By Yusuf Adua
A promise to establish Atiba FM Radio project by the late Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, remains unfulfilled as its entire site is covered with wild grass and the station is non-operational.
The project was later adopted by the incumbent Governor Seyi Makinde, who first reportedly approved the release of N22 million to pay off Ajimobi’s unnamed contractor, and, later another N100 million to Mufutau Iyiola Raheem-led contracting firm, Rahvet International Limited, to execute and complete the project.
YUSUF ADUA visited the radio station’s proposed site, where he witnessed firsthand that it is yet a mirage despite millions of monies released for its execution and completion.
Atiba FM, dead on arrival
THE WILDS best describes the location of the proposed Atiba FM site as this reporter stood gazing at nothingness on October 24 and November 3, 2022, respectively. There was no clear inlet or outlet to what could be the structure to house the media outlet.
Under a scorching sun, the reporter circled the whole stretch of the thick bush trying to find Atiba FM building, but there was neither workers nor any other living being to ask for directions. With no radio station in sight and its building fallow, passersby hinted that work had long stopped on the project, if there ever was any.
This reporter still did another round in an attempt to see someone to speak with at the site, but other sets of bystanders, who said they are residents of the area, yelled: “You better don’t bother yourself, you wont see anything else more than what you are seeing.”
With two successions of state governments, Ajimobi’s undisclosed sum, and Makindes 2021 refund with millions of naira aside from the N100 million that was announced and released to the contractor reported by media ; yet, the latter has not commenced, let alone complete project. Only worn-out blocks of slabs are seen shabbily amid the thick shrubs surrounding the allocated spot.
Three weeks later, the reporter returned to the site only to see some men clearing the bush; but none of them was willing to speak with him. One, however, disclosed on the condition of anonymity that a notable radio broadcaster in Ibadan, Oriyojmi Hamzat, was previously seen on the site and purportedly gave a guard named Taofeek Jimoh, N50,000 for him and some other residents to clear the bush that had engulfed the site.
He was told that they had been cautioned not to disclose the tracking of the radio project should anyone come asking for it.
Still following up, the reporter made three separate visits to the site after the clearing, and on each occasion, he was greeted by deluge of litters dumped by passersby at the cleared-up site in place of a radio station structure.
The only visible structure, seen by the reporter, is the security booth close to the entrance and one other block possibly used for minor administrative works.
My Action was purely humanitarian to avert dangers to human life – Oriyomi
To know why he paid for the clearing of the bush at the proposed Atiba FM site, this reporter made several weeks’ attempts to see Oriyomi Hamzat in his office.
Asked why he took that decision and instructed the men not to disclose the tracking of the radio project, Oriyomi said he simply responded to a distress call on his radio programme Awa Arawa – a Yoruba magazine programme on Agidigbo FM in Oyo State.
He said, “Honestly, I know nothing about the project and wouldn’t have given such instructions as claimed. One day on my programme, I received a distress call that the site has become a public defecation and security threats menace. So I visited the place and paid the mowers to clear the bush because it was impossible to enter the place. I had no background information other than being told it was an abandoned project. So, I responded with pure humanitarian intention to avert dangers to the lives of the residents.”
Oriyomi was also asked if he made any follow-up attempts with the government thereafter. He said, “I did not make any findings because, as I said, till date, I don’t know anything about the project. I was briefed as an on-air media personality that the bush was becoming a threat, and I acted in good faith. That’s all.”
A community quest for a media outlet
The desire to have a community heritage shined bright in a chieftain’s heart on a late Friday afternoon in October when this reporter visited Ayo Ladigbolu an Archbishop.
He said in 2021, “officials of current Oyo State government agents came to our town days to present the 2022 budget. They informed us that N100 million has been reserved for the continuance of Atiba FM, initially mooted by the previous government. I didn’t know whether to believe them or not, but I kept an open mind.”
He said the concept of community radio in Oyo town dated back to 2009 through their sociocultural group called Oyo Metro Development Association (OMDA).
Years back, the Oyo town development roadmap included having a viable communication medium that would embody the ancient city’s heritage. To build on that on March 17, 2010, the sociocultural group sent a letter of intent to the communication council in Abuja to request the modalities and facilities required to obtain a radio license.
“The federal government sent us a brochure comprising what we needed to do. With myself as chairman and other prominent Oyo indigenes as executive members, we promptly commenced work towards actualising the station.”
“So, we quickly contracted the Atiba FM project to Solas Global Services, having garnered N2,441,000 in donations from excited Oyo indigenes and the local government chairmen in early 2011. But we couldn’t push its establishment to the finish line because the 310 feet antenna we erected fell twice, destroying homes nearby. Later, our attempts to rejig again after that didn’t fly,” Ladigbolu said.
A retired civil servant and former staff of Emmanuel Alayande College of Education, Oyo, Yekeen Oyeleke, said the present site of the station was once a product of three structures that were demolished to give space for Atiba FM, which has never come to fruition.
“This was the location for the state Ministry of Information, office of the Local Education Officers and a community hall donated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to honour an indigene who was their worker for having served diligently while in service.”
