By Idris Kamal Ibrahim
IN April 2021, the Federal Government through the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) paid a contractor, Na’atika Nigeria Ltd, N75.5 million for the repair and patching of potholes along the 123.1km Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa road.
According to findings, a similar project was also awarded to Lafton Global Resources Ltd with N39.61 million already paid to repair and patch potholes along the same road.
In another separate contract in July 2021, Lafton Global Resources Ltd, pocketed over N38.5 million in two instalments for the repair and patching of potholes along the 82km Azare-Gadau-Katagum road.
Despite these releases, findings by WikkiTimes’ revealed that both the Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa road and Azare-Gadau-Katagum road are in a deplorable state with potholes dotting the majority of the roads due to poor project execution and subsequent abandonment. The poor state of the road has led to several accidents, thus destroying the lives and property of residents along the roads. Furthermore, road users spend a lot of time on the roads resulting in fatigue and unnecessary delay.
The Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa road connects Bauchi traders to Kano for commercial purposes, but they now spend a lot of time on the road leading to delays in the delivery of goods and services, a development that often denies them the opportunity to make brisk business. The situation is the same at Azare-Gadau-Katagum road, the oldest federal road in Bauchi State. The road is now a nightmare for commuters.
Findings by WikkiTimes showed that the contractors working on the Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa road failed to deliver the project as specified in the contract details.
Details of the contract indicate that both Lafton Global Resources Ltd and Na’atika Nigeria Ltd were awarded the repair of failed sections and patching of potholes, specifically between kilometres 63 to 75 and kilometres 75 to 87, respectively, along Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa road.
It was observed that only the patching of potholes along the road from Durun to Kafin-Madaki, which is less than 20km was completed. Despite interventions from the Federal Government through contractors, nearly the entire stretch of the road has failed. Although noticeable work was carried out on the road between Durun to Kafin-Madaki, a larger portion of the road from Kafin-Madaki to Nasaru, which is about 74 km, is dotted with potholes and has become nearly impassable.
Findings showed that at some sections of the road, especially at Nasaru axis, which is close to the Jigawa end of the road, erosion is already threatening the road with the tarmac nearly washed off.
“Potholes are many between Kafin-Madaki to Nasaru. If by mistake you run into one of the potholes, be rest assured your tyre or rim will be damaged at least. We also face the danger of losing control of our vehicles which often unavoidably results in a fatal crash,” said Yakubu Lafana, a driver who plies the road regularly.
Similarly, the Azare-Gadau-Katagum road awarded to Lafton Global is also in a deplorable state. The contractor only rehabilitated a portion of the road which is not up to a kilometre at Kutunas, a community close Gadau despite releases of up to N38.5m for the project. Notorious spots along the road including those at Malleri and Kwanan Sojiji are now a haven for armed robbers and kidnappers due to the deplorable state of the road which forces drivers to slow down and makes them an easy target for criminals.
“With the amount of rainfall recorded in recent times, the Azare-Gadau-Katagum road would become impassable due to the erosion. We are at the mercy of armed robbers who barricade the road and confiscate properties of passengers when drivers try to navigate potholes on the road,” said Habu Dan Ja, a resident of Sakuwa, a community along the corridors of the road.
DRIVERS LAMENT HIGH RATES OF ROAD CRASHES
Musa Hamma, a commercial driver who resides in Ningi and ply Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa road on a daily basis, lamented the poor condition of the road adding that it has claimed the lives of commuters’ the majority of whom are residents of the area. He also said the poor state of the road increases the cost of vehicle maintenance by commercial drivers.
Hamma said that apart from fatalities being recorded at various bad spots including Burji which is after Kafin-Madaki, several productive man-hours are being lost due to the poor condition of the road.
Corroborating Hamma, Nura Ningi, another resident of the area and Bala Reza, a commercial driver, expressed frustration at the poor condition of the road.
The road from Kafin-Madaki to Ningi has become a death trap for motorists as one can’t escape potholes while plying the road. Motorists were hopeful that repair and maintenance works carried out by the contractor would be completed but their hopes were dashed as the contractor stopped work at Kafin-Madaki.
The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) NURTW was concerned about the project’s status. Chairman of the Ningi branch, Danladi Sabo, was angry, speaking about the loss of lives of his members on that road.
“Unspecified numbers of our members have been having accidents on this road. Most victims either lose their lives or are maimed,” he said.
The chairman said the Union has complained to the Speaker, Bauchi State House Assembly, Rt. Hon. Abubakar Sulaiman, who incidentally also represents Ningi Central Constituency at the Bauchi State House of Assembly about the poor state of the road.
But the intervention has not yielded any fruitful results. Now, what started as small potholes has degenerated into the present deplorable condition of the road due to a lack of adequate maintenance.
Similarly, residents lamented that some unscrupulous security officials are seizing the opportunity to further compound the hardship on motorists and commuters by requesting bribes. Safwan Ibrahim, a Bauchi textile dealer, recounts how some security officials extorted money from him and other businesspersons plying the road from Kano to Bauchi.
He alleged that the officials in broad daylight, forced commuters and businessmen who ply the axis to part with some money before they are allowed to pass with their goods. Another businessman who does not want his name to appear in print, said Customs officers along the road extort commuters, particularly in the evening and at night, knowing that commuters are eager to get to their destinations on time.
“Sometimes, our only sure way of reaching our destination with our commodities is to speak the language they (Customs officers) understand, which is money,” he said.
