Over 50 water-related projects in Anambra State, facilitated by federal lawmakers as constituency projects, have either been abandoned or have not even started years after funds were released by the government, investigations by Udeme have revealed.
The projects, under the supervision of the Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority (AIRDBA), were nominated by the lawmakers between 2017 and 2019. In 2019, Udeme had also found a number of projects under the supervision of the same agency in similar conditions in Abia State.
In Nigeria, contaminated water leads to diseases such as diarrhoea, which annually kills more than 70,000 children below the age of five, according to UNICEF.
Millions of naira spent annually by the government have failed to provide safe drinking water for many Nigerians.
PREMIUM TIMES’s partner organisation, UDEME, has examined Zonal Intervention Projects from 2015 to 2019, and has found that about 99 projects worth over N5 billion in Anambra State were either abandoned, poorly executed or not executed at all by AIRDBA. Twenty-seven of those projects are water-related.
The projects include the construction of solar-powered boreholes, rehabilitation of classrooms, erosion control, and supply of beverages, among other projects.
Searching for water
Most communities visited by UDEME have difficulty in accessing potable water. They get water from rivers, buy from water tankers or from neighbours who have boreholes in their homes.
This reporter set out to locate an N8 million solar-powered borehole with an overhead tank nominated for construction in 2018 for Urum community in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra. The project was facilitated by Victor Umeh, the senator representing the area in the National Assembly.
The journey seemed endless as the motorcyclist and fixer took this reporter through Isuaniocha, the neighbouring community to Urum.
Most roads in Nigerian rural communities are only motorbike-friendly.
At Urum, the reporter asked residents about the borehole under construction by the federal government in the community, but no one had any idea of its location. Every resident approached advised the reporter to ask another person.
Finally, the reporter found a water project, but in Umuife village, not Urum. It had no signage, so it was impossible to tell whose project it is. In any event, it is in a deplorable state and people around it claimed not to know anything about it. They directed this reporter to the president-general of the village association. But at his family house, the reporter was told that the official does not live in the village.
Another N8 million water project was nominated in 2018 by Mr Umeh for Isuaniocha, the neighbouring community to Umuife. Again, no one in the community knew where the borehole was located. Two boreholes seen in the village turned out to have been funded by the state government.
Frank Mkpume, the president-general of Isuaniocha Development Union, was angry when the reporter arrived at his house to ask him about the federal project.
“I am tired of attending to you NGO people. A lot of people have come here claiming they want to inspect this same project and hear what our problems are, but at the end of the day, nothing happens,” he said.
He told UDEME that the water project was started in 2019 but has remained at the same preliminary stage. He appealed to the government to trace the contractor and bring them back to site.
“We are pleading with the government to always keep the community leaders in the know each time there is a project to be executed so we can know the contractors and follow up to make sure that the project is executed. Any incomplete project is useless,” he said.
Mr Mkpume assigned someone to guide the reporter to Central School, Umuelom, where the project is located. At the school, the reporter found that the concrete for the overhead tank had been done, the borehole drilled but that was all there was to the project.
Aside from the lack of potable water, Mr Mkpume also lamented the bad state of the roads in the community.
In 2017, the senator for the district, Andy Uba, nominated the construction of a borehole with an overhead tank at Ezinifite police station in Nnewi South LGA for which N9 million was budgeted.
It was less difficult this time to locate the police station. There, the reporter noticed two men sitting across the road. One of them has been an officer at the station since 2014, the other is a resident of the area.
The officer initially refused to speak to the reporter, but later opened up. He said the project started in 2014 when the borehole was dug.
“It is not part of my duty but someday I will leave this village. They dug this borehole in 2014 saying it was from Azubuogu. Later in the year they returned to install the sumo, which they did not test. They came back in 2016 again with a different name, Anambra-Imo; they removed the old sumo and replaced it with a new one,” he said.
“This time they tested it, we saw water. We saw them again in 2018 when they came to mount this overhead tank and that was the last time we saw them. There has been no improvement.”
The other man, who identified himself simply as Okey, said the community depends on commercial borehole operators for water supply, otherwise, it would be in a dire situation.
Mr Okey wondered why the contractor had refused to come back to complete the project.
“If the government has not paid him, please they should and if they have and he does not want to continue, they should please revoke the contract and give it to someone who will come and finish it,” he said.
Execution not visible
The road leading to Adazi Ani in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra proved to be the best so far as the motorcyclist rode through Obeledu to Adazi Ani without running into potholes.
In a short while the reporter and her fixer were right in front of what could be mistaken to be a personal project or even a farm as they had passed that building twice in search of the centre.
