Years of neglect of the lightening-up project of airport road, Benin City, Edo State, have made residents and businesses vulnerable to criminal attacks.
The airport road is a long stretch of road with large traction of socioeconomic activities at the heart of Benin. It leads from NTA station in Benin City into Adesogbe road and continues from the palace of the Oba of Benin. And as you veer to your right, it leads to the airport and Ogba Zoo in Benin. It is one of the most important business centres in the city.
But apart from the palace where solar street lights were erected by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2020, once it is night, darkness descends on the airport road.
Respondents said the road has become a hotspot and a rendezvous for criminals. From the airport towards the zoo, residents and visitors are often mugged, robbed and attacked, people interviewed said. A representative of a leading hotel on the road who does not want his name in print said that there has been a reduction in patronage.
“Our customers are afraid to go out at night. Nobody is interested in coming here at night as well. Those that brave it have been robbed and mugged. Once it is 7:30 p.m. this place gets very deserted.”
When asked how he copes, a resident, Osaro Omogiate (not real name), who runs a furniture workshop asked, “Oga, are you new here? We no dey get light not to talk of street light.”
While some business owners with the capacity have erected their own solar-powered lights, this has not had a far-reaching effect.
More tales of attacks in the dark
Prevailing darkness on the road presents other challenges for the teeming commuters on the road.
“Because our vigils usually end by 3 a.m., our members spend the rest of the night in the church, under police guard,” a senior pastor at the Oasis church, Felix Omokaro, said.
Mr Omokaro recounted how a man was trailed by some assailants one night on the road and was robbed.
“They took away his ATM and phone. By the time they were done with him, even his palm sandals were gone. I had to give him a lift to a safe place and put something in his pocket for him to get home,” Mr Omokaro said.
Alli Sanusi, a transporter who has been plying the road for ten years, is a father of three. He noted that under the Adams Oshiomhole administration, there were regular repairs and maintenance of the street lighting system, together with fixing broken light bulbs and monitoring of the traffic lights on the road.
“But as soon as the Obaseki administration assumed office, we noticed that the government removed the two power generating sets and the transformer provided by the Oshiomhole for the street lights on the Airport Road in Benin City. They took away the one on Sapele Road as well. Why?” Mr Sanusi said.
According to documents obtained from the website of Edo State Public Procurement Agency (EDPPA) on February 14, 2020, tagged certificate of compliance February, 2020 – Edo State Public Procurement Agency, the Godwin Obaseki administration awarded a contract for the “retrofitting and completion works on airport road street lights.”
The documents showed that bidders had been earlier sought in the Vanguard Newspaper of October 28, 2019.
An FOI request sent to the commissioner of works and the state government in March on the abandoned road project has not been replied to.
Meanwhile, Governor Godwin Obaseki said in a recent virtual town hall meeting that his administration has plans to connect residential areas and 70 km street lights to a 55MW CCETC-Ossiomo power plant in Benin City.
“Ossiomo power (plant) is on. It is what is being used in government houses. We are trying to create an electricity commission with laws that will allow them to sell to people outside of the state government facilities,” Mr Obaseki said.
Controversies around contract winner
The EDPPA website had earlier shown that Atiode Solar Systems Limited, located at 48 Igbesamwan Street, off Akpakpava Road, won the bid after meeting all the requirements. The company was purportedly awarded not one, but two contracts.
The first contract on airport road, with the newly created ministry of energy and electricity as procuring entity, has certificate reference number EDPPA/069/Vol.2/361 with a contract sum of N22.6 million, the document showed.
The second contract was for the “installation of street lights” on Adesogbe-TV road to “five junction in Benin City” with certificate reference number EDPPA/069/Vol.2/361 and contract sum of N21.2 million.
Although the contract was awarded in 2020, when the site of the project was visited in March, there was no evidence that the project had commenced.
Asked in an FOI request if any fund had been released for the project, the contractor did not reply. When reached via the telephone, the CEO of Atiode, Fred Atiomo, said the company “was never awarded the contract.”
A spokesperson for the EDPPA would later deny awarding any contract to Atiode.
“What happened was that Atiode complied with 70% – 90% of the requirements needed for an award, and since we are a regulatory body, we published their name and issued them a certificate of compliance.
“What should have come next was the contract for approval for the contract, and the approving authority is the governor. If there is going to be any cancellation of the certificate after it has been issued and offered to another contractor, the procuring entity tells us about it, and then we update our records,” the official said.
Also, an official at the ministry of energy and electricity who does not want his name in print because he had no pass to speak to the press added that the purported contract to Atiode was cancelled for “technical reasons” and was re-awarded to another company, Brossette Nigeria limited, on May 4, 2021.
The source said the contract was awarded to Brossette based on the newspaper advert of October 7, 2019, in the Nigerian observer, and with respect to other “technical considerations.”
When contacted, the general manager of Brossette Nigeria Limited, who identified himself as Mr Mario, said his company was “nominated” by the Edo State Government to execute a contract entered into with his company on May 4, 2021.
He declined to provide further details regarding the contract sum or say if his company participated in any bidding process.
Section 20(1) (2), (3ii) of the EDPPA 2012 states that “the procurement of works, goods and services by all procuring entities shall be conducted by open competitive bidding except it is otherwise provided by this law.”
In “nominating” (awarding a contract to) Brossette Nigeria Limited for lighting up the airport road without competitive bidding, the Edo government may have breached its own law.
Brossette, a Lagos-based company, says it “specializes in producing pre-engineered steel homes and structures that can be assembled for accommodation, office building, warehouse, portable cabin, roof trusses.” It also claims to have completed over 1500 projects and has ISO Certification.
This story was produced as part of the Udeme project, a social accountability and transparency project of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, (PTCIJ). The content is the sole responsibility of the author and the publisher.
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