Anguish in Gombe community as contractor abandoned multi-million Naira water project
Mustapha Adamu details in this inquiry how the failure of a multi-million naira borehole project destroyed the hopes of the Gombe community.
An investigation by PLATINUM POST revealed that a multi-million naira borehole project in the Sarkin Yaki hamlet, Kwami Local Government Area of Gombe State, had been abandoned despite payments being made to the contractor.
Findings showed that over 3,000 people in the community still struggle with access to potable water and rely on unclean pond water that is located miles away for drinking and household needs.
The Upper Benue River Basin Authority, UBRBA, a department of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, awarded the borehole project in 2021 for N50m as a component of the 2021 zonal intervention project. The project’s goal was to raise the living conditions of the residents of Sarkin Yaki.
One of the river basin authorities created under Decree No. 35 of November 1987 is UBRBA. Its mission is to harness, develop, and conserve the land and water resources that are currently available in its area of responsibility.
The river basin authority is authorized by its mandate to award contracts for water projects that will benefit the people living in its service region. However, as evidenced by the experience of the Sarkin Yaki villagers, significant sums of money have been spent enforcing that mandate with little to no outcomes to show.
Yaya Manu, a farmer and father of four children in the Sarkin Yaki tribe, describes the suffering his family through as a result of having no access to clean, drinkable water for a prolonged period of time.
In this community, there has never even been a hand pump borehole. We always rely on water from a ditch a short distance from our neighborhood. We get the water we use for drinking and cooking from there.
“There is normally a reservoir held by a member of this community where a merchant supplies him with water on a monthly basis for those who can afford to buy water. In exchange, he charges an extremely high premium for this water. For us to cook, clean, and even drink, we have to purchase water every week that costs about N600, Mr. Manu stated.
There is always a heated competition for water at the nearby stream in Sarkin Yamma. The stream’s water is cleanest for the first person to reach it. They utilize the water for drinking, bathing, washing, and other household tasks.
A different local, Halima Yunusa, who sells pap, must get up as early as 4 a.m. to search for water from a river two kilometers away or pay a high price for water from a vendor as part of her laborious daily routine in order to stay in business.
“Now that my body hurts from walking vast distances to fetch water, I have to take local herbs daily that act as painkillers. Since I occasionally start to fry late because I need to acquire water, the majority of my customers must have looked for an alternative breakfast. Since I began living in this neighborhood and getting married ten years ago, it has been that way. I occasionally go outside to gather water with my 8-year-old first daughter, complained Mrs. Yunusa.
Residents from a variety of backgrounds who spoke with PLATINUM POST said they occasionally depend on a reservoir built by a local resident for the supply of water. However, the reservoir’s low water supply from a nearby hamlet in Ture, Kaltungo, Gombe state can cause it to stay dry for months at a time. The bulk of the population, which is made up primarily of farmers, cannot afford the water when it is available.
Katukan Shongo, the town’s traditional leader, calls the situation frustrating and adds that it makes bathing newborns exceedingly challenging whenever women give birth in the community.
“We purchase water whenever it is delivered to the reservoir, which is often once per week and occasionally every two weeks. Because so many people frequently lack access to water, we must limit the amount that can be purchased, even if one can afford it. “Water shortages are a major issue in our community, particularly during childbirth. How to acquire water after women give birth is our biggest issue,” he insisted.
Because of this, cholera and other waterborne diseases continue to wreak havoc on rural communities throughout the state, particularly Sarkin Yaki.
In three outbreaks throughout the year of 2021, the state documented a total of 2,373 cases of the disease.
On September 23, with no less than 10 deaths reported around the state, the Gombe State Government proclaimed a new cholera outbreak. As of September 20, there were 236 cases, according to Dr. Abdulrahman Shuaibu, Executive Secretary of the Gombe State Primary Health Care Development Agency.
There are reports of abandoned borehole projects all over the Gombe-North Senatorial district.
According to accessible treasury records, Hapco Multihydro Systems was given the job of building a solar-powered borehole for the residents of the Shongo Sarkin Yaki hamlet in 2021.
