Tales Of Kwara Community Where Abandoned Drainages Consume Lives

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As the government of Kwara State and a contractor, Messrs Stefan Jaeger Nig. Ltd continues to trade words over the fate of an uncompleted drainage…

 

As the government of Kwara State and a contractor, Messrs Stefan Jaeger Nig. Ltd continues to trade words over the fate of an uncompleted drainage project, residents of the Abimbola community, in Oloje, Ilọrin West Local Government Area of the state say two abandoned drainages threaten their lives and properties.

Until his death, Yusuf, a teenager, held much promise. As the only surviving son of his mother, he often helped her on the farm, until March 2020, when the gushing water of a canal in the Abimbola community, Oloje, Ilọrin West Local Government Area of Kwara State swept him away during a fishing expedition. Residents said the incident had occurred after a heavy downpour that eventually subsided with the remains of Yusuf being pulled out of a ditch hours later.

His death is one among several others that have plagued the community as a result of abandoned drainages. While recounting the tragic death of the deceased in April, Yusuf’s mother, fondly called Iya Yusuf stared at this reporter for minutes as tears rolled down her cheeks. A fair-complexioned woman with average height and in her late 50’s, Iya Yusuf’s emotions betrayed her. In her silence, she gazed into the horizon as if her son was standing in the blue skyline. Unable to find the right words in her emotional state, the grieving mother, who resides in the Fentere compound in the community beckoned her brother-in-law, Mohammed Jamiu. He was one of the group of men that retrieved her son’s body from the river and he understood her gesture by responding to this reporter. “That fateful afternoon was tragic for the community,” he said and added that the incident had happened by the spot where the project for the drainage had stopped. “Some Hausa vegetable farmers helped bring out his body,” he said.

The project Mohammed Jamiu spoke of, is what the community alleged is an abandoned drainage, which they claimed had also consumed the lives of residents from other areas of the metropolis, including 12 years old Mashood AbdulRaheem, who came for a fishing expedition during the Ramadan period of 2023. Alhaji Abdulraheem, whose 12-year-old son, Mashood AbdulRaheem lost his life to the abandoned project described the loss as painful but said he had accepted fate.

According to residents of the Abimbola community, the first project, a drainage was awarded in 2017 during the second term administration of Governor Bukola Saraki, who later became Nigeria’s Senate President. They claimed the project had stopped a few metres after a culvert.

Iya Yusuf’s brother-in-law, Mohammed Jamiu said the effect of that decision has had a devastating impact on the people as it claimed lives and properties while sacking many residents whose houses were closer to the waterway. “We have made several visits and wrote several letters to the concerned ministry over this issue but all our efforts have not yielded any results,” he said. Other residents said the project, which started from opposite Ilọrin Clinic and Maternity, Oloje, was supposed to terminate at a confluence to evacuate the huge volume of water coming from Oloje and Ita Merin to Ile-Kewu-Alfa-Yasin, around Adabiya in the same Ilọrin West LGA. They alleged that instead, the project stopped shortly after the culvert that crossed the main road at Abimbola.

However, despite their letters, the residents said the only intervention came from the then Senate President, Saraki who was said to have funded a dredging exercise of the water channel in the build-up to the 2019 election. The efforts, they said, were preceded by a community-sponsored excavation that only brought temporary relief.

Abandoned road project worsens community plight

Amid their dilemma, expectations were high of a possible relief in 2020 when the present administration of AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq awarded a 1.1km Oloje-Balode Road to Messrs Stefan Jaeger Nig. Ltd at an initial cost of N157,893,932. The project was further reviewed to N185,596,504 following a variation request of N27,756,572 in 2022 by the contractor. The community said the contractor promised to construct a drainage to safeguard their houses and properties from possible flooding. This second drainage has equally been abandoned and is part of the one-kilometre uncompleted Oloje/Balode Road.

