© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Source: Olajide Adelana
There is no farmer immersed in farm work, no usual rumblings associated with irrigation sites, no land cultivated, no crops seen, no hydropower equipment.
Everything is silent and there is nothing to suggest that over N7 billion earmarked for the construction of Ivo river dam, hydropower and access road in Mpu, Aninri local government area (LGA) of Enugu State, has been judiciously spent. The proposed construction site now serves as a temporary shelter for herdsmen and their flocks.
The project, now lays abandoned, was intended to control erosion and flood, develop 5MW hydropower component and make 500 hectares of land available for irrigation for residents of Ivo town in Ebonyi State and neighbouring communities of Okpanku and Ukey in Enugu State. Now, it has become a portraiture of abandoned and uncompleted projects, scuttling Nigeria's food security drive.
This ugly trend has continued to spread in more communities. Few people understand this better than residents of Okpanku and Ukey and Ivo communities whose livelihoods have been affected in a significant way by the failed project.
And investment such as the Ivo river dam project has become nothing but a sad reference for wasted potentials of an agricultural community.
According to the report, actual work at the site commenced in October 2010 with a completion period of 24 months but had to be redesigned and relocated in January 2013 due to the unsuitability of the original project site. Before then, Messrs Anbeez Services Limited was appointed a technical partner to the contractor; D.A Construction Limited in 2012. Thereafter, the contract sum shot up by 72.9 percent from N2.1 billion to N7, 9 billion.
Earlier, October 10, 2010 to precise, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) under former President Jonathan had awarded a N6 billion contract with a completion period of 36 months to Anbeez for the construction of Jada Multipurpose Dam in Jada LGA area of Adamawa State. But more than seven years later, having reportedly spent nearly N1.9 billion, the project is yet to be completed.
Sadly, the same fate has befallen the Ivo river dam project.
Efforts to speak with the company were unsuccessful as there is no traceable website. A visit to the registered address of the company at 161 Dogo Dutse, Jos, Plateau State showed that the company had relocated.
As at November 2017, it was estimated that about 116 major projects domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources are either uncompleted or abandoned. Even then, most functional dam and irrigation projects are either inefficient or underutilised. A case in point is the Yola Irrigation Project which was conceived in 1981 and has gulped N423 million between 1979 and 2016.
Despite the potential of the 37-year-old project to benefit over 2500 farmers, generate over 10, 000 direct jobs, produce over 1300 tons of paddy rice, 2500 tons of fresh vegetables, and 50 tons of maize, the project is yet to be completed. The project, according to a FRC report, is 60 percent completed and only 370 hectares of the potential 12,000 hectares have been developed for irrigation.
"We are somewhat limited at the moment. In terms of the productivity of the land especially for rice, we get about 8 tons per hectare. That means 80 bags assuming each bag is 100kg. So, if you are to cultivate twice in a year you will have 16 tons per hectare," says Abubakar Muazu, the Managing Director, Upper Benue River Development Authority in charge of the project in an interview in his office in February.
-- Abubakar Muazu, the Managing Director, Upper Benue River Development Authority
The effects are already manifesting.
In July 2016, United Nations' Children Education Fund (UNICEF) reported that over 2.5 million Nigerian children were suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) also had unpleasant news. It reported that some 7.1 million people living in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger were severely food insecure.
Experience has however made farmers like Onyejie, doubting Thomases. He would rather see the physical results of the Council than accept their proposal as true.