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Residents suffer as abandoned water projects litter Oyo communities

When the construction of the earth dam in Fiditi, Afijio Local Government in Oyo State commenced in 2011, officials announced that it was aimed at solving the water problem in the agrarian community where it is needed for irrigation and domestic use. But 10 years after the construction commenced the dam has been abandoned.

Abandoned Fiditi dam

An earth dam is a hydraulic structure built across a river to create a reservoir on its upstream side for impounding water.

In 2018 an investigation by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that the dam has been abandoned for years. About N10 million was budgeted for the project in the 2016 budget, but the history of the projects dates back to 2011.

A site engineer, Ajileye Olubunmi, told PREMIUM TIMES that the project will be completed within nine months

“We started in 2011. It’s a small earth dam for the community. We were supposed to finish the project within nine months but due to federal government allocation, money was not released. Every year, we monitor. The job we are doing now is because we got little money from the 2016 budget,” he said.

But two years after the story was published there is no hope that construction work in the dam will be resumed anytime soon.

Residents lament

Aside from its inability to solve the water problem in the area, farmers in the community now complain that as a result of the incomplete work done near the dam, the nutrients in their land are now being washed away whenever it rained.

They said the digging done at the dam left a slope which makes it impossible for the farmlands around the dam to retain surface nutrients when it rains.

“The major effect we complain about is that if it rains well, it would wash away the manure from our crops because, during the course of the construction, the land became downward sloppy towards the dam,” Abdulrasheed one of the farmers said.

“In the next 4  to 5 years, the majority of these lands won’t be fertile for farming since the manure is being washed away, the soil’s fertility will fade,” he added

Various farmers who spoke with this reporter also revealed that they regretted relocating their farms from the site of the project when they were asked to.

Another resident of the town, Alhaji Amzat also lamented the failure of the government to complete the project or even show a will to do so.  He said the project would have created 5,000 jobs for youths in the community.

Lawmaker Reacts

When contacted, the lawmaker who represents Oyo East/Oyo West/Atiba/Afijio federal constituency, Akeem Adeyemi stated that paucity of funds is the major cause of the project’s current status.

He explained that he will keep pressing for budgetary provision to ensure the project is completed.

“Like hundreds of thousands of other on-going projects scattered across the country, funds are majorly the problem. We will keep pressing for funds for the project alongside Erelu Dam, and other on-going federal government projects in Oyo Federal Constituency,” he said.

Igbojaiye Dam

Contracted to the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority, the earth dam project in Igbojaiye was designed to supply water for irrigation, fishing, and domestic use to the thousands of people who reside at Igbojaiye and other neighbouring communities like Okaka, Otu and Baba Ode.

Abandoned Igbojaiye dam

However, over a decade after the project was re-awarded in 2010, the project which was supposed to last for 18 months has not been completed.

Before the project was awarded in 2010, several budgetary provisions and releases had failed to be put to use.

A report on Millenium Development Goals fraud by PREMIUM TIMES showed that in 2006, N900 million was approved to the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Agency for the construction of an earth dam at Igbojaiye and 59 other rural water projects. Findings by PREMIUM TIMES however showed that the Igbojaiye dam and 36 of the rural water projects were not touched.

Similarly, in 2007, N1 billion was approved by the agency to construct the Igbojaiye dam and 105 other rural water projects. But the Igbojaiye dam and 84 per cent of the rural water projects were not touched again.

Adewale Waheed a resident of Igbojaiye town in Oyo State was visibly angry over the failure of the government to provide clean water to the community despite the presence of a dam in the community.

“I think you should help us report this matter to EFCC. They should probe the contract process of this project and prosecute all complicit parties, we need this water project more than anything, we are not happy seeing this project waste,” Mr. Waheed said.

A farmer in the community told UDEME that his hopes of getting water to his farm had been dashed for many years due to the absence of a water supply project.

He lamented the slow pace of work at the dam despite the hardship the people of the community were passing through.

When UDEME visited the town in October this year, residents of the town still face the risk of water-borne ailments because the water project supposed to solve this problem has continued to waste away.

