[INVESTIGATION] Abandoned health projects litter Sokoto despite multi-million naira investment

By ABDULRASHEED, Hammad

This investigation exposed how healthcare is left in a deplorable state despite multi-million naira investments in the health facilities of Sokoto state. It also shows how the Public Procurement Act was repeatedly violated in one instance, awarding a N126 million worth of contract to a week-old company.


Part 1 – Kware General hospital, Kware LGA 

Thirty-year-old Luba Saminu, a resident of Kwazari village of Kware local government area of Sokoto State, looked frustrated. She had recently given birth to a baby but was rushed to Kware General Hospital in the state after she started bleeding.

Sitting in the female hospital ward and frustrated by the extreme heat, Luba lamented the exorbitant charges, which she says is why her husband now ignores her calls; an attempt to evade parting with money.

On a September afternoon, during a visit to Kware General Hospital, some patients lay on the floor at the entrance of the hospital to escape the heat and stuffiness in the wards. Hand fans were waved by patients’ caregivers in the ward and outside to create airflow.


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“The heat is causing us discomfort, I cannot sleep at night due to the heat and mosquito bites. We didn’t come with an insecticide-treated net because we didn’t expect to be admitted,” Luba Saminu bemoaned.

The caregivers of the patients in the Kware General Hospital, waving hand fans to escape heat
The caregivers of the patients in the Kware General Hospital, waving hand fans to escape heat

The discomfort faced by patients at the Kware General Hospital in Sokoto state is in spite of the disbursement of over N118 million (N118,128,155) by the Sokoto State Government in 2021 for the supply and installation of medical equipment and medical furniture to the hospital.

The caregivers and patients that left the ward due to extreme heat in September
The caregivers and patients that left the ward due to extreme heat in September

On March 12, 2021, the state government awarded N41 million worth of contract to Lion Storms International Company Limited for the supply and installation of medical equipment for the theatre and medical laboratory of Kware General Hospital.

This project appeared in the 2021 Sokoto contract awarded project document after a competitive bidding process.

On the same day, the State government awarded N37,396,051.60  worth of contract to the same contractor for the supply and installation of medical furniture for the same general hospital, while another N39,792,103.40  was again awarded to the same company for the supply and installation of medical furniture to staff quarters and other units of the already completed hospital.

These three projects, with a cumulative sum of N118,128,155  are under the supervision of the Sokoto State Ministry of Health.

Investigations show that despite the release of the funds, the theatre and medical laboratory of Kware General Hospital lack medical equipment. During a visit, it was discovered that the hospital wards had ceiling fans, but none was working due to the dearth of electricity.

A check of Lion Storms International Company Limited on the CAC portal, NG-Check.com, and Nigeria24 in September did not provide any results. However, another search on the CAC website on November 2 showed the company had been registered on March 16, 2020, while the directors were registered almost two years after on May 19, 2022. The people behind the company are  Rabi’u Ahmed Rabi’u, Ibrahim Abubakar Dalhatu, and Ahmad Huraira.

The staff quarters furniture worth 39 million supplied to Kware General Hospital
The staff quarters furniture worth N39 million supplied to Kware General Hospital

According to a staff of the hospital who pleaded anonymity due to fear of intimidation, health workers often use personal funds to buy medical instruments for the theatre and laboratory.

He said no multi-million-naira worth of medical equipment was supplied to the hospital and added that the contractor only supplied two beds and three pieces of furniture to each flat of the hospital staff quarters.

“The small generator we use was donated through the Drug Development Funds. I just bought bougies (surgical instruments) worth N56,000 on loan, which will be paid when I collect my salary. I also bought gas to be used during surgery in the hospital theatre. This hospital is not up to 50-bed capacity as claimed by the State government,” he explained.

The equipment worth 41 million supplied to theatre and laboratory in Kware General Hospital
The equipment worth 41 million supplied to theatre and laboratory in Kware General Hospital
The snapshots of the faces behind Lion Storms registered in 2020 and the directors registered on May 19, 2022
The snapshots of the faces behind Lion Storms registered in 2020 and the directors registered on May 19, 2022

Despite being a general hospital that caters for at least three local government areas in Sokoto, the hospital is not connected to the power grid due to a lack of a transformer. Instead, they rely on small generators.

A staff in the hospital alleged that the Mikano generator in the hospital cannot be maintained because the state government used to make a monthly disbursement of N9,000 for diesel which he said can only last four hours, while N10,000 is paid for monthly maintenance. However, the staff said the cumulative amount of N19,000 for diesel and maintenance had been halted in the last five months as at November.


