Failed Ekiti constituency projects: Client, contractor in blame game as multi-million naira boreholes dry up (Part 2)
We constructed 22 hand-pump boreholes for N25m —Contractor
In this concluding part of last Saturday’s report on failed 2016 constituency projects in Ekiti State, INNOCENT DURU sought the comments of the contractors, lawmakers, contracting government agency and experts on why the borehole projects failed and exposed the residents of affected communities water–borne diseases as they resort to using and drinking unclean water from any sou
IN 2016, lawmakers representing various parts of Ekiti State in the National Assembly facilitated the execution of borehole projects to their communities. In Ido Osi/Moba/Ilejemeje axis, the lawmaker representing the area in the House of Representatives, Hon. Thaddeus Aina facilitated the construction of 22 hand-pump boreholes in various communities. The boreholes were constructed by Alliance Boots Limited with the Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority as the client.
Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority was also the client of 51 ‘productive’ hand-pump boreholes facilitated by Senator Fatimat Raji Rasaki in Ekiti Central Senatorial District. Mid-South Development Investment Limited constructed the boreholes.
In Ekiti South Senatorial District, Senator Abiodun Olujimi facilitated two solar-powered borehole projects. Again, Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority awarded the contract, which was executed by Candid Oil Limited.
Our reporter’s visits to some of the communities revealed that the boreholes stopped functioning shortly after they were sunk. And controversy has been trailing the award and execution of the contracts.
The manager in charge of the 22 hand-pump borehole projects constructed by Alliance Boots Limited, Apeh Monday, while denying that inferior materials were used in the construction, alleged that the client, Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority, engaged in underhand deals in giving out funds for the project.
He said: “The brand of the entire materials I used is India 2, so the issue of using inferior materials does not arise. The job was well done and certified by the Benin-Owena team. About a year after we executed the project, they sent us a letter saying that about 17 of the pumps were not working.
“We took our engineers to the site and found that it was 13 of them that were not functional and we rectified 12. We told them to pay our retention fee so that we could have funds to fix the last one but nobody listened to us.
“Hand pump is not like borehole; it requires constant repairs. There was no agreement that there would be constant maintenance of the projects.
”Benin Owena is still owning us about N1.8 million since then. When you do a community borehole, there is what we call capacity building. The money for this is part of the agreement, but they took over this money too.
“They are supposed to use that money to train one or two people in those communities on how to repair the boreholes. Nobody did that community empowerment. That is why we are having these problems.”
Apeh disclosed that his company got N25 million for the 22 boreholes. Each of the boreholes cost about N950, 000 in addition to other charges.
“ There are some money in Bill One. Bill One money is what they call project admin, which requires you to bring cash and give to them [government officials].
“You have to remove this money and give it to them in cash before they give you the contract money. But it is the accumulation that makes up the contract money. I think I paid them about N5 million from that Bill One money. They said it is for their administrative use. If you don’t pay it, you won’t get your money.”
Lekan Olaleye, Candid Oil Services boss, whose company handled the solar borehole projects in Ise-Ekiti, said there had not been a formal report to the company about the boreholes.
“It is not true that inferior materials were used for the projects. The projects have been done and the water was flowing. It flowed for more than a year, but I don’t know whether they are still working or not,” he said.
Olaleye said is not the duty of the company to maintain the project, adding: “The maintenance is supposed to be done by Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority after we handed over.”
He said that no money in the name of Bill One was paid to the client.
“It didn’t happen,” he said, adding that he didn’t know the amount the company collected for the project offhand.
Olaleye ruled out the possibility of returning to site to repair the boreholes.
“The period of the contract has elapsed. It is more than two years,” he said.
The efforts the reporter made to reach out to the management of Mid-South Development Investment Limited on the phone were unsuccessful as the boss’s mobile phone was switched off. A message also sent to the company’s email was yet to be replied to at press time.
Benin Owena Development Authority’s management avoids response to questions
Attempts made by the reporter to get the response of the management of Benin Owena Development Authority were also frustrated. The agency awarded all the contracts in question
Officials of the agency referred the reporter to the headquarters in Benin and later to its Ekiti office.
When a call was put to the mobile phone of the Public Relations Officer of the agency in Benin, he promised to call back after he was briefed about the purpose of the call.
When he eventually called back, he requested that the reporter should get in touch with the area office manager in Ekiti, Mr Francis Adetiba. When the reporter got through to Adetiba, the manager of the Ekiti office, he requested for the questions the reporter wanted a response to with a promise to respond later.
The story, however, changed when Adetiba called in the night to say that the information the reporter sought could only be supplied from the headquarters.
