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INVESTIGATION: Millions down the drain as contractors abandon constituency projects in Oyo State
Last month, President Muhammadu Buhari slammed the National Assembly for having little to show for over one trillion naira budgeted for constituency projects of the members in the last 10 years. INNOCENT DURU, who visited sites of some constituency projects in Oyo State, reports that the projects have either been abandoned or not started, thereby denying the people the benefits the projects would have brought to them.
PANDEMONIUM reigned among the pupils of CAC Primary School, Oke Apon, a suburb of Ibadan North Local Government Area of Oyo State, recently when a day that had started on a sparkling, bright note suddenly became dark and paved the way for a downpour.
The innocent pupils, who were receiving lectures when the rain started, almost hurt themselves as they hopped out of their seats, running helter-skelter to avoid having their books and bodies being drenched by the rainwater.
This causes serious distractions during lessons. At times, the pupils in primary five would abandon their class and run to primary six, which is equally bad but slightly better, said a teacher in the school, who cannot be named for fear of victimisation.
“The kids always have their chairs and tables soaked by rain making it impossible for them to use their furniture for as long as it rains. Aside from that, many of them have had their books destroyed by rain.
Some of the pupils get wet and become cold. This is not good for their health”.
The teacher continued: “The woods holding the roof and the ceiling have been soaked and made very weak by the rain.
“Before you know it, they would fall and if that happens when the kids are in school, it could hurt them. In fact, the entire building is not conducive for learning.
We are constantly in fears because serious dangers are hanging in the air. We are always praying that the building should not fall when we are in school.”
Documents obtained by our reporter showed that the University of Ibadan is in charge of the federal government constituency fencing project, which costs N4million but residents think that it was initiated by a former lawmaker, Hon. Dada Awoleye.
There was no signboard in any part of the school to show that any constituency project was being executed. Constituency projects are line item projects included by legislators into the federal budget for implementation.
The projects always have the collaboration, input or influence of the legislator representing that particular constituency in the legislature.
President Muhammadu Buhari, during the National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in Public Sector, organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission(ICPC) last month, berated the National Assembly over the implementation of the project, alleging that there is little to show for over one trillion Naira budgeted for constituency projects of the National Assembly members in the last 10 years.
Checks around the school revealed that a part of the old fence on which the new one was hinged has collapsed, defeating any purpose for which the project must have been carried out.
Aside from the broken-down fence, a thorough check around the school also revealed that the people still enjoy unhindered access into the school as the part where a gate is supposed to be mounted is still left wide open.
“The school is a sort of ‘ATM card’ for some people. Our primary one and nursery two blocks had always been in good condition. But one day, some people came and removed the roof for almost a year without fixing it.
Everything in the classrooms, including records that had been kept for several years, was destroyed. When they fixed the roof and repainted the block, they went and claimed that they rebuilt the building.
That is the height of corruption and the evil they are doing to us. “The school does not have toilets. The pupils defecate inside the bush and that exposes them to serious dangers as they could be bitten by reptiles. One of our pupils fell inside a soak-away constructed for a health centre in front of the school.
He went to pick his water bottle that fell inside the soak-away but ended up falling inside it. The pupil would have died there if not for his peers who raised the alarm and attracted ‘area boys’ who rescued the victim,” another teacher said.
A primary six pupil, Oluseyi Damilare, is unhappy with the deplorable state of the school. “I feel very sad about the state of our classrooms. It would have been better if they had used the money for the fence to rebuild our classrooms.
When it rains heavily, our classrooms would be so flooded that we would have to be using our energy and time for the lesson to be cleaning the flooded classrooms.”
His classmate, Adeniyi Adijat, also criticised the fence project and the general condition of the school. “I am not happy learning in this kind of atmosphere.
We are as good as learning in the open because rain messes up our books and our bodies. We catch cold and lose concentration in class.
They should have renovated our classrooms and save us from the ugly experiences we are going through. A fence cannot stop rain from spoiling our books and messing up our bodies but a good classroom can. ”
A resident, who gave his name as Olu, flayed the fence project, describing the idea as a scam.
