INVESTIGATION: Kwara’s N15.7 Million White Elephant: Waterworks Stops Functioning After Brief 6-Month Run

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lorin, Kwara State– Odo-Eku is a community in the Isin Local Government Area of Kwara State. The community has been facing a challenge with water for decades, as residents cannot boast of access to potable water.

The community solely relies on a small spring called Omi Ekú, where residents share the water with cows, wash their clothes, and use it for cooking and drinking.

The community has repeatedly raised alarms about the lack of safe drinking water, despite N15.7 million being spent on the Odo-Eku water project, funded as a capital project by the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority (LNRBDA).

The water project was awarded to Malmid International Limited and was commissioned by LNRBDA in 2020. However, despite its intended purpose of serving the entire community and improving their welfare, it has failed to benefit them or solve any water-related issues since its execution. Consequently, this has exposed members of the community to waterborne diseases..

N15.7million Water Project Stop Working Within Six Months 

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Odo-Eku Water Tank- Picture By Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed

During a visit to the Odo-Eku community, this reporter met with some community leaders who lamented about how the residents of the community suffered, essentially, during climate change.

The residents of the community explained the challenges they face, especially during the dry season, when nursing mothers and students go the extra mile to fetch stream water for domestic use.

Some of those who spoke with this reporter accused the contractor of using substandard materials for the N15.7 million project, which only worked for six months before it stopped functioning.

One of the community chiefs, Elder Ogundeji, the Odofin of Odo-Eku, who showed this reporter around the water project, said it was constructed in 2020, but within a few months, it collapsed.

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Elder Ogundeji, the Odofin of Odo-Eku- Picture By Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed

He explained that when the project was initiated in 2020, the community was hopeful that the longstanding issue of potable water supply would be resolved. However, the project has since turned into a source of sorrow as it has failed to alleviate their water-related suffering.

“We face challenges with access to clean drinking water in our community. The watersystem provided by the Federal government stopped working within six months of its construction. However, we were unable to benefit from the project, as it failed to address our longstanding water issues.”

Lamenting about the situation, he said the borehole that was constructed by the contractor collapsed within a month, and they notified them about the problem. He said they brought another small borehole to replace the big one, which also didn’t last before it stopped working.

“When you drink clean, portable water, the likelihood of sickness is lower compared to drinking contaminated water that people wash their clothes and defecate into. The risk of sickness is higher in such cases, and survival may depend on divine intervention.

“If the challenges of obtaining portable water are too great, it is then that all kinds of sickness will surface. However, if people have access to clean, portable water, the likelihood of getting sick will be minimal.”

He, however, appealed to the government to come to the aid, instruct the responsible authorities of the water project to reinstate it, and address its water issues, ensuring that the significant investment in the project does not go to waste.

A civil servant woman, who is also an indigene of Odo-Eku, doesn’t want her name mentioned. She lamented about having to travel several miles to fetch water, especially during the dry season.

“Many of the teachers deployed to the Odo-Eku community find it challenging to stay. Oftentimes, some of them don’t take their baths because there is no water nearby, and they have to be in school before 8 am.

“Water is very important in human life. Our students, who are currently taking exams, find it difficult as they have to read and at the same time travel several miles to fetch water. It is not easy for them. How can they comprehend what they are learning under such circumstances?”

According to her, “If the government can use N15.7 million for a water project like this and it doesn’t serve the community for six months, that means it doesn’t alleviate the suffering that people face.

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“Pregnant women and nursing mothers usually go to a river called Omi-Eku to fetch water, especially at times when insecurity has taken over the whole area.

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Omi-Eku- Picture By Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed

She said that most of the time they can’t wash their clothes because there isn’t enough water to sustain them. She mentioned they need to go to city and give them to a dry cleaner.

She, however, called on the government to come to their aid and solve the waterproblem facing the community. She said most of them love the community, which is why they stay.

Mrs. Mary Titilayo Ogunyemi, an elderly woman who is over 70 years old, spoke with this reporter about how she finds it hard to get water. She explained that her children have all gotten married, and no one is around to assist with domestic tasks.

She said it has been over four years since the water project was constructed and commissioned, but after six months, it stopped functioning.

“Since the water stopped functioning, the community later made contributions to repair it. In the long run, it got spoiled again, and I think it’s beyond the community’s power to fix the problem.”

