Two Bauchi Senators took N249 million for dubious Constituency Projects
By Haruna Mohammed SALISU
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SENATORS representing Bauchi North and Bauchi South received 249 million Naira in 2019 for constituency projects but blew the opportunity to use it to empower scores of their poor constituents.
Not only was the shoddy training politicized, the beneficiaries in Bauchi North were all trained in one day for less than six hours, jam-packed in a single hall for all the trades without the chance to choose which trade they preferred. Many of the beneficiaries were neither given start-up capital nor did they get working equipment to practice the trades for which they were trained.
Also, the National Productivity Centre and the Federal College of Horticulture, which are the implementing agencies for the two constituency projects, could not offer any explanation as to how the projects were implemented.
A sunny Saturday of October 31, 2020, was like any normal day for Danlami Badamasi, a resident of Gamawa town, over 259 kilometres away from Bauchi metropolis. Badamasi had come out for his usual welding job, a business he has done for close to two decades. He is one of few All Progressives Congress’s (APC) card-carrying members in Gamawaand describes himself as a ‘staunch supporter’ of Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa, senator representing Bauchi North Senatorial District.
Badamasi was one of the youths selected in 2019 from across the 7 local government areas that make up the Bauch North Senatorial District where they converged at the Event Centre, Azare, for a one-day training on four vocational skills sponsored by Bulkachuwa, their representative at the Upper legislative chamber.
Several beneficiaries of the training said they were all put in one hall and trained in different trades, including barbing, hair dressing, detergent and pomade making,all within the space of six hours.
This newspaper could not obtain the exact number of the trainees, as the constituency office of the senator was uncooperative, but Badamasi puts their total number at around 70.
In 2019, about N169,000,000 was disbursed in three tranches to Senator Bulkachuwa of for “skill acquisition training and youths and women empowerment” projects which covers Zaki, Shira, Jama’are, Giade, Gamawa, Katagum and Itas Gadau local government areas of Bauchi State.
The project was domiciled at the National Productivity Centre (NPC) through Ministry of Labour for implementation.
Badamasi was selected through campaign coordinator for Bulkachuwa,Bello Shehu Gololo, who later metamorphosed into his legislative aide.
“I had no knowledge whatsoever on the kinds of training that would be offered until I went to the venue of the training”, Badamasi said.
“If I was given a choice, I wouldn’t have opted to learn barbing or detergent making, I would have chosen to learn new techniques that will help me improve the business I am known with for close to 20 years. I would have expanded the business and incorporated a lot of other things; especially, I would have been building modern doors by now if I got more skills and enough capital”
What amazed Badamasi was that the training conducted for few hours housed different kinds of trades such as pomade making, detergents preparations and barbing for both men and women—all carried out in few hours in a single classroom.
Badamasi said they were given various trainings at once and in a single hall “as against the initial plan they told us, where everyone was supposed to be trained on one skill that they can utilised after the training.
“I was given N50, 000 and a generator after the training, but I sold the generator at the rate of N8, 000 after the training because it was not good”
When asked why he sold the generator at a giveaway price, Badamasi said “it has coil problem, and I cannot endure fixing it”
Although Badamasi and Umar Lamara live approximately 100km apart, they share many things in common—they are both trainees of Bulkachuwa’s empowerment project who were unable to put into practice what they were purportedly trained.
For Lamara from Shira Local Government Area, the training was a complete waste of time because “it was too short to enable us master the skills for implementation”.
Lamara said although he got selected through his mother, who is the APC women leader in Shira LGA, he got N50, 000 after the training but could not practice the trade he was hastily trained in.
Lamara’s mother Hajiya Rabia Isyakawas also a beneficiary of the empowerment project. At first, Rabia tried to convince WikkiTimes that the training actually took place and it was “very effective”. When our correspondent inquired further, requesting that she takes him to where she was preparing the detergents for which she was trained, the narrative changed.
