Ecological Funds: Living At The Mercy Of Floods II

This is the second part of the report of ecological projects in South West Nigeria by Yekeen Nurudeen. The first part was published last Saturday. You can read that report here


 

Refuse on ogunpa river
Refuse on Ogunpa River

Ogunpa River: Failing to learnt from history 

The Ecological Fund Office (EFO) said the federal government has spent over N7billion on the channelization of Ogunpa River in Ibadan, Oyo state, besides other projects in the state that have also gulped about N4.08billion.

Ogunpa River has a flooding history that dates back to the 60s’. More than 55 years after over 1000 residents were rendered homeless by the infamous Ogunpa River flood, the people of the area are still being ensnarled whenever it rains.

Residents along Ogunpa River heaved a sigh of relief when the federal government finally intervened 21 years after the 1980 flood that gave Ogunpa River its national and international notoriety. The flood left the city in ruins with more than 100 bodies retrieved from the debris of collapsed houses and vehicles washed away by the deluge.

Despite this history and efforts to avert future floods by the federal government with the award of contracts to widen water ways, tributaries and distributaries of Ogunpa River outside the city, residents of Ibadan, particularly those residing near the passage of the river have not learned their lessons.

From Omi-Towoju to Oke –Padre and to Gbagi market where Ogunpa River makes as it routes, residents have converted the water ways to a dump site.

Ibadan is the largest city in West Africa and expectedly it generates a huge volume of waste which overwhelms available waste management measures. Most of this waste ends up in Rivers –one of which is Ogunpa River.

“People ignore threats of arrest and dump refuse in the channel, obstructing it the free flow of water,” said Bola Ladapo, a resident of the area.

Market men and women at Gbagi market were seen at the time our correspondent visited Ibadan dumping all kinds of waste without fear of being arrested. When asked why turning the river to dump site, a woman who gave her name as Tawa replied “Where are we going to dump refuse if not the river?”

According to her, when rain starts, it would wash away all the refuse dump.

Efforts to reach the ministries of works and environment in the state proved abortive as members of staff refused to comment on the matter. They referred our correspondent to the commissioner’s office.

At the time of reporting this story, commissioners had not been appointed in the state. (The governor only appointed commissioners last week)..

The same scenario played out at Isale Afon, Ogbomoso, also in Oyo state, where the flood control project which was reportedly facilitated by the former House of Representatives leader, Mulikat Adeola Akande, has become an eyesore as faeces and domestic waste litter around.

The project which was awarded in 2014 at N70, 000,000 was executed in 2015.

Investigation by our correspondent around Isale Afon in Ogbomoso North Local Government revealed that residents of the area might not have experienced terrible flood in time past but that is just a matter of time as epidemics and flooding loom large.

In 2011 when almost all parts of Oyo state, particularly Ibadan, were flooded Ogbomoso was lucky and there was no flood.

At one of the interceptions of the work is a school, James Jude Nursery and Primary school. Its founder Alawode Adegboyega James who was met burning refuse right inside big drainage lamented that the inability of health officials in the town and absence of waste collecting trucks have encouraged residents to be turning their domestic waste in the drainage.

Odo-Kala: Gully of refuse dump

But  if people of Ibadan and Ogbomoso have turned waterways to dump site, those of Ijebu –Ode where Odo-Kala gully is situated did not do better.

Government awarded a N299 million contract to address Odo Kala Gully erosion Phase 1 in 2009 to Smace Nigeria Limited but this has so far fallen short of its objectives.

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On visiting the project site, residents disclosed to New Telegraph that despite the construction work, the gully still pose great hazards.

A motorist, Abdulrasheed Idirisu said a commercial motorcyclist fell into the gully last year at night after a heavy rainfall. What however was amazing was the huge refuse dump on each side of the bridge where the gully is located.

According to a shop owner near the bridge, Mrs. Komolafe Oluwaseun where commercial motorcyclists formed a colony, the refuse dump is the reason for the flooding after heavy rainfall.

Papalanto, Sagamu Road: Motorists’ nightmare

Commutters are used to the road
Commutters are used to the road

Mr. John Andrew (an engineer) says he has vowed never to drive through the Papalanto-Sagamu Road again despite being the shortest route to Ibadan from Lagos. On that fateful Saturday, he was going to Lagos from Ibadan but had to look for a short cut to avoid traffic. But his calculations this time around were wrong; he ended up spending the whole day on the road that ordinarily should not take him more than 35 minutes, at most. His SUV broke down in the middle of the road as it encountered several bad craters and gullies on the road. “This road has become a nightmare,” he says in exasperation.

