Kano Lawmaker, Commissioner’s brother fail to execute water projects while constituents suffer illness, death (1)

A Kano state lawmaker misappropriated monies meant for water projects and watched his constituents suffer and die from water-borne diseases. In this first of a two-part report, Lukman Abdulmalik, tells the distressing and mind-boggling story of how a Kano legislator set up a company to get contracts for water projects in the communities he supposedly represents but never executed them. In some cases, contracts were even awarded to ghost companies that never executed any projects.

Read the second part here

By Lukman Abdulmalik
In 2019, Kano State RUWASA (Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency) awarded a contract worth N7 million to Safnaj Synergy WorldWide for the construction of one hand pump borehole each in five communities of Tsanyawa Local Government Area, LGA, including Kwarka, Farsa, Sabon Garin Yancibi, Kokai Gabas, and Zango.
Investigations show that Safnaj Synergy Worldwide is owned by a Kano State House of Assembly member representing Tsanyawa and Kunchi constituencies, Garba Ya’u Gwarmai.
RUWASA Constituency projects information. Source: https://kanoppb.org.ng/constituency-projects/
RUWASA Constituency projects information. Source: https://kanoppb.org.ng/constituency-projects/
However, his constituents in Tsanyawa communities continue to suffer from a lack of access to clean water after the lawmaker failed to provide the boreholes.
In the Kwarkwa village in Tsanyawa LGA, residents always feel joy when the sky is cloudy, as they pray so hard for rainfall to have drinkable water for their household use. Sanusi Usman, the Village Leader of Kwarkwa, told this reporter that the community had only two boreholes, which they used their money to construct, but they have both now worked as they do not produce water.
Usman recounted, “in 2019, we contributed N1.2 million to construct boreholes, but there was no water in them. We gathered the money by selling most of our farm produce for the year.
“For the first construction, we spent N800,000, but it was unsuccessful, while for the second borehole, we paid N400,000, and there was no water underground.”
Sanusi Usman, resident of the Kwarkwa community in Tsanyawa Lga. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
Sanusi Usman, resident of the Kwarkwa community in Tsanyawa Lga. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
He added that due to the struggles they faced, the community members resorted to fetching water from an unclean stream.
“In 2019, we heard that there would be the construction of a borehole by our member of the House of Representatives (Garba Yau Gwarmai), but till now, there has been no provision for that.
Usman narrated that the amount of dirty water his first child, seven-year-old Aminu Usman, consumed made him spend over N150,000 for an operation at Kankia Hospital. Due to this, his child suffered from intestinal perforation, mainly caused by typhoid.
However, in 2019, to solve the community’s water problems, RUWASA gave N1.4 million to Safnaj Synergy WorldWide to construct one borehole in the Kwarkwa community. It was never built.
In Zango, another community in Tsanyawa LGA, residents also suffered from waterborne diseases due to a lack of potable water, even though the Gwarmai’s company, Safnaj Synergy Worldwide, was awarded another N1.4 million contract to construct a borehole in the community.
A resident is fetching water from a pond. PC: Lukman Abdulamlik
A resident is fetching water from a pond. PC: Lukman Abdulamlik

A visit by this reporter revealed that the borehole was not constructed. It was also gathered that the only government water project in the community was constructed by Sani Bala, the Federal House of Representatives representing Tsanyawa and Kunchi. However, that is also not functional.

Project board of Sani Bala. PC: Lukman Abdulamlik
Project board of Sani Bala. PC: Lukman Abdulamlik
Salisu Garba, a resident of Zango, said, “We don’t have boreholes, and our streams are dry. We have to travel to neighbouring communities such as Yamalawa, about an 80-minute journey.
“Our children have stopped schooling; the only borehole that RUWASA built was over 15 years ago, and it is also in a bad state.
15-year-old RUWASA borehole in Zango community. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik

How House Representatives designate charity boreholes as theirs

Residents of communities such as Zango, Kwarkwa in Tsanyawa LGA, and Faskarawa, Kwanyawa, of Kunchi LGA lamented that on various occasions, charity foundations such as the Qatar Foundation and the Wash Project by UNICEF construct boreholes in the communities. Still, some of the political followers in their area will dedicate the project to the politicians, especially legislators from the community.
During a visit by this reporter to Kokai Gabas in Tsanyawa, LGA, Rabiu Musa, an elder in the community, shared his experience and said that there have never been any boreholes constructed by the government in their community.
He added that all the boreholes in Kokai Gabas were constructed by the Qatar Charity Foundation.
Musa added that they somehow figured out that their representatives are not executing any projects rather than hiding under the projects done by charity foundations, which are most often sourced by our community leaders.
But, according to publicly available information, the community ought to have been the beneficiary of a borehole because in 2019, RUWASA disbursed N1.4 million to Safnaj Synergy WorldWide to construct a borehole in Kokai Gabas community.
But despite the release of funds, Gwarmai, who owns the company, has failed to execute the water project.

Farsa Community of Tsanyawa

In the Farsa community of Tsanyawa LGA, residents also suffer from a lack of borehole construction in their community.
In 2019, RUWASA awarded a N1.4 million contract to Safnaj Synergy WorldWide for the construction of a borehole in the community, but it was never built.
The lack of this borehole has pushed residents of this community into deprivation, as they only feed on one borehole provided by the Qatar Charity Foundation.
The Village Head of the Farsa community, Habibu Musa, lamented that the lack of a borehole has pushed households in the community to buy water, and those less privileged are forced to fetch dirty water from a pond for their consumption.
He observed that “our children don’t go to school anymore, because sometimes they go to the pound at 7 a.m. before they return at 2 p.m.
Daughter of Farsa community leader, Aisha Musa, returning from stream at 3:pm. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
Daughter of Farsa community leader, Aisha Musa, returning from stream at 3:pm. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
“Even the boreholes we had are no longer functioning and were boreholes built by some NGOs and philanthropists.
“The only surviving hand pump borehole we had is supplying over 2,000 people with water in the whole Farsa community.
“In the last four years, there hasn’t been any construction of boreholes, and it’s been over 10 years since the government executed any water project in this community.
“We used to record cholera, typhoid, and others; We have lost so many children to waterborne diseases.
Also, in Sabon Gari Yancibi in Tsanyawa, another community that should have benefited from the RUWASA borehole projects, this reporter observed that the non-availability of portable drinking water leads the residents of the community to trek about 15 kilometres to access unhygienic water. Safnaj Synergy got N1.4 million to build a borehole there, but it did nothing.
Amina Balarabe, a 45-year-old resident of Sabon Garin Yancibi, said, “Sometimes I spent 10 to 12 hours before we could get water. And the only borehole they had was constructed by an NGO, not the government.”

Who is the contractor for the Tsanyawa boreholes?