At a point she told our reporter that she was producing the detergents at another place and that she had used the N50,000 given to her during the training “for buying and selling of wrappers”; at another point, it was a different story.
When the reporter insisted that he wanted to see some of the detergents Rabia was producing and how she was making profit, she took the reporter inside her house and presented to him a locally carved wooden chair as the proceeds of the empowerment training.
“But this is not detergent Hajiya?”, WikkiTimes pressed. She smiled and said “you know it’s a decision of our leaders, we don’t have any option, and we can’t challenge them”.
Rabia later conceded to WikkiTimes that the training was indeed ineffective and could not yield the desired result in allowing women and other trainees put into use the skills they learnt.
Like her son and Badamasi, Rabia confessed that had she been consulted before the training, she would have preferred to be trained on how to modernize her local trade to carve modern wooden chairs, which she says were more marketable and profitable within her domain than detergents.
“If I will be consulted next time for training, I will prefer to be trained on what am doing and a capital of N100,000 will turn my fortunes around as a woman”, she said.
She admitted that lack of proper consultation of the beneficiaries to know what kind of handwork they are interested in and whether such skill they will be trained on has market value or not is part of the reasons why some women have remained poor despite being trained in some skills.
She said if women are given training in the areas of tailoring, knitting, pomade making “and have enough capital base, it will go a long way in changing their narrative for the better and they will make more sales that will sustain them and their families.”
In Jama’are local government where Bulkachuwa was said to have also trained about 11 beneficiaries, WikkiTimes tracked only two beneficiaries – Hamza Ahmad (AKA Amjet) and ShuaibuBazataro. The two were trained alongside others in various skills, but they were initially shortlisted to be trained in barbing.
Bazataro is the only beneficiary that was given a tiger generator and N50, 000 start-up capital to expand his business, “because I’m already a full-time barber even before the training was held”.
His colleague, Ahmad was only given the sum of N50,000, “but I was not fortunate enough to get other equipment like generator, clippers and so on like my colleague who got the money as well as the barbing equipment and a generator.”
“They promised to make them available to me but up till now that I am talking to you, I have not heard from them. It was Shehu Gololo (Bulkachuwa’s legislative aide) that promised that I will get the rest of the package after the training, but up till now, nothing is been heard from him,” Ahmad lamented.
The two beneficiaries who spoke to WikkiTimes in Jamare said of the 11 beneficiaries that were trained there, only one was fully equipped with empowerment tools and start-up capital to fully put into use the skills they have acquired, but Ahmad managed to move on with his business even without the remaining equipment since he was already a barber like his colleague.
“Only two of us are currently operating at the moment, out of the 11 beneficiaries”, Bazataro has said.
The same scenario played out in Shira Local Government Area where only one beneficiary, Abdullahi Muhammad SarkinAska, was fully operating as a barber after the training “because it has been my business even before we were co-opted to participate in the training”.
But two other colleagues, Rabia and her son, Lamara, were not so lucky to commence business since the training did not accord them the opportunity to select skills of their choices, just as it did not give them the equipment and capital to commence operations.
Of all the beneficiaries tracked by WikkiTimes, this medium can authoritatively report that “so called empowerment training” was marred by glaring irregularities, just as its impact is not felt by the beneficiaries of the training.
WikkiTimes Reporter Threatened
At about 12:45pm, on November 1st, WikkiTimes reporter accompanied by his fixer drove to Gamawa to identify and interview some beneficiaries of Bulkachuwa’s constituency projects. The reporter’s fixer called one Bashir Shehu from Gamawa who was privy to the training and through whom the team hoped to get other beneficiaries of the training.
Bashir who said he had limited knowledge about the beneficiaries of the training resolved to call Bulkachuwa’s legislative aide, Buba Shehu Gololo, who was said to be the architect of the empowerment training in the seven LGAs that make up the constituency. Although this reporter could not hear the phone conversation between Bashir Shehu and Mr. Gololo, Shehu later sighed and dropped the call.