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Mrs. Mary Titilayo Ogunyemi- Picture By Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed

“The water situation is a major problem in this community. As elderly people, we don’t have children around who can go to far distances to fetch water. Most of the time, we give people money to help us fetch water. You will see them with kegs on their bikes, going long distances to fetch water.

“Where there is no water, problems always persist. We cannot wash our clothes, and some of us won’t bathe for a week because there is no water. Before we can drink water, we need to boil the dirty water before it becomes safe to drink.”

Mrs Ogunyemi explained that they go to the river to fetch muddy water. She stated that the water project did not serve any purpose for them, as elderly people in the community struggle to have access to clean water.

“Drinking dirty and untreated water is dangerous to the body and can cause many diseases, especially in hard-to-reach communities. Despite the amount spent on water projects, we should not have to experience any hardship from unsafe water.

“It is obvious that the material they use is not standard, and we know very little in the community, except for what they want us to know.

She appealed to the government to come to their aid in Odo-Eku and to also consider the elderly, as they are among the vulnerable ones who suffered the most.

The youth leader in the community, Peter Oluwaṣeun Olatunde, spoke with this reporter about how they wake up early in the morning with many jerry cans on their motorcycle to travel to Omi-Eku to fetch water.

Mr. Olatunde took this reporter to the Odo-Eku River, where almost all the residents of the community fetch water.

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Youth Leader,Peter Oluwaṣeun Olatunde – Picture By Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed

The youth leader said, “It is devastating that in the 21st century, people are still finding it difficult to access potable water.” He lamented about the condition of the Odo-Eku water project, which the federal government funded through the Lower Niger River Basin Authority with an amount of N15.7 million.

“Omi-Eku is where our grandparents used to come to fetch water, and we grew up knowing this place, where we also come to fetch water. The water springs out and it never dries.”

“In 2020, a water works project was commissioned in Odo-Eku, which I heard was a multimillionaire project. However, within six months, the water project collapsed, making it difficult for our mothers and residents to access portable water.

He said people come from far distances to fetch water from the river. He explained how the community tried their best to ensure that the water project worked, but all efforts proved abortive.

Mr. Olatunde, however, appeals to the government to consider them as they struggle with all aspects of life, including roads and water.

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Community Need Sensitization To Ease Their Problems 

A Kwara-based Civil Society Organization that promotes good governance in the state and monitors how public funds are spent, Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD), told this  reporter that many hard-to-reach communities require sensitization. This is because any projects facilitated by the government or NGOs expect communities to provide feedback to those facilitating them.

The ENetSuD Deputy Coordinator for Special Duties, Abdulrasak Olayemi, stated that nobody had sensitized the community to provide feedback regarding the functionality of the project initiated in their community after six months.

According to him, “If the community complains that the water project did not serve them as expected, the Lower Niger River Basin Authority will not pay the balance payment to the contractor that handled the project.

“Inasmuch as LNRBDA paid the contractor six months after the project was commissioned, they have no authority over the contractor. However, LNRBDA lacks sufficient staff to monitor projects, despite having thousands across Kwara and Kogi.

He said that before LNRBDA pays off the contractor, they will visit the community where the project was initiated and inquire if the project serves their purpose. They will then sign an agreement between the community, the contractor, and themselves, and hand it over to the community.

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Service Point- Picture By Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed

Service Point- Picture By Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed

“ENetSuD has been a thorn in the side of many contractors. Some have even refused to work in Kwara because they know we’ll be monitoring the project. We’ve compelled numerous contractors to abandon substandard materials and opt for quality ones instead.

Olayeni said Community members need to be enlightened because once contractors know that residents of a particular community are illiterate, all they do is cheat the community by using substandard materials.

He, however, appeals to LNRBDA to look into their budget to see if there is room for rehabilitation; they should incorporate Odo-Eku into the budget.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2022, about 2.2 billion people globally lack access to “safely managed drinking water,” including 115 million people drinking surface water. These figures reflect the challenges in providing access to water and sanitation in Nigeria, as well as the disparities between developed and developing countries.

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Service Point- Picture By Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed

In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water for personal and domestic use.

We Pay Contractor After Six Months 

This reporter visited the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority (LNRBDA) to investigate why the contractor refused to return to the community and why LNRBDA continued to pay the contractor despite the water project not serving the community for more than six months.

