By Idris Kamal IBRAHIM
IN 2019, Senator Nazif Gamawa representing Bauchi North at the upper legislative chamber nominated several projects for his constituency. Among them are two skills acquisition centres in Giade and Gamawa LGAs.
Findings by WikkiTimes revealed that millions were released for the construction of the acquisition centres in the two LGAs. Specifically, 41 million naira was released to actualise the two centres in the LGAs on 31st December 2019.
The sum of N20, 849,516.12 was released for the Gamawa project, while N20,565, 640.10 was paid out for the Giade centre. The companies paid to execute the Gamawa and Giade projects are G-Men Supplies Services Limited and Format-One Limited.
But the contracts were not executed according to specifications.
In Gamawa, which is the hometown of the senator that nominated the projects, only an uncompleted bungalow was erected, which is now in a dilapidated state.
The sum of N20,849,516.12 was released for the Gamawa bungalow that was never completed and put into use.
“No one has ever used the building because it was not fully completed and not housed with the right infrastructure to enable us properly utilise it for what it’s meant to serve”, said Abdullahi Gamawa, a disappointed constituent.
While an uncompleted building stands as the skills centre in Gamawa, nothing was done in Giade—a town about 133km away from Senator Nazif’s hometown. WikkiTimes’ visit to Giade revealed that no single plot of land was allocated for the erection of the skill acquisition centre.
Failed Projects, Stolen Funds
WikkiTimes toured Gamawa local government, where a skill acquisition centre ought to have been constructed by G-Mens Supplies and Services Limited and the Federal Ministry Employment, Labour and Productivity, only to discover a bungalow that was left abandoned.
When WikkiTimes visited the project site, located along Gwalolo road in Gamawa, bushy growths circumambulate the structure making access to the building painstakingly arduous. The growths around the bungalow are suggestive that it has not been put up to use.
The locals appeared to have turned the structure into an onion store. The oozing smell of onion greets a person as soon as he approaches the bungalow and a forest of dried onion shells assail the eyes on peeping into the offices and halls.
The door leading into the bungalow was broken while some of the sliding windows installed on the building had been stolen. Other rooms and halls were without a ceiling.
WikkiTimes’ visit to Giade local government reveals that no single block was laid under the name of a skills acquisition centre. The centre was to have been built by Format-One Limited.
Alhaji Muhammad Umar, Mai Anguwan Sarkin Giade, said since the return to democracy, no elected representative ever built a centre for youths to empower themselves with life-supporting skills.
“We only have a women development centre where entrepreneurial skills are taught exclusively for women. There was a time when a non-governmental organisation came and trained our youths and women in basic skills in making soap, shoes and bags,” he said.
Fraudulent Award of Contracts
As has been the norm with any constituency nominated project, a legislator is expected to identify the location and the type of project to be carried out in his or her constituency. However, the National Assembly is expected to reflect such needs in the budget of relevant ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs who would be the custodians of nominated projects. When eventually captured in the budget, the projects are expected to be advertised for interested bidders who ought to have the commensurate qualifications to carry out the projects in line with the Public Procurement Act.
WikkiTimes’ findings showed that the supervising ministry– Ministry of Labour– is not even aware of the Bauchi constituency project, according to E.Y. Taddy, Bauchi State Controller of the ministry.
But data from Open treasury Portal, an accessible open contracting site of the Federal government, shows that on 31st December 2019, Format-One Limited was paid N20,565,640.10 for Giade skills acquisition centre, while G-Men Supplies and Services Limited was credited with N20,849,516.12 for the Gamawa skills acquisition.
Of the two projects for which money was released, there are no available public records that suggest due process was followed. WikkiTimes findings show that both the Federal Ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity and that of Power, who were the implementing agencies for the projects, were not consulted. The projects were not advertised, and no open bidding process was followed in awarding Format-One Limited and G-Men Supplies and Services Limited.
Non-Existent Contractors for Gamawa and Giade Centres
Usman Umaru, a public affairs commentator in Giade, explained to WikkiTimes that when a lawmaker wants to steal money through constituency projects, “they either channel it through mysterious and unqualified contractors who in most cases are their surrogates or connive with people in the ministries to facilitate corruption in a win-win situation for all parties.”
An investigation by this website showed that this was the case with the contract for constructing the skills acquisition centres in Gamawa and Giade.
WikkiTimes checked on the credentials of the two companies, G-men Supplies and Services Limited and Format-One Limited, registered in 2009 and 2010, respectively, revealed that the two companies lack commensurate credentials to be awarded the contracts.
The two companies were registered as ‘private unlimited’ companies but had no publicly available credentials to earn the contracts for constructing the skills acquisition centres.
Their status at the CAC portal shows “inactive”, indicating that the companies’ records with the commission are not updated, and mandatory levies are not paid.
WikkTimes’ checks revealed that the two firms don’t have a website, phone contact or email address, which makes tracking difficult. They, however, maintained a physical address that they use while making registration with the CAC.
Format- One Limited claimed to be at House 7, 3rd Avenue, Gwarinpa Housing Estate, Abuja, while G-Men Supplies and Services gave L4, F6 Close Mbora Estate, Abuja.
But checks at the two addresses showed they are phoney addresses. At House 7, 3rd Avenue, Gwarimpa, which is supposed to be the office of Format-One Limited, the address is a residential building. The owner told WikkiTimes that he had acquired the house more than ten years ago.
“I don’t know any company by that name and none of the people you mentioned as the directors,’ he told the reporter. Those listed as directors of the company are Ezeoba Ifeanyi Innocent and Ochojila Joseph Owoicho.