“How can anybody see a building that is in this horrible state and think of fencing it? The argument has always been that hoodlums always hang around the school to smoke Indian hemp and do other nefarious activities but this fence cannot stop that because it is very low.
“The hoodlums would still be able to enter the school. The annoyance of many of us is that they have not even completed the work. As it is now, hoodlums don’t even need to scale to enter the school. They saunter into it, do whatever they want and walk away. “
Contractor, UI, lawmaker reacts
The contractor handling the project, Ajayi Oluwole, in a telephone interview, told The Nation that the decision to construct a fence was not his as he is only carrying out what is in the contract.
“We are in charge of the CAC Primary School at Oke Apon fence project. We saw the advertisement for the project and bid for it. The project is for UI.
“We submitted our application to the institution. We have not abandoned any project in our own case. We are working on all of them.
“We have revisited the project. We just cleared the site last week for us to continue the work. The fence project was what was given to us and not the building.
“We still have retention fee to collect from the UI for the CAC Oke Apon project. A good part of the fund has been released. The area where people can access the school is the path of the primary health centre not being handled by us.
“There should be a gate house and a gate there. That is not part of our project. The space that should accommodate the gate house and the gate is where we left open knowing that something was still coming there. If we put block there, they will still demolish it. That is why we left the place open.”
Contacted, the spokesman of the University of Ibadan, Olatunji Oladejo, requested that the document showing the involvement of UI in the project should be sent to him via Whatsapp, saying: “I have to make inquiries because I can’t know everything. But are you sure this is not a constituency project by one honourable? Kindly verify o.”
After sending the document to him, this reporter subsequently called Oladejo to get the institution’s response. “I am yet to get those concerned,” he said.
Asked if the people concerned were not on the school premises, he replied: “What if they are in the school compound? I said give me some time.
“You forwarded the thing to me and I forwarded it to them. The people who I am trying to get are not within the school if that would be sufficient for you.
“There is no journalist that I don’t cooperate with but if you think otherwise, no wahala.”
The immediate past representative of the Ibadan North Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Dada Awoleye, in a separate interview with our correspondent, clarified his role in the project.
“The project was facilitated by me but domiciled in UI. I could have domiciled it with the Ministry of Works but because I wanted closer supervision, I decided to domicile it with an educational institution in my constituency because they also have their procurement procedures.
“If I should put it under an agency in Abuja, the job may even linger more than what we are talking now. They may tell you the engineers would have to go to Ibadan to supervise and before they finish all that, the whole thing would become nauseating.
“When you domicile a project inside an institution, it is left for that institution to carry out the procurement processes.
“They invite this and invite that and say this contractor has won at the end of the day. They have to continue to monitor to make sure the job is done.
“If the job is not well done, it has to bounce back on that agency because they also have their own projects that they do, which I call line budget from the federal government. Theirs is to ensure that the job is done and the contractor is paid,” he said.
Explaining why he opted for fencing the school instead of renovating it, the ex-lawmaker said: “You have to take priority. Constituency fund is limited.”
“That place where you have the fence being done is ward 4 of Ibadan North. I needed to work in other wards. I had to ask ward 4 what is very important to this ward. I had given them a solar borehole in the past, I had given them a primary health centre.
“There had been a number of robbery cases in the past. When robbers snatch peoples’ bags early in the morning, they pass through the school to the other side.
“When we provided the fence, I think on two occasions, they have caught thieves because they couldn’t scale the fence. There is no more thorough fare for the thieves. That shows that the fence project worked.
“My intention was to look at the next stage and that was how to reconstruct or renovate one or two of the dilapidated classrooms. Unfortunately, I lost the last election. There was a plan to do security posts in the school.”
Controversy trails execution of lock-up shops project
The controversy is also trailing the execution of lock-up shops project meant for Abadina Community equally located inside the University of Ibadan.