On a daily basis, Jide Ademosu drives to and fro Papalanto-Sagamu Road three to four times. He is a commercial bus driver who plies the road; taking passengers from Papalanto to Sagamu. The journey takes just 45 minutes and it is stress-free due to the smooth nature of the road. While the 40-kilometre road has become a nightmare to motorists and commuters, it is also responsible for the short lifespan of many commercial vehicles plying the route.

“The road kills one gradually, it spoils our vehicles,” says a distraught Ademosu. A tour of the road from Papalanto junction by New Telegraph on a popular motorcycle known as Okada through Olorunsogo Hydro Power Station shows dangerous ditches and craters which claimed lives in recent accidents. Residents along the road say it has been tales of woes, pains, agony and total neglect as the road claims lives, with the number of casualties rising by the day.

The road was rehabilitated in 2014 by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA). But those who are plying the road constantly describe the rehabilitation as cosmetic compared to what needs to be done to the damaged road. A former employee of the West African Portland Cement, Mr. Paul Amoo, who is a construction expert, says what is expected to have been done by FERMA was to have evacuated the top soil of the road as it is swampy and filled it with stones before it could be covered and laid with asphalt.

The N600million Ecological Fund Intervention

Nobody knows whether or not the road was rehabilitated or not. Those who should know claimed ignorance of such while those in the administration of the state also said they were not aware of issues that involved past administrations.

But the drivers were stunned and short of words when they were told that the Federal government had released the sum of N600million to Ogun State government in 2007 to rehabilitate the road.

The Federal Government had between 2007 and 2011 released the sum of N15,409,093,866 (Fifteen billion, four hundred and nine million, ninety three thousand, eight hundred and sixty six naira) to some states government to solve ecological problems in their states.

Out of this amount, N600 million was released to Ogun state government under the administration of former Governor, Gbenga Daniel to rehabilitate the road. The money was released by the Federal Government from The Ecological Fund Account as the problem facing the road was ecological.

The release of the fund in 2007 to rehabilitate the road might be connected with the construction of the Power Plant which was completed and commissioned that year by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

When contacted, the incumbent commissioner of Works in Ogun state, Olamilekan Adegbite said he was not aware of what transpired before assuming office in 2011. Replying an SMS sent to him, he wrote “I’m not aware of what transpired before assuming office in 2011”

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He added that the state government is currently trying to repair as many roads as ‘circumstances allow’ even as he declined comment on whether or not the Papalanto, Shagamu road will be among those to be repaired.

But the Ogun State Road Maintenance Agency (OGROMA) set up by the former Governor Gbenga Daniel that could have provided answers to questions concerning rehabilitation of the road has been disbanded by the incumbent Governor Ibikunle Amosun.

So it remains a misery, whether the road was rehabilitated or not as approved and paid for by the Federal Government in 2007.

Traditional Ruler’s tacit condemnation

Though the traditional ruler of Papalanto, Onipapa of Papalanto, Oba Rasaki Jimoh maintained diplomatic silence on the state of the road and whether it was rehabilitated or not in 2007 or at other time, he simply said to New Telegraph, “you go and see for yourself; even the mad man knows that the road is bad”

“Even a mad man knows that the road is bad. They didn’t do anything there. It is obvious that nothing is done. I don’t know anything about the road whether it is awarded or not” he retorted.

While the road seems to have been deserted by many motorists with smaller vehicles, leaving only trucks of companies like Lafarge, Dangote to worsen its already deplorable condition, it has also become a robbery haven for armed robbers who take advantage of several craters and bad spots to waylay those trucks.

Babatunde, an estate developer based in Ifo town, confirmed this to New Telegraph saying “from Papa here to Olorunsogo, the road is bad. The road has become a good spot for armed robbers because of its bad portion. They had robbed Dangote truck; they had robbed a trailer with container carrying plasma televisions.”

Ecological Fund of Misery

Even the dead are threatened by floods
Even the dead are threatened by floods

The story of funds disbursement and utilization from the  Ecological Fund which was originally established in 1981 through the Federation Account Act (1981) based on the recommendation of the Okigbo Commission has been more of miseries than anything else.