A full Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) search conducted on Safnaj Synergy Worldwide shows that the company belongs to a member of the Kano State House of Assembly representing Kunchi/Tsanyawa constituency, Garba Yau Gwarmai.
The CAC records list two shareholders, both of whom appear to be the same person: Garba Gwarmai Yau of No. 5, Farawa Quarters, Kano, who owns 800,000 shares, and Hassan Gwarmai Garba, also of the same address, who has 200,000 shares. Truecaller, the caller ID app, lists the number given for Ya’u as belonging to Garba Yau Gwarmai ( Kunchi) and the one for Garba as that of Garba Figo.
Gwarmai was a member of the 9th Kano State House of Assembly from 2019 to 2023 and was recently re-elected to the Kunchi/Tsanyawa constituencyRegarding this contract, Gwarmai clearly breaches the law as there is an obvious case of conflict of interest.
Section 57 (9) of the Public Procurement Act 2007, states: “Every public officer involved directly or indirectly in matters of public procurement and disposal of assets shall:
(a) divest himself of any interest or relationships which are actually or potentially inimical or detrimental to the best interest of government and the underlying principles of this Act ; and
(b) not engage or participate in any commercial transaction involving the federal government, its ministries, extra-ministerial departments, corporations where his capacity as public officer is likely to confer any unfair advantage – pecuniary or otherwise on him or any person directly related to him.”
Also, Section 57 (10) states: “Any person engaged in the public procurement and disposal of assets who has assumed or is about to assume a financial or other business outside business relationship that might involve a conflict of interest, must immediately declare to the authorities any actual or potential interest.”
Furthermore, Section 57 (11) says, “Such a declaration shall be given such consideration at the relevant level as is necessary so that, where it is seen that remedial action is taken, a conflict of interest is present.
Section 57 of the Kano State Public Procurement Act (12) defines  conflict of interest as where a person :
(a) possesses an interest outside his official duties that materially encroaches on the time or attention which should otherwise be devoted to affairs of government;
(b) possesses a direct or indirect interest in or relationship with a bidder, supplier, contractor or service provider that is inherently unethical or that may be implied or constructed to be, or make possible personal gain due to the person’s ability to influence dealings ;
(c) entertains relationships which are unethical, rendering his attitude partial toward the outsider for personal reasons or otherwise inhibit the impartiality of the person’s business judgments ; (d) places by acts or omissions the procuring entity he represents or the Government in an equivocal, embarrassing or ethically questionable position ;
(e) entertains relationships compromising the reputation or integrity of the procuring entity he represents or the Government ;
(f) receives benefits by taking personal advantage of an opportunity that properly belongs to the procuring entity he represents or the Government ; (g) creates a source of personal revenue or advantage by using public property which comes into his hands either in course of his work or otherwise; and (h) discloses confidential information being either the property of his procuring entity, the Government or to a supplier, contractor or service provider to unauthorised persons.
Safnaj Synergy WorldWide got a total of N7 million to construct one hand pump borehole in five communities in his constituency, including Kwarka, Farsa, Sabon Garin Yancibi, Kokai Gabas, and Zango, but none was constructed.
Not only did the legislator influence the contract awards, he also likely established the company for the sole purpose of obtaining the contract, as it was registered shortly before the contract was awarded on June 27, 2019.
It appears that RUWASA also breached the law regarding conflict of interest by awarding the contract to Safnaj Synergy WorldWide but the agency claims that it was not aware that the company belonged to the legislator.
This newspaper called Gwarmai to react to our findings in the evening of July 7. After listening to the reporter introduce himself and the reason for the call, the lawmaker dropped the call and subsequently blocked him as he could no longer be reached on the number. This reporter called continuously six times, but Gwarmai’s phone rang busy.
Later the same day, a WhatsApp message was sent to Gwarmai, who read the message on July 8, but he still did not respond. Around 10:00 p.m., another message was sent to him, but he still did not respond.

RUWASA Responds…

On July 5, an interview request was sent to the Kano State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency. On July 10, in a one-on-one interview with this reporter, Yusif Abdullahi, Director of Physical Planning at RUWASA, disclosed that Gwarmai’s company was awarded 40 contracts for boreholes in the constituencies he is representing.
“Out of those 40 boreholes, not more than 20 were constructed, and we don’t know how the other 20 boreholes were scheduled.
“Some communities have no water underground after the water survey, so in instances like that, the House of Assembly usually gives permission to construct the borehole in another location or community, and most of the time RUWASA doesn’t have knowledge of the impromptu decisions.”
Reacting to the award of a contract to Safnaj Synergy Worldwide, Abdullahi said that he was not aware that the legislator owned the company, as RUWASA does not have the responsibility to check on the status of contracting entities.
“We are not aware that the company belongs to Gwarmai, because we don’t check the status of companies, the agency claimed, adding that “It is the duty of the Kano State Procurement Bureau and Kano State Internal Revenue Service to screen companies that should or should not be given contracts.
“However, on constituency projects, the State House of Assembly members are the ones undermining the process of choosing who to award contracts to.
“So, RUWASA only works on the order given from the constituency project office under the Kano State Ministry of Works, Housing, and Transport.”
On July 11, a FOIA request was sent to the Kano State constituency office on the allegations, and despite acknowledging the request, the department has yet to respond to the request while filing this report.

