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 [INVESTIGATION] After spending N70m, contractor ‘shabbily executed’ Sokoto roads

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By ABDULRASHEED Hammad

To address recurrent accidents on Gagi to Gidan Dilo and Fakon Idi roads, in Sokoto State, the Federal Government, in the 2020 Federal Government Consolidated Project awarded the sum of N70 million to Techno International Company Limited for the construction of the two roads. Findings reveal that the contractor not only abandoned the project but executed it “shabbily.” This investigation also uncovered how the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing awarded the contract to a company whose status is inactive on the Corporate Affairs Commission platform.


 Many accidents have occurred on the Fakon Idi community road, and a recent one happened in the presence of this reporter.

Early morning in August, when this reporter visited the Fakon Idi community, a newly constructed road and drainage had been flooded due to a heavy downpour.

Muhammad Sanni, a 25-year-old tricyclist, was trying to avoid a deep pothole on the constructed road when he found himself and his passenger inside a wide ditch. The shock absorber of his tricycle broke. Sanni lamented about the unexpected expenses he would have to incur to repair the vehicle and the loss of passenger’s fares due to the accident.

“You can see that I just had an accident due to this bad road. My Keke Napep [tricycle] has broken down, and my shock absorber is damaged,” Sanni told to the reporter as he agonised over his double loss.

Muhammad Sanni’s tricycle broke down on Fakon Idi road

The accident that led to the breakdown of Sanni’s tricycle was avoidable. The Fakon Idi, Gagi and Gidan Dilo communities had benefited from a N70 million allocation for the construction of a one km township road at Fakon Idi in Sokoto north and another one km township road from Gagi to Gidan Dilo in Sokoto south captured in the 2020 federal government consolidated project.

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The projects, facilitated by the lawmaker representing Sokoto South and Sokoto North federal constituency, Abubakar Abdullahi Ahmad is under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing and awarded to Techno International Company Limited.

 

Newly constructed drainage in Fakon Idi community.

A document obtained by this reporter from the Open Treasury portal shows that N58,366,520.04 had been disbursed as the final payment for the construction and rehabilitation of the two roads in Sokoto’s north and south LGAs of the state.

The N70 million, which was the initial budget for the completion of the two road projects, have been disbursed, with the balance of N58 million released on June 30 2021 as final payment for the construction of the roads.

An engineer with the Ministry of Works and Housing,  Abdulsalam Abass, who is familiar with the project said that the full payment of N70m has been disbursed to the contractor for the execution of the two projects, as shown in the award letter.

However, during a visit to the project site in August, the township road from Gagi to Gidan Dilo in Sokoto south had been abandoned. The contractor had graded the road, and paved it with laterite but failed to layer it with asphalt. Residents, unhappy with the development, said before the new project, the contractor had met a better and graded laterite road.

Fahad Sani, a 42-year-old pharmacist in Gidan Dilo community said the dust from the road covers his shop and drugs, which makes him paint the shop quarterly.

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His frustration was re-echoed by Muhammad Mukhtar, a 35-year-old resident of Gagi community who narrated how a motorcyclist recently knocked down his brother in the process of dodging potholes.

On his part, 50-years-old Iliyasu Mai Nama, who sells suya [spiced meat] in the area, said,  “The fact that the government said the project had been executed is not true because we are still facing a lot of challenges due to the bad state of the road, especially during the rainy season. As a meat seller, if it rains, I can’t prepare suya due to flooding. Also, the coloured sand from the road settles on my meat and drives away my customers.”

Iliyasu Mai-Nama, a resident of Gagi community says he loses customers due to the condition of the road.

Corroborating their story, the community leader of Gagi and Gidan Dilo, Bello Aliyu said he was not consulted before work began on the road and therefore has never engaged with the contractor. Aliyu said the road had been abandoned since December 2021.  “They didn’t do anything wallahi, our road was better than this new one. The contractor did rubbish and went away, he didn’t do anything. Can’t you see how bad the road is? Nobody came to me when they started the work, they just came and started cleaning the road,” he said.

The community leader stressed the need to recall the contractor to the site. “What we want now is they (contractor) should come back and gravel the road as it was before. Even if we can’t have it tarred, there was a better road here, constructed during the administration of Attahiru Bafarawa, the former Governor of Sokoto State.”

Newly Constructed road in Gagi to Gidan Dilo

For the township road at Fakon Idi in Sokoto north, residents who spoke with this reporter described the road as “poorly executed” and the cause of recurrent accidents.

Aliyu Hassan, a middle-aged motorist and resident of Fakon Idi asserted that an accident occurred a week before, when a bike man and his passenger lost control and fell while avoiding potholes. “Although the previous road also had potholes, we prefer that road to this project,” he said.

The community leader of Fakon Idi, Aminu Muhammad said the road had been abandoned by the contractor and said he was never consulted before the commencement of the project. “My people are worried about the bad state of the road, they came here just now to complain about the road,” he said.

The state of the new road at Fakon Idi community recently constructed by Techno International Company Ltd.
The road in Gagi-Gidan Dilo
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How N58m was released to contractor through Microfinance bank

A document retrieved from Open Treasury portal shows that N58 million was disbursed to Regent Microfinance Bank as final payment for the construction of Gagi to Gidan Dilo and Fakon Idi roads in Sokoto south and Sokoto north LGA’s respectively.

The Federal Government had released payment to Regent Microfinance Bank, even though what appeared on the project signpost shows Techno International Company as the contractor. Investigations online show that Regent Microfinance Bank Limited is a bank and not a construction company.

However, explaining the situation, Architect Suara Akinola, the Deputy Director, Special Projects Unit, a unit under the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, said some contractors have no funds to execute projects and therefore approach Microfinance banks to borrow money with the condition that the ministry will indemnify the bank.

