For over nine years, the 14 – kilometre road connecting Pegi community to Kuje area of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, has been left uncompleted. The situation has inflicted hardship on the residents despite the fact that N676 million was awarded for the project. THE ICIR’s Niyi OYEDEJI reports on why and how the project was abandoned.
LATE September, a wraith-silver of moon hung in the lonely sky when this reporter set out on a journey to Pegi community. Tugging at his heart was the fact that the road leading to the community had been abandoned for almost a decade. More painful is the fact that a whooping sum of N676 million had been spent to upgrade the road to help people of the area commute more comfortably.
In fifteen minutes, he shuttled from the Abuja central area to Kuje. From there, he had planned to take a cab to Pegi community. Sadly, to his utmost dismay, all the taxi drivers he approached declined his request. Stunned, he asked why? And like a well-rehearsed movie script; they all told the reporter they could not convey him to the community due to the terrible state of the road.
The reporter had no other choice than to hop on a motorbike. The rider billed him N400, twice the amount the reporter paid for the journey from the heart of Abuja to Kuje.
Inside Pegi community
Pregnant Felicia Anthony had envisaged a smooth ride that ought not to exceed 30 minutes of commuting from Pegi to Abuja city centre.
The woman, in her second trimester, had to visit her hospital for a scheduled session. She was on her way to the clinic within the Abuja metropolis when the motorbike she was riding on from Pegi to Kuje got involved in an accident. There and then, Felicia suffered a miscarriage.
She would later spend a month in the hospital to recuperate from the wounds she suffered and, more painfully, from the miscarriage.
Recalling the incident, she said “the motorcycle slipped from a hilly part of the road and rammed into an on-coming vehicle.”
“I had landed at the hospital before I knew what was going on. That was how I lost my four-month-old pregnancy,” she lamented.
Speaking from an expert’s view, the Chief Medical Officer (CMD), of the only government health care facility at Pegi community, Mary Innocent-Dike, disclosed that Felicia was just one of five pregnant women who lost their pregnancies in the first week of September 2020 due to the bad nature of the only road that connects the community to Kuje Area Council and Abuja city centre.
She said that the 14 – kilometre road, which has been abandoned for over nine years, is terribly inflicting hardship on patients, particularly pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Innocent-Dike, who is the only medical officer attached to the health centre, also narrated how it has always been difficult for her to refer patients to hospitals in the city for proper care due to the bad shape of the road.
“The road is really having a bad impact on this health centre. Most of our patients die on the road when we refer them to hospitals in the city for proper medical attention,” she said.
“In fact, it is always very difficult for us to get vehicles that would convey our patients from here to the city, as commercial vehicles always run away from us. They decline our invites no matter how much we offer them. You know it would be difficult for us to transport pregnant women to wherever they need to get further treatments with motorcycles.”
Surprisingly, Pegi community, where over 70,000 people reside, has just a single ill-equipped health centre that could hardly cater for the medical needs of the community.
Pegi to the heart of Abuja where good hospitals are located is only 40 kilometres. But residents have to contend with the bad 14 – kilometre stretch for about 30 minutes before making it to Kuje and then the city centre.
Advent of Pegi Community
In 2006, Pegi was one of the six resettlements created by Nasir El-Rufai, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to mark 30 years of creation of Abuja.
Fourteen years on, despite its geometrical population growth, the community, has not witnessed a corresponding infrastructural development.
In terms of infrastructure, it has just a primary school, one secondary school and one health centre provided by the past FCT administration of Adamu Aliero, former governor of Kebbi State.
Before he left office after the demise of the late President Umar Musa Yar’ Adua, Aliero, on March 21, 2011, approved the award of contract for the construction of 14 km Pegi-Kuje road to Verallen Nigeria Limited.
However, almost ten years after, The ICIR investigation reveals that the road has been abandoned despite a total of N110 million mobilisation fee being paid to the contractor for the project worth a total of N676 million.
Residents’ real nightmarish ordeals
Unlike other communities in the FCT that have various exit and entry roads, Pegi community has just a single road that leads to the city of Abuja and that’s the 14 km road that connects them to Kuje, which has remained abandoned over the years.
