© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
INVESTIGATION: Failed constituency projects litter Ekiti communities
Many rural communities in Ekiti State are at the risk of an outbreak of diarrhoea and other diseases. This is due to an acute shortage of potable water in spite of the multi-million naira constituency borehole projects purportedly facilitated by federal lawmakers representing the state. Almost on an annual basis, funds are allocated for the constituency projects through the lawmakers across the 36 states. INNOCENT DURU, who visited a number of communities to monitor how the 2016 projects benefit the people, reports that none of the boreholes on which millions of naira was expended is functional. This budget failure raises questions about the continuous allocation of fund for constituency through the National Assembly.
By Innocent Duru
ABIOLA, a middle-aged woman, missed her steps and skidded backwards as she tried to ascend the slope that leads from the stream where she had gone to fetch water. In the process, she spilt the water she had spent several hours scooping from the murky stream at Ifisin, a town in Ido Osi Local Government Area, Ekiti State.
For a while, she sat confused, apparently wondering how long it would take her to scoop the volume of water she had just spilt.
“This would not happen to me if the borehole beside our house were working,” she said in an emotion-laden voice as she picked her bucket and headed back to the stream.
People of Ifishin suffer water shortage on daily basis despite huge amount committed to the water project in the community and the neighbouring towns.
The stream water is not only unclean, but the path to the stream, is also littered with refuse and human waste, and residents said that all the rubbish is washed into the stream by floods in the rainy season. Yet, it remains a major source of water supply for the residents.
A 2016 constituency project which included borehole, facilitated by the federal lawmaker representing the area in the House of Representatives, Hon. Thaddeus Aina, ought to provide water for the people, but the pumping machine has stopped to function. According to the residents, the machine worked for only three months after which it packed up.
Another borehole constructed for the community by a former senator in 2014 was also said to have stopped working shortly after it was constructed, leaving the residents at the mercy of privileged neighbours for their water needs.
The Ifisin borehole and 21 others had been facilitated by Hon. Aina and constructed by Alliance Boots Limited at the cost of N50 million with the Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority as the client. Other towns that benefited from the project include Usi, Ayetoro and Igogo. Ifaki and Ido originally listed as one of the beneficiaries were eventually excluded.
Expressing his disappointment with the project, a member of Ifisin community, Fatomilola Daniel, said: “When the borehole sunk in 2016 got spoilt three months after it was sunk, we the community members repaired it, but it only lasted another two months after the effort and has not worked since then. We were glad when the project was brought here but it has since stopped working.”
The Public Relations Officer of the community’s progressive union, Olaoluwa Arolasuyi, bemoaned the pains and danger the people experience searching for water, saying: “Ifisin is having a serious challenge with water supply. In fact, the challenge is always worse in the dry season and it has already started.
“The borehole sunk in the community in 2016 by Hon. Thaddeus Aina is not working. The one that was done in 2014 by Senator Olubunmi is also not working. The only borehole that is working here is the one done by the former accountant general of the state, David Ibikunle, through the MDG office.
“Most often, our people depend on stream water. We have four streams but they don’t produce enough water during the dry season. Besides, they are very far from where our people live. The streams are about two to three kilometres away from the town, and that is the distance our people go to get water.
“Many people in the community fall sick without knowing the cause of their problems. We really need urgent assistance to save our people from water-borne diseases.”
Corroborating Arolasuyi’s view, the president of the students’ union in the community, Sola Ojo, said members of the community had been forced to adapt to a horrible condition because there is no alternative “and it is affecting their lives.” He said: “The streams are very dirty and unfit for domestic use, but people still drink them. The roads leading to the streams, as you saw, are always littered with refuse. People defecate at the streamside and when it rains, a flood washes all the human waste into the stream, and that is what our people consume.
“The condition is worse in the dry season as they don’t have access to even the dirty water they get during the rainy season. We do have cases of diarrhoea, and when a resident dies, nobody cares to know the cause. They just take it as a normal part of life.”
When our correspondent visited the health centre in the community, a nurse, who craved anonymity on the grounds of being a civil servant, said diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases are usually rampant in the community during the dry season “because people have no access to good water. The streams and wells dry up and the boreholes that should have helped are not functional.
“I don’t have statistics for the cases that were recorded previously, but we have already drawn a chart for that purpose this year,” she added.
The water situation in Ido town was also of great concern as many of the residents suffer to get water. More pathetic is the case of old women who carry heavy containers to search for water because they have nobody to fetch it for them.
The borehole in the area was said to have stopped working shortly after it was constructed. A food vendor at Oke Agbe Street where the project was sited recalled the joy that pervaded the community when the borehole was sunk.
