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[INVESTIGATION] Two years after expending N9.3bn on Oyo mass transit scheme; govt long buses not in sight for residents shuttling

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By Yusuf Adua

In its bid to tackle the problems of road congestion and to support low earners in Ibadan and its environs, the Oyo State government, in 2020, announced plans to provide 106 long buses at N9.3billion for ease of movement at zero-fare public transportation efficiency. But over two years down the line, the promised passenger convenience remains a fantasy and daily transportation is still miserly for many commuters as they are often held up at bus stops while the pledged buses are nowhere in sight. In this investigation, YUSUF ADUA, who went round selected cities in the state, reports that the buses are barely seen on Oyo roads just as residents continue to grapple with transportation snags.


OVER twenty months have been added to the calendar since the Oyo state government under Governor Seyi Makinde, raised the hopes of Ibadan residents that it would provide 106 long buses to solve the transit problem in the state.

Despite the promise, this investigation reveals that there is no evidence of public buses on the roads, and people have been saying that N9.3 billion awarded for the contract in October 2020, may have gone down the drain. Residents complain of regular difficulty to move around the city.

“Rather than our suffering being abated, transport fares were hiked since the new terminals and buses were launched,”  Qoyyum Muslihudeen, a private teacher resident in Mokola told this reporter.

The mêlée all began with the state government’s purported procurement of the 106 long buses contracted to Petrobridge Nigeria Limited, which, as claimed by residents, “is a product of contract inflation, fraudulent execution and ambiguity judging by its current failure on the social integrity of Oyo state. I just can’t understand how one government cannot be better than the other,” Muslihudeen said.


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While launching two out of the four proposed bus terminals, the governor said: “the essence of my coming to office is to run a benefit-driven government built around such leadership as one that the residents of the pacesetter state will enjoy the dividends of governance in the most transparent way…”

Long before now, the transport sector in Oyo state had been a lucrative industry which was what informed the introduction of Oyo State Park Management Agency and the construction of four modern bus terminals at Iwo Road; New Ife Road; Challenge and Ojoo respectively within Ibadan. Following up with promised 106 long buses was expected to polarize the transport sector to yield affluent returns for the state coffers.

Government and Its Long Buses 

AFTER its 29th State Executive Council (SEC), meeting on Wednesday, October 20, 2020, the information, budget, planning, youths and sports Commissioners briefed the state correspondents.

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Dr. Wasiu Olatunbosun, Oyo State Commissioner for Information, announced Petrobridge Nigeria Limited as the winner of the contract. He said the company would supply 106 units of buses at N9.3 billion to complement the transportation-related activities in the state.

He said there was an urgent need to purchase 106 units of brand-new buses to complement the fleet at the PTS, adding that the “project necessitated by immediacy” was to improve the mass-transit system in the state and boost the economy.

However, twenty months after, this investigation revealed that only seventy-five units of the long buses are currently in the custody of PaceSetter Transport Services (PTS), the steward of the motor vehicles.

Ambiguity of Contract’s Procurement details

ON its official portal, this reporter discovered that there are no public documents or contract details available for the purchase and supplies of the long buses.

When probed, Oyo governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Taiwo Adisa and  a doctor Wasiu Olatunbosun, the Information, Culture and Tourism Commissioner, said that the project was under the auspices of the State Ministry of Transport. When contacted, the transport ministry told the reporter that it was just an umbrella body, but had zero knowledge of the contract details.

“We have no information about the procurement here but it was just put under us because it has to do with transportation”, Architect Fatai Falola, Permanent Secretary, state transport ministry, told this reporter.

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Also, Abimbola Ansola, information officer, transport ministry, told the reporter that since her transfer to the ministry, she had not received any brief or information regarding the procurement of the 106 long buses.

This reporter sought to speak on phone with the transport and public works commissioner, Professor Daud Sangodoyin, but he said he was out of the country. “I am not in Nigeria at the moment. Could you please see the CPS to the governor? He has the mandate to meet journalists on behalf of our government. I wish you a magnificent day”, he replied via text message.

The governor’s CPS, Taiwo Adisa also declined to comment on further attempts.

The reporter then contacted the former state commissioner for public works and transport under the previous administration, Hon Wasiu Dauda, who said he couldn’t account for the number of Daewoo buses they left in office.

This investigation reveals that from the point of planning, to the tender, award, and contract details, both state offices’ officials and citizens have no information about the contract award.

PTS and Culture of Secrecy 

SUBSEQUENT to few visits to the PaceSetter Transport Services office at Fadiditi Road, Eleyele Ibadan, in the bid to get their comment on the contract details; none of the officials contacted was willing to speak with the reporter.

