Ecological Funds: Living At The Mercy Of Floods 1

[one_half][/one_half]This report, the fourth in our Ecological Funds Investigation series, is written by Yekeen Nurudeen of the New Telegraph. It is the first of his two – part story on ecological problems in the South west


“A stitch in time saves nine” is an adage that could convey different meanings to different people. But to Alfa Ibrahim Oloyede and the people of Igbara-Odo in Igbara Odo local government area, Ekiti state, it is a very profound saying.

Late February this year, Alfa Oloyede gathered members of his families and a few neighbours to engage in a construction work around his house.  Though not an engineer by profession or training, Cloyed needed to be proactive to avert what could be a repeat of the September 15, 2015 flooding experience which left his properties floating in the deluge of water and his fence submerged.

Specifically, September 15, 2015 is a day that he and his household would remember for a long time to come. Seven hours of rain, according to him, on that fateful day turned his house to a river of sorts while his car, a Nissan Primordia wagon, which he uses as a cab was left floating in the deluge of water. The perimeter fence of the house could also not stand the torrent as it collapsed.

With the help of other residents, he erected a huge fence around his bungalow situated along Ibarra –Odom, Ekiti expressway. They also constructed a very wide drainage close to the fence using big stones as barriers, so as to accommodate the massive flood that occurs anytime rain falls.

Oloyede was just creating another water way, diverting erosion from his house when New Telegraph visited in anticipation of 2016 rainfall bearing in mind the last year bitter experience.

“On Sept 15 last year, it rained for seven hours and for two months my car Nissan Primeria could not work. We are creating ways for water against this year rainfall. This fence fell off and I just erected the fence and created ways for the water to pass” Oloyede said as he conducted New Telegraph round his compound.

For Moni Akingbade, an Octogenarian also living in Igbara-Odo, her house is flooded every year and it is always not a pleasant experience for her when it rains. She said even an embankment she constructed around the house did not stop flood whenever there is heavy rainfall.

Mama Akingbade, as she is respectfully addressed by her neighbours, ought not to have sleepless nights over flooding if the erosion control work awarded by the Federal Government in 2007 to address the problem of erosion and flooding in Igbara – Odo was done well.

Narrow and blocked drainage at Igbara Odo
Narrow and blocked drainage at Igbara Odo

But the very narrow erosion control works, a concrete drainage which is directly opposite her house, was completely blocked by refuse while also on the side of the road lays the ruins of a Church, Assembly of God Church, which was said to have collapsed due to flooding.

The roofing of the church was what was left as worshippers have relocated to another location after several attempts to avert the yearly erosion.

For the 2016 rainy season, Oloyede and Madam Akingbade as well as very many other residents of Igbara Odo Ekiti are bracing up for another flooding experience.

This is the story of Igbara –Odo Ekiti; a town that has been at the mercy of flood for years.

The town has been a victim of persistent flooding over the years despite the intervention of Federal Government which awarded projects to control flood and erosion in many towns in the six South west states.

The tale of Igbara –Odo is a common phenomenon with most projects awarded and funded by the Ecological Fund Office.

Ecological Fund of Misery

The story of funds disbursement and utilization from the  Ecological Fund which was originally established in 1981 through the Federation Account Act (1981) based on the recommendation of the Okigbo Commission has been more of miseries than anything else.

The Fund which is an intervention facility established to address serious ecological problems across the country can at best be said to be a major source of abuse and impunity by top government officials.

The enabling statutes have over the years placed the Fund under the control of the Head of the Federal Government; to be disbursed and managed in accordance with such directives as may be issued from time to time.

However, despite the critical purpose the fund is meant to serve, it has become a cesspool of corruption.

In July 2012, the House of Representatives alleged a fraud in the disbursement of the fund when it discovered that N2.060billion was paid to 38 contractors and 14 consultants for the purpose of developing tree nurseries and raising seedlings. The contract was said to have been awarded through the Ecological Fund Office in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment.

Chairman of the Committee on Environment, Hon. Uche Ekwunife disclosed this during an investigative hearing on the application of ecological fund for the development of tree nurseries and seedlings in the 36 states of the federation, noting that out of the N3.190bn approved by the Presidency in 2010, the sum of N2. 060bn was released to the contractors and consultants.

