The management of Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan (UI), has repeatedly failed to deliver projects placed under its supervision and for which millions of naira have been released, a PREMIUM TIMES survey of some Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP) in Oyo State has revealed.
ZIPs were introduced by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. It aims to ensure equity in the allocation of projects sited in the constituencies of state and federal lawmakers. They are proposed by federal lawmakers but are usually placed in the budgets of ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) who then award the contracts and are supposed to ensure the projects are executed.
In the case of ZIPs mentioned in this report, the projects were placed in the annual budgets of UI between 2017 and 2019, with the approval of the vice-chancellor, but were either poorly done or not executed despite the release of funds for them.
Failed lockup shop project
One of such projects is the construction of 12 lockup shops in Abadina, a small community within the university premises. Many residents of the community are employees of the university.
Between 2017 and 2019, a total of N15.4 million was released for the construction of lockup shops in the community. The project, which was sponsored by Dada Awoleye, a former House of Representatives member for Ibadan North Federal Constituency, was meant to house members of the community who sell groceries outside their residence.
The university management had complained that the makeshift shops built outside the residences were defacing the houses in the community.
A representative of the community, Adebayo Adedigba, said when the project is completed, residents will not have to travel far before getting their groceries.
After three years, however, the project, which involves the construction of 12 lockup shops, has barely taken off with work done on it intermittently. Although the foundation for the 12 shops has been laid, brickwork has only been done on two of the proposed shops.
Members of the community said they were concerned at the slow pace of work on the site.
“I am just one year in office and the project had been allocated before that time. They started work in my tenure around September or October last year. I did not expect it to take this long since it is just twelve shops they are building. There have been lots of breaks in-between,” said Ikechukwu Egbuna, the president of the community.
When this reporter visited the site of the project, there were only three bricklayers working. One of them, who identified himself as Seun, said the entire project could be completed within three months if funds were made available.
“If they give us our money steadily because it is money that will determine how fast we will work,” he said.
Meanwhile, there is a possibility that members of the community will have to grapple with another problem once the shops are built.
“For the community, twelve shops can never be enough. It cannot do anything. We will have to start lobbying again for more shops. The issue is that the community is under the management of the University of Ibadan and the University of Ibadan has the overall say because we are also governed by the rules of the university. The university welcomed the project,” said Mr Egbuna.
Pointing at the makeshift shops in front of the houses, he said “if the university is saying they have to leave this place, how many shops are there? Since it is just twelve, it can only be given to twelve people. After that twelve, what happens to the remaining people? It is going to be a serious problem when they finish.”
When reached for comments, Sapient Vendors, the contractor handling the project, denied that the project was moving at a snail’s pace.
“When you ask, people will always give you their own view. They don’t have the technical knowledge of the project. It is not our fault. Initially, we had issues with the land. The land caused a lot of delays. It got to our notice that a cable passed through that place and it took a long time to resolve. And as you can see, we are working,” Oluwole Ajayi, an official of the company, said.
The spokesperson of the University of Ibadan, Olatunji Oladejo, however, said he was not aware of the lockup shops.
“This will not be the first time that people from your office will be calling me on the same matter. Go and investigate now. UI is which agency? UI is what? How do we come in? Constituency projects cannot be awarded by UI, that’s not true,” he said, despite facts to the contrary.
“It must have been awarded by the Honorable or Senator in charge. UI cannot be in charge of that. We can only monitor, you can’t say UI awarded the contract when we did not get the money. The money did not come to UI. It is a constituency project,” he added.
However, contrary to the claim by the spokesperson, the project, though nominated by the lawmaker, was placed in the budgets of UI, which approved the contract. Nine million naira was approved for the shops in the 2017 budget, N5 million in the 2018 budget while N1.5 million was approved for the ‘completion’ of the project in the 2019 budget.
All the funds have been released, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
PREMIUM TIMES could not reach Mr Awoleye for comment, but he had told the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) in 2019 that he sponsored the project to meet the yearnings of members of the community.
“Before I included it in the budget, the community and I went to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan to get his consent since it was going to be done inside the institution. I included it in the budget the following year. In essence, I facilitated the construction of the lock-up shops for them in Abadina.
“That was it. My obligation stops there at facilitating the project. I made sure funds were appropriated for the lock-up shops. As an honourable member of the house, we are not permitted to carry out the project, so you have to domicile it in a government agency.