Techno International Company Limited, registered with the CAC on March 19, 2006, is an inactive company, and the nature of its business is unspecified as confirmed by Nigeria24. The award of road construction 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 installments.”

 

State of the newly constructed drainage on Fakon Idi road

The CAC describes an inactive company as one that has not been carrying out any business or has not made any significant accounting transaction in the last two fiscal years. Also, an inactive company has not paid its annual dues in the last two fiscal years.

Several calls put across to the lawmaker representing Sokoto north and south federal constituency Ahmad, who nominated the projects, were ignored. A text message sent to him and questions later sent to his WhatsApp number were also ignored even after it showed that he had viewed them. Two emails also sent to the lawmaker using iTrackMail showed that he had viewed the emails but failed to reply to them.

Supervising ministry indicts contractor

The Director, Special Projects Unit (SPU), Aisha Ndayako Muhammad, and Deputy Director,  Suara Akinola directed this reporter to the office of the controller in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing in Sokoto State.

Nafiu Bala, a quantity surveyor with the ministry noted that the contractor made a mistake by not focusing on one of the two road projects instead of doing what he described as “half-baked work on the two projects.”

He said, “If the contractor had come earlier to the ministry about the paucity of funds, he would have been advised to concentrate on one road project instead.”

He stated that the N70 million budgeted could not have covered the two road projects. When asked why the ministry awarded the contract to an inactive company, he said he could not answer the question because he didn’t know much about it. Despite showing him snapshots of the road projects on the Fakon Idi community, which residents described as “poorly executed,” he said he could not say the project was poorly executed unless he sees the prescription in the bill of quantity which he said would determine if the road was poorly executed or not.

However, the project coordinator at the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, an engineer, Ishola Adekola, indicted the contractor, saying despite the full release of funds for an asphaltic road in Gidan Dilo, the contractor had done a “shabby work by doing partly asphaltic and partly surface dressing.”

He said that surface dressing is a temporary road that is different from the asphaltic road contained in the bill of quantity.

“We have written to the contractor to come and put the portion that fails into order,” he said, adding that 562 meters was expected to be covered on the two roads based on the bill of quantity but said the contractor was allowed to do half of the 562 meters on one road and cover the remaining half on the second road.

Adekola said when the ministry informed him of allegations of poor execution of the project at Fakon Idi road after an official mail with accompanying pictures was sent by this reporter, he had immediately dispatched an engineer to visit the site.

He stressed that if the ministry confirms that the road on Fakon Idi was poorly executed, the ministry will call the attention of the contractor to amend it.

When asked why the ministry awarded the road projects to an inactive company on the CAC portal, he said: “I can’t say it is active on CAC or not. My own is that if the contract is awarded, the ministry will forward the award letter to me to prepare the scope of work. I am still trying to get the phone number of the engineer of the company.”

He, however, added that out of N70 million released to the contractor, a 7.5 per cent VAT, had been deducted with tax and stamp duty amounting to 13.5 per cent.

He said the profit margin for the contractor will also be removed while the remaining fund is what is expected to execute the project. He disclosed that the ministry has retained funds for the amendment of projects with defects.

The ICIR gathered that the ministry had dispatched an engineer Abdulsalam Abass to inspect the projects.

Abass and the controller, Nafiu Bala were said to have visited the locations of the roads on  August 24.

Abass had sent pictures of their assessment to the ICIR and admitted that the Fakon Idi road was “poorly executed” based on their findings.

He stressed that the contractor will be sent back to site for amendment.

He also confirmed that the contractor did a “half-baked work” at Gagi to Gidan Dilo road by constructing a partly asphalt and partly surface dressing road which he said was contrary to what was stated in the bill of quantity. He described a surface dressing as a temporary measure of road finishing while saying asphalt is a permanent road finishing.

 

The signpost of the road projects. 

Contractor Reacts

The address of Techno International Company, which appeared on the CAC platform, is Block 12, Flat 15, Kano Street, Garki, Abuja, FCT and the names of the four directors of the company appeared as Yusuf Tijani, Yusuf Akeem, Yusuf Umoru, and Yusuf Muhammed as retrieved from the Nigeria24 website.

While speaking with one of the engineers of Techno International Company, before reaching out to the Ministry of Works and Housing, he declined to comment on the project, insisting on a physical meeting with this reporter in Abuja.

The engineer, Aminu Galadima, said, “I am not the one that awarded and commissioned the project. You can go to the ministry of works. I am sorry, I can’t talk,” he said and hung up the call.

The details of the projects sent to him through WhatsApp were also ignored.

However, our correspondent also reached out to Kingsly Ibuzo, one of the supervising engineers with Techno International Company Limited, who said it was incorrect to describe the road project at Gagi to Gidan Dilo as well as that of Fakon Idi as abandoned or poorly executed and referred this reporter to the ministry.

When he was challenged on the status of his company on the CAC portal, he asked this reporter to get his findings correct and warned this journalist never to call him again.

“Do you know how much we pay for taxes every year? Go and verify it. Go to Federal Inland Revenue Service or CAC, whatever. Tell them to update their portal. I know how much I have paid and the document they give. You are talking of a portal, who requested a portal when you were looking for a job contract? They request CAC and taxes. If they don’t update their portal, how is it my business? How is this your business?” he said angrily before he hung up the call.

The signpost of the road projects.

Efforts made by this reporter to reach Aminu Galadima and Kingsly Ibuzo after the Federal Ministry of Works confirmed that their company, Techno International Company Limited had poorly executed the contract were ignored.

They neither answered calls nor responded to text messages.

Galadima had viewed the message sent to him on WhatsApp but did not reply. A text message and WhatsApp message sent to  Ibuzo were both ignored.

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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