to allow this reporter in but after minutes of persuasion, he directed this reporter to some workers on the site.

When this reporter entered the site, the muddy area was enough to show that the quality of work done on the project was poor.

An interview with one of the workers on the site revealed that work stopped on the site for sometime. He said they just resumed few days ago when they heard “inspectors from Abuja will be coming to inspect the project”.

“When we saw you, I was even thinking you are the inspector we were told will be coming to inspect this project from Abuja, that was why we had to come here and wash our equipment,” he said.

He said for now, no one knew when the project would be completed.

A farmer in the community expressed bitterness on how his hopes of getting water to his farm had been dashed for many years.

“That is how they do, they have been epileptic in the way this project has been handled since they started. They will come today, leave tomorrow,” he said.

“They (referring to contractors) come and go at will, we saw them bring their equipment a few days ago, we hope this time, they will complete it before they run away again,” he said.

Residents interviewed by this reporter also expressed disgust.

Adewale Waheed said “This is my second time of seeing a journalist come investigate this project. I think you should help us report this matter to EFCC.”

“They should probe the contract process of this project and prosecute all complicit parties, we need this water project more than anything, we are not happy seeing this project waste,” he added.

One would not expect less from a project site where over N300 million has been reportedly expended in the last eight years.

Official Indictment

In his latest annual report, the auditor general passed an uncomplimentary remark on the contractor.

In the report on the “Contract for the construction of Igbojaiye earth dam in Oyo State”, he said the contract was awarded to a company at the sum of N154 billion on August 10, 2010, with 18 months completion period.

“Examination of documents showed that as at April 2014, the project had been completed and fully paid for. It was discovered that a second contract termed “Phase 2 for earth works, spillway and protective works was awarded to the same contractor vide award letter referenced OORBDA/S/462/1/23A/S/454/2013/Vol.1/007 and dated 27/8/2013 with 12 months completion period at the sum of N211,328,743.48 , just before the purported completion of the original contract.

“The sum of N164,428,950.00 was also paid, bringing the total payment to the contractor to N318,880,759.09. While reasons for awarding the second contract were not disclosed, it was noted that the embankment of the dam and the big pipes that connect it from the existing riverside through the embankment areas where drums were used to extend the water flow to the outlet was the only visible job on ground for which the authorities generously concluded that 78 per cent job completion has been achieved, to justify the huge amount paid to the contractor,” the report said.

It added that “no value was derived for the money spent on the project, as the desired result was not achieved, despite the huge amount expended”.

“Payments to the contractor not in line with milestone achievements cannot be accepted as legitimate charges against public funds,” the auditor said.

Panseke Onikolobo: ‘Anchor Of Abandoned Projects’

The trend of abandoned project was not in Oyo and Osun States alone. In Abeokuta, Ogun state, where the headquarters of OORBDA is located, many residents had changed the nomenclature of the agency to ‘anchor of abandoned projects’.

In Panseke, Abeokuta, residents, who in 2009, magnanimously donated land for the site of a water reservoir with hope of getting clean water for use are now full of regrets.

The reservoir, which was supposed to supply drinkable water for the community of over 50,000 inhabitants and other neighbouring communities has been abandoned.

The project holds no promise of fulfilling its purpose as it was was poorly executed.

Kafaya Adewole, whose husband (because of the scarcity of water) had to dig a well told this reporter that water from the well (which of course isn’t suitable for drinking) remains almost the only source of water for the family and neighbours.

“There is one man at that junction, he has boreholes and that’s where we fetch water for free, but you know anytime the borehole got spoilt, we will have nowhere to fetch water except this well,” she said.

“Even before we dug this well, people used to fetch water from that mud river that is flowing, the only thing they have to do is come as early as possible to fetch and then boil before use,” she said.

Another resident, Amidu, who obviously was furious berated the government for wasting millions and dashing the hope of the community.

The project started around 2010, it’s been for years, during (the time of) Dimeji Bankole as House Speaker. We were told he facilitated the project, we were made to understand the water will serve this place.

“I had to build my personal borehole in 2011 when people in the community were dying of water scarcity. I gave them this land for free. The abandoned project has created a lot of hardship for people in the community. Personally, I supply over 50,000 litres of water from here. I fuel the pumping machine with my personal money,” he said.

Reservoir in Panseke

Another resident, Wahab Waheed, in onikolobo area of Abeokuta told this reporter the reservoir is just there as “figure head and serves no purpose”.

He said he spends at least N200 daily on two kegs (25kg) of water.

“Can you see now? Spending N6000 monthly on water leaves me with only N14,000 to take care of myself. The government cannot just do it to us, an abandoned project serves no purpose, they should just come and compete it and we will be happy,” he said.

This reporter also visited the booster station in Abeokuta.

The small office, which houses only water pumping equipment and machines had about seven staff at the site. They all declined to make comments.

Booster Station, Abeokuta

“I am not an engineer, you may have to come back for our oga patapata (the boss) to come if you need update on our operation,” one of them said.

