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N370m water project fails to drop water in Gombe community

Despite gulping nearly N400 million, a Dukku regional water supply project failed to dispense a droplet of water, six years after the contract was awarded…

Despite gulping nearly N400 million, a Dukku regional water supply project failed to dispense a droplet of water, six years after the contract was awarded and supposedly completed.

In 2016, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources budgeted over N500m for the Dukku regional water supply.

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Six years down the line and after payment of over N350m to two companies run by the same person, simply identified as Shola Oyeleke to undertake the project, the benefiting community is yet to see a single drop of water from the project.

The phase I of the project was awarded to Prorata Investment Limited by Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority while the II and the III phase was awarded by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to Yekco Nigeria Limited.

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that residents of Dukku community have been for decades subjected to untold hardships arising from lack of potable drinking water and so most of the population resort to water from three ponds in the area for domestic use.

Cumulatively, both companies were paid about N400m from the first to third phase for the project. However, nearly six years after handing over the project to the contractor, our reporter observed that the supposed benefitting community has not yet seen the fruition of the project. 

How the residents fare with acute shortage of water supply

A visit to Dukku town by Daily Trust on Sunday in October showed that not a single drop of water was dispensed from the said water project carried out by Prorata & Yekco companies within the period under review.

For instance, within Dukku metropolis, a number of water dispensing points were erected in Gona, Balu, Nayelwa and Lafiya quarters but Daily Trust on Sunday could not visibly establish if these points supply water as most of the taps there were either not mounted or smashed.

In many instances, residents confided in Daily Trust on Sunday that a lot of households go to bed hungry, especially in the peak of summer as they couldn’t prepare meals because of lack of water.

Some who can afford it told our correspondent that at times, they resort to buying packs of sachet water popularly known as pure water to prepare meals.

Mustafa Isa, 25, a newly married man, said he spends not less than N10,000 a month in buying water from the vendors.

He said, “If households in Dukku can get respite from buying water, then half our responsibilities would have been taken off from our shoulders. I spend not less than N300 daily buying water for my family. There was a time I couldn’t get water from vendors. I bought a package of sachet water to prepare dinner at my house, otherwise we would have gone to bed hungry.

Malam Yakubu Muhammad (Alaramma), farmer, is a resident of Dukku who commutes for 15 minutes from his home to a lake on the outskirts of the town to get water for his family.

In an encounter with Muhammad at Kogin Dole Pond, he said he comes to the lake anytime he runs short of money to buy water from vendors at water selling points.

“You see, this is how we live our lives. We come here to fetch water. Other times, we buy if we have the means. Whenever I don’t have money to buy from water vendors, I come here with my bicycle to get the water for household chores. Sometimes, if I’m engaged in some work, I send my children down here to fetch the water. Now that you see me here, the children are at the farm and there is no water in the house. That is why I have to come myself. We use between 3 and 4 jerricans every day.”

Asked whether there are other sources of water around him, he said, “There are water tanks that sell to local water depots. But a jerrican there costs N70, meaning I’d need N280 if I’m to buy 4.”

Another resident who identified himself as Abubakar Muhammad said there were days his house couldn’t cook because there was no water. He described the perennial water shortage as one that is affecting many households in the town, subjecting hundreds of families to hardship.

“This lake is our major source of water. We source our water from here because this is where you get it free of charge. Looking at the economic situation, one can’t always have the means to buy water from vendors who sell a jerrycan at N40, and sometimes N50 or more. Here, we don’t have access to quality water. When this lake dries up, we resort to buying from water depots when we have the wherewithal, because there a drum costs up to N600. In my house, we consume one drum every day, which is more than N4,000 in a week.”

He called on the government to dredge the pond and provide other alternatives to the people of the area to ease their suffering.

 

Malam Siddi, 56, is the watchman in charge of the pond. His work involves preventing animals from getting into the pond to drink water and keeping an eye on the lake so that people don’t enter it with their shoes on. The reason for that, he said, was that people use the water for religious and household activities.