The Fund which is an intervention facility established to address serious ecological problems across the country can at best be said to be a major source of abuse and impunity by top government officials.

The enabling statutes have over the years placed the Fund under the control of the Head of the Federal Government; to be disbursed and managed in accordance with such directives as may be issued from time to time. However, despite the critical purpose the fund is meant to serve, it has become a cesspool of corruption.

In July 2012, the House of Representatives alleged a fraud in the disbursement of the fund when it discovered that N2.060billion was paid to 38 contractors and 14 consultants for the purpose of developing tree nurseries and raising seedlings. The contract was said to have been awarded through the Ecological Fund Office in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment.

Chairman of the Committee on Environment, Hon. Uche Ekwunife disclosed this during an investigative hearing on the application of ecological fund for the development of tree nurseries and seedlings in the 36 states of the federation, noting that out of the N3.190bn approved by the Presidency in 2010, the sum of N2. 060bn was released to the contractors and consultants.

Ekwenife and members of the committee, who had embarked on an inspection tour of the project sites to ascertain the level of project implementation, expressed displeasure over the level of work done.

“We were shocked by scores of abandoned and uncompleted projects, with most below 15 per cent implementation,” she said. “Nigerians are interested in knowing why these projects are abandoned or uncompleted even though money has been paid. I believe that the Ministry of Environment, the Ecological Fund Office, and all well-meaning Nigerians will be interested in the efficient management of the ecological funds.”

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But the then Minister of Environment, Hadiza Mailafia argued that the contract was awarded by her predecessor under the Presidential Initiative on Afforestation (PIA).

“We cannot say the project is a total failure. Although there are gaps in the project, there is no way the states of the federation will say that they are not being carried along.”

Operations of the Funds have been shrouded in secrecy, prompting the former Speaker of House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal to describe it as mystery funds in that same year. This, followed comments by Hon. Ekwunife that her committee made several efforts over the past year to get the statement of accounts of the ecological fund but to no avail.

For over one year, the Accountant General of the Federation has refused to make available statement of accounts of the ecological fund. It is being operated illegally as it is solely at the discretion of the President to release it” she was quoted as said.

In a report titled “Share of Derivation and Ecology 2007 – 201” submitted in October 2013, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI)  also pointed out misapplication of the funds within those years by state and federal governments as well as agencies and officials of government.

In the document in which NEITI took a comprehensive stock of ecological projects awarded across the country as well as different categories of disbursement, it pointed out abuse of the Fund.

NEITI in the report under the heading “Fund Utilisation from 2007 to 2011” said: “That some of the disbursements were not utilised for the purpose for which it was established. Funds were released to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, Federal Capital Development Authority, States Governments, National Emergency Management Authority, The Military and Ministries, Departments and Parastatals”

It revealed that the sum of N6,750,000,000 (Six Billion, Seven Hundred and Fifty million Naira) was released to the Federal Capital Development Authority for the provision of engineering infrastructure to Kubwa/Karshi satellite towns in FCT and development of Abuja Downtown Mall.

“It should be noted that the provision of engineering infrastructure and development of malls is not within the scope of the Ecological fund. A letter has been written to FCDA to confirm the receipt of these funds but as at the time of writing this report, no response from FCDA has been received,” the report noted.

The report also showed that the sum of N10.066 billion was released to the Military as follows: N10 billion was released to Nigerian Air Force in 2007 as loan for the execution of capital projects. The loan was repaid fully in 2007.

The sum of N65.735 million was released to the Nigerian Army for erosion control.

It said letters were written to the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Air Force to confirm the receipt of these funds but no response was received before the report was published.

Further findings revealed that some of the contractors who were awarded contracts under Ecological Fund were either not companies not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) or not having capacity to execute awarded to them.

RICABIM Nigeria Limited that handled the Igbara-Odo Ekiti erosion flood control project in 2007 could not be located in the record of CAC.

Another company named Abdul Essentials which was awarded the procurement and installation of one Multipurpose Plastic Waste Recycling Plant in 26 states of the federation at the sum of N392, 315,938.30 has no record at the CAC.

Shon Nigeria Limited which handled the N143,924,936.16 Ikere-Ekiti erosion flood control work was actually registered as a company to carry out the “business of functional advertisements of local, international authorities, statutory undertakers and public transport undertakers”.

This investigation was done with support from Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR

 

 

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