Many streets in Gashua, the hometown of Nigeria’s Senate President Ahmed Lawan, are dotted with at least a source of potable water, giving the town’s residents good access to clean water.
However, some parts of the community are filthy because of many residents’ poor attitudes toward sanitation. The stench of human and animal wastes oozes across neighbourhoods while garbage blocks poorly-constructed drainages on roads.
Several homes lack modern toilet facilities, forcing residents to engage in open defecation.
The town under Bade Local Government Area has six wards, that can be classified into slums and towns.
The Federal Government executed some potable water facilities to complement clean water in the town at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The Federal Government funded at least 14 solar-powered boreholes in Gashua with the COVID-19 Intervention Fund, otherwise known as CACOVID Fund.
The CACOVID Fund was about N40 billion donated by corporate organisations and individuals at the peak of COVID-19 in Nigeria in 2020, under the title “Private Sector Coalition against COVID-19,” to help the country fight the pandemic. The fund was to support the nation’s health system and other critical needs in communities.
However, many residents of Gashua believe the Senate President financed the water project in his town. This is because each water borehole has a large signpost with inscriptions showing him as the project sponsor.
The project complements those already executed by the Ministries of Power, Works and Housing, Agriculture and Rural Development, Water Resources, development partners such as the European Union and a few non-governmental organisations supporting victims of insurgency in the North-East in the community. Also, some residents invested in potable water, which they sell to the public.
Access to clean water is key to good hygiene practices, however the availability of potable water has not impacted good hygiene in several parts of Gashua.
Goal Six of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets an end to the global water and sanitation crisis. Communities like Gashua may stop Nigeria from achieving the goal if the problem remains.
In April, the reporter went to investigate a contract awarded by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to a water drilling firm – Yubar Consultants Ltd, with the COVID-19 Intervention Fund, in Gashua. The investigation followed similar reports on the Federal Medical Centres, Jalingo and Makurdi, Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), and the Modibbo Adama University Teaching Hospital Yola (See the reports in the embedded links) when he observed many water projects signpost bearing Lawan as the sponsor.
An in-depth look at the federal government’s Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) shows that the Water Ministry awarded the water the contract from its share of the CACOVID fund at N492.6 million (492,603,237.00).
The reporter saw water flow in 11 of the 14 solar-powered boreholes in Gashua. A few households ran the water into their homes with pipes.
Why the Senate President is listed as the project sponsor
A director of one of the companies that executed the project, Yahaya Barambu, told the ICIR that his company got instruction from the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to attribute the project sponsorship to the Senate President because it is located in his town.
“It is the ministry that instructed us that the person that facilitated the project was Senate President Ahmed Lawan. It is his local government. They said whenever you’re doing a project, it is the ministry that will give you the design of the signboard. We did the signboard based on what they asked us to do.
“They said they were the people that financed the project, but they did not say Ahmed Lawan financed the project. They said Ahmed Lawan was contract facilitator.”
The use of sponsor instead of facilitator was misleading as residents interviewed believed that the senate president financed the project.
Hassan Lawan, former chairman of Jakusko Local Government and a resident of Gashua, was among those who spoke with the ICIR in a manner showing the Senate President funded the project.
“The Senate President has done great work in rural development, particularly water supply,” he said.
He added: “Before this project commenced, we had a problem with access to potable water. There used to be many water-borne diseases due to a lack of clean water supply.
“But because of his water project, there is nothing like water-borne diseases. There is nothing like cholera and gastrointestinal disease.
“This water supply made available by the Senate President in our communities has touched many people’s lives.”
He stressed that people queued to get water before the project came into the town.
Others who lauded the Senate President over the project are Saleh Musa, Adamu Jawi, Rabiu Nadada, Ahmed Murtala, Abba Kura, Ibrahim Muhammed, and Haruna Yahaya, there were also children too who believed Lawan funded the project.
The water facilities are located at the Abbatoir, Katuzu One, Katuzu Three, Lawan Fannami, Market Area, Central Mosque, Fire Service, Lawan Musa Two, Zango, Abuja Amare One, Abuja Amare Two, Garin Lamido, Federal University, and Federal University Extension.
Contractor mum on the number of boreholes dug with N492.6 million
Back to the primary investigation, Yubar Consultants Ltd refused to provide the number of boreholes it constructed with the N492.6 (492,603,237.00) the Ministry of Water Resources said it paid for the contract.
When the ICIR reporter contacted Barambu, whom the firm assigned to speak on the contract, he failed to provide the number. He directed the reporter to get the details from the Water Resources Ministry.
The reporter also asked him to confirm if the ministry paid his company N492.6 million as it claimed. Barambu said only the ministry could provide an answer.
Multiple reports by The ICIR show how public officials collude with contractors to steal money meant for public work or disregard procurement rules.
For instance, reports on “How JUTH ignored procurement guidelines over N853 million COVID-19 fund”, “COVID-19: Nigeria health agency hoards information about N444m contract awards”, “COVID-19: Over N22.58 billion shared among 21 teaching hospitals”, and “COVID-19 Funds: NCDC spends N202 million on six items without procurement plan” are some of this newspaper’s investigations into the fund’s possible mishandling by the government.
Abattoir’s borehole fails to run, threatens business
When the reporter visited the premises, meat sellers at Gashua’s only abattoir decried water shortage.
Only one handpump borehole, out of three, works. The solar-powered borehole dug with the COVID-19 money at the abattoir was not working.
Several meat sellers, including the abattoir’s vice chairman, Mohammadu Dangari, youth chairman Kabiru Aminu, Isah Jibril and Bukar Ahmed, bemoaned the lack of water.
Water vendors smiled to their homes daily from the abattoir, but the meat-sellers were unhappy that they paid for water to do their job after paying taxes to the government.
They pay the Bade local government for each animal they slaughter and expect that the government provide enough water at the abattoir.
Besides, the meat-sellers expressed displeasure that only one came to work out of the five local government workers assigned to clean the abattoir.
Abdullahi Umar collects tax at the abattoir on behalf of the local government.
He said the government charged N100 for a cow and N50 for a goat and sheep.
Unlike other neat abattoirs with sufficient clean water, Gashua Abattoir has a foul odour resulting from an inadequate water supply.
Residents didn’t inform us of non-functional boreholes – Contractor
Barambu said his firm was not to blame for three of the boreholes that do not supply water.
He said the community did not inform his company about them.
According to him, every contract has a “defect liability period”, in which contractors and institutions that give them jobs observe the functionality or quality of completed work before contractors get full payment.
He stated that all the facilities served the community well, and the government was pleased with the job after his company finished the project.
He said his firm executed the project under the ministry and Yobe State’s supervision.
About the contractor
Yubar Consultants Ltd was registered as a private company limited by shares on February 7, 2013, with registration number 1095144.
Its address is at number 5, GRA Road, opposite Government House, Gombe, Gombe State.
The company has the following as its directors and shareholders: Usman, Sanusi, Nafiu, Alamin, Abubakar and Yahaya, all bearing their family’s name, Barambu.
Information in the public domain about the company claims all the directors are engineers, except Usman and Yahaya, surveyor and builder, respectively.
Meanwhile, no less than 150 residents of Gashua, Yobe State, die of kidney disease yearly, The ICIR learnt.
Anwali Ahmad, Head of Chemical Pathology Unit, Specialist Hospital, Gashau, told The ICIR that many residents die of chronic kidney failures because they preserve the foods they eat with chemicals. Read the full report here.