“People come here on a daily basis to fetch water. Others are vendors who get the water here and sell it out to people at the rate of N200 per two-wheeled cart. There are times you see many people coming here, especially during the dry season when water scarcity is at its peak. With much pressure on the lake, it dries up during the dry season because people come from different places and neighbouring villages to fetch water from it. I also source my water from here most of the time. I ask the vendors to take some jerricans to my house.”

The story of how acute water challenge is affecting the people of Dukku is almost the same with many residents of the town, especially the low-income earners.

Adamu Abubakar Umar, a 35-year-old Balu resident in Dukku, claims to spend not less than N12,000 monthly on buying water which is more than half of his monthly salary.

For Adamu Kudi, 38, a family man with 5 children, the story is no different. “I’m a labourer who has to work every day to get something to meet the daily needs of my family. Every day, I spend N350 on buying half a drum of water.”

Another resident, Abdulwahab Abubakar, said because of his limited income, he sources his water from a lake to save cost as one jerrican goes for N70 in his area. His appealled to the government to provide a lasting solution to the problem.

Different community groups in the town have made efforts in appealing to the government to end the menace. Bashir Isa is a 41-year-old Shabewa resident in Dukku. He said, “Access to safe drinking water is our major problem in Dukku, especially in Dukku South. The challenge is more severe during the dry season when most of the lakes which serve as water sources dry up. About 80 percent of Dukku residents are farmers, and a greater percentage of their farm proceeds is spent on buying water.

“There have been various interventions by successive governments. For example, the state government recently dredged some lakes in some villages. There are other individuals who are doing their best to ameliorate the  situation. As for the efforts of community groups, a certain community Association has visited some stalwarts, stakeholders and agencies and requested their intervention in addressing the issue. Currently, people are faced with water problems as the tap isn’t always reliable. We need machines and other engines to pump the water to all parts of the town.”

Water vendors make brisk sales

The business, according to some vendors, is paying reasonably well because they’re meeting their demands through it.

Some water vendors who simply identified themselves as Haliru, Idris and Sani said they make between 7 and 10 trips daily, especially when the business is good, realising between N1,500 and N2,000.

Malam Abdullahi, 50, a water vendor residing in Nayelwa quarters of Dukku, has been in the business for more than 15 years. He said he caters for his needs through the business because he makes N2,000 daily if the business is good. “A trip is N600; N400 goes to the owner of the water point, and we get N200 for each trip. I’m a family man with 1 wife and 6 children. We all rely on this business.”

How the project was awarded

A document obtained by our reporter from Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority (UBRDA) detailed how the Phase I & II of the contract were awarded and executed by a company named Prorata Investment with four months completion period in the sum of N94,763,735.82 and was captured in the 2016 financial year.

It was said to have been completed on 20th March 2017, after the site was handed over to the contractor on January 12, 2017.

The scope of the work also showed among other things, that the contractor should carry out construction of two boreholes and installation of Lorentz Solar pumps on the booster tank, construction of a 500m3 ground tank and booster pump house at Mayo Lamido.

Others are: connection of boreholes to the 500m3 and 250m3 ground tanks in Dukku and fencing of the entire scheme both at Mayo Lamido and Dukku.

However, in 2017 financial year, an addendum budget of N20m for the Phase II of the project was issued with the scope of work to construct 2No additional boreholes at Mayo Lamido, install Lorenzt solar pumps to each boreholes on the booster tank and connection of boreholes to the existing 500m3 ground tank. The second Phase was completed on March 12th, 2018.

In view of the above, Phase I & II of the project was executed between 2016 to 2018 by the Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority, and it claimed that at the time it completed the project, all the four solar boreholes were discharging water into the booster and were capable of filling the tank within two days at normal weather conditions.

However, in the financial year 2018 appropriation, the project was transferred to the Federal Ministry of Water Resources for the continuation with a budget of N250m.

