The Ecological funds of corruption and misuse


– Monies meant for ecological problems squandered and misused by the state governors while residents count their losses. – Millions of naira have gone to projects that have now become abandoned – Contractors connive with monitoring and evaluation officers to give false reports to the detriment of ecologically-troubled communities  Anglo-Jos When Sky Technical Construction Company (STCC) moved its equipment to Kambel in Anglo-Jos, Jos South local government area of Plateau state, some nine years ago, Francis Hukuma and his late father, Samuel, were both full of joy. For them and other residents, their prayers had finally been answered. At the time that the contractors came to their rescue, floods and gully erosion were a frequent menace to residents during the rainy season. For most residents of the hilly settlement of Anglo-Jos, the months of April to October, the rainy season, are reminiscent of death, obituaries, funerals and loss of properties. In Francis’s case, it is a mixed memory of his father’s funeral and the pain of how he lost his property. Francis’s late father was one of those whose houses had to make way for the erosion control measures by the contractor. At that time, Samuel had managed to raise his house to lintel level. Pending the completion of his dream house, Samuel lived with his son in a makeshift tent on the same plot of land, anticipating the joy of living in a well-built house. But the dream was crushed when STCC came to the site with its machinery and took a portion of his land and his dream house.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Unlike other neighbours who survived losing their properties without compensation, Francis’s father, who had looked forward to the prospects that being a landlord bring, did not. After a series of consultations, and much pleading with the construction company to no avail, Samuel agreed to work with the company as a security officer. “He couldn’t beat them so he joined them,” a neighbour said, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. Our reporter was informed that the remaining portion of the building was later razed by irate youths during the religious crisis that engulfed Jos in 2010. The following year, on August 28, 2011, Samuel died of a stroke. Francis dropped out of school and later became a bricklayer. Now in his early 20s, Francis believes his father would not have died if the government and the contractors had compensated them appropriately.

Francis, now with four years’ experience of bricklaying, wants recompense. The story of Francis and other residents of Anglo-Jos is similar to that of many others associated with projects executed by the Ecological Fund Office (EFO), especially in the north-central states of Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Plateau and Benue which visited. Nine years after the contract for the control of floods and gully erosion in Anglo-Jos was awarded, the miseries of the residents of the area have only worsened, due to the fact that the contractor has abandoned the project.

READ ALSO: Investigation: How Nigerian women and children fare in IDP camps (Part 2) The uncompleted project has cost most residents, including Francis, a fortune, and the problem of flooding and gully erosion in the area still persists. “When it rains you will pity us. We are at the mercy of the flood due to the sloping nature of this place. But that is not the thing that pains me. What pains me is the fact that government has already awarded this contract and yet more than five years that we thought that we have a solution we are still here counting losses,” the youth president of Anglo-Jos, Victor Gyang, lamented. The chief of Anglo-Jos, Mr. Mancha, and the youth president said they warned the contractor not to abandon the project when they noticed the slow pace of work.

The contractor assured them that the project would be completed as scheduled. Not long after, the fears of Mancha and other residents were confirmed: the contractors abandoned the work, leaving residents at the mercy of the rains. Shouting at our reporter from a cliff created by the gully erosion, a resident of the area, David, asked if help would be coming soon. He had apparently mistaken the reporter for a project officer sent by the construction company, perhaps to access the erosion problem in the area. “Hello. Please, stop there. Are you not one of the construction company’s workers? Please, when are you people coming back to site?” David asked. “No, I am not. I am a journalist,” our reporter responded. Apologizing to our reporter, David, whose house is near the path of the erosion, went on to tell of his ordeal every rainy season. He also said that some unidentified officials had earlier visited the site, raising hopes that help was on the way. “Oh, sorry. I thought you were one of those people that once came to inspect our area. We have been facing a lot in this place. Since when the government approved the contract up till this moment our situation has been worsening. People die, animals and our properties are carried away with the flood. We are not safe, we live in fear of the rainy season,” an apologetic David said. Investigations revealed that the Anglo-Jos contract was awarded to STCC on February 26, 2007, at the cost of ₦134,557,153.50. However, despite the fact that N94,190,007.45, about 70 per cent of the contract sum, has being paid to the company, the project has not been completed and residents of the area still live in fear whenever it rains.

Why is the project not completed? To find an answer to this question, a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request was sent to the Ecological Funds Office, asking for clarification on the scope of the contract. The agency failed to respond even after seven days as provided for by the FOI Act. However, a search at the Corporate Affairs Commission showed that the STCC company is headquartered in Kano with Sani Alhaji Kabiru, Kabir Aliyu Sani, Sani Umar, Kabiru Sani and Kabiru Hadiza on the board of directors. Efforts to get the company to address the issue proved abortive. The secretary of the company said the chairman who was out of town was the only one permitted to speak on the issue. She also declined to give out the phone number of the chairman. Makurdi When it comes to contract abandonment of EFO-sponsored projects, the Anglo-Jos situation is more the norm than an exception. On May 16, 2007, a contract worth N82,253,500 was awarded to Hazardous Waste Engineers Limited for the procurement, supply and installation of 1 unit 150kg/hr rotary kiln medical waste incinerators at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Makurdi, Benue state, to the delight of the medical community.

Nine years after approval was given, and after 80 per cent of the contract sum for the project has been paid to the contractor, the facility is far from being functional. Access to the project site was restricted when our reporter sought to ascertain the present state of the project. However, the head of the environmental department at the FMC Makurdi, who has been delegated by the hospital to monitor the project, James Kimbir, confirmed that the incinerators cannot be used due to the poor standard of the facility. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Kimbir claimed that the contractor had used substandard materials that might endanger people’s lives. According to Kimbir, when the lapses were noticed the hospital management notified the contractor and also informed the Ecological Fund Office but no intervention was made. later found out that notice was conveyed to the Ecological Fund Office through a letter with Ref no: FMH/FMC/FIR/291/Vol.1/4 on the 16th of June 2010. also obtained a recent letter written by the medical director/ chief executive officer of the hospital, Dr. Peter Inunduh, to the permanent secretary of the Ecological Fund Office about the failure of the contractor to abide by the terms contained in the consultant’s terms of appointment, among other requirements. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter A resident of Isale Koko, Ilorin, Kwara state showing the water level whenever it rains The letter, which was made available to by a source high in the Ecological Fund Office, and was dated June 1, 2015, with reference no FMH/FMC/FIR/29/Vol.1/17, also revealed that the executing agency, the contractor and consultant never met to review the progress of work and to draw up a work plan as expected.

It was also pointed out in the letter that the incinerator was given a solitary test run by the contractor, Hazardous Waste Engineers, and that during this test its cable was burnt. At present, the hospital pays about ₦120,000 monthly to a private waste management company to dispose of its 35 tonnes of healthcare waste, including general waste. More than seven years after the expected date of the project’s completion, the hospital still spends ₦1.4 million yearly and will have spent ₦11.2 million by the end of May 2016, on the treatment of its medical waste. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter A sign that erosion control measures in Nataco has failed Efforts to reach the contractor, Hazardous Waste Engineers Limited, were unsuccessful. An online search the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission, also could not provide any trace of the company. However, a physical search at the Corporate Affairs Commission showed that the company does not exist. Okaito  A similar trend was also observed in the execution of projects in Kogi state. The people of Okaito in Okehi local government area might look fearless but one of the things they dread most is the rainy season and the frequent calamitous loss of lives and property. In July 2013, the Jonathan government approved a sum of ₦105 million for erosion control in Okaito to Messrs Total Unique Nigeria Limited. However, three years after the contractor reported that it had achieved 100 per cent completion, the problem of erosion still exists.   The Amutu of Eko in Okaito, Chief Ayodele Abass, was enraged when our reporter informed him that the erosion control contract has been certified completed by the Ecological Fund Office. Chief Abass hinted at the likelihood that monitoring and evaluation officers from the government and the contractor connived to give a misleading report that a good job was done.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Abandoned erosion control measures in Anglo-Jos The chief said he complained about the poor execution of the contract and also protested to one of the engineers handling the project. Corroborating what the Amutu said in a separate conversation, the former chairman of Okehi LGA from June 1999 to 2002, M.K Ibrahim, chronicled the struggles that went into getting the government’s attention through the help of Prince Vincent Sola Akomode, who was the deputy chief of staff to the former vice president Atiku Abubakar. Ibrahim said that the erosion control measures did not last more than a few weeks. “The contractor only channelled the drainage a kilometre from Okaito to a major river in the area, Etegoza River and weeks after a heavy rain, the culverts were washed off,” the former chairman disclosed. For the people of Okaito it is now back to square one. Idah The same scenario was found in Idah, the capital of the Igala kingdom, where six years after a ₦150 million contract was awarded to ETA Associates Limited to control erosion in the area, residents still live in fear whenever it rains. A cloudy sky might be a farmer’s delight, but for most residents of Idah it is a sign to brace up for the unknown as no one can tell whose turn it will be to mourn. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Abandoned erosion control works in Patigi The residents of Inachalo, Angwa and Technical School area in Idah are in constant fear of the danger from gully erosion that is threatening their lives and livelihoods. A supervisor, Williams Ayika, who claimed to have been engaged at some point by the contractor to monitor the construction of a 280 metre drainage at Accountant General Road in Idah, said he was only given funds to construct the drainage halfway. Not all were lucky, but at least the contractor’s half measure was able to save some houses from being washed away by the gully erosion. One of the lucky ones, a community leader in the area, Ibrahim Usman, said he was about to vacate his house at that time because of the erosion that kept on “eating deep” into his building. Usman, who disclosed that he had spent about ₦3 million on erosion control measures prior to the intervention from the contractor, confirmed that six houses had so far been lost to gully erosion in the area.   Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Francis Hukuma, a resident of Anglo-Jos affected by project abandonment “Thank God for the small wuruwuru work they (the contractor) did. It saved my house. Before then I had spent close to 3 million trying to save my house but all to no avail. There are some people who own houses in this GRA that are not as lucky as me,” Usman admitted. Ilorin And so to Ilorin, the Kwara state capital and hometown of Senate President Bukola Saraki.  In the Amilengbe, Isale Koko and Aduralere axis of the state capital, residents have to vacate their houses whenever it rains.

The cause in this case is the Asa river. The Asa river suffers heavy pollution due to practices along the riverbank such as farming, industrial effluent discharges, and dumping of domestic and industrial solid and liquid waste which blocks its distributaries, causing massive flooding whenever it rains.   A ₦1.2 billion contract awarded to Ambico Sendirian Nigeria Limited for the channelization of the river and its tributaries in 2013 has not done much. The 2.3km channelization is planned to be from Unity Bridge to Emir Bridge and then Amilengbe. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter The Amutu of Okaito, Chief Ayodele Abass laments the poor execution of project in Okaito Residents say work done so far by the contractor has not ameliorated their suffering, and that the contract expected to be executed within nine dry months has taken far too long. observed that the project is far from being completed and estimated that residents of the area, especially those in Amilegbe and Isale Koko, might again witness massive flooding when it rains considering the slow speed of work by the contractor. This was corroborated by a community leader in the area, Ahmed Abdulganiy, who said the contractor only began serious work at the site in fear of the Buhari administration. When the contractor was contacted, the project director, Idowu Salau, attempted to dispel fears that the project would be abandoned. He said that he had offered a detailed explanation to the Department of Security Service (DSS) when he was invited by the DSS to clarify the reason for the delay. He blamed challenges such as the denial of the right of way and weather problems as some of the reasons why the project has exceeded the scheduled timeline for completion. “We have just been paid about three weeks ago. When their auditors came to site they were impressed with what they saw. The project was supposed to be for nine dry months but we had a lot of challenges. The people don’t want to give us the right-of-way and we also had challenges from the weather.” When our reporter asked about the status of work done on the site, Salau sounded rather unsure, saying that he was waiting for the final certificate of the project to be raised. He added that work had resumed at the site and the company was working hard to compensate for time lost. READ ALSO: Investigation: How Nigerian women and children fare in IDP camps (Part 1) “You know we raise certificates and they pay us. So we cannot get the exact percentage of the work done. Now we are waiting for our final certificate and retention. This money that was paid is just to be able to complete and raise the final certificate,” Salau said. Ecological Fund of corruption and misuse Nigeria is ranked the 136th most corrupt nation out of 175 countries assessed, according to a 2015 Corruption Perception Index report by Transparency International. Corruption has eaten deep into nearly all sectors of the country’s economy and the Ecological Fund Office seems not to be an exception. In 1981, the ecological fund was established through the Federation Account Act to address the multifarious ecological problems ravaging communities across the country. It received one per cent of the federation account at some point before going through some modifications which increased its allocation to two per cent.