The project was also facilitated by Hon. Awoleye, put in the care of UI and contracted to the same contractor handling the primary school fencing project.
The project was yet to take off on two occasions that this reporter visited. Gravel, sand and few blocks were sighted at the site.
A resident, who gave his name simply as Ephraim, said they are aware of the project but regretted that the construction is yet to take off.
“They have poured gravel and sand as you can see but nothing has been done. The project was actually meant to be done somewhere else but was later moved down here.
They had previously demolished all the shops around the former location for the construction of the lock-up shops but that didn’t happen. The same thing is happening here now,” he said.
While some of the traders expressed joy over the plan to construct the lock-up shops, some others alleged that it is a plan by the management of the University of Ibadan to eject them from their present shops.
“It is UI authorities that are behind the whole thing. They have been on this for some time. They want to send us away from where we are managing to earn a living because they want to be making money from the shops when it is finally done. It is wickedness,” a trader, who identified herself as Mercy Oni, said.
The President, Abadina Community, and Chairman, Abadina Community Council, Egbuna Ikechukwu Peter, said the community was aware of the project. “ It is our project.
It is a constituency project from the 8th National Assembly. It is Hon. Dada Awoleye that facilitated the project for this federal constituency. They got the project in the name of the University of Ibadan, which is a famous institution.
The lock-up shop has not been started at all. I can’t just explain why. It was an inherited project by my administration. I just came into the office on April 16.
So, it was a project handed over to my administration but by now, we believe the project should be ongoing because the contractor has gone to the site, dug the ground and did some other things but as I am talking to you now, all he is telling me is that there is no money.
The money has been released. I don’t understand him. I have been trying to reach him but he keeps saying ‘I am trying to get money, I am trying to get money’. “
Explaining the need for the project, he said: “The idea of the project is to build a market for this community. This community you call Abadina is under Ibadan North, which is part of the federal constituency that voted for Hon. Dada Awoleye.
This is his own contribution to us. He has done his own part getting the money. I make bold to let you know that the money is in our coffers but there are rules.
“I mean the University of Ibadan coffers. We have about N6million or thereabouts. We have rules to guide against abandoned projects.
A certain percentage of that money is what has been given to that man. The university itself does not want shops littering the whole place. These are residential areas and we don’t want shops like these.
When we have the lock-up shops, we would move every shop down to that place. It is like a mini-market. When you have a market in a community, that is life coming up”.
Now that the project has not been done, the chairman said: “It is a crisis for us, especially for my administration. It is supposed to be a plus and a laudable one for that matter for us. I have spoken to the contractor severally but ‘I am looking for money’ has remained his excuse. I have not been able to reach out to the honourable. I have tried one or two people to get his number but I have not.”
Contractor, lawmaker react again
Oluwole claimed that he had commenced work at the site, blaming the UI authorities for the delay. “We have started the construction since June. The issue we have is with the land allocated to us for the project. We were on that site and had even procured materials for it, did the pegging and layout but the UI had to stop us.
“They said erosion would not make our building to be sustained. They said we would have to wait so that the physical planning department would allocate another place to us. We had to wait because if they would do drainage to control the erosion, it would gulp a lot of money. They later gave us another place. As at yesterday, we were at the German floor level.”
Asked for the cost of the projects, he said: “The lock-up shop project is N6million. Excluding VAT and tax, we have received only the sum of N840, 000 and we have spent double that amount. The whole challenge started from the land. The second site they even gave us came with another issue. The UI management said there is a cable line that passes under the land making us wait again to ascertain things.”
The facilitator of the project, Hon. Dada Awoyele said the issue of the lock-up shops has been on for a very long time. According to him, “The community came to me and asked if I could give them lock-up shops. Before I included it in the budget, the community and I went to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan to get his consent since it was going to be done inside the institution. I included it in the budget the following year. In essence, I facilitated the construction of the lock-up shops for them in Abadina.
“That was it. My obligation stops there at facilitating the project. I made sure funds were appropriated for the lock-up shops. As an honourable member of the house, we are not permitted to carry out the project, so you have to domicile it in a government agency.
