Nigeria: Investigation - Inside Story of Unexecuted, Abandoned N224 Million Constituency Projects in Plateau

20 October 2019

In many rural communities across Nigeria, including Plateau State, access to good roads has often hampered food security and development.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) revealed that 80 per cent of the world's food is produced on family farms, which are predominantly owned by smallholders in rural communities.

In Plateau State, the sad tale for residents of Mangu, Bokkos and Wase LGAs is that they neither have accessible roads and bridges, potable drinking water, electricity nor primary healthcare centre.

The poor road conditions in this village make it difficult for farmers to have access to interventions and amenities such as financial assistance, training, and education, clean and affordable drinking water, health services, electricity, schools, financial and other forms of support for the rural dwellers.

As a result, rural farmers are further impoverished.

All projects captured in this story were supervised by Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority (LBRBDA), under the Ministry of Water Resources. Read the first part here.

Kadim Village

It took this reporter 3 hours 40 minutes to locate Kadim village from Bokkos town where an estimated N400 million contract, spanning over three years, is expected to end.

This road project, which began from Horop, through Kaban to Kadim, was first nominated by the former senator representing Plateau Central, Joshua Dariye, in 2016 with a budgetary allocation of N120 million.

It was captioned "Construction of Horop-Kaban-Kadim road (20kilometres) with culverts and bridges in Bokkos LGA, Plateau Central senatorial district".

Kadim is one of the beneficiary communities of road construction projects attracted by Mr Dariye and located 15km from Horop, his hometown, where a tarred road was seen.

Mr Dariye re-nominated the project in 2017 with an exact caption but with a budget pegged at N100 million.

In 2018, the project, "Construction of Horop-Kadim road phase 1 in Plateau central senatorial district" with a budgetary allocation of N200,000,000 was again sponsored.

Prior to when the road grading began in 2019, residents of Kadim village, where there is neither a health centre nor accessible road, rush family members who fall sick to Horop PHC which is 15km away from the village.

The last time they drank water from a borehole was in 2014, after which, the borehole stopped functioning and they resorted to river water.

"Haba 'sosei' - we need the road. The road is the most important need for us here because it will bring development to the village", a 69 year old, Mai Angwa of Kadim, excitedly told the reporter.

According to Sunday Ngolot, the project supervisor, the road would stop at Nawula-Kadim.

"By God's grace, when the government approves, the road will be tarred," said Mr Ngolot, a cousin to Mr Dariye.

"This is just to open the road, the government has not given order to tar the road. This is just to open it and later on, it will be tarred. So far we have done the culvert."

When UDEME and Premium Times met them at work, the construction company, Tilley Gyado and Co, was on site.

Mr Ngolot said the engineer, Daniel Dariye, younger brother to the former lawmaker, had gone to town and "the only money released so far was for grading and opening of the road".

For four weeks, this reporter sought to reach the engineer, Mr Dariye, the senator's younger brother, through Mr Ngolot and was told the senator was sick and on admission somewhere in Gwagwalada.

He instructed the reporter to visit the patient in the hospital.

Joshua Dariye is currently serving a 14-year jail term in Kuje Prison.

He was convicted for two main categories of offences, namely criminal breach of trust which attracts a two-year sentence for each affected count and criminal misappropriation which has a penalty of 14 years.

Mr Dariye served as the governor of Plateau State between 1999 and 2007.

When UDEME and PREMIUM TIMES finally got through to the younger Dariye, he said he knew nothing about the project.

His role was mere supervision, he added. However, he sent the reporter's telephone contact to the elder Mr Dariye, who called immediately.

Dariye's defence

During his phone call, the former senator insisted that the conversation about the project will be incomplete until he is paid a visit in Kuje Prison.

"My sister I have done journalism before, it is not coming from Premium Times, it is sponsored," Mr Dariye said.

"I am older than you, I know where the smoke is coming from, of course, they must use an instrument."

According to the former lawmaker, he was accused of diverting funds for the project, whereas in real sense, he used his personal funds to finance the project.

"Let me ask an ignorant question, we have the Mangu regional dam abandoned, we have the Panyam Shendam road abandoned, why have you not gone and discovered those ones? This fight will know no end because if somebody messes me up, I am already on the ground I will fight anybody up.

"Nothing has been released this year and many others. Listen to me graphically, I did some few enquiries, nobody is taking up the zonal intervention of Useni or Jonah Jang (ex-governors) but particularly mine because I have a problem with my senator."

Mr Dariye pointed out that the role of the supervising agency, LBRBDA, was to review the work done and then evaluate "and if satisfied, they would then make arrangements for payment to be made, if there is money".

"The company which was seen on the site, Tilley Gyado & Co, was contracted to work there because they had the equipment that could get the job done."

He failed to mention the name of the contractor.

"I have been incarcerated here in Kuje prison, I was rushed to the hospital in November under life and death for nine solid months. As if staying here is not enough, they want to add salt to injury, haba, this one will never work," he lamented over the phone.

FOI

Documents obtained by UDEME and Premium Times from the Ministry of Finance through the Freedom of Information request letter indicated that nothing less than 60 per cent has been released for execution of constituency projects from 2015 to 2018. Below is a detailed breakdown.

The graph shows that out of N100 billion which is usually set aside for ZIPs (zonal intervention programmes), N60 billion was released in 2015, N80 billion in 2016, N70 billion in 2017 and N50 billion in 2018.

Abandoned Kombili - Daika Bridge

Life in Kombili village in Mangu LGA is not an easy one. The people have no source of drinking water but wells serve as their fountain of life.

They have no electricity but make use of battery-powered torchlights and kerosene lanterns.

They have very poor road networks and would have to take the long route through Mararaba Pushit to sell their farm produce - spending nearly half of the day to get to the market.

Relatively small by size and population -Kombili village has an estimated population of 2,000 inhabitants and they could easily tell when an individual is an alien.

The villagers live very close to each other with subsistence agriculture as their mainstay.

However, one major source of concern to the people of this village is the Kombili-Daika bridge. This bridge has taken the lives of ten people in the last three years during the rainy seasons.

Despite huge budgetary allocations and releases for the construction of the bridge, construction work is still skeletal and could be described as abandoned.

In 2015, the project for the completion of Daika Kombili rural bridge in Mangu LGA was nominated and awarded to LBRBDA at N55 million.

Although the project was captioned "completion", there was no existing bridge and the work started from ground level in 2017.

While that was yet to fully take off, it was inserted in the budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in 2018 for the "rehabilitation of Kombili Daika bridge, Mangu Plateau State" with a budgetary allocation of N55,087,887 as an Economic and Recovery Growth Plan project with code ERGP3101185.

According to the Mai Angwa (community head) of Kombili, Shetu Shotding, the work started with so much momentum but since April 2019, "no one has come to continue it".

"The member representing Mangu/Bokkos in the federal house of assembly, Barrister Jonathan Aminu, is the one in charge of the bridge," he noted.

Baba Shetu is 106 years. He walked, unassisted, with his son from his farmland to the house, nearly a one kilometre distance, to answer this reporter.

"As you see that wood, the community put the wood to assist them in crossing with motorcycles. So the bridge is not helping us in any way," he said.

The bridge has become a burden to them.

UDEME met Patrick who was just returning from Mangu town where he had gone to purchase three bags of maize seeds for his farm.

When he got to the bridge, it was a struggle between him, the motorcyclist, and the three full bags of maize. He had to offload two bags and let the motorcyclist drive down the wooden stairs.

The bridge had no extension for pedestrians or motorcyclists to cross to the other side.

At the top of the bridge, a portion of the concrete had fallen off exposing the inter-linking rods. Again, it was up to the village youth to use piles of wood to cover that part so they could easily cross.

After the work was stalled, the community could not access that road because the bridge had no stairs for pedestrians and so they had to attach wood for easy movement.

Even villagers from nearby communities such as Angwa Barawa, Jamret, Komdi, Washna and Changal who often route Kombili to Mangu town, stopped passing until the wood was attached.

"There is nothing we (villagers) can do since we are not well-equipped but we have taken our cries to the local government chamber for the dead ones, the chamber said it will look into it but that was before the construction of the bridge," complained Yohanna Shetu, son of the Mai Angwa.

This reporter tried to reach Jonathan Aminu (former rep Mangu/Bokkos federal constituency) and Solomon Mareng who currently represents Mangu/Bokkos federal constituency in National Assembly, but the numbers seen on NASS website were incomplete.

Kadarko-Wase Bridge

The bridge connecting Wase to Kadarko was built by the state government in what was described as "long time ago".

However, in 2016, the bridge collapsed and although the community was supposed to benefit from a zonal intervention in 2017, nothing was done.

The N20 million project for the construction of a bridge along Wase Kadarko road, Wase LGA, was awarded through LBRBDA and sponsored by former senator, Jeremiah Useni, representing Plateau South senatorial district.

When UDEME and Premium Times visited the location in June 2019, when the rains came down heavily, no work had been done.

Wase Union members, noticing the danger involved in not having a bridge, constructed another bridge with wood.

"Nothing has been done here by anybody. You didn't see how the water is falling here, because no vehicle can climb that bridge, but thank God, no one has been carried away," Mohammed Buhari, a union member, said.

"Our federal lawmakers know what we are passing through because they come here during elections. See this road, it was graded by the senator."

Interestingly, the road Mr Buhari was referring to was another constituency project nominated by Mr Useni in 2016, through LBRBDA at a budgeted sum of N40 million.

The project was captioned "Grading of road from Wase to Kadarko (About 20km), Plateau South".

UDEME &Premium Times observed that grading was done and the community benefited from the success of the project.

All efforts to reach Mr Useni via calls and texts through his known telephone lines failed.

Agency responds

Meanwhile, a Freedom of Information (FOI) letter written to the implementing agency (Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority) showed that Damak Properties Ltd (No.4 Alexander Kebang Close, Rayfield, Jos) and Krais Civil Engineering Ltd (No.E007, Kari road, Housing estate, Maiduguri bye-pass, Bauchi) were awarded two of the three contracts captured in this story.

The document only provided information for 2017 and 2018, as opposed to the request of projects implemented by the agency in Plateau between 2015 - 2018.

UDEME analysis of the document shows that the Damak Properties Ltd (RC 407129) registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in 2001.

The company was paid 70 per cent of appropriated sum for the construction of Horop-Kaban-Kadim road between 2017 and 2018. In 2017, N70 million was released while in 2018, N120 million payment was made.

Krais Civil Engineering Ltd (RC 1202936) in 2017 received N14 million (73 per cent of the fund) out of the budgeted sum of N20 million for the construction of Kadarko-Wase road. As at the time of compiling this report, the project remains unexecuted.

For prospective bidders to be able to handle contracts in Nigeria, they are required to provide evidence of registration on the database of federal contractors, consultants and service providers by producing Interim Registration Report or valid certificate from BPP and CAC.

In a phone interview with the Managing Director of LBRBDA, Mahmoud Adra, he said all the companies submitted their credentials and were duly assessed before contracts were awarded.

"The procurement procedure involves the technical and financial assessment. You must be registered with CAC, BPP, FIRS, PenCom, and the rest and there must be evidence, then they will bring financial submission which will be assessed again before the award of contract," he said.

According to him, this is done through the Procurement Unit in the ministry.

'ICPC sanitising constituency projects'

The role of lawmakers in the implementation of constituency projects is strictly oversight function, that is, to ensure that the projects are well executed to meet the needs of their constituent members.

The controversies surrounding constituency projects prompted the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC) to look into the controversial initiative which has gulped over N2 trillion since inception, by launching the Constituency Project Tracking Group (CPTG).

According to Rasheedat Okoduwa, the spokesperson of the Commission, "a major goal of the CPTG initiative is to ensure improved service delivery on social welfare in communities".

"We hope to recover funds for the government in this exercise, which is tied to the value for money - the balance of funds are recovered to the government. We hope that it will contribute to SDGs for Nigeria which are rooted in social welfare services.

"When we see a project that has not been executed and the contractor has gotten money, of course, that is clearly calling out for enforcement. If we find out that someone had started a project but didn't finish it, we will give that person the benefit of the doubt to complete the project.

"Where you have a project done twice and it is said the second phase of the project is the completion and at the end of the day, the initial money should have been enough to do it convincingly, once we get such professional report from NIQS. We act on that by collecting the 'balance' for the government. We will ask whoever is responsible to refund the balance, else you are calling for enforcement," she explained.

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