Later, a Freedom of Information (FoI) request was issued by the International Centre of Investigative Reporting (ICIR), addressed to the general manager,  Wole Akinleye, seeking the release of details on the project, but PTS, declined to release the details of the contract document on the project despite the fact that he had earlier said: “You want official information, then send us a letter.”

However, when The ICIR request letter was later presented to him, Akinleye said it isn’t in his purview to release the documents. So, he directed the reporter to meet with either the state governor or the head of service.

But a source in the information ministry who spoke under the condition of anonymity said it was obvious that the top officials wouldn’t be willing to present the concerned documents considering the depths of fraud associated with the deal.

PTS GM, Wole Akinleye, said the agency had so far received seventy-five units of buses but could not tell when the remaining thirty-one will be supplied. He said: “For the first phase of the contract, fifty buses were supplied, received, and paid for. Then, twenty-five more buses had been supplied and received by the agency but yet to be paid for.”

Contradicting the GM, a source in the agency told this reporter that only fifty-six buses have been supplied just as another management staff of the agency offered to take this reporter round to see some of the buses.

During the on-site rounds on Thursday, 14th July 2022, only a handful of seventeen Ashok Leyland Stallion buses were seen within the premises of the PTS, and nothing up to 56 or 75 earlier promised.

Wole Akinleye debunked the rumour that current Oyo State government had picked few of the buses left by the last administration when unveiling the new ones. He said the buses bought by the last administration were Daewoo products while those pictured by the current administration are Ashok Leyland vehicles.

He added that though some of the buses left by the previous administration are now wreckages, his agency is still using the few that are functioning.

This reporter then interviewed commuters about their usage of the long buses. In Ojoo, Eleyele, Fadiditi, Challenge, Beere, Apata areas of Ibadan city; commuters responded that the arbitrary act of concealing contract documents by the PTS has been a long-standing cause of concerns for the state’s residents.

Kolade Aroyehun, who lives at Wire and Cable area in Apata, Ibadan, said he did not even know what the buses look like. “Regardless of the fact that I go out every day from 9.00am till about 6.00pm, I have never seen or boarded any of the long buses because they are never nowhere in our metropolis,” he said.

Also, a contractor and public commentator along Iwo road, Ibadan, Reverend Koye Ladele, lamented the secret nature of government dealings and purchases in the state. He said he does not understand why governments are often secretive.

Ladele said he sighted one of the buses around Mokola axis on his way to his office once, and that’s the least he had seen so far since 2020.

In Oyo metropolis,  Olayinka Ojo, a public administrator, also criticised government penchant for opacity. He noted that Makinde’s government has scored low in the metrics of transparency and accountability compared to previous governments.

This reporter also spoke with Abdulateef Abdulazeez, an Iseyin-based community leader in Okeogun axis of the state, who expressed concern over government’s inability to explain how a whooping sum of N9.3 billion was spent on a project that benefits no one.

Obviously dismayed by the culture of secrecy at the PTS, Musa Oladimeji, an independent economic researcher in Igangan, Ibarapa zone, who said he was drawn to the project because it concentrated on the capital city, declared that “it had no direct positive effect on Oyo residents. “Not up to ten of the buses ply the road randomly, I can confirm”, he said.

This reporter reached out to different ministries and agencies across the five zones, but all officials maintained culture of secrecy about procurement of 106 long buses.

The Long Buses’ Specifications

UPON meeting brick-walls at every turn, the reporter resorted to deploying undercover means to get exact details on the buses which took him another two weeks.

Disguising as the information officer of a developing transport and logistics firm, an independent supplier of the Leyland buses, Callyfaith Nigeria Limited, told this reporter via email that the 56-sitter vehicles, the ones procured by the Oyo state government, do not meet the standard for mass transit services anywhere in Nigeria.

The source in the company said the seats of the 56-sitter are too close to each other, thereby making it hard for passengers not to have the room to accommodate their legs comfortably or the freedom to stand.

The reporter then boarded one of the buses to ascertain its comfortability. He found that the long buses have HA6ET13U, 6 cylinder Turbocharge in-line Diesel Engine, [u] engine type with 180HP@2400rpm engine capacity, and its displacements are 5759cc with 56+1seating capacity.

He also found that the torque of the buses contains 660Nm@1500-1800rpm while their wheelbases measure 5639mm alongside 450Lfuel tank capacity. The clutches of the buses have single plate Dry-type diaphragm measured at 380mm, fuel consumption is at 4.6KMPL with the length of the buses at 11meters and tyre size with 11R22.5.16PR respectively, to affirm that their sizes are not suitable for commercial services, with assurance that they can be delivered within 90 days from the day order is confirmed.

Possibility of Contract Inflation

THOUGH the Oyo state government announced that it procured 106 Ashok Leyland Stallion long buses at N9.3 billion; this reporter contacted the principal supplier of the buses in India, where he was directed to the branch office in Nigeria as well as another independent supplier of the buses.