“UI does its own procurement processes for its own projects , so there was nothing wrong in domiciling it inside UI. I learnt that when the job was started, they relocated the contractor somewhere. I think they have started the project. I am no more the member representing the constituency. Whatever you want to do about the project , the level it is, where the fund is should be with UI”.
Responding to why the project has not taken off, the spokesman of UI, Olatunji Oladejo, said: “Let me make my confirmation from deputy vice-chancellor administration, who is in charge of all infrastructure on campus and also get across to the maintenance department. I wouldn’t know why the thing has not taken off. I am not in maintenance. So, I have to make my enquiries.”
When later contacted to get his response, Oladejo said he was yet to get response from the people concerned.”
Hope of glaucoma patients hangs in the balance
The hope of getting medical assistance for many Nigerians suffering from glaucoma at the University Teaching Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, appears to be on the line. This is as works have stopped on the Glaucoma Centre building, a 2017 Constituency Project being handled by the hospital.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Between 1.1 to 1.4 million adults in Nigeria have the challenge.
Findings show that the Glaucoma Centre project was aimed at expanding the current facility at the hospital, take care of more patients and help curb the menace of blindness caused by glaucoma.
“This is a very disturbing development and needs to be addressed by the hospital management urgently because it has to do with the lives of people. The eyes are the light of the body and once they are gone, life becomes meaningless,” a worker at the hospital said.
Contacted earlier to know why the project has been stalled, the Public Relations Officer of UCH, Akintoye Akinrinlola, fumed that he was asked to provide response within a short time, threatening to do a rejoinder before the report was published.
He, thereafter, requested that documents about the project should be sent to him. After sending details of the project to his email, he replied: “Good evening, Mr. Duru. I received your email message to me. I have gone through the issues raised. My CMD is currently out of town and I have to take permission from him to respond to the issues. Furthermore, I need to ask all relevant departments the situation of things on the issues. After that, I will get back to you. Kindly bear with us, please.”
When this reporter reached out to him last week, he promised to get the response ready by Thursday. When the reporter pleaded that the response should come on Wednesday, Akintoye requested that the reporter should call him on Wednesday morning to remind him about it. This reporter did as agreed and Akintoye said they were working on it and that it would be provided as soon as they were done.
No response was heard from the institution that day. When a call was put to his mobile line last Thursday morning, Akntoye said: “Innocent please, I have not done it. I am seriously upset. Give me time. I don’t want to talk to you in a way you won’t like. Please, please, please.”
He was yet to provide any response as at the time of filing this report.
Mul-timillion naira water project abandoned at Oko
A water project that could have alleviated the sufferings of the people of Oko in Surulere Local Government Area of Oyo State has been abandoned.
The project, which contract sum is N46 million, is fast being over grown by weeds.
Instead of treated water supply that the people would have been enjoying, they are left to consume well and stream water, which exposes them to all manner of water-borne diseases.
A resident, who gave his name as Babawale, said: “When they brought the project to our community, we felt very happy because we felt it would put an end to our dependence on well and stream water.
Unfortunately, the project has been stalled exposing us to water-borne diseases. Many of our people are ignorant and may not acknowledge that the well and stream water they are drinking is causing harm to their bodies but the truth is, the water project would have ended a lot of challenges bedeviling this environment.”
Also speaking, a furious resident, who gave his name simply as Adio, said: “We have been drinking well and stream water since we were born and care less about the water project they have abandoned. At the appointed time, God will bring people who genuinely have the interest of the community at heart to develop it.”
The project has Ogun –Oshun River Basin Development Authority (OORBDA) as the client and the Engineering Department of the body as the Supervising Consultant. Contacted, to know why work has stopped on the project, the Managing Director of OORBDA, Femi Odumosu, requested this reporter to send his questions to him through WhatsAPP . To avoid being told that the message was not delivered, the reporter also sent the questions to his email.
Odumosu was, however, yet to respond as at the time of filing this report.
This investigation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.