This is the second and concluding part of INNOCENT DURU’s investigation into what public varsities in the South West are doing with the funds received for the implementation of TETFund projects in their respective institutions.
The University of Lagos, popularly known as UNILAG, is one of the federal universities that have benefitted immensely in terms of resources meant for the execution of TETFund projects.
But visits our reporter paid to the institution revealed that the implementation of some of the projects are riddled with question marks.
On Page 54 of a document titled ‘Performance Report on 2015-2018 Budget, TETFUND and NEEDS Assessment, Including 2019 Proposed Budget Implementation’ sent to the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND, the institution listed the construction of an 11-storey library complex as one of the ongoing projects. The project is under the institution’s 2012 High Impact TETFUND Special PROJECT Batch II (New Library Building).
Findings, however, revealed that the institution is building a seven-storey building instead of the 11-storey building in the design at the sum of N1,935,135,087.35. Suspicions concerning the building project was compounded by the controversy generated by its partial collapse recently. The new university library building purportedly being constructed by Dutum Construction Company Limited collapsed sometime in February 2019, provoking hot verbal exchange between the Governing Council and the management of the institution.
The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement, Oluwole Oke, said after a visit to the site that the lower chamber decided to investigate it as well as others after a letter written by the Pro-Chancellor of the university, Dr Wale Babalakin, drawing attention to issues of alleged financial infractions and faulty project implementation.
Oke said: “We are here pursuant of the resolution of the House mandating us to investigate the alleged infractions of provisions of public procurement Act 2007 and other financial issues. And we invited the stakeholders.
“Even though the regulators, the NUC and the Federal Ministry of Education, have already taken steps, we felt that the allegations of the Pro-Chancellor were very weighty and we felt we should investigate his claims.”
Consultant to the library building project, Mr Oreoluwa Fadayomi, was reported as saying that he had warned the contractor, Mr Olatunde Runsewe, that the building could collapse if proper steps were not taken, and even refused to approve progress thereby delaying the project.
Fadayomi, Director of Landmark Integrated Technologies Limited, told the House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement which inspected the site that Runsewe’s Dutum Co Ltd workers lacked the expertise to complete the library project, which he said should have been delivered since November 2018.
He said: “The management of the contractor as it was (as at the time of incident) cannot handle the continuation of the project. Here is a job we should have handed over in November last year and we are still on the first floor.
“And why were we on the first floor? Because I was diligently monitoring and refusing to approve shoddy work, and I was being blacklisted and blackmailed.
‘We changed supervisor over three times because we said no. They would give us methodologies that would not work and we would say no. The management, the staffing have to be overhauled to continue the project.
“If it is the same persons and process, Sir, my firm will withdraw from that project because we cannot continue to supervise at that level. They have to up their game if they have to continue.”In his defence, Runsewe said he was competent to handle the construction as he had handled similar projects – such as the Senate Building of the Covenant University and that of the University of Ibadan.
But UNILAG’s Vice-Chancellor (VC), Prof Young Ogundipe, told the committee that Runsewe did not deliver the UI project on time.
The panel set up by the Governing Council of the university in a 40-page report recommended termination of the contract with the contractor – Dutum Company Limited (DCL).
The panel said it had established the fact that the contract was designed to fail. It said the procedures for the procurement were faulty and that the contractor ought not to have been engaged in the first instance.
“The contract was not executed in line with the executed signed contract. However, the panel believes that the omission to seek permit and approval from the relevant state agency was not in wilful disregard of the law but in the mistaken belief that the university, being a federal institution, did not have to seek approvals or permits for its building projects,” the report reads in part.
The panel also condemned the change in the building’s foundation from pile to cellular raft, adding that the amount of work done so far did not justify the total sum of N444.6 million already released to the contractor.
Students of the institution who spoke with our reporter were miffed that project, which would have enabled them to have a bigger and better place to study, had suffered untold setback.
One of them, who identified herself simply as Elizabeth, said: “We read in our respective faculty libraries. If this particular building had been completed as stated, we would have had a bigger and better place to study.
“They should stop this needless verbal war and do the needful. Our future is what they are toying with here.”
Several other projects running into millions of naira also listed under the library contract were said to have been 75 per cent completed while the main project is stalled.
The projects include:
1) Consultant Project: Architect for the construction of the new university main library building put at N33,648,146. The document shows that the institution had spent the sum of N29, 321,955.79 on this to balance N4,326,190.51
2) Consultant Project: Manager for the construction of the new university main library building put at N33, 000, 000.00. The sum of N27,235,408.52 had been spent, according to the document, leaving behind a balance of N5,764,596.48.