CAMELS, CART PUSHERS TAKE OVER AZARE-KATAGUM ROAD
Recently, camels and cart pushers have taken over the road both in broad daylight and also at night, causing panic. A cross-section of drivers and other road users feared that a high number of animals sharing the road is not just a source of worry but a nightmare with deleterious consequences. WikkiTimes gathered that due to its poor condition, the Azare-Gadau-Katagum road has become a resting place for camels, thereby causing avoidable accidents.
“The animals and the cart-pushers are problems to us. We have been facing difficulties with them. Sometimes at night, they are moving and no light to make them visible to other road users,” said Muhammad Musa, a driver who frequently plies the road.
When contacted, the Director Na’atika Nigeria Ltd, Dickson Alexander, initially denied being awarded a contract. He, however, conceded to receiving money from the federal government for the supply of stone base and asphalt to FERMA for repair and patching of potholes along the Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa road. Findings showed that Na’atika Nigeria Ltd with registration number RC1068435 was registered on October 2, 2012.
Mr. Alexander said his company was engaged and paid directly by the government to render “construction logistics services generally” and not a contract to patch and repair the road.
“We were paid directly from the government (federal government),” he said.
When WikkiTimes pressed further to get additional information about payments made to the company, the Director said the company received N38,256,120 in April 2021 for the project.
He argued that they were only paid for the supply of material, which in some instances they have to outsource as well, adding that FERMA deducts workmanship fee from the overall payment.
However, contrary to submissions of Alexander, findings revealed that Na’atika was paid N75.5 million purportedly for the supply of stone base and asphalt and patching of potholes along the Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa road. Specifically, a description of the contract payments made to Na’atika showed that it was for maintenance and repairs of failed sections and potholes.
He added, “All I know is that for every supply there, we have completed hundred per cent.”
Na’atika’s counterpart, Lafton Global Resources Ltd, equally contracted to repair Azare-Gadau-Katagum and Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa roads could not be reached for comments on the poor state of the project. The company was established on February 18, 2009, but does not have an online presence. It also does have an email address or other means of contact.
A visit to the known address of the company at 44 Olaoluwa Str, Okesegun, Ondo state showed no signs of the company’s existence.
Some residents of the area said they have no idea about the existence of a company with the name, “Lafton Global Resources Limited.” Similarly, an online search about the exact current location of the firm returns no results.
Therefore it is difficult to contact the director for comment on their role in the failed project.
FRSC BLAMES POTHOLES, RECKLESS DRIVING FOR ACCIDENTS DEFENDS ROAD ABANDONMENT
The Bauchi State FRSC Sector Commandant, Yusuf Abdullahi, attributed the high rate of accidents on the road to reckless driving by motorists. Whilst acknowledging the deplorable state of the road, he maintained that the public need to obey traffic rules and regulations in order to reduce road accidents.
According to Abdullahi, common causes of these crashes include speed violations, reckless driving and wrongful overtaking often in the evening and night. He also stressed that 80 percent of these accidents involve commercial vehicles passing through the state.
Findings showed that between January to December 2021, Bauchi state recorded 480 road traffic crashes that killed and injured 413 and 2,157 people respectively. Dr. Caleb Auta, at the Accident and Emergency Unit, Ningi General Hospital, said 1,361 people were involved in different road traffic crashes from 2019 to August 2021 along Bauchi-Ningi axis of the road. Out of which 998 were males while 363 were females.
Between 2017 and 2021, data from the office of the Bauchi State Commandant Federal Road Safety Corps shows that 1,377 people died as a result of road accidents involving 14,513 people with 8,650 others injured.
This occurrence has continued. For instance, four passengers lost their lives at Durun, a community along the Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa road on February 21, 2022. In another accident on 20th April 2022, about 20 people died in an accident along the Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa-Kano road after they had a head collision with another vehicle. Three persons died in another road traffic crash in August this year. The victims were involved in the crash while on their way home from Kano.
Meanwhile, Nanpang Joro, an engineer in charge of FERMA, Bauchi Field Office, claimed the agency has succeeded in reconstructing the Bauchi-Ningi-Jigawa road. He said the FERMA Bauchi field office completed the road project in an effort to ease transportation and avoid road crashes on these roads.
He said Na’atika and Lafton Global handled repair works on the road and covered 4km and 2 km of roads, respectively. Going by the contract details on govspend.ng, an open contracting platform that provides details of daily payments to ministries, departments, and agencies of the Federal Government from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, the two companies are meant to cover 12km and 11km roads respectively.
Meanwhile, Joro said that the two firms were engaged through direct labour mainly to supply materials to the FERMA Bauchi office for repair and potholes patching along the road. When pressed to divulge details of payment made to both Na’atika and Lafton Global, Engineer Joro said, “in terms of funds, I may not be able to mention what was paid to the companies to avoid inciting the public during this election period.”
Joro, who could not identify the specific locations along the road where the two companies worked apart from the 2km and 4km roads he earlier mentioned, insisted, “We patched the potholes we can patch.”
He said the agency has finished the Azare-Katagum road. But his claim is false.
When informed of WikiTimes’ findings that the Kafin-Madaki to Burji section of the road is in a deplorable state, leading to persistent crashes, he said, “the uncompleted portion of the road has been captured in the 2022 budget. We are awaiting funds to be released to complete it.”
*This investigation republished from WikkiTimes is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, The ICIR.