One of them who spoke informally also said the water project is not yet complete “and that is why residents cannot get water from the reservoir erected”.

“What actually happened is that the water project in Gbokoniyi is not yet complete, it is only that of Adigbe that is working.

“I also met it when I joined as an ongoing project. Look at this switch, if to say it is working now, we will just switch this and power it, then people from the other end in Gbokoniyi area will be able to fetch water. When I got here, they only handed it over to us, it is not working. I may not tell you much about it. I am just a plumber, the electrical man will be in the best position to tell you.

“This pumping machine for instance, once the engine is started, you will give it like three or four minute to boost, it will then allow the water from Iberekodo to run to this place, after which we will press a control here which will then supply water to the external reservoir in Panseke. But you know, that is the ideal, since it is not yet completed, residents cannot get water,” he said while explaining some technicality.

Pumping machine

Another staffer also tried explaining.

“Our work here is just to boost water that comes from the dam. Once the government lays the pipe, what we will do is to release water from here is to reservoirs. Our operation here is limited majorly because of epileptic power supply.

“In one hour, when there is no light, our generator consumes about 100 litres of diesel which of course is very excessive to manage. So, we most time had to limit our operation because power supply is not as stable.”

Abandoned Multi-million Naira Igboho-Kishi Road

Travelling from Ibadan through Ogbomoso and eventually to Kishsi on the Sunday morning of September 8, 2018 was not a smooth journey for this reporter as he embarked on a journey to the community in Orire Local Government of Oyo State.

Ordinarily, the journey that was supposed to be for two hours lasted for five hours from Ibadan because of the deplorable road which then made the reporter opt to travel through Ibadan-Ogbomoso road.

Kishi community, a farming community is located in northern part of Oyo State. Kisi has been the divisional headquarter of Irepo local government since 1946 it is about 201 kilometres from Ibadan , the Oyo state capital.

The very stressful and risky trip is a big disservice to the population of Kishi who are mostly farmers and who rely on a good road network to transport their farm produce.

Linking Igboho, Saki, Sepeteri, Igbojaiye and other communities, the Igboho – Kishi road is such an important road for inhabitants of this community. When in 2014, they saw contractors resume on the road for the rehabilitation of the road which was constructed in 1960, they were elated.

A resident of the community, Yusuf Najim said: “about four or five years ago when Hon. Hosea Agboola was in the Senate representing Oyo North senatorial district, he facilitated the rehabilitation of the project.”

“If I remember very well, the contractors did a very bad job, they only cleared about 1km drainage after the secretariat and they used bulldozer to cover about 7km hoping to get to Igboho.

The road, after the contractors left has been rendered impassable and has since been abandoned. It has become a problem for farmers who have farmlands around there to transport their farm products to the market.

“The road is very important to the whole Oke-ogun because if the road is in good condition, there is no need for us to be travelling through Ogbomosho to Ibadan again. If the road is done, the journey from Oke-ogun to Ibadan will be shorter and safer,” he said.

Kishi community is known for cassava and guinea corn production and recently delved into rice farming, vegetables and cereals.

“We tried to tell the contractors what we wanted but they said only the ‘honourable’ can give them an order and that was towards 2015 election but immediately after the election, the project was abandoned.

“The road has caused many accidents especially during festive periods, we usually have cases of motorcycles colliding with cars and on many occasions, such accidents have caused claimed lives.

“The most recent happened about three months ago, when a trailer crushed a Bororo man to death. It has been a very terrible experience plying this road every day,” Mr Najim added.

According to the chairman, Kishi Progressive Union, Jimoh Aderibigbe, when he approached the contractor while they were working on the road, they told him the road will be tarred from Kisi to Soro (village between Kisi and Igboho), “but eventually, they didn’t even get to Soro and it has been abandoned since then”.

“The road is a major road for us, if the road is good, we don’t have to go to Ibadan through Ogbomosho. Travelling from here to Ibadan would have been the easiest and most convenient route for us.

“The Government only tarred this road in 1960, since then, there has been no intervention whatsoever from government,” he said.

He said the former lawmaker who represented Oyo North senatorial District, Hosea Agboola was the facilitator.

“This road is not the only abandoned project in this community, the government has almost turned this community to the headquarters of abandoned projects; we have abandoned borehole, primary healthcare centre, water project, erosion control project and all that,” he said.

Abandoned Primary healthcare centre/Borehole in kishi

 

“Many years ago while I was a political secretary at the local government, they deducted money from the source to construct the healthcare centre, it has been abandoned. We as a community have tried all we could to ensure the health care was completed.

Unfortunately, they have almost turned our community to the headquarters of abandoned projects,” he added.

Official Indictment

The state of the community was also a subject that attracted the auditor general of the federation in his latest annual report.