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Earlier, when Lion Storms did not appear on the CAC portal,  the state Commissioner of Health, Mohammed Ali Inname  had said the ministry will verify from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) office and the state Ministry of Finance and revert. He, however, did not respond to subsequent calls and messages.  For instance, the call in November was not answered or returned. WhatsApp on November 23 was viewed but not replied.

Contract is a gentleman’s agreement with governor – Lion Storms

Abdulkareem Sulaiman of Lion Storms International Limited confirmed that the full contract amount had been paid, and maintained all equipment has been supplied to the Kware General Hospital as of November 2021.

Suleiman, who said he had no knowledge of the year his company was established, explained that the multi-million naira contract awarded to him was based on a gentleman’s agreement with the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal.

He alleged that he was being blackmailed by the Director of Planning at the state Ministry of Health, Abubakar Danmafara, who he insisted had indicated an interest in the contract.

The contractor accused Danmafara of making allegations against his company and boasted that he had a direct link with the governor, who instructed his company to ignore protocols and supply the equipment so he (Tambuwal) could commission the hospital.

He said even at that, the Director of Planning had failed to issue them a certificate of completion and had reported the matter to the governor.

He refused to respond to the question of why his company only appeared on the CAC portal in November but rather said the reporter should take him to court.

However, the Director of Planning at the state Ministry of Health, Danmafara, denied the allegations of Lion Storms International Limited but said the contractor was only trying to jump the procedure.

“Ordinarily, he needs clearance of due process, tender board, BPP, and that is why the certificate of completion hasn’t been issued to him,” he said.

Danmafara explained that politics sometimes interfere with such contracts with attempts by contractors to jump procedures.  He said the ministry wrote a letter to BPP to verify the company before awarding the contract, adding that BPP had confirmed it with a certificate of no objection.

“When you try to contact them (contractor) to pay registration fees, they think they are going to pay me. It is a slap on our faces if the contractor fails to follow the right process,” he stated.

The Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Muhammad Bello, said the governor is not aware of a gentleman’s agreement that asked the contractor to forgo due process.

Bello shared a screengrab of a conversation he said to be with the governor pertaining to the enquiry, “I am not aware of this, Hon SA”, the conversation read.

A response from Sokoto State Governor on the allegation against him
A response from Sokoto State Governor on the allegation against him

Meanwhile, The acting Director of BPP, a lawyer,  Kabiru Haliru, said he will not speak on the Lion Storms registration status. He asked for a formal letter to that effect instead but he is yet to respond to it.

The Violation…

Aside the issue of whether the contract was completely executed or not, by awarding a contract to Lion Storms, the BPP and the Sokoto State Ministry of Health violated section (16) (6) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 by failing to follow the pre-requirement in the award of the contract.

The pre-requirement states that the bidding company must tender the clearance tax certificate for the last three years.

Lion Storms was established on March 16, 2020, and was awarded the contract on March 12, 2021, a year after its registration on CAC and even before the registration of its directors.

Section 58 of the PPA makes it an offence with offenders liable to five or 10 years imprisonment for awarding contracts without due process and in line with the law.

Part 2: General Hospital Salami, Gwadabawa LGA

Government awards N126 million contract to a week-old company

On June 8, 2021, the Sokoto State Government awarded over N126 million (N126,575,071.75) contract to Kakkahu General Services Co. Ltd for the completion of General Hospital Salami in Gwadabawa LGA.

Before then, a former Governor of Sokoto State, Aliyu Wamakko, had in 2013 commenced the construction of the hospital. The structure had been built, roofed and fenced.

Residents’ hope was raised again when the present Governor, Tambuwal, decided to complete the project in 2021. A dilapidated Primary Health Care (PHC) facility currently serve resident of Salami community and its environ.

However, a few months later, the project was abandoned.

The dilapidated state of Primary Health Care in Salami in Gwadabawa local government
The dilapidated state of Primary Health Care in Salami in Gwadabawa local government

The building has been overtaken by bushes and reptiles. The hospital compound has been overtaken by farmers while the wards have been turned into farm stores where crops are stored.

The community leader of Shiyyar Makera in Salami town, Muhammad Bello, expressed dismay over the abandoned general hospital, saying the community has lost residents due to the lack of a standard hospital.