Still, it remained difficult for the reporter to get the accurate cost per unit for each Ashok Leyland long buses given the vast difference in prices between 2020 and 2022. In fact, the contacted official said she could not readily give the exact price of the bus over eighteen months ago. She, however, noted that the current cost per long bus is N57.5 million.

And while the result of previous findings showed that the contract had been overpriced by the Oyo government; only the government transparency can help to set records straight. Also, none of the suppliers or makers of the buses were ready to answer any question until the reporter went undercover.

As of August 22, 2022, the price per unit of 56-1 sitter Ashok Leyland long bus with the specification described above was N57.5 Million VAT exclusive. However, for a deal of 50 units, the special discounted price is N56 Million/per unit VAT exclusive, said the Ashok Leyland, Nigeria, staff.

The officials then asked: “Take, for instance, what you can buy with N50 million two years ago, it is close to what you will buy with N75 million today; though the prices of the buses then would be obviously lesser than the current price.” Both officials of Ashok Leyland and Kojo Motors, another independent supplier of the buses, spoken with, said prices of the buses vary with the number of units intended to be purchased. However, as it turned out with the investigation, the current price of the bus is lower than the price awarded by the government.

This reporter also requested details from Kojo Motors. The company shared their proforma invoice of the specification of the Ashok Leyland buses that the Oyo state government procured.

As at August 23, 2022, a unit of the bus at Kojo Motors sold for N62 million. Fifty units go for N3.1 billion, while 106 units of the buses go for N6.572 billion. Kojo Motors also noted that the net of all taxes is N1.5 million, making 50 units equal to N75 million and N159 million for 106 units.

Thus, in total, 106 units of Ashok Leyland buses procured at N9.3 billion by the Oyo state government through Petrobridge Nigeria Limited on October 20, 2020, will cost Kojo Motors approximately N6.8 billion in 2022, with tax inclusive. The difference of N2.5billion conceivably justifies claims of over-pricing and corruption as already suspected in some quarters.

Going by the N9.3 billion contract awarded to Petrobridge Nigeria Limited twenty-two months earlier by the Oyo State government, it was found that the initial supplier, Ashok Leyland, through its Nigeria office, ought to have sold 106 units of the buses at about N6.1 billion, (roughly N6, 095, 000,000) without tax. So, using the 50-unit special deal discounted price, 106 units of Ashok Leyland long bus on August 22, 2022, cost almost N6 billion (about N5,936,000, 000) excluding tax which is lower than the announced amount by the government.

Only Two Buses for Ojoo Terminal

WHEN this reporter visited the Ojoo Terminal, considered the biggest bus termini in the state, he only sighted two Ashok Leyland long buses at the park. Asked why there were only two buses, a source in the Park Management System said it was because only two long buses were allocated to the Ojoo terminal.

On two different fact-finding visits on July 11, 2022, and August 18, 2022 (both between 11.00 am and noon), this reporter saw only one long bus at the terminal to convey passengers; but on the second visit, another bus, which was procured by the previous administration, also came to the terminal at 10:21 am.

Earlier, however, while the PTS GM, had mentioned that the new buses’ brand names are written above their bumpers; the reporter observed that the new buses also have no plate numbers, whereas few of the old ones seen have plate numbers with different colours.

Bus seen at the park with no plate number.

Commenting on the irregularities, Coordinator, Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights, Abiodun Bamigboye, faulted the invisibility of the buses in the two already commissioned terminals.

He said when compared with the Lagos BRT buses that are easily seen parked in their respective terminals; it seems dubious that the Oyo transit scheme does not have such provision, after having gulped a gargantuan sum of money. He described it as unsavoury that the buses are not parked where everyone could see or utilise them.

Contracting Firm Not Registered with the CAC

NOT only are the prices of the vehicles hiked, Messrs Petrobridge Nigeria LTD that handled the project also has no record of registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Several inputs of the company’s name in the CAC search column returned with ‘records not found’.  The search showed nothing in terms of registration number, correct company name, head office, top officials, status, and registration date as it often happens in instances when company details are sought for.

Also digging into Petrobridge Nigeria Limited contractor’s brief on the company’s online page, the popped up result showed it as a business principally into oil and gas marketing, engineering and construction alongside defence and procurement.

This reporter further tried to contact top management staff of the company whose names are listed as Bosun and Olayinka Folasade Oredola. However, none of the contact information on the landing page has been reachable till filing – September- this report.

A professor of economics, Olanrewaju Olaniyan, at the University of Ibadan (UI), said any company that does not register with the CAC is illegal, “and as such, economics does not support illegality”.