“UI does its own procurement processes for its own projects, so there was nothing wrong in domiciling it inside UI. I learnt that when the job was started, they relocated the contractor somewhere. I think they have started the project. I am no more the member representing the constituency. Whatever you want to do about the project, the level it is, where the fund is should be with UI,” he said.
Christ Apostolic Church Primary School
Similarly, another project selected within the same period (2017 -2019) as the lockup shop has been left uncompleted.
A total of N21.4 million was budgeted for the project – the construction of a perimeter fence at Christ Apostolic Church Primary School, Oke Apon. Mrs Jimoh (She refused to say her first name), one of the teachers who spoke to this reporter, said the contractor did a shoddy job, saying the fence was already crumbling.
She said that the poor state of the fence has now given miscreants in the area the chance to turn the school premises to a site for open defecation.
“You can see by yourself. The fence is not high at all and area boys always jump inside every time. Apart from jumping, when they started the fence there was an old one. Instead of them to break everything and re-do it, they did not. Immediately they finished this new one, the old one collapsed. See. That is why area boys, they will litter the entire place with faeces. The children don’t have toilets. It is here they will defecate,” she said.
Another female teacher, who refused to give her name for fear of victimisation, added that the entire premises and surrounding area are unconducive for learning.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the school, following the resumption of schools for exit classes in Oyo State on July 6, primary six students of the school were seen receiving lectures in one of the two available classrooms in the renovated block.
According to Mrs Jimoh, students of other classes used to take their lessons in the open space of the compound before the shutdown of schools due to COVID-19.
“See where they said students should resume. When all classes resume, what will we do?” Mrs Jimoh asked.
Adijat Adeniyi, the head girl of the school, while returning from where she had gone to fetch water with other pupils, said the school lacked basic facilities such as toilets.
Mr Awoleye had told ICIR that he decided to domicile the fence project with UI for the purpose of close supervision. But it does appear the decision is wrong going by the current fate of the fence.
“If I should put it under an agency in Abuja, the job may even linger more than what we are talking now. They may tell you the engineers would have to go to Ibadan to supervise and before they finish all that, the whole thing would become nauseating.
“When you domicile a project inside an institution, it is left for that institution to carry out the procurement processes.
“They invite this and invite that and say this contractor has won at the end of the day. They have to continue to monitor to make sure the job is done,” the former lawmaker said.
Sapient Vendors, which was also contracted to build the fence of the school, explained that the contract it was awarded was just for a section of the fence and not the entire perimeter of the fence. It, however, argued that the fence was high enough.
“The fence is not low, nobody can scale that. All we have to do is according to the bill. You cannot work outside the bill. We cannot be given N10 to work and say because you don’t want people to scale the fence you will do the work of N20. The height is a good height for a school. For academic fencing, it is not good to be too high,” said Mr Ajayi.
Within the CAC Primary School compound is a newly constructed healthcare centre. In the last three years, N53.5 million was budgeted for the construction of the centre. However, at the centre of the healthcare centre is an open septic tank filled to the brim with water.
”Before we went on coronavirus break, one of our children fell inside this soakaway. But he was quickly rescued by his elder brother who was with him,” said Mr Jimoh, who took this reporter round the facility.
A second-hand clothes seller in the area, who refused to give his name, said work at the healthcare centre started in 2018.
Mrs Ayoola (she refused to say her first name), a teacher and resident of the area, said that there is no primary healthcare centre in the area apart from the one within the CAC Primary School. She said the nearest medical facilities are the University College Hospital (UCH) and Oluyoro Hospital which are not as affordable as the primary healthcare centre.
When asked about the open septic tank and state of the healthcare centre, Mr Ajayi of Sapient Vendors, the contractor in charge of the project, said it was impossible for a person to fall into the open septic tank.
“People always give you unrealities. People will always give you stories. How will someone fall inside? What’s the height? It is even filled up with water, so nobody fell inside,” he said.
When asked for the amount released to him for each of the projects, Mr Ajayi declined to say.
“No, I can’t. That is not my jurisdiction,” he said.
Like the UI spokesperson, the spokesperson of the university’s College Hospital (UCH), Toye Akinrinlola, said he was not aware of the project.
“All these things you are saying, I don’t even know the place. It is someone that is doing that. It is a constituency project for someone, so he is only in collaboration with us. I don’t know the place so all of this, I don’t know. UCH is not the agency in charge. When you say constituency project, it must be sited in a place, but the funding does not come to those places. For every constituency project, it is probably the politician in charge that takes the money and when it is released, they owe the contractor. We are only a branch,” he said.
This investigation was done as part of the UDEME project.