“We were excited, thinking that an end had come to the challenge of water scarcity that plagued us. But to our surprise, it only worked for two months, after which we returned to the era of suffering to get water. We contributed money to fix the borehole but it still did not work.
“The truth is that the project was not properly done by the contractor. Even in the short period the borehole worked, you had to apply all your strength to press the handle before you could get water. While you do this, someone who is one kilometre away would hear the noise.”
To get water now, she said, “we travel long distances, and that at times requires crossing the busy road to fetch well water from private homes. If they don’t open their gates, we would be stuck. “As a food vendor, it affects my business. But the situation is worse for old women who do not have children to help them fetch water.
“At times, we go out as early as 3 am to search for water, because if you don’t go out that early, you would have no water to use. And going that early does not mean we will get water.
“The water we get at times is like something scooped from the gutter. We have to use alum to purify it. Many of us fall sick as a result.”
The story is the same at Idofin Street, where a 70-year-old woman, Grace Aguntasolo, said their borehole stopped working two months after it was sunk.
“We have been going through hell to get water. At my age, I and other old women who do not have children with us have to carry our buckets to fetch water from faraway places.
“Whenever school is in session, the authorities of the public school at Omodewa allow us to fetch water from their school. But when they go on holiday, we have to comb everywhere for water. “The irony of the whole matter is that the borehole in the school was sunk earlier than the one that packed up within two months. Only the people that made it can explain why.”
The President of Oja Odo community, Mr. Ojo Samuel, said apart from the failed 2016 constituency projects, the member of the National Assembly sank a borehole in the community on December 23, 2017, when the governorship election was close, but the borehole only worked for three months before it packed up.
“The project is not original at all. We are really suffering to get water. At times, we don’t get water to cook, not to talk of bathe, wash plates or flush the toilet. You know that can cause an epidemic,” Samuel said.
At the entrance of Palace Way, Usi, stands a signpost with bold information on the construction of the 22 boreholes in Ekiti State. Beside it is a hand-pump borehole that has stopped functioning and has become a plaything for children.
A resident, Oloro Peter, said the borehole worked for about two months after which it got spoilt. He said: “The community contributed money and repaired it, but shortly after that, it got spoilt again. It has been like this since then. We get water from other boreholes done by private individuals or the community.
While the residents in this area are lucky to have access to other boreholes, other streets like Iworo and Irede don’t have such benefits.
A resident of Iworo, who gave her name simply as Esther, said: “When acute water scarcity comes, we would almost beg people to give us urine to use for domestic needs. That is how bad the situation is.”
At Ayetoro, another town that benefitted from the 22 borehole projects, only one non-functional hand-pump borehole on Ogbononiyo Street constructed in 2016 was sighted. According to the residents, the borehole packed up less than six months after it was constructed.
Another resident, Bunmi, said: “The borehole project was poorly done. If this is what we have to depend on, we would have died of water scarcity by now. We do enjoy pipe-borne and well water dug owned by privileged residents, but the problem with that is that people develop a stomach ache when they drink it.
“Aside from the well, we also have clean stream water which we drink. But the streams are very far. If this borehole were working, many people around this area would not need to suffer themselves going to the stream.”
Two of the projects were sighted at Igogo in Moba Local Government Area, but none of them was functional. The boreholes located at Oja (market) area and Idoka Street, were said to have worked for less than six months before they got spoilt.
Residents of the area were seen fetching pipe borne water, which they said is supplied about two times in a month. Another resident named Janet said: “We are dying of acute water scarcity. It would have been better for them to do one borehole that is functional than the two that were shoddily done. The streams are the alternatives we have when tap water is not supplied. But the streams are very far away. “Well water is another source of water supply for our people, but they are privately owned and their owners seldom open them for the public to fetch water. If tap water is not supplied, especially now that the streams are drying up, we would be very close to having epidemics, because it is any kind of water we find that we would use or drink.” No borehole project was sighted In Ifaki and Osi despite the fact that they were included on the list of communities that are supposed to benefit from the project.
The residents of Osi, in particular, are in danger of contracting serious ailments as one of the streams they depend on for water supply reeks of contamination. A resident, who gave her name as Bunmi, rued the challenge of water scarcity in the town, saying: “Most residents use stream water and a good number of them have spirogyra and other horrible things in them. “As you can see, this particular one lacks any quality of good water. It is greenish, thick like mud and full of bacteria. Many residents will tell you they don’t drink the water, but I must unequivocally tell you that they drink and cook with it when acute water scarcity hits the community. “Apart from the health implications, the distance our people go to get stream water is another issue that causes health challenges for them.” Another resident, Oluwadare Fisayo, said: “We don’t have any borehole sunk by any lawmaker either at the federal or state level. The boreholes we have were sunk by a private individual who runs Mercy International Mission. He gave us about six boreholes.