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Ekwenife and members of the committee, who had embarked on an inspection tour of the project sites to ascertain the level of project implementation, expressed displeasure over the level of work done.

“We were shocked by scores of abandoned and uncompleted projects, with most below 15 per cent implementation,” she said. “Nigerians are interested in knowing why these projects are abandoned or uncompleted even though money has been paid. I believe that the Ministry of Environment, the Ecological Fund Office, and all well-meaning Nigerians will be interested in the efficient management of the ecological funds.”

But the then Minister of Environment, Hadiza Mailafia argued that the contract was awarded by her predecessor under the Presidential Initiative on Afforestation (PIA).

“We cannot say the project is a total failure. Although there are gaps in the project, there is no way the states of the federation will say that they are not being carried along.”

Operations of the Funds have been shrouded in secrecy, prompting the former Speaker of House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal to describe it as mystery funds in that same year.

In a report titled “Share of Derivation and Ecology 2007 – 201” submitted in October 2013, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI)  also pointed out misapplication of the funds within those years by state and federal governments as well as agencies and officials of government.

In the document in which NEITI took a comprehensive stock of ecological projects awarded across the country as well as different categories of disbursement, it pointed out abuse of the Fund.

The Federal Government’s Erosion Control works

Our findings in Igbara – Oke are consistent with these disclosures. When the contracts for the erosion control works in the town was awarded, the development was welcomed with excitement by residents of Igbara-Odo community. It was their turn they thought as Ricabim Nigerian limited won the contract to control erosion in the town on 7 February, 2007.

The N160 million contract, awarded through the EFO, was expected to last 24 weeks but four years after the company reported project completion, residents of Igbara-Odo are still living in fear whenever it rains. Residents, especially those living on the main road linking the Palace of Arajaka of Igbara-Odo are the worst hit. Houses on the Palace Road are never spared whenever it rains heavily owing to the narrow nature of the drainages constructed by the contractor.

The main objective of the contract seems to have been defeated because of the shoddy job done. “N160 million was a waste” says the Arajaka of Igbara Odo, Oba Edward Jayeola. He regrets that the project was not done to specifications even as the contractor seems to have abandoned the project.

The royal father who took our correspondent round the town and the project sites as well as some areas affected by floods in the past years says “the project was never completed and the contractor never returned.

“The work was not completed. They did a shoddy job. The work is there. When we complained, they said we should re-apply. I’m sure they would have written in Abuja that the work is completed.”

Arajaka of Igbara Odo Ekiti at Oruo river bridge
Arajaka of Igbara Odo Ekiti at Oruo river bridge

In addition, he says the contractor reduced the width and terminal point of the drainage that leads from Idasa Street to Oruo River where the project was expected to terminate. River Oruo, according to the monarch, is the largest river in Igbara-Odo and it is where all the rainwater from all over the town should flow.

An official of the Federal Ministry of Environment, who pleaded anonymity, says such projects usually end where the funds given to contractors stopped. The official also notes that the intervention currently being done by the EFO is an envelope type which is tailored to address one ecological problem in an area as against a total solution.

This, the officer adds, makes some of the projects to collapse because there are numerous areas of interventions across the country.

The project in Igbara-Odo is one of the 37 of such awarded by the Federal Government to address erosion and flood challenges in the South west geo-political zone. The breakdown of the spread of the projects across the six South-West states revealed that Ogun has 10, Osun (eight) and Lagos (seven), Oyo (five), Ekiti (four) while Ondo has three. The projects which were awarded between 2007 and 2011 are worth N15.1 billion.

Curiously, in a report submitted to the Presidency by the EFO, the Igbara-Odo Ekiti project and many others were reportedly completed. Efforts to reach the EFO for confirmation on these projects were abortive as requests sent to the office were not answered.

It was the same story in Ijero-Ekiti where residents are yet to feel the impact of the erosion and flood control work done by Ometra Construction Engineers Limited.

According to the EFO, the Abuja-based company, which was awarded the N95.6 million erosion and flood control contract, has already completed the project.

