In this concluding part of the special report, Patrick Egwu, working with data sourced from UDEME, continues the tracking of projects in Abia State to verify their status. Between 2015 and 2018, millions of naira were included in the federal budget for the execution of constituency projects in communities across the state. The projects include hospitals, schools, community centres, erosion control/water projects, bridges and road. Read first part here.
The primary healthcare centre in Oloko, Ikwuano LGA is a two-bedroom apartment located at the village square of the community. The centre shares the same building with the community town hall. But members of the community who use the small health centre will soon smile as a new and large health centre project is ongoing and is near completion.
In 2016, the project for the construction of Primary Health Centre in Oloko Ikwuano LGA, under the supervision of Border Community Development Authority (BCDA), was nominated by the senator for the district, Theodore Orji, with an allocation of N25 million.
While the project is yet to be implemented, it has been inserted as a capital project in the 2019 budget of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) at a contract sum of N20 million.
When this reporter arrived Ukwuano community, the Ward Development Committee Chairman, Ignatius Onuigbo, who supervises the project and interfaces with contractors, said it would be completed before the end of the year.
“They will move from this one to the new one when it is completed,” Mr Onuigbo said. “We are looking at the end of the year as a timeline for completing the project. I often meet with the contractors and they told me that everything is in place to meet the target deadline. They were here even yesterday.”
Mr Onuigbo said equipment that will be used at the new health centre when completed have been procured and waiting for installation.
Similarly, in Ubakala community in Umuahia, a new primary health care centre has been completed. The project which was awarded in 2017 by the NPHCDA for N20 million, is presently in use as nurses were seen attending to patients in the building.
The Officer-in-Charge at the hospital, who pleaded anonymity, said they completed the project last year and are presently putting finishing touches to a few spots that need repair.
The rehabilitation of the healthcare centre at Ndiememe, Ohafor Abam in Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency, which was awarded for N10 million in 2016 and supervised by NPHCDA, was partially executed as only the hospital ward where patients are treated was rehabilitated. The bathroom, toilets and pregnant women quarters were left untouched.
The nurse in charge at the hospital told this reporter that the rehabilitation was done two years ago when officials of the agency came to inspect the extent of damage and work to be done at the health centre. “Soon after, they came and started work but I was surprised when they finished some sections in the clinic and left others untouched.”
“They did the renovation but did not complete it and we are still lacking many things like our toilets and bathroom are still in a very bad state,” said Rose Oluka, the Officer-In-Charge at the healthcare centre.
“They provided drugs for us too after the renovation but we want them to come and fix the remaining structures so that the women can deliver in a conducive environment. For example, women who deliver their babies here don’t have a place where they take their bath. So it is worrisome.”
The reporter observed that the toilets and bathroom were in a deplorable state as the walls were broken while the staff quarters were left untouched without any rehabilitation. The clinic is surrounded by a bush as pregnant women, nursing mothers and other patients waited in a small room designated as the reception.
“Yes, they did a little work and they did not complete the remaining ones,” Ikechukwu Igwe said. “I don’t know why they didn’t finish the rest of the work. They just came and did some small work and left. We even thought they were coming back but we didn’t see them again.”
In 2018, N10 million was budgeted for the construction of Amanta health centre in Abriba, Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency. But when UDEME got to the community, it was gathered from the residents that the health centre shares the same building with a rented apartment for over five years.
However, the project for a new health centre was ongoing. But this facility was padlocked when the reporter arrived and no staff was on duty. A signpost indicating that the project was attracted by Ukoh Nkole, representing Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency, was seen. The project is under the supervision of Project Development Authority (PRODA) and contracted to So-Safe Water Technologies Ltd.
When contacted, Mr Nkole claimed that no fund was released for the construction of the health centre. A staff of PRODA, Mr Ofili, said that lack of mobilisation fee prevented the work from progressing.
“You should meet the contractor so he can tell you why the project was stopped at that level. We are just like vendors who do garbage in and garbage out. If it were a Zonal Intervention Project, then 70 per cent was released,” he said.
UDEME analysis of Zonal Intervention Projects in Abia state revealed that at least N7 billion has been allocated for project implementation in the state between 2015 and 2018. Agencies executing the uncompleted and abandoned projects, including AIRBDA and NPHCDA, however, refused to disclose the exact amounts released for the projects.