“It is, therefore, incomprehensible that the purpose of demolishing three community treasures is yet to be achieved over a decade later despite government consistent promises”, Oyeleke said.
Governments promise and fail game
Due to OMDAs inability to execute the radio station project given the disasters encountered, its members approached the state government to take it over. That was how its executives on April 14, 2011, met with the late state Governor Alao Akala and showed him what had been done on the project , Ladigbolu recounted.
He said that was also how Ajimobi inherited the project when he assumed office in May 2011. “And just like Akala, Ajimobi also did not allot any money for the project. And though he told us that he sympathised with the community and assured us that work would promptly commence on the project, but he only kept promising and failing the Oyo people till his tenure was over.”
“Unfortunately, nothing was done on the project or its site aside from the fact that two months later, on July 10, 2011, a delegation of engineers was sent from the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS), to inspect and evaluate the place.”
“That was where it ended until 2015 while vying for a second term; he renewed the promise that the radio station would commence operation within three to four months. He sounded so persuasive our optimism was aroused again, and without wasting time, Ajimobi awarded the contract initiating the station’s structure,” Ladigbolu said.
He added that “So, in brief, that’s how governments supposedly spent millions have yielded nothing visible to attest that Atiba FM could be realised anytime soon. And this is what has made us residents of the four local government areas it is intended to serve to be asking questions on oodles of monies the two successive governments had expended?”
Another resident, Akeem Ademola, an artisan, said the situation is as it is because successive governments have used the proposed station to delude Oyo residents with promises that it would hit the airwaves soonest. Yet, it is all to no avail.
On the search for official facts…
To obtain government’s perspectives on the controversies surrounding Atiba FM, the reporter reached out to the former Chief Press Secretary (CPS), to the late Governor Ajimobi, Bolaji Tunji, who said he did not know much about the project. He, however, said he learnt that it was discontinued because the governor was dissatisfied with the services of the contractor.
Back on August 11, 2021, Governor Seyi Makinde was reported to have approved the release of N100 million, for the new contract of Atiba FM station awarded to Rahvet International Limited headed by Muftau Raheem.
Further quest for facts brought the reporter in contact with a previous guard of the site, Muyideen Adesiyan, who explained that it was the contractor who initially employed him to look after the site. However, since 2017, the contractor stopped responding to his calls and refused to send his monthly remuneration.
Suddenly, he told me not to call him again because the government had refused to pay him for his services, and so the project would no longer go on. That was when I deleted the contractor’s contact.
A top government official told this reporter in confidence that the late Ajimobi, on the verge of launching Atiba FM had asked the contractor to execute the project with his own funds, and that he would be reimbursed by the state government at the end of the project.
Asking the late Ajimobi CPS, Tunji to clarify this, he said: “It was true that the administration used that strategy to ensure that all awarded contracts were satisfactorily completed. And the major reason the incumbent government did not disclose the contractors contact details was because it was private information, not because there was anything to hide.”
But when asked, both the CPS, Bolaji Tunji, and the former security guard, Muyideen Adesiyan do not have the contractor’s contact information.
Following the millions expended on the project
To follow the millions expended on this project by asking for government officials’ clarifications, the reporter spoke with the top Ministry of Public Works officials, who said that Atiba FMs construction is being supervised by the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) and directed him to go there.
However, days later, the reporter met BCOSs executive chairman, Dotun Oyelade, and asked him to explain why monies spent on the project by the late Ajimobi is not on any record in the state; he said: As soon as I assumed office as BCOS chairman, I searched thoroughly for records and documents regarding the activities of this body, but I am surprised me that records binding on this body in its past eight years are missing. I personally contacted the office of the Secretary to the State Government if documents and records would be kept there, but no records were found.”
He, however, added that his agency had not received any money from the state government adding that they have actually been expecting funds since 2021.
Asked who paid the former contractor off – the government or BCOS, he said “I don’t have any answer to what I know nothing about. I have never been in any meeting at any time government met with the former contractor, so, I dont know if he was paid off or not; I am certainly not involved”.
However, when this reporter asked the contractor, Muftau Raheem, to explain what has been delaying the completion of Atiba FM since it was handed to him, he declined to comment.
“My brother, I cannot speak with you on this matter. My employer, the state government, is the only authority allowed to speak on this matter. All I can say is work is ongoing”, he said.
But he said he knew that the state government paid off the former contractor after valuing what he did on the site at N22 million, before handling the project to him to finish up; adding that there were other issues connected to the project as handled by the previous government he is not competent to speak about
Asked how much he had received and what procurement process was applied in his getting the job, Raheem declined to respond to the questions. He only said the project would be delivered soon.
When the reporter told him the current governments reported position; he discontinued from speaking further and wouldn’t pick his calls again.
However, the State Governor, Seyi Makinde, on June 14, 2022, said the government had added money for Rahvet to finish off the project and would commission Atiba FM before the end of his tenure in 2023.
Despite the reporter’s back and forth, efforts to obtain a documented records for this project, especially on how much the current contractor had received, how much the state government paid off the former contractor, as well as who did they payment, still remain everyone spoken with kept mute on that.