“So many lives have been lost, cars and motorcycles damaged and painfully, we are cut off from the main city where we could access sound health care system and good schools for our children because of this terrible road,” says Isaac Aderibigbe, chairman, Pegi Estate Community Development Association (PECDA).
Pegi, located in Gaube Ward of Kuje Area Council, is predominantly a settlement of civil servants, majority of whom work is located in the heart of Abuja.
Aderibigbe, like many of his compatriots, is not finding life comfortable due to the bad nature of the road. Often, the road has also been an avenue where bandits and kidnappers waylay road users.
A level-12 officer at the Federal Ministry of Environment in Abuja, Adejare Samson, also stated that he no longer rides his car to office because of the awful state of the road, which keeps making his car to develop one fault or another almost every week.
“If it is an alignment problem today, I could suffer deflated tyres on the road the following day. That’s why I just had to park the car at home to avert all these avoidable faults,” exasperated Samson narrated to The ICIR.
Samson and other residents of the community no longer ride in their private vehicles to their respective offices because what they spend to repair damage parts of their vehicles are becoming enormous. Hence, they have opted for public transport, which in itself is unreliable.
George Gloria, a banker with a third generation bank in Wuse district of Abuja stated that she gets to work late on most occasions because of the road, which commercial motorcyclists are always running away from plying.
The 28-year-old lady told The ICIR that getting a motorcyclist that would take her to Kuje, where she would board a commercial bus to her place of work could be a Herculean task, especially during the rainy season when the already deteriorated road is badly unmotorable.
“I am so tired of taking this road to my place of work. It is always slippery during the rainy season and that’s why most of the motorcyclists always run away from taking us to the town. In fact, it takes an expert to ply this road without having an accident with how terrible this road has become,” she said.
The crippling state of the road has also made the community to be a den for armed robbers and kidnappers. Between 2018 and 2020, there have been about three cases of kidnapping recorded in the area. While some of the victims were rescued alive, others were unlucky to have died from gunshot wounds.
“In the year 2018, we suffered our first kidnapping incident and since then, there has been a series of kidnapping and different forms of armed robbery attacks on the residents of this community. All these attacks could have been avoided if we had an easily motorable road that could effortlessly allow security operatives to reach our community as fast as possible,” Aderibigbe, the PEDA chairman told The ICIR.
On December 6, 2018, nine residents of the community were kidnapped; three personnel of the Nigerian Navy sustained gunshot injuries in the process. Although, no lives were lost but ransom was paid for those kidnapped to be released.
Barely a year after the first kidnapping incident in Pegi, kidnappers clad in military uniform on October 7, 2019 stormed the community again to kidnap nine persons, including a 12-year-old boy.
“Two officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps were shot during the attack. Unfortunately, one of them in person, CSC Samuel Akor, died from complications suffered from the gunshot injuries. The seven other residents were released after ransom had been paid,” Aderibigbe recalled.
On October 9, 2019, the residents of the community trooped out in their numbers to peacefully protest the kidnapping incidents tormenting their lives, after which Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, the Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on October 14, 2019, visited the community to sympathize with them.
She also used the condolence visit to promise them speedy completion of the abandoned 14 km road. One year after, the road is still in its terrible state and kidnappers have continued to haunt the residents of the community.
Fourteen members of the community, including Mohammed Baba, former Vice Chairman of the Kuje Local Government Area, were kidnapped in the most recent attack that happened in the community on October 10, 2020.
Isaac Solomon who was among the residents that were kidnapped during the 2019 attack on the community shared his experience. He was kidnapped on the road while driving back from work, an attempt he said could have not been possible if the road was in good shape.
“Sometimes in October last year, I was coming back from work when the armed kidnappers stormed the road while I was trying to navigate my way on the road filled with potholes. Before I realized what was going on, the armed men had dragged me inside their vehicles and drove off, the rest is history.”