Investigation of projects approved and funded by the Ecological Fund Office from the year 2005 to 2015 reveals a pattern of misuse and misappropriation of funds. Documents obtained from the Ecological Fund Office showed that 25 projects approved and funded by the EFO from 2005 to 2015 in the northcentral states of Niger, Nassarawa, Benue, Plateau, Kwara, Kogi and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja gulped a sum of ₦3.7bn. About 49.5 per cent of the amount was used for erosion control measures, while 9.2 per cent went into waste management related projects. Other project areas that received funds include the development of tree nurseries and raising of seedlings, the development of a data bank for forestry management, and re-mediation of polluted sites in mining-impacted areas. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Abandoned machineries in Anglo-Jos Shockingly, it was observed from the EFO documents that projects were approved for purposes irrelevant to the aims and objectives of the fund. For example, money was approved by the federal government on March 4, 2003, through the Ecological Fund account of the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) for the construction of an abattoir in Bida, Niger state, with the Lower Niger River Basic Development Authority (LNRBA) cited as the executing agency. The contract was worth ₦10 million and the contractor, Sitbabs Engineering Limited, reported 100 per cent project completion in November 2007. However, a physical inspection of the site paints a different picture. The facility has not been put to use as intended since its supposed completion. It has since been converted to a storehouse and market by the local government. “The project couldn’t be used as an abattoir as the contractor didn’t put in place the necessary equipment needed in a slaughterhouse,” Sabba Bala, a resident and indigene of the area said in justification of the conversion. Efforts to reach the company proved unsuccessful. Again, a company search at the Corporate Affairs Commission showed that the company does not exist. An FOI request concerning the contract and other projects was sent to the Ecological Fund Office, but the agency did not respond. From all indications, the Bida project seems to be a double scam. In the first place it was a project irrelevant to the objectives of the ecological fund. Secondly, the project was poorly executed without provision for slaughterhouse equipment, water and security, such that the construction could not be used as intended. The use of the ecological fund, especially since the return to civilian rule in 1999, has been enmeshed in one controversy after another, says a 2015 study by a team of researchers headed by a professor of political science, Ken Ifesinachi, on the management of the ecological fund and natural resource conflicts in northern Nigeria from 2009 to 2013.

An audit report by the auditor-general for the federation to the National Assembly on the accounts of the government of the federation in 2007 corroborates this research. The auditor-general’s report lamented the lack of compliance on the part of the executing agencies “who often alter or reduce the scope of projects without putting into consideration the cost implication that had been prepared and sometimes approved by the Federal Executive Council”. The audit revealed among other things the thoughtlessness with which the approval and execution of ecological fund projects were conducted. The report revealed that two departments of the Ministry of Agriculture, namely Agricultural Land Resources and Livestock and Pest Control Services, received a combined sum of ₦400 million from January 2000 to December 2005 to tackle the negative effect of sheet erosion and control qualia birds in frontline states. However, the money was misapplied. Some of the projects that were funded by the EFO and said to have been completed could not be traced by our reporter. Considering the notorious tendencies of corrupt government officials and contractors to shortchange Nigerians at the slightest opportunity, one might suspect foul play. One such untraceable project is the procurement and installation of multipurpose plastic waste recycling plants in Kwara, Niger and Benue states by Abdul Essentials. ₦36,213,778.2 is the sum total worth of the contracts expected to help with the recycling of plastic so as to reduce its environmental menace. Predictably, efforts to speak with Abdul Essentials were not successful, and no information about the company was found on the shelves of the Corporate Affairs Commission when a search was conducted. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Some abandoned equipment How state governors squander the ecological fund Saying that the ecological fund is prone to political corruption in Nigeria amounts to stating the obvious. The case of the former governor of Plateau state Joshua Dariye is still fresh. The former governor turned senator is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for money laundering and diversion of funds meant for Plateau state, totalling ₦1.2 billion. Dariye was said to have taken advantage of his position as governor of Plateau state between May 29, 1999, and May 2004 to unlawfully enrich himself through various transactions involving his office. Dariye also failed to fully declare his assets in accordance with the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. In a statement obtained by the EFCC in 2007, Dariye acknowledged sanctioning the disbursement of the ₦1.2 billion ecological fund by the now defunct All States Trust Bank.

The money was diverted to sponsor the 2003 presidential election campaign of the PDP and was also paid to companies some of which were found to be owned by the former state governor. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Corruption in ecological fund ofice A document confirming the disbursement of the cash was recently presented in court by a prosecution witness. The document showed that Dariye ordered ₦80 million to be paid to Union Savings and Loans; ₦250 million was given to Pinnacle Communications Limited; ₦550 million to the Plateau state government; ₦100 million to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), south-west, and ₦176, 862,900 was paid to Ebenezer Retnan Ventures ERV, a company said to be owned by Dariye. Dariye does not belong in this club alone. The former governor of Benue state, Gabriel Suswam, is also facing similar accusations. According to the EFCC, Suswam diverted proceeds from the sale of shares owned by the Benue state government and Benue Investment and Property Company Limited and also illegally diverted ₦6 billion of ecological funds during his two terms as the Benue state governor. Suswam’s prosecution by the EFCC appears to substantiate allegations by Lawyers Alert, a civil society organization in Makurdi, that Suswam’s administration diverted funds donated by international and local intervention agencies during the 2012 flooding that affected the state, for purposes other than what they were meant for. Francis Hukuma of Anglo-Jos will still face the next rainy season in fear, years after the sufferings of his community were supposed to have been addressed. He and others like him who depended on the Ecological Fund Office for their lives and livelihoods may well be justified in asking where the money has gone.

Editor’s note: This report was published with moral and financial support of Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

Author: Test Test