He said this is even worse because any company that is not duly registered is not paying tax to the government, and so, “it is not fit for government procurement,” he stressed.

Similarly, Reverend Koye Ladele, an ex-building contractor, noted strongly that in no way should a pseudo company be awarded a multi-billion-naira project by any sane government; adding that it wouldn’t be a shock if some top officials in the same government own the company?

He said it is not a secret any longer that trusted government insiders often speak of how presidents and governors often award contracts to their families and friends and pay them in cash so the monies cannot be traced. “This is Nigeria,” he said, shaking his head in regrets.

Where Are the Long Buses?

AFTER one whole month of traversing Ibadan, the state capital, and other Oyo cities, the question for the reporter is: “where are the 106 long buses purportedly procured by the state government to boost its mass transit scheme over twenty months of their supposed purchase, and what are the due procurement procedures and principles followed since no one can trace this government deal?”

In line with the official stipulated procedures, for every procurement to be deemed legitimate, it must tick the boxes of accountability, competitive supply consistency, efficiency, effectiveness and fair dealing; all of which are found wanting in the issue of Oyo state’s 106 long buses tracking.

Invoice from a motor company.

Towards unravelling the puzzle, this reporter consulted procurement experts to shed light on the issue. Meeting with Oyedele Oyekunle, a member of Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management of Nigeria (CIPSMIN), and Chief Procurement Officer, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan; he said it would be difficult to analyse a procurement without the contract document as that is what would spell out the intricacies of the deal.

Actually, in most cases, procurement is always broken into phases. First, a procurement that ticks all the boxes will have the dictates of the deal in either the award letter or the contract agreement. He noted that the manufacturer may not produce the 106 buses unless money was readily available.

This reporter also met a World Bank-certified international procurer;  Amos Olatunbosun, who explained the tricky aspect of an ideal procurement. He said it starts with the need for the procurement, how to get the entity, who to get the entity, and the procurement guidelines.

He added that “as far as you are spending public funds, every information about how the money will be spent must be available to the public for them to see or benefit what you procure,” noting that it is only during the selection process that procurement information could be hidden.

Every Procurement Always Have a Time Frame

WOLE Olaniyan, PTS GM, who informed this reporter that they had already purchased 75 buses which cannot obviously be seen on Ibadan roads, said he does not know when the remaining 31 units of the buses will be delivered.

Countering this submission, Olubukola Shitu, procurement officer for the National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan said that “In line with the national procurement guideline and standard procurement, which her agency worked in tandem with, there is always a time frame for every procurement.”

In the same vein, Amos Olatunbosun, admits that every procurement is always a cycle. “Procurement is never done in a disjointed or unorganised manner. He said any procurement that spans beyond eighteen months will incur additional charges. In a true procurement, any purchase that spans beyond eighteen months will be renegotiated and attract additional charges”.

So, for an agency like the PTS which says it does not know when Ibadan residents will get the remaining vehicles, Olatunbosun said no procurement is indefinite. That is why only a better- qualified contractor can be measured by his/her firm’s qualifications by looking at its expertise, experience, activities, emolument, and registration.

NIHORT’s  Shittu also adds that for a company to be qualified to win a contract in the any government agency; after its CAC registration, it must have tax clearance certificate of the previous year, register under the Industrial Trust Fund, National Pension Commission, The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, and have in its possession the Interim Registration Report issued by the Bureau of Public Procurement, among others.

She said: “every procurement will have an in-house estimate which is always arrived at after going through market surveys and price guides. We always add at least one per cent, but at most three per cent to the overall cost price.

Inflation Rate Effects

The procurement of the 106 long buses by the Oyo state government was made public on Wednesday, October 20, 2020. Almost two years after, in August 2022, the inflation rate, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), rose to 19. 64 per cent. On the side, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), declared on its official website that the inflation rate was 14.23 per cent in 2020.

Based on these varying fiscal indices, the reporter asked the UI professor of economics, Olanrewaju Olaniyan, to explain how the inflation snag could have impacted the Oyo state 106 buses’ procurement.

 

In his words: “If the NBS said that the price of goods will increase by more than 18 per cent in 2022, it simply means that whatever was sold for N100 in 2020, will go for N118 today and vice versa. So, in retrospect, the prices of goods now are excruciatingly higher than they were in October 2020 when the government procured the 106 buses. Hence, prices of goods in 2020 cannot be higher than the prices of the same goods in 2022.”

Oyo Government Has Questions to Answer
AS things currently stand, only the Oyo state government can answer the plethora of questions concerning the procurement of the 106 long buses just as the PTS has not helped the investigation with its foot-dragging on producing the project’s contractual documents to the reporter after an official written request.

Yet, Oyo residents insist they have not seen their cities flooded with sufficient buses for their daily commuting, let alone sight the promised 106 long buses.

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

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