When WikkiTimes inquired why he dropped the call with Gololo so abruptly, Shehu, who looked visibly frustrated, became uncooperative.
“I’m sorry, I can’t go on giving you guys any information because Gololo just warned me that I should not in any way link you up with any beneficiary of the training. “The whole thing is fishy in my opinion, so for anyone to be warning me using insulting language on me, I can’t tolerate this.”
“They are telling me that I have committed a crime by attending to you guys; let me even tell you, my involvement in Senator Bulkachuwa’s political sojourn is just a waste of time on my side because I did not benefit anything despite the suffering, we did for him.
“He said if I go on with you guys, I’m doing so at my own peril”, Bashir told our reporter in anger. He apologized, jumped on his motorcycle and left the reporter and his fixer stranded in Gamawa with no one to talk to.
But the reporter and his fixer remained undeterred despite Gololo’s warning. WikkiTimes moved round the town to inquire from people whether they know anyone who received empowerment training, in the end, only one beneficiary, whose story was mentioned before was tracked and interviewed.
The same stumbling block played out in Zaki LGA. Claims suggest there are other beneficiaries of the project in the LGA, but Gololo’s move blocked the reporter from accessing the supposed beneficiaries. The reporter’s fixer had initially called one Abdullahi Tijjani, who agreed to help the team meet some beneficiaries, but the story changed upon their arrival.
“Gololo warned us not to attend to you, he said you guys should call him if you want any information about the beneficiaries of the empowerment training”, said Abdullahi Tijjani.
The reporter decided to call Gololo to explain why WikkiTimes was interested in tracking and interviewing the beneficiaries of the intervention.
‘I just had a conversation with Senator Bulkachuwa regarding what you guys are trying to do, he told me to convey to you that he is not interested in anyone tracking beneficiaries of his training for whatever motives.
“Anyone who insisted in doing that, he is doing so at his own risk, that is what Senator Bulkachuwa told me to convey to you. Since you were in Gamawa, I learnt that you guys are trying to speak to the beneficiaries, anybody who does any form of interview in the name of tracking empowerment training beneficiaries is just risking his life”, Bello Shehu Gololo warned WikkiTimes correspondent on telephone.
A few minutes later, Gololo called WikkiTimes for the second time.
“Mallam Haruna, this message I’m delivering to you is directly from Senator Bulkachuwa, the senator said he is not interested whatsoever and for whatever mission for someone to come and do any form of press coverage with the intent to promote him or whatever, and he asked me to tell you that anyone who interviews anybody on this project has done so at their own risk”, Gololo told our reporter.
A subsequent visit to other LGAs to track and interview supposed beneficiaries was unsuccessful as Gololo had reportedly communicated to beneficiaries not to entertain any press inquiry regarding Senator Bulkachuwa’s constituency activities.
Another scam-like training programme in Bauchi South Senatorial District
Lawal Yahaya Gumau, Senator representing Bauchi South Senatorial District is also involved in glaring constituency scam.
Senator Lawal Yahaya Gumau got N80 million (Eighty million naira) in 2019 for constituency projects at different intervals for “empowerment and training in dry seasonfarming in Tilde, Toro LGA and empowerment of youths in Agricultural practices and development in Bauchi South senatorial district.”
The project was domiciled at the Federal College of Horticulture,Dadin Kowa, Gombe as implementing agency, which was to identify and train beneficiaries in Bauchi South Senatorial District.
Investigations revealed that no such training was carried out by the Federal College of Horticulture. Instead, youths and women were partially trained by a local Non Governmental organization, NGO, on computer skills, tailoring and detergents making.
Almost all the beneficiaries interviewed by WikkiTimes said they received the training halfway and there was no empowerment equipment or start-up capital given to them to commence operations.
For instance, Aisha Dauda, from Tilden Fulani, was trained on how to make pomade cream and liquid detergents for car wash.