In total, the whole project, according to the documents gulped not less than N364m; however, BudgIT, a civic organization that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement and facilitate societal change told our reporter that N101.3m was earmarked for the project in 2016 financial year. 

Profile of the contracting company

According to extract of status report in respect of the company released by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), established in May 1983, Yekco Nigeria Limited (RC: 54948) listed seven persons as directors, one other as secretary and another one whose name appeared as director was also listed as person with significant control of the company.

However, the CAC revealed in the status column that Yekco Nigeria Limited is ‘inactive’ with the office address T. 10 Ahmadu Bello Way, Kaduna and with no specification of business activity.

Water can flow by end of November – Contractor  

Shola Oyeleke, who said he is the director of Yekco Nigeria Limited (though his name was not listed among the directors or secretary of the company in the document released by CAC) told Daily Trust  on Sunday on phone that presently the project is almost completed as it has reached 95 percent completion.

“In fact, it was completed based on the bill given to me from the ministry. But along the line, we found out that about a kilometre to the main tank from where the water will be distributed to the town; the pressure of the pipe could not carry it (the water). So, I complained to the ministry and the ministry wrote to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for an approval and we got an approval last week. So, hopefully in another two weeks we should come and replace the pipe that can take the water into the tank for the last stage to distribute water to the town.

“Other than that, every other thing has been completed. So, insha Allah before the end of November water will get to Dukku.

“The ministry did their feasibility study before the bill was made but alone the line, since nobody is perfect, we discovered that we had 16mm pipe so they now decided to increase it to 16bar 16mm and they had to seek approval from BPP so they got the approval which by next week or upper week, the pipes will get to the site and we will lay the pipes and water will come in to the town.”

“It is when we lay these pipes and water comes in that we will hand over and the project is completed.”

He confessed that his company carried out all the three phases of the project.

He said in the first place, the ministry did the feasibility study and came up with the bill, adding that he was not responsible for the bill.

“I followed everything in the bill given to me by the ministry. By the end of November, the project will be completed because in another two weeks by the grace of God the pipes will get to the site and we will start laying the two-kilometre pipes. And once that is done, we will just open the water as you can see the solar panels, pumps and everything is working perfectly. From the main source to the middle source, water comes in and there is no problem.

 “So, from the middle source to the end source is where the problem is because of the gravity of the way the water is flowing.”

Asked about the reticulation within Dukku town, he said they had already done.

He confirmed to our reporter that both Prorata and Yekco who did from the phase I to III of the project are his companies, adding that though they are different companies but he is the director of both.

“The 1st phase was awarded by the Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority and the 2nd & 3rd phases were awarded by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.” 

Why we didn’t accept the project – LG chairman

Jamilu Ahmed Shabewa, the Executive Chairman of Dukku Local Government Area, said he personally visited the project site to assess how best the community could benefit from it.

He revealed that by the time he came onboard, the project was almost completed, adding that the project must have some hiccups somewhere hence no water comes in from it.

“We can say it is a technical problem and we appealed to the project’s sponsor to come and complete the project and hand it over to the local government. If that is done, we can play our own role to make it beneficial to our people.

“Sometime in April, a delegation from Gombe State Water Board was dispatched here for the purpose of handing over the project to us. But unfortunately, one cannot take over a project that has not been completed and is not viable. The aim is for water to enter the end tank and subsequently to the town. So, I don’t know how one can take over the project without a single drop of water from it!

“So, we raised our observations and duly informed the sponsor and the contractor of the project. We are impatient to see that this project is viable to ease the suffering of our people.”

He refuted allegations that some political opponents were vandalizing the project in order to sabotage it, noting that he hired a doorkeeper at the site.

He noted that presently, Dukku community relies on Gombe Abba water scheme which caters for only 15 percent of people’s demand. 

“Almost the whole of Dukku town depends on the murky pond of Kogin Dole for domestic purposes. The water is not clean enough but we use it all the same because we don’t have any alternative,” he added. 

This report was supported by the Daily Trust Foundation in collaboration with MacArthur Foundation.