Kabo residents’ lives are at stake

In a bid to alleviate the persistent water crisis in five local communities in Kabo LGAincluding Kanwa, Garo, Gude Dugabau, and Mansawa, in 2019, according to constituency project documents cited by our reporter, RUWASA awarded a N7 million contract to Safa Multi-Synergy Ltd. for the construction of boreholes in the communities.
Each community was allocated a hand pump borehole, costing N1.4 million each.
RUWASA Constituency Project Information Source: https://kanoppb.org.ng/constituency-projects/
RUWASA Constituency Project Information Source: https://kanoppb.org.ng/constituency-projects/
A visit by this reporter to these communities revealed that no boreholes have been constructed. Even Garo, a community where the former Commissioner for  Local Government, Murtala Sule Garo, hails from, also suffers a water crisis despite the government’s efforts to provide a borehole there.
Although over 10 boreholes were constructed by WASH, UNICEF and other charity foundations in various parts of the Garo community.
Despite that, residents of Garo lamented that the boreholes were not sufficient for them, as the community has over 5,000 residents and this keeps increasing.
In 2019, the sum of N1,4000,000 million was released to  Safa Multi-Synergy Ltd., a company belonging to Mustapha Sule Garo, blood brother to Murtala Sule Garo, the former Commissioner for Local Government.
A borehole in Garo would have profoundly improved the health and well-being of Garo’s constituency, as his people are forced to look for water from the most unhygienic sources.  This was one of the major reasons that pushed Ibrahim Yahaya of the Garo community to rely on dirty water fetched from a cliff.
On June 18, 2023, when our reporter visited the Garo community, Yahaya was seen drinking muddy water that had gathered on a cliff for the past two weeks after rainfall.
Ibrahim Yahaya drinking unclean water from a pond. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
Ibrahim Yahaya drinking unclean water from a pond. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
Yahaya, 46, shared his experience: “I have been drinking this muddy water since my childhood, and it has caused me so many infections.
“We have boreholes in our community, but they are not enough; the state government is not contributing to ending the water crisis.
“Our children always fall sick of typhoid; they don’t go to school anymore because if they are at the borehole to get potable water sometimes at 5 a.m., it will take till 2 p.m. before they can get back home.”
Musa Bello, a 55-year-old farmer who is also an adviser to the Village Head of the Gude community, confirmed that there have been no additional hand pump boreholes or the construction of hand pump boreholes in their community in the last ten years.
He added that “we have about 16 hand pump boreholes constructed by charity foundations and other philanthropists.
The last borehole constructed by the state government was about 20 years ago.
Musa Bello narrating to this reporter on the absence of borehole construction in Gude. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
Musa Bello narrating to this reporter on the absence of borehole construction in Gude. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
“But still, the boreholes are not enough, which makes a lot of households rely on stream or pond water for their consumption.
“These have caused so many illnesses in our community, most especially cholera, that a lot of children have lost their lives to the disease.
Haliru Musa, Record Officer of Kabo Cottage Hospital, told this reporter that from 2019 to 2023, he has recorded 230 cases of cholera, mostly in children aged five and below.
Garo Lga Cottage Hospital. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
Garo Lga Cottage Hospital. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
At Kanwa Community in Kabo LGA, another community that should have benefited from the borehole project, access to safe drinking water is still a big challenge as none was built there. As a result, residents often rely on water vendors, locally known as Mai Ruwa, to get water.
However, some of these vendors who push carts get water from sources that are close to dirty environments. For instance, the jerry cans used to store water by the vendors are left unhygienic. This can lead to the spread of germs and bacteria, which can cause serious health problems such as diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid fever.
Furthermore, residents frequently disregard the unsanitary condition of the surroundings where the water is obtained.
Water Vendor fetching dirty water for human consumption. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
Water Vendor fetching dirty water for human consumption. PC: Lukman Abdulmalik
“Because of the scarcity, we just want water and don’t care where it is coming from,” he said. “We believe that borehole water is drinkable.
“Often, if their pipe falls into dirty water or on the ground, we pick it up to continue fetching the water,” said Abdulrahman, a water vendor.
Not only Kanwa, Gude, and Garo but also residents of Mansawa and Dugabau communities shared similar experiences about their horrifying lives without having access to clean water. A borehole project was approved for each of them, but the brother of Garo, Mustapha, cornered the money.

Kabo Contractor was not found

Safa Multi-Synergy Ltd. was incorporated in Kano, Nigeria, in February 2018, and even though the directors’ status is active, CAC lists the company as inactive, meaning that it has not been filing returns.
The company’s registered office address is No. 16 Along Katsina Road, Fagge LGA, Kano State. On a visit to the site, no such company was found at the address.
This report republished from Daily Focus is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

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