In the report, “Contract for the rehabilitation of Igboho–Kisi road in Oyo State”, it said the contract was awarded to a company at a contract sum of N99.8 billion through award letter referenced OORBDA/S/472/2014/VOL.1/027 and dated September 10, 2014, with three months completion period.

Documents examined showed that the contract was certified completed by the Authority and the sum of N87.849 billion had been paid, less retention.

“It was however, observed that some provisions in the bill were not carried out. For instance, a provision of N39,590,000.00 was made and paid to provide, spread, shape and compact to 100 per cent West African standard compaction naturally occurring material of 3700m3 as sub – base not exceeding a compacted layer of 150mm thickness (item 2.04 of No. 2) at N1,070.00 per m3, but it was not done.

“In addition, there was no evidence on the expenditure of N5,250,000.00 for project management, capacity building, payment for agricultural products along the right of way and relocation of public utilities,” the report said.

This official position confirmed that out of a contract sum of about N99.8 million, N45 million was not accounted for.

This explains reasons for the current deplorable state of the road.

Several calls placed to the former lawmaker, Mr Hosea Agboola who nominated the projects were not picked.

Nonexistent Erosion Control Project In Kishi Community

“Whenever it rains, this whole community is always in confusion. We are unsure of who will be the next victim of flooding. We can’t move for the period, we have to remain where we are unless we risk being taken away by flood.”

These are lamentations from Lawal Gbenga, an ‘Okada’ rider whose neighbour was once a victim of flooding.

“The living condition for people here generally is poor. The local government did not only abandon us, both the state and federal government has also left us to suffer. We not only have bad roads, abandoned healthcare centre, we are also faced here with erosion and flooding,” he said.

“If not for the Kishi Progressive Union, we wouldn’t have enjoyed amenities for years in this community. A commercial yam seller, Alhaji Kazeem Alabi living opposite Oja titun area in Kishi has gone to the local government secretariat many times to complain of how erosion and flooding has destroyed the frontage of his house, but the government would have none of that.

“This is my house. I used my money to mount this blockade. Anytime it rains, it is always a big problem. From the market, water will gush down. I have been to LG many times to complain, yet they didn’t seem to be bothered about it,” he adds.

Another resident, Gbenga also laments.

“The flooding is always massive. Unfortunately, it has never happened that government worked on it before. We haven’t seen any government official come to our aid. We need intervention from the government,” he said.

When this reporter contacted the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority, the public relations officer, Saliu Niyi, told PREMIUM TIMES and UDEME he could not comment on the findings.

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

However, one of the engineers in the works and service 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.

“You see before that October that you said you went to the project site, I was there and when I got there, contractors were working, probably the amount released for that period given to them, they must have probably exhausted what was given to them, waiting for subsequent releases, so that very project is ongoing, there is no problem, but I also think of recent they had a little problem when an animal blocked one of the outlet, so that may be reason they left the site.

It’s only that Igboho-Kishi project that you are talking about now that I cannot really say anything about now. But others I can tell you if you continue to gather information from communities without referring to us, the community will not give you accurate state of things because such on such projects they will always be in hurry to get it completed

“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.”

Activist Weighs In

Abayomi Akimbo, a former coordinator, Open Alliance – a coalition CSO who spoke with UDEME bemoaned the spate of abandoned projects.

He said most projects handled by government ministries are poorly monitored by citizens because “they don’t feel connected, unlike constituency projects”.

“The only way they can actually monitor these kinds of projects is for the government to ensure that the information on these projects is available. But the reality is that not many people can really focus on projects that are handled by ministry of water resources or any of its agencies.

“So we need to create awareness around the budget, for citizens to know about the budget, about the projects, the previous allocations, when they should have finished the contracts, the annual budget, whether it is done or not,” he said.

On how government can cut waste and ensure ongoing projects are not abandoned, he said proper NEEDS Assessment is necessary when preparing the budget.

“You know that if you want to carry out projects and you budget line items and those are the things that you want to do. If you are supposed to carry out something within one year and after, the first quarter, you still haven’t done that, implementation /audit report is supposed to state the level that has been reached.

“So the executive is supposed to do an oversight and if the executive doesn’t perform its function to ensure that there is full implementation, then the legislative can also do that function. But if the executive does its role well, they should be able to know what exactly the releases are for and what they have done.

“So you can’t just be releasing funds anyhow. It has to do with performing due diligence, being accountable and basically about accountability,” he explained.

Also, Olusegun Elemo, Executive Director of Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI) a civil society organization that has also done extensive research on the findings of the audit report, said “Based on findings from these communities, it is now evident that public funds are deliberately being diverted or stolen by those saddled with the responsibility of utilizing same to improve lives of citizens.”

Mr Elemo said there must be stiff penalties for public officials and contractors who continue to violate procurement laws and financial regulations in this manner.

“But this can only happen if lawmakers will do the job they get paid for by sending the new Audit Bill to President Buhari for assent and also review thoroughly 2016 audit findings while forwarding corrective recommendations to the Executive for implementation,” he said.

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