The Abata Asunkere community located in Ilorin West area of Kwara State is fast becoming a shadow of itself due to incessant flooding, which has continued to ravage the community, forcing residents out of their homes.
To a visitor, the community could be mistaken for a warzone as crumbling buildings litter the area. Many of the residents whose homes were damaged by the surge of floodwater have left the community for towns far and near.
Judging by budgetary allocations between 2017 and 2019, the flooding problem of Abata Asunkere should have been a thing of the past. In 2017, a former senator representing Kwara Central, Bukola Saraki, nominated the construction of a drainage and erosion control to the community for N100 million, supervised by the Ministry of Environment.
It was captioned as “Omodada (Ansarul-Islam) Flooding and Erosion Control Project in Ajikobi Street, Ilorin, Kwara Central Senatorial District”
Parts of the project were also recaptured in the 2018 and 2019 zonal intervention projects as “ongoing” and a sum of N100 million was appropriated in each of the years, supervised by the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI), a federal agency under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
In August, when this reporter visited the community, Ayuba Jimoh, a driver and resident of the community, wore a sober expression as he scrubbed dirt away from a hydraulic car jack he held in his left hand. His home had flooded the night before after a heavy downpour. He couldn’t work that day as he had to stay home to clean his house.
This was not the first time Mr Ayuba’s home would be flooded. A year ago, he was forced to leave the town to stay with a relative for weeks after his home was flooded.
“The construction of the drainages is not coordinated. They are not concerned about our plight. In fact, the gutter constructed is often submerged by water whenever it rains. If you were here about three days ago; we were still battling with surging tides of floodwater before this one. This place was entirely submerged. We called on the government to come to our aid, but it seems we do not matter.
“The drainage that was constructed is too narrow to contain the surge of water coming to Abata. We hope the government will remember us for once and build the most befitting drainage for this community,” he said with a wrinkled face expressing frustration.
Before the project was facilitated to Abata Asunkere, the community used a dewatering pump to filter excess water away from the community.
When the contractor, Multinet Group LTD, started the construction of the drainage, residents of the community were hopeful that the flooding problem would be solved but their hope was short-lived.
The 2017 part of the project was awarded to the contractor at the sum N94,764,156, of which the sum of N70 million was paid. Many residents who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said the erosion control project was “poorly” executed.
A resident, who identified himself as Saka, said for six years the community has been grappling with recurring flood and loss of properties to the deluge. Mr Saka said original flood control work done in the town was way better than work done in 2019.
“It has been six years that members of this community have been working tirelessly to ensure that flood no longer disturbs us. When they first constructed the drainage in 2018, we were relieved because we were not disturbed by flood as it had always been every year. But those that came back last year, we are not happy with the work they did. It was like they added fuel to the fire. Had it been it just rained; we dare not stay here. We’ve called on the government, we don’t know why they are yet to respond to our calls,” he said.
The community leader of Abata Asunkere, Mashood Yakub, expressed disappointment about how the project was handled, stating that lack of coordination among the contractors working on the drainage resulted in the woes the community is currently facing.
In addition, Mr Yakub noted that the community is saddened the government could embark on a project without ensuring its completion.
“We were glad that they even looked at our side with the hope of alleviating our pains, but it seemed like they added salt to our injuries due to lack of coordination. We have been seeing different faces since they started the drainage. If an engineer comes for it today, it would be another engineer the following day.
“Perhaps if it had been a continuation of what the other contractors did, it would have been better, but they (contractors) would, however, start afresh that they won’t be able to complete it before the next rainy period.
“About two years ago, one of the contractors was able to channel the water; we were relieved that year. But when another contractor came to continue from where he stopped, he worsened the situation for us. The water is now flooding our homes over again.”
He disclosed that the community has been working closely with the contractors handling the projects and the project director of Mr Saraki, Olayinka Ibrahim, to ensure the completion of the project but things stalled after the senator didn’t win re-election in the last general election.
Contractor, agencies keep mum
When contacted, a representative of Multinet Group, who answered the call, terminated the call at the mention of the project, stating that the reporter had called a “wrong number.”
But he had earlier confirmed that this reporter was speaking with a representative of the firm. Multiple calls and text forwarded subsequently were unanswered. However, True Caller, a smartphone app that allows users to identify caller ID, also verified that the phone number belongs to the firm.
Both agencies handling the phases of the project, Ministry of Environment and the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI), did not respond to requests for comments.
Ita Elepa erosion control project
A ray of hope beamed on residents of Ita Elepa area of Oja Gboro in Ilorin after Mr Saraki facilitated the construction of drainage and erosion control at the community three years ago. They had hoped the project would solve their age-long battles with erosion. But their hope was soon dashed.
Abdulwasiu Musa, a resident of the community, woke up one night in July to find his room flooded.
“The project is particularly disturbing my house. Whenever it rains, water would overflow the drainage to flood the whole area. My house is, especially, at the receiving end of the discomfort because the drainage was stopped in front of our house. Before the construction began, it was not as bad as it is now. In fact, we were glad it would ease our plight. But instead, it worsened the situation.”