3) Consultant Project: Quantity surveyor for the construction of the main university new library building awarded in the sum of N22,354,560.06. The sum of N17,754,056.09 had been spent, remaining a balance of N4,600,503.97.
4) Consultant Project: Electrical engineering for the construction of the new university main library building awarded in the sum of N21,725,000,000. The document shows that the institution has spent the sum of N18,532,662.88, with a balance of N3,192, 337.12.
5) Consultant Project: Structural engineering for the construction of the new university main library building awarded in the sum of N39,600,000 out of which the sum of N31,226,250.28 had been spent and the sum of N8,373,749.72 outstanding.
6) Extra low voltage consultancy services for the construction of the new university main library building awarded in the sum of N17,600,000, out of which N16,418,289.76 had been spent, leaving the sum of N1,181,710.24 as balance.
Apart from the library project, findings showed that Scholars’ Hostel building listed in the document had been completed by the institution but was not being used for the purpose it was built. The building, it was gathered, was meant to encourage and accommodate lecturers from abroad to improve the institution’s standard and rating.
The Nation investigation revealed that the buildings are being occupied by privileged staff of the institution who pay some money annually as rent.
A woman was sighted spreading wet wrappers on the rail in one of the flats, while a number of young boys and girls in sizzling romantic gestures were seen on the balcony of another flat.
A non-academic staff member, who did not want her name in print, said: “I know some of the lecturers that live in the hostel. The purpose of building the hostel has been defeated because it is now being used by privileged lecturers in the university. They pay some money annually, but the amount they pay is not in the public domain.”
The supply and installation of security equipment, whose contract sum was N211,667,950.00, was already completed, but none of the equipment was functional when our correspondent visited.
“Some of the equipment did not function for more than a month before they packed up. It is a complete waste of tax payers’ money,” a security officer, who craved anonymity, said.
The Nation investigation also revealed that the procurement and installation of 10 units of 360 degree executive swivel black leather chair, 10 units of wooden bookshelves with both glass and wooden doors: five tier shelve with locks, 10 units of Vono metal spiral double bunk beds worth how much mattresses for the furnishing of two fire stations already completed had not been done. The project, which cost N10,998,225.00, was recorded to have been 80 per cent completed was still ongoing, even though it was scheduled for completion before the end of April 2019.
A worker in the section said: “Those things have not been provided. The fire station was hurriedly completed to pave the way for Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to come for the commissioning, as a date had already been fixed.”
Why original design could not be accomplished — UNILAG
Reacting to our findings on the library project, the management of the University of Lagos, in a reply sent by the spokesperson, Taiwo Oloyede, said the library project was proposed to be a nine-storey building comprising a basement, ground floor and seven suspended floors.
In a response sent as attached document through WhatsApp message, the institution said: “The number of floors were scaled down to nine (9) from the initial eleven (11) approved by TETFund due to inadequate fund. The estimated cost of an 11-storey building based on the university’s brief to the consultants was far above the allocated sum of ₦2 billion, hence the need to scale down prior to going to tender.
“Furthermore, the high estimates were also a result of the rapidly increasing inflation and escalating foreign currency exchange rate, all of which culminated in the increase in material cost (cement, etcetera), making the ₦2 billion earmarked insufficient for the completion of an 11-storey building of quality.
“Based on the foregoing, the project was scaled down to nine storeys with a basement, ground floor and seven suspended floors, for which the available ₦2 billion fund could procure. Importantly, this scaling down was done before the project went to tender.”
The spokesman’s defence, however, contradicts the information provided by the institution in the document submitted to the Senate committee quoted above.
Explaining why the library project, which was supposed to have been completed in November, 2018, was stalled, the institution said the project was plagued by challenges “such as inclement weather, slow pace of work by the contractor occasioned by inadequate human and equipment resources deployment, among other issues.
“However, it is important to note that the National Assembly had reviewed the situation of this project and proffered a solution to help move the project forward, which is still being reviewed by the university.”
The institution, while admitting that a good number of scanning machines are grounded, put up a defence on why they are not functional.
According to the institution, “most of the scanning machines are still functional, but their use in some locations such as the J. F. Ade-Ajayi Auditorium and Jelili Adebisi Omotola Hall, are restricted to major events only.
“For the ones that are not functional, they were damaged as a result of power surge. This is the case with the scanners at the Senate House of the University. It took some time to procure the damaged parts, as they were not locally available and the suppliers did not provide readily available backup services.”
The institution further said: “Presently, the damaged scanners have been repaired, although their use has been put on hold pending the procurement of UPS and other protective devices to avoid another power surge related damages.
“In addition, the university is in the process of commencing the implementation of a redesigned ground floor lobby of the Senate House to enhance the use of these machines.”
