INVESTIGATION: Communities suffer as abandoned multi-million naira electricity projects litter Osun

COMMUNITY PROJECTS: Supplied Transformer @ Alagbede, Ede
Supplied Transformer @ Alagbede, Ede

Ayegunle is in Ejigbo Local Government Area of Osun State. The journey to the community had started at 10 a.m on a sunny Saturday in February. For over three hours on the dusty, bumpy road, the travellers did not sight human habitation.

“I’m not going again,” the okada rider protested. “We have not seen a single house since. Let’s go back.”

The reporter’s promise of additional pay eventually made Christopher, the motorcyclist, change his mind. Fifteen minutes later, their persistence paid off – some houses came into view. Ayegunle at last!

The sleepy village is a metaphorical graveyard. No cars, no market, no school, no hospital and even though it was high noon, there were no people.

Adding to these, the village has been in darkness for as long as its residents could remember.

In 2016, the federal government budgetted N4.3 million for the supply and installation of one unit of 300 KVA transformer to the community. However, by 2020, despite the award of contract and releases of fund, the villagers have not witnessed power supply.

The community’s traditional ruler, Akeem Ajayi, said the project was never completed.

“The village has been in darkness for long. After I ascended the throne as king, we wrote to the local government chairman who provided the electricity poles. Later, we heard that Senator (Ademola) Adeleke would provide transformer for us but unfortunately we haven’t seen that.

“There was a time a group of people came around claiming they were from Abuja to discuss the solution to our blackout. All the villagers were happy when I broke the news to them. But we never set our eyes on them again since 2016,” he said.

Checks my PREMIUM TIMES shows that the profile of the contractor, Ayoka Co. Nigeria LTD, did not contain its email, contact phone number, address, website and other contact information.

An FOI request to Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on the status of the company was acknowledged but had not been honoured at the time of filing this report.

Lack of electricity has hindered the economy and life of the community.

“We give our phones to our children working in the city to help us charge every three days. We sell palm oil but cannot reach out to customers even when we have produce. This often affects our business,” Tanimola Ojo, a woman in her late 60s told PREMIUM TIMES.

Data

The abandoned project in Ayegunle is one of 14 electrification projects Osun State ‘benefited’ from the federal government between 2015 and 2019, according to information provided by Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in response to an FOI request.

REA said it supervised 146 electrification projects across Nigeria within the same period.

The 14 in Osun State were to be carried out at the cost of N1.8 billion (N1,841,982,341). PREMIUM TIMES tracked the projects and found abnormalities in their execution despite the release of funds.

In 2016, REA tagged nine transformer installation and electrification projects in Osun State as “completed”. The total cost of the nine projects was given as N166,130,926. The agency noted that N121, 427,668 was released from this total.

In 2017, two projects for which N80,673,178 were budgetted were said to have been “completed” at the cost of N75, 533,262.

The agency did not execute any project in 2018. But in 2019, it said it released N80 million for three projects in the state.

No electricity in beneficiary communities

Residents of Ifesowapo in Iwo Local Government Area of the state were holding their weekly residents association meeting in early February when this reporter arrived at the community.

A rural electrification project for which N13.7 million was allocated in the 2016 zonal intervention projects for the community could not be found. Furious community leaders lamented as they took this reporter to the transformer they installed from their own contributions.

The chairman of the community association, Y. A. Ganiyu, said Ifesowapo was in darkness for seven years until the residents got their electricity installed.

“For seven years we were in darkness and not even the local government chairman listened to our cry. We did meetings upon meetings before we finally got solution.

“Each of the houses in the community contributed N10, 000. It was the money that we used to register with Osun State Agency for Community and Social Development Projects (CSDP). It was CSDP that added money for us to get the transformer serving about eight communities in this local government area.

“It is sad to the extent that we bought poles, cables and all the necessary (things). We’ve not seen any electrification projects from the federal government in our community,” Mr Ganiyu said.

Another resident, Isiaka Abolore, said the community provided its own electricity and other social amenities.

The name of the company awarded the contract is Xtra Sun Nigeria Limited. It did not respond to calls and text messages sent to its listed phone number. CAC did not also respond to inquiries on the legal status of the company.

At Irewole Local government headquarters, this reporter saw some electrical cables, poles and a transformer. Residents living close to the local government headquarters said the items were mere decorations as the transformer was covered by tall grasses. A N75 million electrification project for the community awarded in 2016 has been abandoned.

