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El-Zakzaky: Hurting memories of a massacre

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In 2015, hundreds of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), otherwise called Shi’ites, were violently crushed by the superior power of the men of Nigerian Army with mass burial allegedly conducted for 347 victims by the Kaduna State Government. More than two years after, the Sect’s leader, Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky, his wife, Zeenat, and over 200 members have remained behind bars, even against court order. MOJEED ALABI, who visited some of the victims, their relatives and the scenes of the violence, report on the religious extremism and human rights abuses that characterized the massacre

Hajia Maimuna Abdullahi Husseini is completely depressed and worn out. The 48-year-old mother of 10 no longer thinks straight as she is constantly frightened and haunted by the imagination of the horror that may have accompanied the alleged killing of her husband and six children; all in one fell swoop.

Maimuna’s 54-year-old husband, Mallam Abdullahi Abass, was a trained motor mechanic, but hard times later compelled him to trade in Islamic items such as books, pamphlets, audio and video tapes of lectures and teachings of Islamic scholars.

He was popular for selling recordings of the renowned leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), otherwise known as ‘Shi’ite,’ Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky. As a member of the group, he decided to venture into the new business, and this was what his family had lived on until 2015.

On Saturday, December 12, 2015, Abass was one of the hundreds of thousands of other IMN members across the country and beyond who had converged on the group’s Hussainiya Baqiyatullah –a religious and cultural centre, located along the Zaria-Sokoto Road, Zaria, Kaduna State, where they were to commemorate a flag hoisting event.

The Coordinator of the IMN’s Academic Forum, Shuaib Ahmad, told New Telegraph that the event was to mark the beginning of the Month of Rabiul Awwal (third Islamic calendar month)- the birth month of Prophet Muhammad, when the Movement’s green flag was to be hoisted, replacing the black one.

On the said date, Abass, and his six children – Abdulrazak Abdullahi, Abbas Abdullahi, Muhammad Abdullahi, Ahmad Abdullahi, Ibrahim Abdullahi and Jawad Abdullahi – whose ages ranged from 18 to 28, had taken strategic positions to display the items for sale.

Their mother, Maimuna, was also with the other four children at the centre, but at the female wing, where she had also displayed women wares and other items for sale.

The family was hopeful that the school fees needed by Abdulrasak and two of his other siblings would be made on the day. That dream never came to reality. Since that day till date, their whereabouts is yet to be ascertained. They were among those assumed to have been crushed by the men of the Nigerian Army, who had engaged the group in a fight to the finish that lasted three days.

Their remains could also have been part of the 347 bodies of the victims of the incident that the Kaduna State Government claimed it conducted mass burial for.

But two years after the unfortunate incident, Hajia Maimuna still does not want to believe her husband and six children could have been killed and buried in a manner she described as “conscienceless.”

Maimuna, who is now very feeble and fragile, had embarked on many weeks of self-imposed hunger strike, in protest of the great trauma she said has been caused her by the alleged killers of her family.

Speaking through an interpreter, who craved anonymity, Maimuna, who spoke in Hausa Language, told New Telegraph that she would have preferred that the whole family was wiped out instead of the seven who were believed to have been killed by the soldiers. The development, she said, had left her with the burden of life, especially the care of the remaining four little kids.

She said; “Every night, I see my husband and my children. They come to me in dreams and I cry a lot because when I wake up, I don’t see them again.

“Initially I did not believe they were dead, but almost two years after, I have realised the futility in the search efforts because they are neither in the hospitals nor in the prisons. We combed mortuaries too, but nothing was found. So, I believe they have been martyred, and I wished the whole family could have been so martyred.”

Meanwhile, if Maimuna is still in doubt of the whereabouts of her husband and children, it is not so for Hajia Amina Isa Ahmad, whose son spoke to her just before the soldier fired the shot that might have killed him.

Amina, who is in her 40s, is a Senior Computer Operator at the Institute of Computing and Information Technology, at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where her husband, Dr. Waziri Isa Gwantu is also a lecturer. She lost two sons – Hassan and Hussein Waziri (twin brothers); one stepson, Mohammed Waziri, and a stepdaughter, Fatimah Waziri.