On the Scholar’s Hostel that our investigation revealed was not being used for the purpose it was built, the institution said: “Both scholars from within and outside the university reside in the Scholars Hostel. Occupants from outside the university are visiting researchers on fellowship, joint research, sabbatical and research leaves, and they stay on either short or long-term basis.
“In addition to this, select internal scholars representing all faculties also reside in the hostel.
“With reference to the amount paid to occupy the hostel, it is usually worked out to reflect the quality of the facility and paid from research grants for the external scholars and subsidised for internal scholars.”
Responding to findings that the furniture meant for the fire station was yet to be put in place, the institution said: “Please, note that this assertion is wrong, as the furniture has been provided and the building is now in use.”
A copy of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, report to the Chairman of Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and a TETFund report, also obtained by The Nation, show that the projects approved for the institution were principally on the provision of materials for the library.
Our correspondent, who visited the three reading rooms in the library, reports that no furniture with TETFUND inscriptions were there. Only old furniture was seen in the three reading rooms. Heaps of furniture with 2015 TETFund projects inscribed on them were found in a corner of the library, but none of them had 2016, 2017 or 2018 inscribed on them.
One of the old FUTA’s reading rooms with old furniture
The same thing applies to textbooks found on the shelves. Some of them had 2015 TETFUND projects printed on them.
ICT/Bindery/Audio Visual and security equipment awarded on July 12, 2017 were also not sighted during the visit.
FUTA management makes clarification
The management of the Federal University of Technology made some clarifications on the findings.
In a response sent through email by the Deputy Director, Corporate Communications and Protocol, Adegbenro Adebanjo, the institution said: “First, please be informed that the TETFund projects being executed are strictly for 2013/2014/2015 intervention.
“The projects were awarded in May 2017. Due to protracted delay in the release of funds, contractors are just delivering their goods.
The deliveries are conspicuously placed on the ground floor and are feasible from both the main entrance and the back entrance of the library. Many of the books are already on the shelves. This could be verified in main the library and the school libraries such as the School of Health Sciences, School of Sciences, School of Management Technology, and so on.”
He added: “For the avoidance of doubt, items carried are for the year the intervention funds are meant for irrespective of the year of execution of the project due to late release of funds. This is the extant practice in all Nigerian universities benefiting from TETFund intervention
“The equipment, furniture and books which are being delivered in 2019 will be marked 2013/2014/2015 because that intervention is meant for those years.”
On why the latest TETFund books found on the shelves were stamped 2015 and none for 2017, Adegbenro said: “Please, note that though the projects were awarded in 2017, they were meant for 2013/2014/2015 and are invariably being delivered in 2019 due to delay in fund release. If it is executed in 2020, it will be marked 2013./2014/2015.
Also responding to our findings that old furniture, instead of new ones with TETFund inscriptions were seen in the three reading rooms, the PRO said: “The furniture and equipment are just being delivered. The ones that had long been delivered had been used to equip newly established School of Health and Health Technology Library at Oba Kekere, Federal University of Technology, Akure.
“The correspondent should understand the working of TETFund as an intervention agent. Their projects will be executed when their funds are released. Please, note that contractors Nos 1 (Tunero Nig. Ltd), 2 (Onicon and Havillah), 3 (Publishers Express and Onward Assets) and 4 (Holadson Educational Books, Yusai Teleview and Jaspers Books) were duly pre-qualified and certified to meet all the laid down conditions in the procurement act. They were officially awarded the contracts in May, 2017.”
The items, he stated, bear the year the intervention funds are meant for “irrespective of the year of execution of the project. This is the extant practice in all Nigerian universities benefiting from the TETFUND intervention.”
Expressing confidence in the calibre of contractors selected by the institution, the spokesman said: “They have gone far in executing their works and they had delivered substantial parts of their contracts. Evidence of their deliveries could be examined through the audit reports and Goods Received Notes. A random pictorial evidence of the above claims are provided in soft copies (see attached).”
He opined that it is a distortion of facts due to lack of adequate information to say that 2013/2014/2015 TETFund projects are nowhere to be found.
He said: “We again extend invitation to The Nation for an on the-spot-assessment of all items that had been delivered, including books, ICT/Security gadget, equipment (books shelves), furniture, office tables, students’ chairs and many more.
“I wish to state that all contracts go through due process and are executed according to the laid down rules governing such projects as specified by the intervention agencies, procurement laws and other laws governing such matters in the federation.”
Concluding, he noted that the “items and the goods delivery notes can be physically examined by your correspondent at your convenience. In FUTA, transparency and due process is adhered to strictly.”
This investigation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.