A REA document obtained by PREMIUM TIMES shows that the contract was awarded to Borno Engineering Supply Technical Company Ltd. But the chairman of the company, Isa Badamosi, in a telephone interview with our correspondent denied getting the contract.

“We did not get the contract. By the time they approved the budget, the costs were already higher and we could not do it,” he said before terminating the call. He refused to respond to subsequent calls.

The community youth leader, Kazeem Olasupo, said since 2016 that the poles, cables and transformer were installed, the community had not witnessed electricity.

Untraceable, ambiguous projects

Beyond the fact that many projects are abandoned, the reporter also could not locate some projects reported to have been implemented in many communities.

For two hours, this reporter on a motorcycle tried to locate Ifesowapo community in Ajibola Area, Ede South Local Government. The sum of N20 million was allocated for electrification in the community in the 2019 zonal intervention projects. But no project was on the ground.

“Nothing has been done here. At least we have taken you around the community and streets in this area. I have been living here for the past 10 years and I know all the streets,” Shukrat Adebisi, a young woman, said after several hours of trying to trace the project.

When contacted, the chairman of the implementing company, Liberty Overseas Brothers Limited, who identified himself as Alhaji Suleman, said he would send his representative to Osun State to take the reporter to the site. This, he failed to do and also refused to respond to subsequent enquiries.

PREMIUM TIMES also encountered the same difficulties at Akakan in Ede South. While Akankan community exists, we could not trace any electrification project there, also allocated for N20 million in the 2019 zonal intervention projects.

Speaking with our correspondent, Sanusi Akeem, the secretary of Akankan Residents Association, said the community leaders were not aware of any ongoing electrification project around them.

“We’ve not seen any signal or any electrification project in our community. If any occurs, I should know as the secretary of the residents association. Since it was allocated in 2019, we hope they start this year. But for now, no electrification project here.”

Kim-khals International Limited, the company whose name is on the document PREMIUM TIMES obtained from REA, could not be reached as calls and text messages drew no response. Like for the other requests, CAC did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES enquiries on the legal status of the company.

This newspaper investigation also shows that while N11.4 million was allocated for an electrification project at Oparinde, no community or street was found bearing that name in Okinni, Egbodore Local Government.

The project was allocated in the 2016 special intervention projects. One of the elders in Okinni told PREMIUM TIMES, after hours of scouring the area, that he had not heard about Oparinde, even though he had for several years been a security worker in the community.

“If Baba Sijuade did not know Oparinde, then I doubt there is any street like that in this Okinni,” PREMIUM TIMES’ fixer, a motorcyclist, said.

The online profile of the implementing agency, Machalite Electrical Nigeria Limited, did not contain the email, contact phone number, address, website and other contact information of the company.

On-going, completed projects

At least, an electrification project is ongoing at Alusekere Community in Ede North LGA. The project was awarded at a cost of N40 million in 2019.

Residents told our correspondent that contractors began work in December. A woman in her late 60s who simply identified herself as Iya Eleko said: “They started the project in December 2019. We hope that upon the completion of the electricity project, it will benefit everyone living in this community.”

Also, as claimed in an FOI response, supply and installation of one unit of 500 KVA transformer was made at Alagbede community of Ede North Local Government. The projected was allocated for N8 million in 2016.

Residents confirmed that the transformer was delivered at the tail end of 2016 and connected in early 2017.

“Before they brought the transformer, we had several issues with electricity. About five communities were connected to one transformer which usually developed faults then. Since the new one was brought, we have not experienced electricity problems except from the end of NEPA”, Rasak Ajala, a resident said.

Unreachable Lawmaker

All the projects tracked were nominated by Mr Adeleke while he represented Osun West Senatorial District at the National Assembly.

Late Isiaka Adeleke was elected the senator in May 2015 and he served until he died on April 23, 2017 at Biket Hospital in Osogbo.

While in the Senate, he nominated 2015, 2016 and part of 2017 projects. After his death, his brother, Ademola Adeleke, was elected to replace him. He served as the senator until 2019.

However, efforts by this newspaper to get Mr Adeleke’s reaction to our findings were unsuccessful. His known telephone number could not be reached and he did not respond to messages sent to him via social media platforms.

Sources close to the family disclosed that Mr Adeleke has lived in Los Angeles in the United States since he lost the Osun governorship election.

A member of the House of Representatives, who is close to Mr Adeleke, confirmed that the former senator cannot be reached at the moment.



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