READ ALSO: INVESTIGATION: Inside story of unexecuted, abandoned N224 million constituency projects in Plateau
The solar-powered borehole project at the skill acquisition centre in Adazi Ani was nominated by the member of the House of Representatives for Anaocha/Dunukofia/Njikoka federal constituency, Dozie Nwankwo, at N15 million.
In January 2020 when UDEME visited the project, the skill acquisition centre where the borehole is to be located was under lock and key, wild grass overtaking the fenced building.
A passerby said the building had been locked from the very first day. “The person with the key is not here, the place has always been locked,” he said.
The traditional leader, Igwe of the community, owns two houses close to the project site. But he was not in when the reporter looked for him.
A solar-powered borehole with overhead tank and reticulation was also nominated by Mr Nwankwo in 2019 budgeted for Aguluzigbo community at a project cost of N20 million. But the project was yet to take off when the reporter visited.
Everyone asked had no idea where it was located. The last person who was asked directed this reporter to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) party chairperson in the community, Ibeabuchi Justice.
Mr Justice told UDEME that a team from Mr Nwankwo came to the community the week before the reporter arrived to ask for a site to execute the project.
“Dozie Nwankwo’s people were here last Saturday to ask for a place to execute this project you are talking about. We took them to the Community High School where we gave them a portion to do the work,” the party leader said.
Mkpasaku Enugwu Agidi is located on a hill. The reporter and the motorcyclist narrowly escaped a crash while riding up the hill as the motorcycle suddenly started moving backward.
In 2018, N15 million was budgeted for the construction of a box culvert for flood control at Hospital Road, Mkpasaku Enugwu Agidi. This project was nominated by the senator, Victor Umeh.
But there was no sign of a culvert built or being built, no signage and there was no one to speak to as the area looked deserted.
At Mkpasaku school, there was no one around as it was past school hours.
Lawmaker, Agency react
Mr Umeh, the senator for Anambra Central District between 2015 and 2019, in his response to enquiries by UDEME, said he was helpless over the execution of the projects that he nominated.
He confirmed the release of funds but said the agency supervising the execution of the projects was responsible for the failure or slow progress of the projects.
“Go to Anambra/Imo River Basin Development Authority (AIRBDA) in Owerri and ask them questions about the projects,” he said.
“There is another pavilion at Nnobi. The River Basin handled the procurement and award of the contracts and the supervision of the execution of the contracts.
“The Director Of Procurement is Mrs Freedom Madu, I had queried her over the status of the contracts last year, but she did not provide satisfactory answers. Please, help to get hold of them and ascertain what they did with the 70 per cent of the appropriated funds in the budget released to them by the Federal Ministry Of Finance in two tranches Of 50 per cent and 20 per cent.
“For Enugwu-Agidi, the project was actually construction of a culvert that will connect two parts of the community. But surprisingly, I heard about flood control works! I raised questions, but again, they had no explanation. Check the budget for 2018 and confirm for yourself.”
The other lawmakers whose constituency projects this report covers did not respond to calls or text messages from the reporter.
The Director of Procurement at AIRBDA, Mrs Madu, was not forthcoming when UDEME reached her.
“That I am the procurement officer does not mean I have all this information at the top of my head. If you have enquiries to make, I suggest you send a letter,” she said.
UDEME told her that a freedom of information request had been sent to her agency since January 31 without a response and that attempts to reach the managing director had failed.
“I cannot speak for the managing director. I have not seen any letter. Maybe the letter has been forwarded to the Engineering Department,” she said.
Ongoing and Completed
The construction of a town hall and an erosion control project were slated for Enugwu Ukwu. Both projects were sited at Enuagu village, Njikoka Local Government Area of Enugu State at N31 million and N40 million respectively in 2018 and 2019.
The town hall project was nominated by Mr Nwankwo.
A tall edifice stood to the left of the road with signage. Edwin Ejike, the vice-chairman of Enuagu Development Union, said the community was happy over the town hall on which he said work is still ongoing. “We are happy about it,” he told the reporter.
“We have a number of challenges in our community, people have come on a number of occasions to take pictures, promising us a change.
The erosion control project was nominated by Mr Nwankwo in 2017 and has a budget of N40 million,” he said.
Mr Ejike told UDEME that the village faces the problem of erosion. He said Mr Nwankwo who represents the federal constituency at the National Assembly is also affected by the erosion.
“Honourable Dozie’s house is also affected by the erosion, which is threatening to pull down the house. he is currently trying to reclaim his own part first.
“Right in front of my house here, the erosion is also approaching this part, it has already divided the road one kilometre from here,” he said.
At the erosion site, the reporter saw workers at Mr Nwankwo’s house.
The erosion control project at Irukalita/Ngwulu-Agu village Enugwu Agidi has been completed. During UDEME’s last visit in 2018, the project was still ongoing.
During the latest visit in January, the reporter noticed that the project has been completed with drainage and a tarred road.