In the same year 2021, Hapco Multihydro Systems received a total of N45 million in two installments, with N29 million and N15 million released in the first and second tranches, respectively.
The multi-million naira water project that was supposed to help the residents of Shongo Sarkin Yaki community has sadly been abandoned, with only one drilling machine on site, according to findings by PLATINUM POST, despite payments made to the contractor.
A solar-powered borehole cannot be built from the first disbursement till it is commissioned, according to Danladi Salisu, a lecturer and procurement expert from the Department of Economics at Bayero University Kano.
“Building a borehole is a special need project. It is expected that the project should start once a contractor is paid the mobilization fee, and with the release of the second tranche, such project should be finished and ready for use in three months,” Mr. Salisu added.
The company does not exist, according to research this reporter conducted on the website NG-check.com, a business repository portal. Additionally, a visit to the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, revealed the error “search not found,” indicating that the firm was not legitimately registered despite being given a multi-million naira project by UBRBDA.
Public servants who breach procurement laws during the award and execution of contracts will be punished explicitly under Section 58 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007. The statute made clear that officers found guilty of violating the Procurement Act might face five or ten years in prison, and section 38 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007 forbids awarding contracts to companies who do not follow procurement processes.
The Upper Benue River Basin Authority awarded a contract to Hapco Multihydro Systems despite the laws forbidding the awarding of contracts to unqualified and unregistered businesses. As a result, the authority is now unable to account for millions of naira committed to the solar-powered borehole project in the community of Shongo Sarkin Yaki.
Agency does not speak
Attempts to contact the Dadin-Kowa, Gombe state-based Upper Benue River Basin Authority Project office on the Shongo Sarkin Yaki project were unsuccessful. Ibrahim Bala, the state project coordinator, declined to comment on the matter, claiming that only the agency’s headquarters in Yola could offer the necessary answer.
“The only place that can answer your queries is the headquarters. The right information will be provided to you if you contact or visit our Yola office, Mr. Bala urged.
In a phone discussion, Isa Mbaba, the Upper Benue River Basin Authority’s public relations officer, denied to discuss the project. He requested more time to determine if the project is a constituency initiative or a capital project of the River Basin Authority.
“I’d like to research the project and find out why it was shelved. Please send a formal letter to us asking for information regarding the project while that is underway, and be sure to address it to the Managing Director. We would take that into consideration as we respond to your inquiries, Mr. Mbaba stated.
The Upper Benue River Basin Authority has not responded weeks after an official letter was prepared in response to Mr. Mbaba’s request.
Epidemic looms, say experts
The regular occurrence of typhoid and cholera outbreaks in the community, according to Shongo Sarkin Yaki, Ikilima Mukhtar, officer-in-charge of Yanma Primary Health Centre, PHC, is mostly due to the drinking of pestiferous water.
“Cholera is still a disease that we treat at the clinic, and this has resulted in a lot of community deaths. Unfortunately, we frequently see up to 35 and 10 cases of typhoid and cholera from the community, respectively, in a month, Mrs. Mukhtar stated.
Community development is hampered by the lack of access to drinkable water, according to Regina Ejeh, a community health expert with the Malaria Consortium, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention, control, and treatment of malaria and other infectious diseases.
“Despite the fact that Nigeria signed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), no community can be considered developed if it lacks access to necessities like water, roads, and electricity. The rural population must be given priority by the government in order for it to fulfill its democratic mission, she said.
Many Nigerians continue to drink contaminated water since there are no running faucets in their neighborhood, according to Sadiq Balarabe, a specialist in environment and water resources at Bayero University.
“It appears that in Nigeria, having access to clean water is a luxury. No government should take this amenity for granted. You can see how many people are being treated for waterborne illnesses like cholera, typhoid fever, diarrhea, and hepatitis A, among others, by visiting medical facilities, the man said. These illnesses are frequently brought on by the consumption of contaminated water.
Mr. Balarabe emphasized that in light of the shifting climatic circumstances, growing populations, poverty, and the detrimental effects of human growth, securing the availability and sustained access to potable water requires a comprehensive and strategic approach.