Meanwhile, the narration by LNRBDA differs completely from the allegations made by the community regarding the water project.

This reporter met with the Deputy Director of Water Supply, Hydrogeologist, Mr. Kunle Razaq. He stated that the project was awarded by the authority on October 25, 2020. The task given to the contractor is to construct the Odo-Eku water works at the rate of N15,691,298, and the contractor is Malmid International Ltd.

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Pump Engine- Picture By Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed

Mr. Razaq stated that before the contractor starts any work, the LNRBDA and the contractor must visit the site for site possession, ensuring that all stakeholders, including the host community, are adequately represented.

“You cannot simply go to a specific community without informing them. Regardless of the project you intend to offer, you must first inform them of what is coming and the benefits it will bring. This allows them to get involved, assist in supervision, ensure smooth implementation, and provide their full support to the contractor.

“We always ask where they want the project to be located. As geologists, we advise against narrowing the borehole to a specific location. However, they are free to place the overhead tanks and service points wherever they prefer, as long as the borehole remains productive.

According to Mr. Razaq, “Before we give the go-ahead to the contractor, we’ll ensure that the borehole is productive before any other structures are constructed, such as the service point or switch house.

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“He said that when the contractor drilled the first borehole and the authority tested it, they rejected it. Then, they drilled a second one, but it was also rejected because it didn’t meet their standard, which requires a tank capacity of 22,500 liters.

“The third borehole, according to the geologist who visited the site, has a step of 1,100 meters and an installation depth of 97 meters. Therefore, we accepted the third borehole, and it has been installed.

He said that when the job was done, the community representative took hold of one of the pumps they usually install into the hole, while the one that the contractor installed was still there at that time.

The allegations that there is no water in the community are false. We have drilled three boreholes there, and I am aware that the state would have provided them with water in addition to the existing waterworks. Considering the number of communities in Kwara, it’s impossible to cater to all of them simultaneously.

“Have we reached all the communities in Kwara? Even with our consistent efforts each year, it still seems insufficient for a community to request four boreholes.

Mr. Razaq informed this reporter that after six months, there have been no complaints about the water work by the community. The contract given to the contractor includes a retention period of three months. After this period, if the project is still functioning, the contractor receives the remaining balance, known as retentions.

“We usually retain part of the contract sum while waiting. We hope not to encounter any issues with the project, but if we do, we refrain from signing the payment until we are satisfied with the project’s completion and its ability to serve its intended purposes.

He said the contractor went to the Odo-Eku community after five months instead of three months to assess if the project is serving the community, and he confirmed that the water project is working perfectly.

Mr. Razaq added that before a contractor will receive his retention, the community will confirm that the project is functional. There will be a letter signed by all stakeholders, including the community, LNRBDA, and the contractor, before handing it over to the community. All stakeholders will receive a copy.

He said, after six months, that the project stopped functioning, as the community claimed. Why can’t they come to the LNRBDA office to complain, since they know the people who awarded the project from 2021 up till now?

“Odo-Eku community has never sent a representative to lodge a complaint, so we were unaware that the waterworks had stopped functioning. We have thousands of projects across the state and in Kogi.

“He said there are some projects that only have minor faults due to lack of maintenance by the community, which don’t require spending money, just seeking an expert to fix them.”

“Many people come to our office to launch complaints, and we send an expert to assist them. The funniest part is, they often find that the issue was minor.

He stated that the authority doesn’t have the budget to maintain all boreholes across the state, and their staff are insufficient to inspect faulty boreholes while they have thousands of projects to initiate.

He, however, urged the people of the Odo-Eku community to form an association where they can make monthly contributions, similar to what other communities are doing, to maintain their borehole.

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Picture by ENetSuD

Mr. Razaq also appeals to the Odo-Eku community to send a representative to make an official complaint so they can determine how they can assist the community.

In August 2022, according to the documents provided to ENetSuD by the LNRBDA in response to the Freedom of Information (FOI) request, EnNetSuD records show that the contract sum of the project is 15,691,298 naira, and the contractor received 100% payment for the project from the LNRBDA.

According to ENetSuD, in 2021 they immediately brought the current non-functional status of the project to the attention of LNRBDA, enabling the authority to review the project and address any necessary technical problems.

Meanwhile, LNRBDA informed this reporter that no one has ever come forward to complain to the authority that the water project has stopped functioning.

This story was produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

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