During the training, they were jam-packed at a Tilden Fulani Primary School and trained for just a few hours.
Aisha said she along with 29 other women, were trained in detergents making, but unfortunately for her, the training remains a waste of time because she lacks the basic capital to commence operation.
Aisha said she needed only between N30, 000 and N50, 000 as capital to commence operations, but regretted that the promised made during the training that Senator Gumau’s constituency package also involves capital for them to start their businesses remains a fiction.
“In fact, even the chemicals used during the training, we had to buy them,” she said.
Aisha, a firewood seller, said she had to revert to her usual business after “the so-called empowerment training”, which she considers a waste of time.
She also lamented that “in my street alone there are six of us who received similar training, but we still could not do anything because we don’t have capital to commence business.”
Lack of capital to start the business was not the only concern Aisha had. She also wondered how about six of them living on the same street could be trained in same skill without due recourse to potential market for the beneficiaries.
Asmau’u Mohammed Ahmad is an SS2 Students at Comprehensive Secondary School Tilden Fulani. She said she was privileged to be shortlisted to participate in the training through her father, a card-carrying member of the APC and a staunch supporter of Senator Gumau.
Asma’u was trained in tailoring, but no startup capital and no sewing machine was given to enable her start operations. At the moment, she has jettisoned the training to continue with her education.
Rahama Abdullahi was enrolled during the training to learn tailoring. She said she was selected because of her loyalty to the All Progressives Congress, having worked for the success of Senator Lawal Gumau.
Her major regret is that upon completion of the training, she was not given the sewing machine promised to her during the training.
She said she was trained for one month but the training ended in futility since what she was trained on is not what she currently does.
Gumau Connived With Local NGO For Jamboree Trainings
In order to facilitate his shoddy constituency empowerment training, Lawal Yahaya Gumau connived with a local non-governmental organization, NGO, African Unity Foundation, to train constituents as against the statutory implementing agency, the Federal College of Horticulture Dadin Kowa, Gombe.
The local NGO also trained in computer skills acquisition as against “empowerment of youths in agricultural practices and development”, for which the money was principally allocated.
In order to establish how the lawmaker connived with the NGO, WikkiTimes’ correspondent pretended to be calling on behalf of a federal lawmaker in Plateau State who was impressed with the training conducted by the organisation on behalf of Lawal Yahaya Gumau in Bauchi South Senatorial District.
In a telephone conversation with Barrister Umar Munir, the Executive Director of the NGO, the reporter said he wanted a similar training to be conducted on behalf of a Plateau lawmaker.
Findings by this reporter suggests that Lawal Yahaya Gumau trained a paltry of 30 constituents on computer acquisition skills with no empowerment materials or start-up capital to enable them become self-reliant as has been the objectives of every empowerment training.
Asked whether Yahaya Gumau gave laptops for the beneficiaries after the training, he said “No,we did not give them any computer, we only gave them certificate after the training.”
The NGO says apart from computer acquisition trainings, they also trained constituents on “soap making and other household programs.”
It said that it cost N7,500 to train each beneficiary on computer skills acquisition that will last between three weeks to one month.
Federal College of Horticulture Fails to Provide Training Details
On November 23, 2020, this reporter headed to Dadin Kowa, about 45km away from Gombe to inquire whether the Federal College of Horticulture, the implementing agency for the youth development programmes carried out the training.
The Provost of the College, Dr. Babawuro Mahmud, turned down a request to interview his principal.
“You are a journalist, what is your business with constituency projects”, Babuwuro started.
The Provost, who was visibly angry with this reporter, started shouting even before he was availed details of what the information required.
“Hey, listen to me my friend, we have to be very careful, the members of NASS are our bosses, do you understand, it’s their works. Because we don’t know who you are, maybe you’re their political rival, so we cannot just start giving information like that”.
When our reporter tried to explain to the Provost that he was bound by law to make the information available based on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, Babuwuro refused to listen but kept interrupting him.
“Let me tell you, that is not your work, it’s not your business whatsoever to try to find out any details about constituency projects; just wait, if we finish building our website, all this information will be uploaded there for everyone to see”, he insisted.
“In fact, where is your ID card, you are a reporter of which medium”, he queried.
When the reporter presented his Identity card, Babawuro said “then what is your business with all the information you are trying to obtain? As far as I’m concerned, you are a card-carrying member of the PDP.
“Because it appears as if you are working for the PDP. Fine, you are trying to find information about the projects right?, he asked.
“We have done all of them. It’s a continuous process. We have done all the projects and we are still doing more”, he said.
When WikkiTimes insisted that Babawuro present a comprehensive list of the beneficiaries, their location, when the training took place, and pictures or any other means of verification to buttress his claim that the training actually took place, he vehemently rejected the plea.
“You don’t have any business with that information my friend, you guys would have attended when the training was going on if you actually wanted to see us doing the training.
“Why are you even interested in 2019 training, why wouldn’t you look forward and focus on the upcoming trainings, answer me; are you an auditor?
“Please can you guys leave my office; we are having a meeting.”
“You cannot be asking us on something that has already been concluded, we are doing another one in 2021, we cannot be answering questions on something that has already been concluded.
“Let me tell you, I was invited to Abuja by the office of Public Account Committee. You don’t even know the implication of what you are talking about.”
“Anybody who would say that, let him go and say it, we can sue him to court. Look, we have a lot of works, even in 2021, more works are coming that this institution will carry out, we have done plenty of projects including in Maiduguri”, he argued.
Babawuro presented a training Manual where the institution conducted “Orchard Establishment, Management and Handling of Fruits and Vegetables in Borno and Gombe States” in 2020 to substantiate his claim that the college had conducted a lot of constituency trainings.
Asked to present a similar training manual for the training he said was conducted in Bauchi, he failed to do so, just as he failed to provide details on the number of beneficiaries of the training, selection criteria used in selecting them, the trades the beneficiaries received training on, the empowerment materials distributed and so on.’
Questionable Empowerment Projects
Traditionally, a legislator is expected to identify the location and the kinds of project to be implemented in their constituencies. After identifying the needs of his/her constituents, the National Assembly then reflects such needs in the budget of relevant ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, which then advertises the project in line with Public Procurement Act.
WikkiTimes findings revealed that the process of implementation of the investigated Bauchi constituency projects remain cloudy as there is no evidence to suggest that the relevant MDAs, National Productivity Centre under ministry of Labour and Federal College of Horticulture were the implementers of the two projects.
For instance, Federal College of Horticulture failed to provide any evidence that they trained women in dry land agriculture in Bauchi. The college handed down a training manual they conducted in Borno and Gombe states, but failed to produce same manual or any other information that will buttress their claims that such trainings were conducted in Bauchi South.
Constituency Empowerment Projects as Reward for Political Loyalists
Despite the fact that the two lawmakers’ projects were marred by glaring irregularities and sharp practices, it was discovered that the empowerment projects were used to reward their political loyalists.
Of all the beneficiaries tracked and interviewed by our reporter in the two senatorial districts, most admitted that at one point or another, they had worked for the victory of AdamuBulkachuwa and Lawal Yahaya Gumau, noting that the training was a payback time for most of them.
For instance, when asked how he was selected to participate during the training in Azare, Mustapha Lamara, said “I’m a staunch supporter of the APC. My mother is the women leader here and my uncle is the APC Chairman, and we all contributed during the elections to ensure that the senator emerged victorious.”
Ado Mahmud Tilde, the APC Chairman Tilden Fulani ward in Toro LGA, who conceded that the party was instrumental in selecting beneficiaries of the Gumau’s empowerment trainings equally admitted that the beneficiaries are loyalists of the APC.
* This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.