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However, findings by our correspondent revealed a different picture. The project has been abandoned while the residents are left to suffer. The erosion control work did not get to the specific areas where it was supposed to cover because there was no supervision by the authorities.

Besides the obvious effects of constant erosion on Doherty Street where the popular Doherty Memorial Grammar School is situated, the end of the road that links Ijero roundabout is a disaster waiting to happen. The stalled erosion control work from Egbeye axis of the town which was supposed to enter the Iregun River is the reason for their woes.

A church, Christ the Saviour, on the edge of the river, may also be washed away if the bridge eventually collapses. Shola Olowoyo, a resident of the area, could not hide his disgust at the way flood ravages the area every year.

“The water coming from Doherty Street and from Egbeye meets inside the gutter. It has been like that for about seven years. Rain water doesn’t follow the channels created as they have all been blocked,” he says.

Aside Doherty Road, other places such as Keleja Street and back of Ekiti State College of Health Technology, where the contractor ought to have covered in the execution of the project, have been abandoned.

Giving credence to this, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain in Ijero Local Government Area of Ekiti State, Adewale Arowojobe, says about 20 to 30 per cent of the houses would have been washed away in the town but for the erosion and flood control work awarded by the Federal Government.

On a tour of the affected areas, Arowojobe discloses to our correspondent the extent to which the abandoned project has helped Ijero town. “This is where it ought to have stopped,” Arowojobe points at a ditch at the end of the town.”

Disaster waiting to happen

Hundreds of residents of Oke Osun Street were woken up and ejected by angry water at about 1:00 a.m on September 15, 2015 when the nearby River Osun overflown its banks after several hours of heavy downpour.

Affected residents could only salvage just few of their properties. But this unpleasant experience seems to have been quickly forgotten. Residents of Ikere Ekiti are without doubt courting another sordid flood visitation.

Moshood junction, Ikere Ekiti

Waterways blocked by refuse at moshood junction, Ikere Ekiti
Waterways blocked by refuse at moshood junction, Ikere Ekiti

While the Ikere-Ekiti erosion control work was completed as scheduled, the waterways created to avert subsequent flooding have been blocked with domestic waste and other pollutants since the people have chosen waterways as dumpsite. From all indications, residents of Ikere- Ekiti are not on the same page with the Federal Government despite its good intention to save them from perennial flooding that usually damages their property.

Handled by Shon Nigeria Limited, The Ikere-Ekiti project, was awarded in September 2011. Findings showed that from the popular Moshood junction where the construction work commenced towards Holy Ghost Catholic Church at Odo-Oja axis of the town down to Osun-Benin-Owena River, have all been taken over by refuse. The width of the drainage notwithstanding, refuse has taken over the whole channel.

It is only the frontage of the Catholic Church that people have not converted to dumpsite. Our correspondent observed that the two chambers under the main culvert meant for easy passage of rainwater at Moshood junction were completely blocked by refuse.

Residents, it was learnt, resorted to indiscriminate dumping of refuse since there are no official dumpsites or waste treatment centres.

Olumide Oluwase, a shop owner at Moshood junction, who sells video and audio compact discs, says his shop is often times submerged whenever it rains.

“Even after the project was completed, flood submerged the barrier that was made to make water passage easy. I can’t say this is how much I have lost here owing to flooding because it has affected me badly. Government should do something urgent to stop people from dumping refuse here,” Oluwase says.

Based on the reckless and indiscriminate dumping of refuse in Ikere-Ekiti, it is obvious that the town, the administrative seat of Ijero-Ekiti Local Government Area, is just waiting for another flooding experience.

An official of the Osun-Benin-Owena River Basin Management Authority (OBORBMA), who declined to give his name because he was not authorised to speak to the press, says it has been completed. The official, who supervised the project, clarifies that only the Phase One of the project has been carried out.

“It has been completed. Just the Phase 1 that was completed. It is channelled to River Osun Benin Owena. To the best of my knowledge, it enters back of the Catholic Church at Kajola,” he says.

Ekiti State government’s defence

Ekiti State Commissioner for Environment, Bisi Kolawole, says the state enjoyed ecological fund intervention during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and the money was judiciously spent. According to him, Ekiti State government expended over N1 billion on ecological projects between October 2015 and February 2016. He says that seven of the projects have been completed, while three are ongoing. “If our people can inculcate that attitude into their system, the state will be clean and give less work for government to do,” he says.