As at the time of their alleged murder, the 19-year-old Hassan and Hussein Waziri just gained admissions to the Department of Library Science and Business Management respectively, while their stepbrother was a 300-level student of the Department of Computer Science, and Fatimah, a 200-level student of the same department, all at ABU.

According to Amina, her experience may be too traumatic to narrate; saying about two of her children had managed to narrate their ordeal to her on phone shortly before their last breath.

“But unfortunately, the soldiers had cordoned off everywhere and I could not rescue my children at the point of their death,” she told New Telegraph.

Responding to questions from our reporter, who had traced her to the ABU Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Shika near Zaria, where she had taken one of her remaining eight children for treatment, Hajia Amina’s eyes were full of tears, using her long scarf to mop it.

She explained; “On that very day, my husband had taken the children to Hussainiya Baqiyatullah. But while on his way, he heard gunshots and found out it was due to a misunderstanding between the military and the IMN members. He wasn’t surprised because about six months before then, Sheikh Elzakyzaky had informed members that he received security reports that the military was trying to feign an attack by IMN members so that they could hide under such false alarm to attack the Movement.

“He then decided to take the children to the home of Sheik instead of the event centre, hoping that they would be safer there, but he was wrong. When the soldiers finished with those at the Hussainiya, they moved to Sheik’s house and leveled the whole place.

“Where I was hiding, I saw Hussein when he was shot and was being taken by the members of the Movement’s medical team to a makeshift treatment centre. I wanted to jump out, but the other women held me back and tried to calm me down. In the evening on Sunday, December 14, my son called me on phone and could hardly talk because he had lost so much blood. He was gasping and told me the soldiers had found them out and were killing everybody. He said there were only few people to be killed before it would be his turn, and he prayed for forgiveness if he had offended me in any way. That was my last communication with my son.”

Amina further explained that his stepchildren, who she had been taking care of in her about 21 years of marriage, also died in similar circumstances. They were part of those allegedly gruesomely murdered by the soldiers at the home of the group’s leader.

Expressing his grief to New Telegraph, Amina’s husband, Dr. Waziri, said what was more painful to his family was that after killing his children, he was denied access to their corpses and could not bury them according to Islamic rites.

“They were buried in mass graves. What offence have we committed to deserve this kind of oppression? Not even in war is this permitted by laws”, Waziri cried.

In a similar development, the duo of Idris Umar and Alhaji Monsur Alli also had each child killed during the attack. Mahdi Idris was a 20-year-old son of Umar, while Alli’s Mohammed Kabir was 24 years old when they were mowed down.

According to the two parents, that their children were martyred had lessened their pain, but the fact that they were buried like animals was a sin they would never forgive the government for. They said they were ready to lose their lives for their faith and accused the Nigerian government of impunity.

Meanwhile, Jubril Tukur and Yusuff Abdulkareem, who live on 27, Mamman Yola Street, Hayin Dogo, Samaru Area of Zaria, were some of the lucky victims of the incident. They escaped the scene of the violence with wounds from gunshots.

According to Abdulkareem, he was shot on the thigh and suffered Femur Fracture. He had just gained admission to study Computer Science at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) shortly before the incident, and two years after, he is still nursing the wound and may have forfeited the admission.

Narrating his escape experience, he said he was just lucky to have fallen into a drainage after being shot, and that more than 10 hours after he was shot, he could not move out of the gutter.

He said; “But the following morning when men of the IMN medical team were moving round, they discovered my body. They had thought I was dead, but one of them saw my fingers moving, and picked me alongside others to the teaching hospital.

“But after few days at ABUTH, there was report that the soldiers were coming to raid the hospital to kill us, so we were moved discreetly to Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano where I spent five months at the orthopeadic unit. The Movement later flew me to Al-Zam Hospital in Tehran, Iran, where I spent a month between June and July, 2017.

“Today, I walk with the aid of the crutches and as soon as things improve, I hope to return to school.”

On his part, the 36-year-old Tukur, a shop owner and father of two, spent a year at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Kano, and since he was discharged, his ankle where he suffered gunshot was yet to fully heal.

Tukur’s business has since run down and now lives at the mercy of what his wife could make from her petty trading. “As you can see, where can I go with this leg for now? Until it is finally healed, I am living on the help from Allah and my wife is also trying to do her best. But no matter how hard, I still strongly believe in my faith and it cannot be killed by bullets from mere mortals.”