FCTA Pegi Road Contract Document
Documents obtained by The ICIR revealed that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) on March 21 awarded the 14km Kuje-Pegi road to Verallen Nigeria Limited for the sum of N676,463,262.30 (Six Hundred and Seventy-Six Million, Four Hundred and Sixty-Three Thousand, Two Hundred and Sixty-Two Naira, Thirty Kobo), following his Tender of August 8, 2010.
The document, which was signed by Ahmad Muhammad Joda, the Procurement Director for the FCTA asked the contractor to indicate in writing his acceptance or otherwise of the award within two weeks of the receipt of the award letter.
It also stated that the contractor was expected to complete the project within nine months.
Another document obtained by The ICIR showed how Allen Egbe, the Managing Director of the Verallen Nigeria Limited, on March 23, 2011 sent his acceptance letter to the office of the Minister for the Federal Capital Territory.
In the letter, Egbe stated that he accepted the offer as contained in the award of contract letter dated 21st of March.
The ICIR investigations further revealed that the sum of N101,469,489.35 (One Hundred and One Million, Four Hundred and Sixty-Nine Thousand, Four Hundred and Eighty-Nine Naira, Thirty-Five Kobo), about 15% of the contract sum, was paid to the contractor, which he also confirmed to this reporter during a telephone conversation.
1 kilometer out of 14 kilometer road constructed ― Contractor
Investigation revealed that the contractor on May 18, 2020, tarred just 1 kilometer out of the 14-kilometer road after having abandoned the project since 2011 when it was only graded.
Claiming that was when he was mobilised back to the site, Egbe said that while Verallen Nigeria Limited had abandoned the road, it is the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) that should be blamed for that problem.
Egbe said the road was truly awarded to his company and mobilisation fee was received from the government, but on getting to the site, it was realised that the road design awarded to his firm was different from what they met.
“The road was truly awarded and a mobilisation fee was paid only for us to get to the site and discovered that the design that was given to us was a completely wrong design. Promptly, we informed the government about it. A new design was later approved. And we told them that the old design and the new design can not be the same amount. Sadly, this became an issue we dragged for long before I took ill,” Egbe recounted.
Egbe said that was why he later went back to the site to construct one kilometer part of the road duly paid for out of the 14km.
“Up till now, we are waiting for the FCTA to pay more before we would continue with the remaining aspect of the project” he stated.
The ICIR asked Egbe if the 1km is all he has to show for the sum of N101 million paid to him for the contract, he affirmed that and said he was waiting for more payment before going back to the site. He did not give the breakdown of how the money was spent.
“We have done asphalting of 1km and we have started road work towards the community gate but waiting for the government to come and take measurement and pay us before going back to the site,” Egbe insisted.
FCTA declines comment
For over two months, The ICIR tried to speak with top officials of the FCTA for their comments on the abandoned road project. All the efforts were fruitless.
Special Adviser on Media to the FCT Minister, Abubakar Sani, was not available for comments. He did not answer multiple calls put through to his mobile phone and did not reply to text message sent to his phone.
After repeatedly calls put through to Sani, this reporter on October 24 sent a text message to him, asking him to comment on the abandoned road project but he neither acknowledge nor respond to the text.
A letter of request for an interview session was also on November 12, sent to the Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu. She too, has neither acknowledged receipt nor respond let alone, grant the reporter’s interview request till the time of publishing this report. It has been a case of loud silence from the government quarters.
A road expert’s perspective
Road safety personnel, Adesola Akinniyi, expressed fear over the impact of bad roads on the lives of road users. He stated that a terrible road will not only cause loss of finances but could also lead to deterioration of human resources as well as their overall well-being.
“One of the most common social impacts of poor road connection that we are all aware of is loss of human resources. Accidents can lead to a vast number of fatalities and injuries to the travelers.
“Huge sums of money are used to build automobiles for transport. Commodities of transport like cars and bikes are not affordable for everybody. Therefore, for a person earning just enough to sustain his families’ basic needs, it would be very difficult for him to buy a vehicle again immediately, that’s not to talk of how much it would cost to maintain their health,” stressed Akinniyi.
* This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation