By Adebayo Abdulrahman and Tunmise Ajeigbe
In mid-July, Mrs Adejumo (She refused to tell this reporter her first name), a middle-aged trader at the popular Bodija Market in Ibadan, had her shop burgled in the night with goods worth about N56,000 stolen.
Mrs Adejumo said her fate would likely have been different if streetlights installed at the market less than a year ago were still working
“Even though the security officers did not say the thieves succeeded because there was no (street) light, it is possible my shop would not have been robbed if there was light since they (the thieves) can’t enter my shop knowing they can be seen,” she told PREMIUM TIMES.
The streetlight project at the market was nominated by Rilwan Akanbi, then senator representing Oyo South Senatorial District in 2017 and 2018.
The project involves the installation of six units of solar-powered streetlights in Ibadan West and North East local governments at N4.2 million for each of the years as part of his Zonal Intervention Projects.
The project was domiciled in the budget of the Ogun Osun River Basin Development Authority (OORBDA), a federal agency under the Ministry of Water Resources.
The project was completed and commissioned in 2019 but stopped working soon after it was commissioned.
“The project was commissioned last year by Soji Akanbi. It worked for seven to nine months before it stopped working last year, said Tajudeen Makinde, the spokesperson for the market association.
“We have made several efforts to see the representative (Mr Akanbi) inform him the projects had stopped working but all our efforts had proved futile. We are not happy the project has stopped working but there is nothing we can do since he is the one who knows the contractors,” he added.
Just like the solar-powered streetlight project at Bodija market, the one at Iso Part Market in Gate, has also fallen into disrepair. Ishola Olayiwola, the vice-chairman of the market association, told PREMIUM TIMES that the project was commissioned in 2019 but only worked for about five months.
“After it stopped working, there was nothing we could do since it was a government project,” Mr Olayiwola said.
Olasheu Ahmed, a trader at the market, told PREMIUM TIMES that the failed streetlights pose a security risk.
“It’s not like we sell goods till late in the middle of the night, but it affects us as our security people are always unable to see at night while guarding the market.”
The story was not different at Labaowo market in Ogunpa. The light from the streetlights became dim soon after they were commissioned in early 2019.
Sikiru Olayiwola, the head of Labaowo market, said the project developed a series of faults within a year.
“It is working but about two to three units of the streetlight have developed faults. We have spent over forty-five thousand naira to repair them. The faults occurred in quick succession.
“In fact, this one has remained switched on always and we are yet to find a way to control it,” he said.
Failed boreholes litter Oyo
The failed streetlight projects in Bodija, Iso Part, Labaowo markets are just a few examples of the several failed constituency projects in Oyo State, a PREMIUM TIMES investigation tracking the implementation of projects elected by lawmakers in their constituencies has revealed.
In 2017 and 2018, Mr Akanbi nominated the construction of 14 boreholes across Oyo South Senatorial district as part of the annual Zonal Intervention Project (ZIP). Each borehole project costs N3.5 million and N5 million respectively.
Although the original supervising agency for the borehole project was the Ogun Osun River Basin Development Authority (OORBDA), the signposts at the sites of the boreholes stated that it was supervised by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant on Sustainable Development Goals to the President.
The borehole at Apete, a busy town outside Ibadan, which was commissioned in 2018, has stopped working.
Asimiyu Rahman, one of the leaders at a meat market located behind the borehole, said the borehole only worked briefly.
“It spoilt not long after it was executed. A project that gulped millions of naira should work for at least five years, but this borehole worked for less than a year after it was commissioned.
“We now face a lot of problems due to the absence of water. Some of us would buy a bag of water yet it won’t be sufficient for what we want to use it for,” Mr Rahman said.
Similarly, a vulcaniser, who works just beside the borehole, told this reporter he had been there for over a year, but had never seen water come out of the tap.
Another shop owner, who sells plastic containers, said that she normally crosses to the other side of the road to fetch water from a nearby well.
At Lanlate, one is greeted by the four broken taps at the borehole in the town. The tiles behind the taps were dirty. Pap leaves, polythene bags, papers and other waste from a nearby market were all blown to the site of the borehole.
“We have issues with water. We fetch using cars at the nearest borehole located about 5 kilometres from here. A 25-litre keg cost N25. A 200-litre drum costs N500 and I fetch two (drums) every three days. In a month I spend N10,000 to fetch water,” Fatai Ajadi, a landlord in the area, said.
But for residents who can not afford to buy water, they settle for well water, which, according to Mr Ajadi, is unhealthy because they have no covers to prevent dirt from getting into it.
“The borehole stopped working about eight months ago. When we called those in charge, they told us the solar submersive was faulty. It cost N175,000 which is more than what this immediate Bolorunpelu community can dwell into.”
He also told this reporter that when they visited the Local Council Development Authority in the area to inform them of their plight, they promised to help repair but are yet to fulfill their promise.
The story was not different in Ogunpa where the solar-powered borehole has since been converted to electric-powered. Clement Onyebuchi, a generator spare part trader, said the market association in the area decided to start charging people to fetch water from the borehole after it spent a lot of money fixing the faults.
“The borehole has been here for like two years now. Since the solar spoilt, we spent a lot of money while some people were not bringing money.
“So, we decided to bring somebody that will take care of it. It’s not that we pay a lot of money. Someone that will take care of it whenever anything spoils the person will repair it and take some money from the account (of the market association),” he said.
The boreholes constructed at Oje market and Yemetu community have long stopped working and have been plundered by hoodlums, residents said.
“It was commissioned in 2018. The pumping machine was stolen by thieves around March this year. Before the pumping machine was stolen the solar was working well,” said Taofeek Balogun, the man in charge of the borehole at Oje market.
“It worked after it was commissioned. In fact, it was used during the campaign so that people can re-elect him (the lawmaker) again without collecting anything. After he lost the election, people were still using it.
”But I went to church one Saturday night till Sunday and when I returned home, they came to tell me the engine of the borehole had been carted away.
“It was carted away last year. The community is trying its efforts but the lawmaker sent some of his people to come and inspect the project in June to inquire about the borehole from me and they promised to get back to me but I have not seen them,” said Mr Ogundele, a resident of Yemetu community.
Although Mr Akanbi nominated the construction of 14 boreholes and installation of 6 transformers in his constituency, PREMIUM TIMES was only able to track nine boreholes and two transformers.
Several attempts to reach the lawmaker were unsuccessful as he neither picked nor returned calls made to his mobile phone. He also did not reply to messages sent to him via SMS and WhatsApp.
The OORBDA did not reply to a letter with questions about the project sent to it.
Meanwhile, following the high failure rate of the solar-powered boreholes, an official of the Independent and Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Faustina Adeoluwa, said the government should ban the construction of solar-powered boreholes in rural areas.
Mrs Adeoluwa, who was speaking after a three-week project monitoring tour by the ICPC in Oyo State, said that the money spent on solar-powered boreholes cannot be justified since people they were meant for are not benefiting from them.
“From experience, we were told that some of those faulty items have to be transported back to Germany. When you initiate a scheme that is not helpful because people are not actually benefiting from it, this is just a waste of money.
“The money invested in this project is not justified. So, let’s stop the use of a solar pumping system. Electricity is almost everywhere now and buying a machine that is not repairable is a waste of money, it’s better to stop it,” she said.
However, a solar energy expert, Damilola Asalaye, the Chief Executive Officer of Ashdam Solar, disagreed with Mrs Adeoluwa.
Mrs Asalaye explained that “a well-constructed” solar project should work for a minimum of five years.
“What generally causes these projects to fail is the design of the project. The design of the project could be factored to several things like how much funding was released for a particular project.
“What makes installation fail is design and design is subject to the fund available when it comes to all these state projects. Maybe the fund available to all these people that installed it might not be good enough to do a proper design and another thing could be that maybe those who were given the projects were not experts in the field,” she said.
When this reporter showed Mrs Asalaye the exact amount approved for each of these projects, she suppressed loud laughter and said, “I am not into politics but if those funds get directly to the installers, then it’s enough to do good design and a good design should last for at least five years.
She stressed that “even within that five years; if it has any fault, there should be like a warranty that will cover it.”
Abandoned mini stadium
In 2017 and 2018, a total of N61 million was appropriated for the construction of a mini-stadium in Ode-Aremo in Atiba Local Government Area. The project was nominated by Akeem Adeyemi, the member of House of Representatives representing Atiba, Afijo, Oyo East, and Oyo west LGA Federal Constituency.
Mr Adeyemi is also the son of the Oyo monarch, Lamidi Adeyemi.
The construction of the mini-stadium was awarded to Prime View Construction Limited under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports.
But despite the allocation of N61 million to the project, only a perimeter fence has been constructed around the site for the stadium.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the site, it had been overgrown by weeds, abandoned.
Residents of the community said they were hopeful that the mini-stadium was going to attract much-needed development to the area but now felt betrayed by Mr Adeyemi.
“I have nothing much to say, Skimeh (Mr Adeyemi’s alias) promised us to finish up this stadium within six months; it has been abandoned since March 2020,” Sadiatu, a trader.
“Well I prayed the government to remember us here again in Oyo town, may God bless those in power with the spirit of good governance because here in Oyo we have many abandoned government projects,” said Jimoh Olayiwola, a resident of the area.
When reached for comment, Mr Adeyemi said he had no hand in the award of the contract and thus cannot say how much has been released for the project.
“The federal ministry of youth and sports development did the bidding and the evaluation processes, the ministry paid the contractor directly,” he said.
He further suggested that work on the mini-stadium may have been affected by the shortfall of revenue to the federal government as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abdullah Yahaya, the managing director of Prime View Construction Limited, which got the contract, said the federal government stopped funding the project in early 2020.
Mr Yahaya said it would cost between N130 million and 140 million to complete the project, but the government has only disbursed N40 million so far.
Meanwhile, the construction of the mini-stadium elicited mixed reactions from residents of the constituency.
Some residents of the area told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Adeyemi did not consult with them before nominating the construction of the mini-stadium in the area. They argued that a mini-stadium is not the priority of residents of the constituency.
“Oyo town got about N40 million of the 100 million Naira constituency project allocation for the year 2018, without serious consultations with the community, our representative decided to push for the construction of a mini-stadium on less than 1-hectare piece of land.
“Without a doubt, the project does not reflect our priorities, we are more concerned about projects capable of advancing the community economically, the health sector, and the education sector, we’re also concerned about the very slow pace of the project execution that suggests we’re not getting much value for the allocation, we’re now working to ensure more relationship with the representative to ensure this kind of error does not repeat itself in future” said Olorunpoto Rahaman, chairman of Oyo Global Forum.
However, Ayo Ladigbolu, the chairman of Oyo Metro Development Association, said the mini-stadium was an essential infrastructure for inhabitants of the area.
“The mini-stadium is an essential recreational facility beneficial to both young and old in any community, it should be part of the priority projects of any government which desires to cater for the welfare of the youth,” Mr Ladigbolu said.
“For us in Oyo, the stadium is a welcome development, the stadium will be of immense use to the youth of Oyo Metropolis in general because it will provide them with an avenue of developing their sporting talents and sharpen their competitive skills, It will provide a conducive avenue for gathering to promote better interaction and comradeship.”
This investigation was done as part of the UDEME project.
UDEME (www.udeme.ng) is a social accountability platform that tracks the implementation of developmental projects and how funds released for such projects are spent.