The groundnut leaves stored by farmers inside the Salami General Hospital ward
The groundnut leaves stored by farmers inside the Salami General Hospital ward
The community leader of Salami in Gwadabawa local government area
The community leader of Salami in Gwadabawa local government area

A resident who pleaded anonymity for fear of intimidation said three contractors have worked on the project since it commenced during the second tenure of the former governor, Aliyu Wamakko. He said the first contractor came from Abuja, adding that the second contractor had fenced, fixed the roofing and plastered the building before he died.

The abandoned Salami General Hospital in Gwadabawa local government
The abandoned Salami General Hospital in Gwadabawa local government

He added that the present administration had then awarded the contract to Kakkahu General Service Co Ltd which only “put the iron on the fence, did generator house roofing, watchman’s room roofing as well as staff quarters roofing.”

Why we abandoned project – contractor

Kakkahu General Service Co Ltd was registered with CAC on  May 31, 2021, and was awarded the contract on the June 8, 2021; a week after its registration, which is against the Public Procurement Act 2007.

Section 6(a-d) of the Act states that all bidders in addition to requirements contained in any solicitation documents shall: “have fulfilled all its obligations to pay taxes, pensions and social security contributions.”

According to the requirements contained in the solicitation of the Sokoto contract, the minimum qualification for the award of any contract is to have a Tax Clearance Certificate from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for at least three years.

Sample of the pre-qualification requirements of the project executed by Sokoto Government
Sample of the pre-qualification requirements of the project executed by Sokoto Government

The directors of the company are Abdullahi Bello, with an address at No 4, Kofar Marke, Area, Sokoto State, and Bello Hassanu Bashari, with the same address. When The ICIR visited the address, the location was also the home address of the contractor.

While speaking with The ICIR, Abdullahi Bello, a director with Kakkahu confirmed that they abandoned the project because the state government released only 30 per cent of the N126,575,071.75 funds.

When asked why his company was awarded a multi-million naira contract a week after its registration, he said he could not answer the question but stressed that he has no relationship with the government or the state Ministry of Health.

How did a week-old company get a contract award?

The contractor gave out the contact of the Director of Dotline-Architect Consultancy Nigeria Limited, Kabir Yabo as his engineer. Kabir Yabo, however, said he is not an engineer with Kakkahu but a consultant employed by the state government to monitor and supervise the construction of the project.

On why a week-old company got awarded the contract,  he said that will best be answered by the Ministry of Health while stating that his job description is to come up with a bill of quantity to complete the abandoned project, supervise and issue a certificate of completion to the contractors.

In an attempt to defend the state Ministry of Health, he said, “a company can be established today and start work today without the need to pay tax revenue to Inland service for three years.”

This is, however, against the pre-qualification requirements stated by the Sokoto State Government. Section 58(5-9) of the Public Procurement Act spells out penalties for the BPP or anyone who violates the Act to be liable to a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years without the option of fine and summary dismissal from the government.

Section 58(7) states that any legal person shall be convicted pursuant to section 58 (4) of the PPA, every director of the company as listed on its records at the CAC shall be guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not less than 3 calendar years but not exceeding five calendar years without an option of fine.

When this reporter asked the Commissioner of Health about Kakkahu, he said the question should be directed to the BPP for their failure to screen contractors forwarded to the ministry to award contracts.

The acknowledgement FOI letter written to the BPP office
The acknowledgement FOI letter written to the BPP office
The acknowledgement FOI letter written to the BPP office
The acknowledgement FOI letter written to the BPP office

On November 2, an FOI was sent to the BPP office. A week later, when the reporter went to get a response, the BPP acting Director General, Haliru, said the letter should have been addressed to the Director General, not Director, as erroneously written.

On November 10, another letter with a request for an interview was written to the Director General of BPP.

A week later, when the reporter visited the office, the acting DG of BPP said he will revert, which he is yet to do.

Part 3: Achida LGA

Abandoned healthcare facility left to waste in Achida

Residents of Achida LGA, have no choice but to travel to Sokoto Specialist Hospital or Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH) for medical attention. This is about one hour and 30 minutes away. The community, however, has a primary health centre. Investigation shows that the ambulance was not working, which makes it difficult to transport emergency cases.

The abandoned General Hospital in Achida, Wurno local government
The abandoned General Hospital in Achida, Wurno local government

On August 24, 2021, the Sokoto State Government awarded a contract worth over N263 million (N263,445,220.60) to Amiz Construction Nig. Ltd for the upgrading of Primary Healthcare Achida to a General Hospital.

The investigation, however, showed that the project has been abandoned by the contractor for several months.

Amiz Construction Nig was not found at No 112 Ahmadu Bello Way, Sokoto, the address listed on CAC. Shop owners in the area said they were not aware of the company.