“For you to be able to get what you want, I will advise you to go to Benin to get the approval of the Managing Director who would direct you to the appropriate quarters where this information could be gotten.
“At the area office, we don’t know how much they are taking this contract job. The monitoring team is from the headquarters, not from the area office. All the information about the cost is from the headquarters.”
Adetiba said maintaining the projects becomes a function of the community six months after its completion and not that of the authority.
Asked if it amounts to the end of a project if it fails after it is handed over, Adetiba responded: “It shouldn’t be. The community can write to the authority and there could be room for rehabilitation or renovation of existing projects if there is provision for it. For you to get the authentic information, go to the headquarters.”
Adetiba dismissed the allegation by the manager of Alliance Boots Limited that officials of the authority collect money before releasing project funds.
“I don’t believe that is possible. Let me tell you categorically that it is not at the state office that contracts are awarded. It is at the headquarters,” he said.
Subsequent calls made to the mobile phone of the Public Relations Officer (PRO) at the headquarters of the authority were neither answered nor returned.
When our reporter reached out to Hon. Thaddeus Aina who facilitated the execution of 22 borehole projects in Ido Osi/Moba/ Ilejemeje axis, he denied knowing anything about the contract.
“Thanks. When I come back to the country, I will react on the points raised. But get one thing right: questions of the award of the contract, I knew nothing about it. The agency will tell us about it,” he responded in a text message.
Senator Fatima Raji Rasaki, in a telephone interview, said she did not receive any report to the effect that the boreholes were no longer functional.
She said: “When you do your constituency project, you hand over to the community because you cannot be there forever. It is their own.
“I handed over all the projects that I did to the community. And they know the meaning: if I am no longer a politician, would I be coming to repair it for them forever and ever? Would the contractor be going there forever and ever? It is for the community to take care of the projects. They shouldn’t allow small children to start playing with the projects.”
When she was told that the community members complained that the boreholes only worked for a few months, she retorted: “The community people have an office and I have my office. They are supposed to go there and complain. I even learnt that the contractors are going round to take stock. Tell the community leaders to get in touch with the office.”
On her part, Senator Abiodun Olujimi did not respond to the calls, text message and email sent to her.
Cost of borehole, by experts
A director of a popular borehole drilling company in Ekiti State, who did not want his name or that of his company mentioned, blamed the failure of most public borehole projects in the state on corruption. Explaining why constituency borehole projects don’t last, he said: “We are in Nigeria (laughs). When politicians want to get the contract, they can get it for N10, but they would want to pay N4 or N5 for it, and the contractor does exactly a job of that sum for them and leaves. In no time, the borehole fails and the community is back to square one.
“If it is a private thing, you can negotiate with them by making them understand that if you do it this way, this would be the outcome. Most of the private people can easily chase you around. But if it is a project by politicians, once it is spoilt, it is spoilt.
“Nobody will run after you because when it backfires
the person who contracted it out won’t be found anywhere. He would have eloped.”
On the cost of drilling boreholes, he said: “We don’t do hand-pump boreholes, but we do solar borehole. If you want the solar borehole, without the borehole components, the solar components and by that I mean the number of the panels, the quality of the pump you want to use, on the average, you can have it for between N1.2 million and N1.3 million.
“If you add the borehole components, it will close up at about N2 million. Whether it is for public or private use, the cost is the same.”
Another engineer, Bankole Owolabi, in a telephone chat explained why boreholes quickly develop faults within a short period of constructing them.
He said: “When you install the machine to the bare ground of the 150ft that you have dug, the mud inside the borehole will make the machine to get stuck. It rarely comes out on its own. But an expert in the field can bring it out.
“If a basement is also not well done, it could make sand to enter the machine and consequently cause it to collapse.
“To know the cost, you have to do a geophysical study of the place to know the depth to attain. This determines the price.
“On the average, a hand-pump borehole should cost about N600, 000. The difference between solar borehole and others is that they use solar energy to power it. But it is the same process.”
The Executive Director Krestfield Limited, Engineer Saeed Alagbe, said borehole construction does not have a fixed price anywhere.
He said: “The cost depends on the area and the nature of the place. That is why you do a geometric survey before you commence the drilling. It is that survey that will give you the depth that you will get clean water.
“If you have rocks there, you may need to blast those rocks. One cannot state the cost unless a study of the area is done. If I am blasting a rock, I can give you a bill of N12, 000 or N15, 000 per metre, and it can be as low as N5,000 per metre. “The cost of solar borehole depends on the panel you are using.”
This investigation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR