Inside Nigeria’s Budget of Fraud

fraud

MOJEED ALABI, in this report, concludes the two-part investigative report on the corrupt practices identified in the implementation of capital projects in some South-West states amounting to N201.79 billion

It was a hot Monday afternoon on February 1, 2016, at the Apata Kekere Village, in Akinyele Local Government Area of Ibadan, Oyo State. About seven young men were busy with different woodworks at a furniture workshop owned by a man who identified himself simply as Abdul-Gafar. The men chatted on various issues, including politics and community development.

Sensing the arrival of a stranger in their midst, they abruptly halted their debate to attend to Saturday Telegraph correspondent, who had stopped by to ask about the location of the Apata Kekere-Ojo-Iwo Road. Cleaning his sweaty brow with the back of his palm, one of the young men snapped at the reporter in Yoruba Language, “it is this road, and what is it?”

After many minutes of explanations on the essence of the reporter’s visit to the community, the young men simply hissed, and continued with their works. “That is part of what they have been talking about. We are tired of the neglect this community suffers from government. No good road, no water and electricity is also unstable; yet politicians come here every time they need our votes. If anyone is claiming federal government constructed any road here it is a lie. Flood has swept many kids off that culvert down there,” Abdul-Gafar told Saturday Telegraph.

Corroborating Abdul-Gafar’s claim is the Centenarian Baale of Isale-Orogun community, Chief Salawu Akintola, whose territory extends to Apata Kekere. Akintola said two local government areas of Akinyele and Ibadan North share boundary on the Apata Kekere-Ojo-Iwo Road, and that it was Adebayo Alao-Akala, a former governor, who came to their aid in 2010 to fix the road ahead of his re-election bid.

Similarly, a retiree of Radio Nigeria, Lagos, who owns a property along the road, who retired from Radio Nigeria in Lagos, Chief Olaleye Oluwabunmi, called out many other residents within the neighbourhood to debunk the ministry’s claim. “What are we not going to see in this country? The description shows clearly it is this road the ministry is talking about but we can confirm to you it is a pure lie. Please we will be interested to follow this case up,” Oluwabunmi said.

But this is the same road the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development are claiming to have constructed with a total sum of N67,913,365.58. According to the Director of the ministry’s Department of Procurement, Dr. Patt Uyanne, N45 million was appropriated for the 2.47km road network contract in the budgetary allocation of 2013, which was quoted at a contract sum of N71,487,753,25. In her response to a request to a Freedom of Information Act written on the matter to the ministry by the Public and Private Development Centre, Uyanne, claimed that the contract was awarded to Century Engineering.

Investigations by Saturday Telegraph revealed that no construction work has been carried out on the road by the ministry. Incidentally, it was discovered that no construction company is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as Century Engineering. The legal practitioner, who made the search request on behalf of the reporter, Lekan Oladapo, said the company might not exist after all.

The same Ministry of Agriculture also claimed it has executed two rural community projects in Ota, Ogun State, within the same period of 2011 to 2015 under review. The projects, according to Uyanne, are the construction of Ilo-Ifako Rural Road in Ado Odo Ota Local Government Area linking Lagos and Ogun states, and the construction of Ijamido Hall.

According to the ministry, the road construction had attracted an appropriation of N60 million with the actual contract sum of about N51 million. Uyanne said the contract, which was awarded to Temnadot Contractors Limited, got a release of about N45 million (N45,269, 507.70) and has since been completed. But, when Saturday Telegraph visited the road, apart from a newly constructed linking culvert, the road is still in a deplorable condition.

In a chat with the chairman of the Ilo-Ifako Community Development Area- a committee of landlords in the Ota suburb, Musa Olatunji, he revealed what they had done on the matter. According to him, “I led the committee to the senator representing Ogun West Senatorial District between 2011 and 2015, Akin Odunsi, to help in reconstructing the collapsed culvert on the road.

“The situation was worse before this intervention. People from both Ogun and Lagos sides used to park their vehicles at the river bank and take bike to their destinations. The old culvert was submerged by heavy flood and since the intervention, it has been good except for the bad road and the erosion that is already sweeping away homes in the community,” he explained.

Olatunji said it must have been a mistake for the ministry to have claimed it constructed the road, saying the administration of former governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State had fixed the Ogun axis of the linking road.

Odunsi, who was also the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the state during the 2015 general election, had erected a signpost close to the culvert with an inscription; “This Project was facilitated by Senator Akin Odunsi.”

However, the senator, when contacted said what was constructed was the culvert and not the road. He boasted that the community had suffered a great deal until he helped to facilitate the intervention. But the story is not the same at the Ijamido Hall where rather than claiming that the project renovation was facilitated, the senator had a plaque on the wall of the building saying the renovation was done by him.

In fact, investigations revealed that he had rolled out drums to inaugurate the building with the Olota of Ota, Oba Moshood Oyede Arolagbade III, among other political supporters in attendance. But this renovation project, according to the ministry, had cost the federal government a total sum of N25, 457, 462. 19 out of the total contract sum of N28, 137,195.

Some of the community residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the hall had been in existence as far back as 1978 but that it only required some renovation works. When Odunsi was asked about the project, he said the bulk of the renovation work was done by the ministry but that he had also fixed the entrance gates and the frontal fence.

“The plaque attributing the renovation claim to me was just a grammatical issue. But I also spent my personal money on some of the fittings in the hall. I, however, commended the ministry for coming to our aid,” Odunsi said.

The new hall, according to one of the security officers guarding it, who does not want his name in print, said for members of the public to gain access to the hall for their events, they pay as much as N120,000 to the leadership of Ota Development Union. To the people of Ondo and Edo states, especially the rural communities within the Okelusi and the Osse River area respectively, transporting their goods and especially their cocoa products, have been a major challenge. The situation is not unconnected to the uncompleted Ogbese Bridge linking Ondo to Edo states.

Saturday Telegraph gathered that the bridge had been constructed by the then African Timber and Plywood Company in 1952 to aid their timber business but about three decades after, its collapse is badly affecting business activities in the area. In 2008, the federal government initiated the process to have it rebuilt but the plan was later abandoned. The details of the arrangement and the contractor in charge remained sketchy till date.

Yet, in its response to a query on the status of the road, the Coordinating Director, Highways Planning and Development Department of the Federal Ministry of Works, Bala Dansheu, an engineer, said between 2011 and 2015, about N388 million (N387,911,094,084), was expended on the abandoned bridge. According to Danshehu, the contract, which was awarded to Dekit Nigeria Limited, was with contract registration number C/NO 5923 at a contract sum of N779,763,142.16, and has reached about 77 per cent completion.

“Poor funding has affected the progress because there was no cash released in 2013, and there was no budget provision in 2014 and 2015,” Danshehu said.

One of the community leaders in the area, where the bridge is located, who craved anonymity lamented the loss of economic values the state of the bridge is causing the country. “This bridge serves many purposes. The Osse River is the boundary between Edo and Ondo states and we are predominantly cocoa farmers here, but how do we transport our products where there is no linking road?

“In fact, this is an alternate access road to Lagos; Owo in Ondo State and the Benin-Warri Road in Edo State because the other routes are longer. But since government has kept it here unattended to, development of this area has been retarded,” he lamented.

Apart from the fact that the office address claimed by the company to be located on 148B Gana Street, Maitama, Abuja, does not exist, all the phone numbers quoted were never available when tried. Our correspondent’s visit to the location revealed only an uncompleted building not yet inhabited by anyone.

The company’s managing director, Dele Olagunju, an architect, who had reportedly died in June 2015, in  kidnappers’ den, was discovered to have been tried once in 2005 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for huge ‘unserviced’ bank loans. The anti-graft agency, following a report by a financial institution, had discovered that the loan, which is said to be more than a billion naira, was acquired with ‘fake’ bank shares.

Similarly, the company had once been accused of disappearing after collecting a contract sum of about N500 million from the Adamawa State House of Assembly. The lawmakers, who had at one of their sittings in 2013 summoned the contractor, accused him of collecting the mobilisation fund for the project and bolting.

The lawmakers’ summon followed an interim report by the Assembly’s committee on works, transport, land, and survey saddled with the task of monitoring and evaluating all road projects being executed under former governor Murtala Nyako’s administration. Meanwhile, beyond the ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Works, there are also other ministries involved in one project or the other in the SouthWest. While some of them are not doing badly, many are truly in bad shape, with the people disappointed as to the real reasons these projects were initiated.

One of the good projects already being put into use by the beneficiary communities is the National Youth Development Centre by the Federal Ministry of Youth Development, which is located in Ode-Omu, Ayedaade Local Government Area of Osun State. It was located in the community when its indigene, Olasunkanmi Akinlabi, was the Senator in charge of the ministry. Though, the project was abandoned for many years, it is currently being used by the community to host various youth-focused programmes, including skill acquisition training and indoor sporting games.

According to the President of the Ode-Omu Development Union, a retired Professor of Chemistry at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Isaac Ojo, the location of the project in the community has helped her to redirect the activities of the youth in the town and refocus them on career development and training on relevant skills.

The Director, Procurement Department of the Youth Development Ministry, Mrs. Ade Iyabo Ogunyanwo, said the project, which was awarded to Messer BMA Ventures Limited, had a contract sum of N44,684,797.50, with a total release of N36,797,833.80 till date. The director, who claimed the project has since been practically completed, said the ministry was still owing the contractor about N8 million.

However, the story is not the same with the Federal Ministry of Education as various projects approved for execution in many of the educational institutions within the South West region are yet to be executed, while those being executed have taken many years to be completed.

At the University of Lagos, Akoka, are the construction of Law Faculty Building which attracted an allocation of N200,000,000 in 2013; an Olympic size championship swimming pool with an allocation of N123,840,723.41, and the redrafting of the university’s master plan, which received an allocation of N40,000,000 but with a contract sum of N44,088,583.62.

In its response to the newspaper’s enquiry into the status of the projects, the university, via a memo received through its Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Rahman Bello, failed to give details of the actual amount released per year on each of the projects. The university, however, agreed that the whole N123,840,723.41 was for the construction of an olympic size swimming pool but vague in its disclosure about what was spent.

Also, the university only gave a total amount of N29,425,770.62 as what it received in 2014 for the Law Faculty Building but was silent on what was received in 2013 when it was initiated. It, however, claimed that the N29,425,770.62, is only for consultancy services for various companies working on the planning of the Faculty Building structure and that the actual amount to complete the whole nine-floor building is N2.5 billion, which it said is currently being sourced by the faculty’s alumni association.

In like manner, it agreed that N40 million was allocated to the Master Plan review for the institution, but was again silent on the actual amount released, saying it was an ongoing project to review the paperwork of its master plan. While supposed beneficiaries of those haphazardly executed projects which have already gulped several billions of naira are clamouring for the completion of the projects, few who already have theirs completed are also yearning to have more projects established in their areas.

 

This is the second part of an investigative report titled: Nigeria’s ‘budget of fraud’. It was made possible with support from Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

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