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Imusin Esure: Living at mercy of flood

Ijebu Imusin project signpost
Ijebu Imusin project signpost

Imusin Esure in Ogun East Local Government Area of Ogun State is also not left out of shoddily executed ecological project. Despite the award of N74 million project to address the effect of flood and erosion in the town, the people are still being held hostage whenever it rains.

The contract awarded in July 2013 to Intermediate Engineering and Construction Limited and ought to have been completed in November 2013 has only worsened the problem of the town.

Findings showed that the project, which was executed in 2014, was not properly done. Our correspondent also discovered that a section of the drainage had collapsed and was only fixed through communal efforts. The collapse of the drainage could only be due to the poor quality of materials used by the contractor, says a resident.

Oba Sansi Kamoru, the Obelu of Imusin- Esure, laughed hysterically when he learnt about the contract sum of the project. He describes the contractor’s job as a substandard work.

According to him, about 25 metres of it has already collapsed and that he had to cough up N270,000 to repair it.

collapsed but repaired portion of Imusin Esure project
Collapsed but repaired portion of Imusin Esure project

“N74 million? The work was not done well. If we did not amend the work, the whole construction will spoil. Part of the drainage had already fallen off and we got an engineer, we have paid N270,000 because we have to avert another flood this year,” the traditional ruler says.

Corroborating his views, the Otunba of Ijebu-Imusin, Obafemi Abdullahi, argues that the work was not done to specifications.

“About 25 metres collapsed on the right side of the drainage. We quickly did a remedial work which was completed within about five days. In our opinion, they did not do the work to specifications. They did not back the drainage, the iron-rod they used were not made in u-form. Though we did not see the scope of work, this cannot be said to be a good job,” Abdullahi said.

But an official of Erosion and Flood Control Department, Federal Ministry of Environment, who was among those who supervised the project, says the project was carried out to specifications.

He pointed out that such projects have six months period of maintenance by the contractor right from when they are completed, noting that residents are responsible for its maintenance afterwards.

“The king was happy when we finished the work. It was wrong to say the work was not well done. They are not engineers. If a part of it collapsed, it could be that something heavier hit it but definitely it was done well. You know when we finished, we advised them to write to the federal government to apply for the second phase because that’s Phase I. This is even the time for them to apply because the president would soon constitute committee on ecological projects,” he said.

Consequences of perennial flooding

History of flood in Ijebu Imusin is as old as the history of the town itself. It is a common feature to see houses submerged in water at the peak of the rainy season –April to August.

Many parts of the main road from Ijebu Ode to Ijebu-Imusin were already washed away as motorists struggle to avoid colliding with one another.

There were also relics of flooded houses along major roads. But for anyone coming in through the Ore-Sagamu Road, the cemetery tells it all. All the beautiful designs and engravings on tombs of the deceased have turned brown due to incessant flooding.

One of the victims of flood in the town, Rasheed Abdul Kareem, narrated how his father’s house collapsed due to the massive 2006 flooding.

“In 2006, my father’s house collapsed due to the torrents of water. It rained for several hours and everywhere was full of water. The drainage could not control the water coming from the market side and the house was like a river,” said Abdul Kareem, who is a close associate of traditional ruler of the town, Obelu of Esure Ijebu Imusin, Oba Sansi Kamoru.

The traditional ruler also had his own fair share of woes from the pangs of flooding and erosion.  He told our correspondent how his former residence was flooded twice.

“My former house was flooded twice and even when we built here newly, we just woke up one day and realized that the fence was gone.”

In Ijebu Imusin, Ijebu East Local Government Area of Ogun state, the dead are not spared from the ravages of flood every year. The cemetery in the town, which is about the first sight to any visitor coming in from the Benin-Sagamu Expressway, is always at the receiving end of heavy downpours as drains divert flood water to the resting place of the departed ones. As a result, the dead are yearly submerged by the perennial flooding.

Watch out for Part II of this report tomorrow. The investigation was done with support from Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR.

 

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