“The other one was sunk by a former governor, Segun Oni. His administration gave us two boreholes but only one is working. We contribute money to buy fuel to pump water and to repair it. We pump water every three days and contribute N200 each.”
No single constituency borehole was found in Ifaki, one of the dominant towns in the area, even though it is included among the towns where boreholes would be dug. The first day our correspondent visited the area, residents were seen fetching water from boreholes said to have been constructed by Dr. Modupe Alade, the Secretary to the State Government during ex-Governor Ayo Fayose’s regime.
The former SSG was said to have constructed four of such functional boreholes across the town.
A palace worker, who identified himself simply as Adebanjo, said: “No constituency project was executed. It is the ones done by the former SSG that our people are enjoying. Even the borehole in the palace was done by the community.
“Aside from the boreholes, our people also use stream water. The stream water is good, but we need more boreholes to further meet the needs of our people, especially now that we are in dry season.
Unproductive 51 boreholes in Ekiti Central Senatorial District
At the market area in Iworoko is a big metal signboard which reads: “Construction of 51 numbers of productive boreholes ‘equip’ (sic) with hand pump at Ekiti Central Senatorial District.”
Ironically, the borehole in the community included in the project and others in adjoining towns like Are and Esure were not working. The client, like the projects in Ido Osi Local Government Area, is also the Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority with Mid-South Development Investment Limited as the contractor. The projects were facilitated by Senator Fatimat Raji Rasaki.
The borehole at Iworoko, residents said, worked for just two months and had remained in that state since then. “The borehole is a huge waste of scarce resources. We go long distances to fetch water because a borehole that is supposed to serve that purpose is not working but merely occupying space. There is nothing productive about the projects, “a furious resident, Abayomi, said.
In Are, another town in the area, a number of the unproductive 51 borehole projects littered the roads. The borehole at Aba Are was said to have worked for two months, while the one at Ayegunle Are only worked for three months. While it worked, angry residents said, all they could get from the borehole was sand instead of water.
Of all the projects in the area, the one at Denorun Are appeared to be the worst, as it never worked for a whole day since it was commissioned. The story was not different at Esure where the borehole projects have become mere historical artefacts.
“We are suffering water scarcity. The stream from which we fetch water is about two miles away. The second one is about three miles. The woman that is washing clothes behind me had started fetching the water she is using about three days ago, a resident in Surulere part of the town, David Ajayi, said.
“The borehole project was not properly done. We did not use it for up to 30 days. It was only bringing out mud. Now that we are in the dry season, water will not flow in the streams, and that is dangerous. The women beat one another blue and black to fetch water at one of the streams which do not dry completely.”
Pa Ajayi’s remark was corroborated by another resident, Ogundiran Oluwafunmike. “I started fetching the water I am using to wash now since three days ago. I feel body serious pain after fetching water from the stream.”
At Araromi Obo, a town after Afao, the hometown of ex-governor Ayo Fayose, a borehole project done this year and facilitated by Senator Fatima Raji Rasaki has also gone bad.
“The borehole stopped working in August, just a few months after it was constructed. We have personally repaired it three times and it is still not functional. It all boils down to the quality of the materials used. If a good job had been done, it would not have spoilt so soon,” a resident said.
At Ise in Ekiti South Senatorial District, a white signboard with green imprints boldly announces two solar-powered borehole projects in the area. But in spite of the scorching sun that blazes through the community, the boreholes that ought to guarantee water supply was found to be dry and rusting away.
The projects at Oke-Odo Are and Oraye Ise part of the town were handled by Candid Oil Services and facilitated by Senator Abiodun Olujimi. Again, Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority awarded the contract. A total of N155 million was allocated for the construction of solar-powered boreholes spread across rural communities in the senatorial district that year (2016) without any clear description of the location.
“The borehole is not working. We trek up to four kilometres from here to get water. It would have made sense if they had given us a functional well than wasting so much money providing boreholes that are not working,” a resident, Yemisi, said.
Aside from the 2016 borehole projects, similar boreholes dug last year have also stopped producing water. One of them at Ofigba Street, Ise, according to a trader in the community, worked for only five months. “When they came to paste campaign posters, I told them about the borehole and they promised to come and do something about it, but they have not come since then. If they did it well, it would not have spoilt so soon,” the trader said.
- This investigation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR.