The multimillion-naira project, expected to comprise recreational buildings, now consists of cassava farmland, a bush used for excretion, and a dumping ground. PEACE OLADIPO reports
On August 24, 2023, at midnight, Gloria Adebayo, stirred from her slumber, roused by the echoing cries of “Ole Ole” (thief, thief) resonating through her neighborhood.
But, regardless of the unsettling disturbance, she and her husband chose to remain wrapped in the comfort of their bed, indifferent to the ongoing agitation outside.
The recurring shouts of distress had become an unfortunate routine for the couple usually persisting for over eight years since the building opposite their gate had been abandoned.
“Aside from the fact that this project has become a security problem, it has also turned into a dumping and defecation ground for interested people. It has also influenced frequent robbery attacks in this area,” Ms Adebayo said.
Residents of Ureje, situated in the centre of Ado-Ekiti, stated that their initial excitement about what was anticipated to be an economic catalyst has turned into sorrow.
Julius Adebayo, Gloria’s husband, bitterly complained about how the project had become a significant issue for him and his tenants. They have to deal with various security issues due to the overgrown and bushy condition of the project.
“Most times, the bush aids thieves in escaping from the residents. Do you think anyone would enter this gate in search of a thief? Numerous vices now occur in the abandoned premises. The building’s roofing sheet remained intact until thieves gradually removed it, eventually taking it all,” Mr Adebayo told this reporter.
He recounted that the residents had to hire a night guard. But, the economic situation forced them to discontinue the service,”we even approached the Water Corporation and sought the intervention of prominent figures in the community, including the honourable member representing the area, but the situation has not changed.”
He stressed concerns regarding past senators who received funds for the project but failed to complete it. According to him, a structured approach involving federal government channels is crucial to ensuring the project’s successful realization.
Abiodun Akanke, a middle-aged tailor whose shop faces the project, expressed concern about the negative impact of overgrown bush on sales and the security concerns for individuals with small businesses around the building.
“Occasionally, a particular individual, who appears to be mentally ill, seeks shelter in this bush. Last month, the thieves removed the battery from one of our neighbour’s cars. When the man discovered the situation upon coming out, he was confused by the scene. The thieves had fled through the bush path, leaving one of the batteries behind. This bush-called project poses a big safety risk,” she said.
Also, Rotimi Francis, who has also leased one of the shops, pointed out that the project was commissioned before completion, which may be the main reason for its current neglect.
“If this place is rehabilitated, development will come. Everything will change, especially in this area. The quietness will no longer be there, and people will not be afraid to pass through. The fear of a thief attacking them or something else happening will no longer exist. At times, when this place is quiet, thieves usually hijack motorcycles from riders on the downward side.
“There was a time when they constantly collected motorcycles by attacking the riders and engaging in various activities before carrying them away. In this Ureje area, they have taken (stolen) several motorcycles. If this place is repaired or rehabilitated, such incidents will no longer occur.
“Sadly, when night falls, around 7:30 p.m., no motorcycle rider passes through this place because they fear potential attacks. All these issues significantly affect this area, especially the people living in it,” Mr Francis said.
In 2013, the senator representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District for the 7th National Assembly Babafemi Ojudu, nominated the creation of a Recreational and Tourist Centre at Ureje Water Dam in Ado Ekiti.
The three senators representing Ekiti State at the National Assembly pooled their Constituency Project funds together for Ekiti State through the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and National Orientation. The senators involved were Babafemi Ojudu, Olubunmi Adetunmbi, and Anthony Adeniyi.
The said Ministry awarded the contract for the construction of the projects to the under-listed contractors:
a) Kunlag P. Nigeria Ltd of No 92, Amosu Igboro Street, KM 21 Badagry Expressway, Lagos: Construction of Museum/Arts Craft Centre at Ureje Dam Waterfront Scheme Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State in the sum of (N162, 435,452.62)
b) Mofunda Ventures Ltd of 70/72, Omole Street, Yaba, Ondo State: Land Clearing and Construction of Fence/Gate House at Ureje Dam Waterfront Scheme Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State at the sum of (N122,414,078.32)
c) Datlex Nigeria Ltd: Construction of Retaining Wall at Ureje Dam Waterfront Scheme Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State in the sum (N132, 347,145.00)
The contractual term specified nine (9) months for the project’s full completion, but other contractors abandoned the project except for Datlex Nigeria Limited. The project was expected to comprise a museum, a function hall and a resort centre complemented by the Ureje dam.
However, when this reporter first visited the location of the project in September in the Waterworks area, Ureje, all that was in view was a thick bush. When she attempted to enter the brush, Mr Adebayo cautioned her not to do so because of animals and the uncertainty behind the gate, encompassed by overgrown grasses and debris.
On the second visit, the reporter discovered from a closer view that the multimillion-naira project, expected to comprise recreational buildings, now consists of cassava farmland, a bush used for excretion, and a dumping ground.
In October, Ekiti State artist Ogunsua Victor made waves by undertaking an incredible 80-hour painting marathon to break the Guinness World Record for the longest painting duration. Mr Victor achieved his goal with unwavering determination, earning official approval from the Guinness World Record authorities.
He believes that completing the recreational centre will increase exposure for his work and fellow artists in the state.
“I would have even done my painting marathon there if only something like that were available in the city. It would also help my brand as I could showcase my artworks there, allowing many who visit to see them and making my presence more global,” he said.
Similarly, Jimmy Theophilus, a visual storyteller and director of a travel and tour operating company, stated that having a museum and tourism centre would help the tourism sector generate more revenue for the state.
He said, “If you look at Kenya, tourism brings in a significant income for the country. Additionally, when you consider numerous other countries, such as Italy and Dubai, you can see that they take their tourism sector very seriously. These efforts play a crucial role in putting their countries on the world map. If this project is completed, it will also place Ekiti on the world map.”
According to him, investing more than N400 million at that time indicates that it wouldn’t be a small project. Its establishment could increase employment opportunities and enhance the state socially and economically.
Expanding on his assessment, he delved into estimating the potential revenue and workforce generated if the project came to fruition.
“Annually, the government stands to generate over N200 million from the museum, tourist centre, and the hall, also supporting employment for around 100 individuals directly or indirectly,” he elucidated.
By his analysis, the project holds promise in advancing the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation’s (NTDC) goal of elevating tourism’s contribution to the country’s GDP from 4.8% to 10%.
Considering the broader economic context, Statista reported that in 2021, the total unemployed population in Nigeria peaked at around 6.3 million. Completion of the project could play a mini role in reducing this figure.
This reporter interviewed one of the senators in charge for answers to what went wrong with the project.
The Senator, Babafemi Ojudu, who facilitated the project, shared how the project became problematic while speaking to this reporter in his residence in Ado-Ekiti.
“At that time, when you were in the Senate, you were allowed to allocate funds for a project worth about 50 million Naira per year, per budget year. The project is then domesticated in a relevant ministry. For example, if it’s related to water, the Ministry of Water Resources will handle it. Instead of focusing on smaller projects like building bus stops and markets, I had a different vision.
”A lake in my town has been turned into a dam, surrounded by a considerable amount of land. My ambition was to transform it into a tourism centre. So, rather than having a one-year budget, I proposed a three-year project for it, totalling about N750 million,” Ojudu said.
After discussing the project with Edem Duke, the Minister of Tourism then, Mr Ojudu said the minister was excited and ready to support him.
“He told me that the idea that I have is that he has some guys in South Africa who could design it, construct it, and make the place a place that would attract people from across the world. I also contacted some young men in Los Angeles who took photographs and GPS location of the dam.
“So, I reached out to the Ministry. I talked to the Permanent Secretary, the procurement officer, and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.”
According to the senator, everything was going well until the day he was traveling out of the country.
“I was on my way to America when I was told they wanted to open a bid about the project. They didn’t even let me see any design. I said, Please make sure you link up with the minister and do something right that I can be proud of.
“I called on Honourable Adeyanju Alias Welu-Welu from Ijesha-Ishu, who used to be a member of the House of Reps. At that time, he had been appointed by Dr. Kayode Fayomi as liaison officer for lawmakers. So, as an experienced and educated man, he would be able to monitor the project for me,” he said.
Mr Ojudu said he was informed that the contract had been awarded to three or four companies upon his return. According to Mr Ojudu, he was surprised to find out that ”Honourable Adeyanju” had gone there to submit names of companies he had affiliations with. But, he still assumed they had gone through all the rigorous processes typically required before awarding contracts.
“Only when I returned and observed people working on the site did I learn that they had been issued a letter of completion for the project and had received full payment. It turns out they had only done a minimal amount of work before abandoning the project,” Mr Ojudu said with disappointment.
Mr Ojudu maintains that the contractors colluded with ministry officials and left the project unfinished. To bolster his statement, he said, “If they didn’t collaborate, how can they issue a letter of completion to somebody who has just started a project? Projects are typically done in phases, with payments made accordingly. The contractors have just commenced the work, yet they have already received a letter of completion, and all the money has been paid.”
The senator said he filed a petition through Fiduciary Legal Concepts to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2015 against the procurement officer, permanent secretary, and others involved. After interrogation, he said they were released.
Mr Ojudu reiterated how bodies expected to get to the root of the matter failed. “Again, two years ago, I wrote to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and never heard from them.
“This issue is long gone. And that project would have provided so many jobs for people. A museum and function hall were going to be close to the dam. My conscience is clear. It was that man (Hon. Adeyanju) that spoiled everything. I learned that he has been in a sick bed for over 5-6 years”
The Ministry of Tourism
When this reporter reached out to Professor Ojo Rasaki, the Commissioner for Art, Culture and Tourism in Ekiti, he stated that the project is not associated with the state.
However, he mentioned that there is a proposed project within the area, included in next year’s budget, “What the government wants to do there will commence in January; we aim to build a new cultural center village.”
Unfortunately, numerous efforts by the reporter to contact the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation were unsuccessful. The reporter could not establish contact with the ministry despite repeated calls to numbers available online.
Furthermore, the Ministry was unresponsive to the Freedom of Information (FOI) request, flaunting the seven days stipulated in the FOI Act.
The FOI request sought information on the current project status, the amount paid, and the contact details of the contractors involved among others. This letter was directed to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and National Orientation on November 30, 2023.
This occurred despite the mandate of the FOI Act, which requires all ministries, departments, and agencies to respond to such requests. The FOI Act underscores the rights of both individuals and organizations to access information from government ministries, agencies, and departments, as detailed in its various sections.
Despite several online searches, the reporter could not trace the two companies that failed to complete their assigned work.
The attached directors of Kunlag P. Nigeria Limited and Mofunda Ventures Limited were unreachable despite all efforts. A thorough examination of online procurement portals, Check NG and Nigeria 24, confirmed that the companies were incorporated, but their ”current status needs to be specified”.
Also, the Corporate Affairs Commission portal listed the firms as ‘inactive’.
Addressing the endemic issue of abandoned projects
Drawing on insights gathered by UDEME, it has been revealed that many government projects have either been abandoned or not executed at all. This observation is supported by Tracka, a platform dedicated to monitoring and tracking federal and constituency projects.
As of 2021, research conducted by the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) revealed the existence of 56,000 uncompleted projects, with an estimated cost of N12 trillion.
In an interview with UDEME, Ayomide Ladipo, the Programme Officer of Tracka, emphasized that the responsibility for the abandonment of these projects should not be solely attributed to lawmakers. Civil servants in ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) also share the blame.
She says, “Every project is implemented by MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies), which civil servants oversee. The procurement process, awards, and monitoring fall under the purview of the MDAs, with civil servants managing these processes. They handle the receipt and disbursement of funds and the selection of project beneficiaries and contractors. If blame is assigned to civil servants for any issue, it is rightfully deserved.
“Even if a lawmaker nominates a project, the lawmaker’s responsibility does not go beyond nomination.”
”If there is anything wrong with this country today, the primary recipients of blame, those who should shoulder 90% of the responsibility, are the civil servants. This assertion stems from the fact that no politician can engage in embezzlement without the implicit involvement of the top officials within the MDAs. Civil servants wield significant influence, as they are tasked with implementing every directive issued by the elected leaders,” she asserted.
Ms Ladipo advised citizens to become very knowledgeable about how governance works, as embezzlement is carried out through the operational structure of the Nigerian government. She stressed the need for citizens to actively participate in the budgeting process and monitor government projects in their constituencies so they can have developmental projects working for them.
She said: “When communities do not understand their power, they just keep lamenting. If you see a project being undertaken close to your house, don’t just ignore it because it’s for your community. Let them know somebody is watching.”
This report was produced under the Udeme project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID).
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