Like other residents of the community, Mr Musa could soon lose his house to erosion as floodwater has started sweeping away the foundation of the building.
While the sum of N44 million was budgeted for the construction of the drainage in 2016, another sum of N100 million was budgeted for it in 2017; the project was supervised by the Ministry of Environment.
Additional parts of the project were also captured in the 2018 and 2019 zonal intervention projects as “ongoing” and a sum of N100 million naira was appropriated in each of the years to be executed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The project, which was awarded to BUAN Project LTD at the sum of N90,117,225.25 and tagged as 100 per cent complete, was not only poorly executed but abandoned.
Last year, Mr Saraki visited the community assuring residents that the project would be completed. However, a year after the pledge, nothing has changed.
Adebayo Sulaiman, a community leader, expressed displeasure at the situation of the project, stating that buildings in the community are now at the risk of collapse due to incessant flooding of the area.
Meanwhile, an official of BUAN Projects LTD who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES stated that the firm only handled the first phase of the project which, according to him, has been completed. He, however, urged the community to channel their grievances to the Ministry of Agriculture, which now supervises the project to ensure its completion
“The project was supposed to be in phases and the second phase of the project was given to the ministry of agriculture which till today they have not started work because I heard that the contractor has started working on the project. For the ministry of environment phase, we have done our part.
A close observation of the project showed that no work has been done on the site by the Ministry of Agric based on 2018 and 2019 appropriation. The ministry did not respond to a letter sent to it requesting for comments.
Erosion control at Kamaldeen Adabiyahh
Another erosion control project facilitated by the former senate president is the construction of concrete drainage and erosion control at Kamaldeen Adabiyahh, Madinah area of Ilorin. Budgeted at N200 million in 2019, the project has proven useless at checking flooding in the area.
The less than a year old drainage supervised by the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute has already started washing off.
A representative of the community, Salman Abdullahi, cringed at the shady work done by the contractor, relating how a downpour washed the drainage away even before completion. The one-kilometre asphalt road that was part of the project was also not completed.
“When the contractor came, we explained our plight with the bridge over there to him, but he told us the bridge is not part of the project. We agreed that at least whatever he brought with him was still part of it. Unfortunately, when he was about to complete the work, a heavy downpour washed the drainage towards the end of the bridge away. We related the situation to him. We told him the part needed to be reinforced to accommodate the volume of water coming to the community. That’s the last time we saw them,” he said.
Mr Saraki’s project director, Ibrahim Olayinka, blamed paucity of funds and “technical problems” for stalling the projects.
He, however, directed this reporter to visit the agencies handling the projects for additional information.
“When the ministry of environment came, we told them Abata Asunkere was a serious problem. The place was a low level surrounded by high houses. We told them to come for a pre-procurement technical assessment of the place to study before awarding it. When the contractor came to the site, he worked with the BEME (bill of engineering measurements and evaluation) prepared by the ministry but that did not solve the problem. We had to take the project from the ministry of environment to NBRRI,” he said.
“In 2018, when NBRRI came, they brought a contractor who did a very good job and the water flowed freely. Throughout that year, the community did not experience floods. While on it, the agency captured the project in 2019. When a contractor came last year, we met with the community to give us an on-on-the-spot assessment of the project, and they told us that water was no longer disturbing them.
“What the contractor needed to do was simply to fill the low level in order to add value to the project, since the community said they were no longer experiencing floods. But he went ahead to do another drainage system. That drainage is now having conflicting alignment with the existing one, which makes the place to be flooded again.
“We all know that Ita Elepa is not completed yet. But the drainage has been done to a certain level there. In 2018, I got information that a contractor is coming and he called me. We both went to the site. In fact, he had already started clearing the drainage before we didn’t see him again. Agric needs to tell us why the contractor left the site,” he said.
Lawmakers should be held accountable – CSO
For Hamzat Lawal, executive director, Connected Development, the spate of ill-implemented projects across the country is a result of lack of vibrant citizen engagement to hold lawmakers accountable, especially at the grassroots level where the bulk of constituency projects lay fallow.
According to him, anti-graft agencies need to advance the fight against graft in the country to serving lawmakers by partnering with civil society and media organisations for further transparency in the procurement process.
“When we have lawmakers that are more interested in how they can get kickbacks from constituency projects rather than undertaking their constitutional duties in providing oversight, representation and making laws, we would have a lot of abandoned projects. We just need to ensure that we are able to mobilise vibrant citizens to hold our national assembly members to account.
“We need to redefine politics because if we have politicians that are going into public office to enrich themselves, we would not enjoy the dividends of democracy. We need to start interrogating these lawmakers.
“Abandoned projects also tell us the anti-corruption bodies are weak. In a country where we have EFCC and ICPC, we should have these agencies start arresting lawmakers because they are actually lawbreakers, arrest them, prosecute and put them behind bars.
“I know that ICPC now has a constituency project tracking mechanism, but I think they need to strengthen that mechanism by working with CSOs and media organisation so we can do workaround procurement monitoring with organisations like PPDC to collectively aid citizens engagement, especially at the grassroots where most abandoned projects hold sway,” he said.
This investigation was done as part of the UDEME project.