One of the company’s director, Usman Maigona, was called, but he threatened to report the reporter to the Department of State Service (DSS).

The district head of Achida, Umar Abubakar, said the contractor had notified him of the intention to upgrade the PHC in Achida to a General Hospital adding that land for the project has been provided.

He added that the project was, however, abandoned a few months after its commencement and noted that the contractor has not informed him of why the project was abandoned.

The state of Achida's primary healthcare
The state of Achida’s primary healthcare

Why we abandoned project – Amiz construction

Another Director of Amiz Construction, Aminu Maigona, said the project was abandoned because the state government failed to release additional funds apart from 30 per cent  mobilisation fees.

He explained that he has written to the state Ministry of Health since January and that he was expecting funds from the ministry of finance to complete the project.

The first director reached Usman, when he eventually spoke, also stated that the contract was abandoned as they only received 30 per cent and the request for additional funds is yet to be granted.

When asked about the processes he went through to get the contract, he said the ministry called him and gave him a contract.

He, however, stated that his company had completed all necessary processes with the CAC and had the necessary tax clearance, stressing that anyone who was unsatisfied should report him to the DSS.

A check through the CAC portal shows that the company is not active and awarding a contract to this inactive company contravenes section 16 (8) (d) of the Public Procurement Act 2007.

The Act states that: “A bidder may have its bid or tender excluded if the bidder is in arrears regarding payment of due taxes, charges, pensions or social insurance contributions unless such bidders have obtained a lawful permit in respect to allowance, the difference of such outstanding payments or payment thereof in instalments.”

It could, however, not be ascertained if the inactive status of the company was a result of CAC not updating its portal.

PART 4 : Sokoto State Specialist Hospital

On  September 9 2022,  a social advocate in Sokoto state, Mansur Isah Buhari, posted on his Facebook page that all dialysis patients buy diesel worth N17,800 and narrated how a friend, related to the Sokoto State Governor died on their way to a private hospital after waiting for 10 hours for a generator repair.

He said this had happened a year ago but said the hospital had failed to fix it.

On March 23, 2021, the Sokoto State Government awarded a contract worth N43,754,872.00 to RoyalKim Nigeria Ltd, for the supply of medical equipment and furniture to Sokoto State Specialist Hospital.

A staff in the hospital disclosed that the theatre and medical laboratory have not been equipped with medical equipment.

Sokoto State Specialist Hospital Theatre
Sokoto State Specialist Hospital Theatre

However, while speaking with The ICIR, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the Sokoto State Specialist Hospital, Nuhu Maishanu, said two contractors have supplied the medical equipment and noted that the ministry supplied dialysis and a digital x-ray machine which he claimed cost N44 million.

The acknowledgement letter of an FOI written to the Sokoto State Specialist Hospital
The acknowledgement letter of an FOI written to the Sokoto State Specialist Hospital
The acknowledgement letter of an FOI written to the Sokoto State Specialist Hospital
The acknowledgement letter of an FOI written to the Sokoto State Specialist Hospital

He asked for an FOI to the hospital, but a week after the letter was submitted, it was not attended to because the CMD “was not on seat”.

Several messages and calls were sent to the CMD to remind him of the letter, but he is yet to revert.

The contact number for RoyalKim retrieved from the Open Contracting Data Standard for Sokoto State (OCDS) portal while responding to the allegation said the government cannot pay a contract without a certificate of completion from the board of survey.

When asked for further explanation on the supply of medical equipment to the Specialist Hospital, she rained curses on this reporter and dared him to publish anything he wanted.

However, when pressed further about whether she is Adesanya Kemisola, the Director of the RoyalKim company, she replied in the negative, saying Adesanya Kemisola was her boss even though a check through the trucaller app showed her number to be that of the director – Adesanya Kemisola.

An FOI acknowledgement letters written to the Sokoto State Ministry of Health
An FOI acknowledgement letters written to the Sokoto State Ministry of Health

Earlier, the state’s Commissioner for Health had assured that he would direct the Director of Planning of the ministry to release the relevant documents requested by the reporters.






     

     

    However, when contacted, the Director of Planning said he hasn’t received any directives from the commissioner.

    A text message and WhatsApp message sent to the Commissioner for Health about the response of the Director of Planning were ignored.

    This failure to provide information is contrary to the stand of the Sokoto State Government that anyone who wished to investigate the finances of the state was free to request the report of the Sokoto State Bureau of Public Procurement and Private Partnership on all public expenditures in the state.

    *This report is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, The ICIR.

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