When this reporter arrived at the site of the project, he met nothing but an expanse of land wasting away. The embankment of the dam, which was one of the minor works carried out on the site, had been filled with sand and thick bushes had taken over it. 

The flowing river had forced a new path. The only structure that used to exist on the site, a store and site office built from wooden had also collapsed.   

The current state of the project is questionable considering the fact that a report by the office of the Auditor General of the federation revealed that a total of N318,880,759.09 had been paid to the contractor.

The report by the Auditor General’s office read: “Examination of documents showed that as at April 2014, the project had been completed and fully paid for. It was discovered that a second contract termed “Phase 2 for earthworks, spillway and protective works was awarded to the same contractor vide award letter referenced OORBDA/S/462/1/23A/S/454/2013/Vol.1/007 and dated 27/8/2013 with 12 months completion period at the sum of N211,328,743.48 , just before the purported completion of the original contract.

“The sum of N164,428,950.00 was also paid, bringing the total payment to the contractor to N318,880,759.09. While reasons for awarding the second contract were not disclosed, it was noted that the embankment of the dam and the big pipes that connect it from the existing riverside through the embankment areas where drums were used to extend the water flow to the outlet was the only visible job on the ground for which the authorities generously concluded that 78 per cent job completion has been achieved, to justify the huge amount paid to the contractor.”

The report also indicated that “no the value was derived for the money spent on the project, as the desired result was not achieved, despite the huge amount expended” adding that “payments to the contractor not in line with milestone achievements cannot be accepted as legitimate charges against public funds.”

Residents who spoke with this reporter decried the current status of the project. They lamented that the absence of the water project makes farming, fishing, and other day-to-day activities more tedious and less effective.

“During the dry season, we always have no choice but to manage the few borehole projects we have to access water. We have never benefited from the dam. The failure to complete it affects our farming and fishing activities.

“For example, its absence means farmers can’t plant during the dry season. If it has been completed, farmers will be able to plant anytime they want to with the help of the irrigation system that will be present to serve everyone,” a resident, Alhaji Rafiu Shittu said.

Mr. Rafiu, who is the chairman of Igbojaiye community told this reporter that the construction of the dam dates back to the days of Nigeria’s first executive president, Ahaji Sheu Shagari.

“The construction of the dam started a very long time ago during the tenure of the late Sheu Shagari in 1978-1979. The land for its construction was handed over to the Ogun Osun (supervising agency) by this community.”

“It has never worked before what they keep saying is ‘we are still working on it’. Work stopped there several years ago. We believe it should have been completed so that it can help all the residents in the various communities in Itesiwaju local government.”

He maintained that all they want is for “the government to complete the project as soon as possible so that it can solve these problems and also reduce the unemployment rate.”

He also stated that all efforts to attract the attention of the authorities to their plight had failed.

“The fact that the project is a federal project means there is a limitation to the level of pressure we can mount on the government. You know the thing about politicians, once they get to the office it becomes hard to see them but I remember that when Hosea Agboola ( a Senator between 2007 – 2011) was there, as a son of the soil, we approached him to please take efforts to ensure its completion and he promised us it will be completed soon but this did not happen till he left office. 

“All we can do is to keep looking up to the government and pray they come to our aid since it is their project.”

Expert Wades In  

A civil society advocate, Joshua Olufemi in an interview with this PREMIUM explained that there are three key contributors to the myriad of abandoned constituency projects in the country.

These factors, according to him, include the dishonesty of government, lack of information on contracts to people at the grassroots and weak mechanism for prosecution and sanctions.

“Primarily, three things are key contributors to the myriads of abandoned constituency projects across the country. First, the dishonesty of government agencies in nominating projects without recourse to available revenue to finance the projects. For instance, the FG approved over N10 trillion expenditure in 2020 even though it knows it generates on the average below N7 trillion annually as revenue.

“So, lots of projects are abandoned because the contractors are not mobilised to complete the projects. Secondly, there are no formal grassroots accountability mechanisms to monitor and demand accountability from contractors and implementing agencies. This is partially due to lack of information on budget and public contract to the constituents at the grassroots.

“Thirdly, the mechanism for the prosecution, and sanctions – the judiciary – is weak both in terms of resources and political will to ensure value for money spent on constituency projects.”

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