The G-Men Supplies and Services office is supposed to be at L4, F6 Close Mbora Estate, Abuja, but nothing associated with the company was seen there. It is also a residential building that the owner has occupied for more than six years.
Those listed as directors of the company—Umeugo Francis, Onyeka Umeugo, Livvina Umeugo and Austin Onyejekwe—are also unknown to the house’s occupants.
The public procurement act, 2007 stipulates that only companies with proven credentials, expertise and open access are qualified to bid for government contracts. Awarding the Bauchi North Constituency skills acquisition to the two companies is a flagrant disregard to the public procurement act punishable by law.
Senator Suleiman Ignores Interview Requests, Calls, SMS On Abandoned Projects
WikkiTimes submitted a request to Senator Sulaiman Nazif Gamawa demanding explanations on the skills acquisition centres in Giade and Gamawa. WikkiTimes specifically requested to know why the Giade project did not take off, and that of Gamawa abandoned despite payments to the fake contractors.
One Ibrahim, the Caretaker of Senator Gamawa’s Bauchi residence, acknowledged the letter, dated 20th December 2021, on behalf of the lawmaker, promising to deliver the letter to the lawmaker.
However, Senator Gamawa did not respond to the request submitted to him while ignoring phone calls to his number. He also declined to reply to the Short Message Service sent to him.
Senator Nazif Abandoned the projects after losing reelection–aide
Mohammed Kaku Gwadabe, Gamawa Local Government Coordinator for the senator, told WikkiTimes that the lawmaker could not complete the Gamawa skills acquisition centre, which has reached ’80 per cent completion’ because he lost reelection back to the senate in 2019.
He said, “I don’t have a clue as to the level of execution of Giade skills acquisition centre, but our own here in Gamawa has reached 80 per cent completion.
“The contractor once complained to me that they have been knocking on the doors of the federal government to get additional funds to complete the project they couldn’t because the senator is no more in the senate to follow up on the matter.
“The current Senator representing Bauchi North is not willing to do something about the projects because they were Senator Nazif’s projects,”
Supervising Ministries In Connivance
The implementing ministries for the construction of skills acquisition centres in Giade and Gamawa local governments appeared to connive in the fraudulent award of the contracts as they offered no reasonable explanation on why the projects failed.
Austin Asoluka, Press Secretary, Ministry of Power, distanced the ministry from implementing the skills acquisition centre domiciled in Giade.
He insisted that the ministry had nothing to do with projects relating to skills acquisition, while data on the Open Treasury Portal indicated the ministry is responsible for implementing the project.
“I hope you know the person ( you are calling) and the ministry where he works? Do we have any relationship with that?” the Press Secretary enquired when this reporter contacted him on the phone.
“Am not aware of such a project. I don’t have any information about that project from my own office. Write officially to the minister,” he directed.
The Controller, Federal Ministry of Employment, Labour and productivity, the ministry in charge of Gamawa skills acquisition centre bungalow, blamed non-retirement of information about the project to his desk by the officer overseeing empowerment matters.
“If nobody told me anything about it I would not know. I only heard them going there to inspect. It is from them that you will hear the information, not me,” the Controller said.
Constituents Fume As Women Groups Run Skills Acquisition Centres At Dilapidated Structure
Gamawa local government branch of Women in Da’awah operates the only skills training centre in Gamawa where 30 trainees assembled every day to acquire one form of skill or the other under a building on the verge of collapse.
When WikkiTimes visited the centre, a worn-out phantom roof that could not protect anything under it because some of the zinc had been removed by the wind was visible. Holes on the zinc allow rainfall to drop into the halls and offices of Gamawa Women in Da’awah used to train women and youths in soap making, pomade making and tailoring.
Hajiya Altine Garba, Amirat of Women in Da’awah in Gamawa, said that the centre that sources money from among members has only one old sewing machine used to train tailors at the centre.
“As you can see, grasses are everywhere inside the building and deep rats holes and other rodents, we cannot keep anything here because it is not secured.
“During the rainy season, as soon as we see clouds forming, we dismiss our students out of the fear of the unknown,” Altine explained.
Mahema, a non-governmental organisation in Giade, operates a seasonal skills acquisition centre in Giade to make up for the lack of a permanent centre as the number of unemployed youths and women in the area increases.
“Any political office seeker is capable of winning as long as he has the votes of women, but our women have a lot of responsibilities, and they need to be empowered so that they can stand on their own financially.
“But it is unfortunate again that we don’t have a skills acquisition centre here in Giade. What we have is an old centre constructed by the state government a long time ago, we are using the old centre, we don’t have any new one,” Hajiya Hadiza Abdullahi, a community women leader in Giade said.
None execution of the awarded skills acquisition centres and the desire to survive forced the Nigerian Youth Council, with over 50,000 unemployed youths on its register in Gamawa local government, to mobilise resources to send out some youths for an apprenticeship.
Comrade Maikudi Bello, Chairman Nigerian Youth Council, Gamawa local government, told WikkiTimes that NYC agreed with local artisans to train youths drawn from the 18 federal wards in Giade. He said they tax themselves a certain amount that they contribute periodically to pay for the upkeep of the youths in training and their trainers.
He said, “We taxed ourselves monthly. The amount realised at the end of each month is used for the upkeep of the apprentices and their masters. People are sent to learn tailoring, vulcanising and welding. After graduation, they are made to impart the same skills they acquired to others.
“Our representatives failed to provide us with a centre where youths and women can acquire a skill to become independent. They instead prefer to distribute motorcycles, tricycles and support jobless youth to get married when they know that the same person that they help to marry a wife cannot sustain the daily necessities of his family.”
This report was published with support from Civic Media Lab.