Completed but non-functioning Amafia/Amaetiti health centre
It had just rained when this reporter got to Ihechiowa community and the untarred road leading to Amafia/Amaetiti health centre, in Ihechiowa, Aro LGA was in a very bad condition.
On arrival, the health centre was padlocked as residents of the community said the nurses who work there do not come often.
“The health centre is not functioning all the time,” said Ben Okorie, a resident of the community who led this reporter to the facility. “The nurse doesn’t come all the time. People go to town or neighbouring villages for treatment or medical checkup.”
A nursing mother in the community, Chinenye James, said she gave birth to two of her children at the health centre. But for her last child who is about seven months old, she said she went to another community when she was due for delivery as the health centre in her community was not functioning.
At the site of the new health centre which was budgeted for N10 million in 2018, work has commenced but was at the foundation level. This project was nominated by Mr Nkole and supervised by PRODA with So-Safe Water Technologies Ltd as contractors.
“The building has been on for years now,” Mr Okorie said. “I don’t know when they are going to complete it.”
Despite N15 million allocated for the completion of primary health centre Oboro in Ohafia LGA through the Ministry of Health, the roof of the healthcare centre is leaky and the floor waterlogged. In front of the clinic, a water project which supplies water to the community stopped working around February after it malfunctioned.
“Everywhere is leaky and I have been complaining to the traditional rulers since I came here,” Miriam Ngwobia, the officer in charge said. “They promised to come and repair it but I have not seen anything. We go to the local government to collect our immunisation schedule which we administer to patients. Sometimes they give us drugs and we pay for it.”
“When I came here newly, the borehole was working but it is no longer working now,” Ola Mbah, an environmental assistant at the health centre said. “The community members and traditional ruler came here last month to monitor the state of things and left afterwards and we have not seen them again.”
Emails sent to the executive director NPHCDA, Faisal Shuaib, on the two projects in the state were not answered.
Completed and abandoned school projects
The construction of a block of two classrooms at Obiene Secondary Technical School, Ututu in Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency was budgeted for N10 million by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in 2016, as part of its effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS).
“Before this project was completed, we use to learn at the other building which is in a very bad state,” said Rachel Nwankwo, a teacher.
“They finished this one last year and we moved in. We now have a very good learning space unlike the situation before.”
The story is the same at Old Umuahia Primary School in Umuahia South LGA and Ekebedi Primary School in Oboro, Ikwuano LGA, where projects for construction of blocks of classrooms were nominated at N16 million and N22 million. Both contracts were nominated by the senator, Orji Kalu, three years ago.
“I saw them carrying some building materials in a pick-up truck.I believe they will finish before the terms end with the speed at which they are going,” said Mr Phillips. He was referring to Old Umuahia Primary School where work for construction of three classrooms is yet to be completed, under the supervision of Anambra Imo River Basin Development Authority (AIRBDA).
The situation is the same at Ekebedi Primary School in Oboro where the construction of a block of four classrooms was placed under the supervision of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). UDEME observed that the work is yet to be completed as at the time of the visit.
Abia State is one of the states in the country facing funding challenges across public schools. In 2018, UBEC published a report titled “Unaccessed Matching Grant” which showed that the state had not accessed the grant released by the Commission.
“Even when the funds are released or accessed, they are not reflected in the quality of structures in schools in the state,” Elkanem Chukwu, a secondary school teacher in the state, said. “If you take a tour around the state, especially in the rural areas, you will see what I’m talking about with the exception of a few schools.”
According to a development expert, Michael Okeh, the result of a lack of basic infrastructures in schools across the state is a “deficient system” where the pupils learn in an unconducive environment.
“This is what you get when those who are responsible to fix these things (infrastructure) don’t care about the consequences on the students who are the supposed leaders of tomorrow,” Mr Okeh said. “Abia State is one of the states with poor quality structures across public schools and to make matters worse, the teachers and other staff are owed several months of salary and welfare packages. In some areas, children learn under trees because there are no structures in place to accommodate them.”
Mr Okeh further said that the way forward is “continuous advocacy is concerned areas with the aim of holding the relevant authorities to account.”