Residents said their expectations were short-lived as the promised second drainage to evacuate the water was abandoned after a less than one-meter construction from the road. During a visit to the project site, Ibrahim Yusuf, the secretary of the community association said the contractor had promised to take the second drainage down to the confluence, but has now stopped after less than a metre away from the road.

Yusuf, who has been involved in the various community efforts to find a lasting solution to the accidents and destruction due to the twin projects said the community had recorded about five deaths due to the non-completion of the two drainages.

“The issue now is that even the ongoing road being constructed has not been completed, before we can begin to talk about the abandoned drainage,” he added. He alleged a collaboration between the contractor and government officials to sabotage the project.

“How can you give out a paid contract and find it difficult to take any action when the project has been abandoned despite a series of complaints from the beneficiaries? The road and the abandoned drainages are the major cause of our water problem in this community,” he said.

Residents relocate, abandon properties

Aside from the loss of lives, this reporter observed that many residents of Abimbola streets have abandoned their structures and relocated. During a visit to the community, residents told this reporter that those who lacked the financial means to relocate have suffered pain and misery. Ayomide Yunus, a mother of three, narrated how she almost lost everything to the situation.

Recounting what she described as a near-death experience, she said: “There was a day it rained after we had slept. We woke up to a situation where the water almost drowned the children on the floor. We had to carry them standing throughout the night while praying for the rain to subside. For now, we are afraid for our lives once it rains.”

The Vice Chairman of the community association, Yusuf Olatunji Ibrahim said they have experienced more than five casualties with many undocumented. “As executives of the community, we no longer sleep because we understand what the people affected are passing through. Now when it rains, we have to be up through the night and prioritise the safety of lives while watching helplessly as the water vandalises property worth millions of naira,” he said.

Ministry, contractors trade words

While the supervising ministry of works acknowledged that the first project had remained incomplete, it requested for further engagement with the community.

The Director, Civil of the ministry, Engr J.O Bamigboye, requested that the community leadership furnish them with some of the letters they claimed to have written to the ministry on the first abandoned drainage. “Even if it was awarded around 2005 during the previous government,” he said but stressed that there was no collaboration with the contractor to undermine the project.

He said: “For the Oloje/Balode Road, the contractor abandoned the project, and all our efforts to ensure he does the needful and returned to the site were refused. He (the contractor) cannot ask for variation after he had been paid because that would amount to an afterthought.

“We have all the evidence. If he says we wrote him, yes, we did complain and get him to go back and complete the project. He said should go and prepare himself to get the job done,” he insisted.

However, the lead Site Engineer for Messrs Stefan Jaeger Nig. Ltd, Engr Olabisi Olabode who was awarded the Oloje-Balode Road, said the company would not return to complete the project unless the government pays the variation. He said the promised drainage attached to the road project was stopped because of funds.

“The issue is that we discovered they (state government) didn’t really visit the place to do an on-the-job assessment before they generated a bill for the project when we resumed the site. We had to relocate some electric poles, community boreholes, and water tanks that were sitting at the heart of the road including some demolitions, stabilisation, and a lot of filings. To remove all these were never included in the bill but we had to go ahead and make claims because they were what can be measured and verified. Claiming back the money now they said it’s not possible.”

Engr Olabisi further said the company was not collaborating with the state government to sabotage the community and insisted that the area was like a dump site. “We stopped the asphalting where the earth is good enough because we can’t do it on a bad surface. To complete the project, the government should honour our variation,” he said.

On the abandoned drainage attached to the road project, Olabisi added: “When we saw the danger there, we called the attention of the Resident Engineer (RE) from the ministry but you know she can’t promise anything on her own. I heard somebody died there sometime last year. Nobody will work there without first considering the problem of the drainage.”

As the state government and the contractor continue to apportion blame on the abandoned drainages, the Deputy Coordinator of the Elite Network for Sustainable Development (Enetsud), Lanre Osho said the issue of abandoned projects has become a drain on taxpayers’ money. Osho called for the completion of the projects to halt further accidents and destruction of properties in the area.

This report is produced with support from Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), under the CMEDIA Project.

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