There are hundreds of similar stories across many homes in Kaduna, Zaria, Kano and every other cities and states, where members of the IMN live or lived, as the case may be. Many children are today orphaned and wives widowed as a result of an avoidable crisis.

How the crisis started

On Saturday, December 12, 2015, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, reportedly travelled from Dutse, Jigawa State capital to attend the Passing out Parade (PoP) ceremony of the 73rd Regular Recruits at the Nigerian Army Depot, in Zaria.

On the same day, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) was to commemorate its flag-hoisting event at its national headquarters- Hussainiya Baqiyatullah, which is located along the major Zaria-Sokoto highway, where the Chief of Army Staff was scheduled to pass.

Ahead of Buratai’s arrival and as it was the practice of the security operatives, advanced team of the Army Chief had staged patrol along the road, including the venue of the IMN’s programme. And on its part, members of the IMN, including men of the security and road traffic units, who were allegedly armed with batons, knives and machetes, also took positions on the road.

However, investigations by New Telegraph revealed that members of the IMN were scared of the presence of the soldiers at its event location. The fear, sources disclosed, might not be unconnected with similar clashes with the military in the past, especially on July 25, 2014, when about 34 members of the movement, including three sons of the leader of the Movement, Mahmud, Ahmad and Hamid Elzakyzaky, were killed.

The trio had taken part in the Movement’s annual procession, otherwise regarded as Quds Day Celebration, which was in solidarity with Palestinians over massive attack from Israel. The soldiers had allegedly opened fire on them following disagreement over rights of way.

As at the time of their death, Mahmud was a student of Al-Mustapha University, Beirut, Lebanon; Ahmad was studying Chemical Engineering at Shenyang University, China; and Hamid was an Aeronautical Engineering student at Xian University, China.

Thus, according to the Academic Forum of the Movement, the argument that ensued between the soldiers and the members of the Movement was not unnatural.

Meanwhile, while the argument was still on, the Chief of Army Staff arrived the scene, and his men forced their way through the crowd leaving many members of the Movement dead.

The Coordinator of the Academic Forum, Shuaib Ahmad, told New Telegraph that; “About an hour after the Army Chief left, there was reinforcement of the Army carrying heavy arms and box of ammunitions that resumed killing indiscriminately. We saw the Nigerian Army killing children who were confused and running for refuge outside the Hussainiyyah. They remained in that situation, killing any of the members at sight, while the brothers and sisters of the Movement, who were also armless, took cover inside the Hussainiyyah.

“The soldiers called on those inside the Hussainiyyah who are in their hundreds to come out of the Hussainiyyah with their hands up which some of them did, but were shot by the soldiers as they went out and this prevented the others from conceding. Later that night the Nigerian Army threw grenades at the Hussainiyyah, pulling down part of the wall to gain access. Those inside were taking cover as the soldiers have surrounded the entire building and were shooting indiscriminately and there was nowhere to go to.

“Soon, they cordoned off the entire area and took away the corpses of those they murdered. Some of the corpses at that time were deposited at the Mortuary of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital in Shika near Zaria. They later brought down the frontage of the Hussainiyyah and later leveled the entire structure on Sunday, 20th December, 2015.”

Attack on El-zakyzaky’s house at Gyallesu Area

Investigations by New Telegraph revealed that at about 9:00pm on the same day, more soldiers in some trucks arrived the residence of the leader of the Movement at Gyallesu Area of the city through the Congo Campus of ABU and shot ‘indiscriminately.’

Workers at the Federal College of Education, including a security personnel on the campus, who identified himself simply as Ilyasu, described the scene of the attack at the Gyallesu Area as Commando-like.

According to Ilyasu, the soldiers shot sporadically at the crowd and that rather than giving in, the IMN members simply kept shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (Allah is great), and that as they attempted to remove the corpses of their fallen members, the soldiers kept shooting and killing more, until they finally gained entry into the Sheik’s compound.

Ilyasu said in Hausa Language; “Few of us who were brave enough to watch, climbed up trees and saw the whole thing. I was afraid myself because anyone the soldiers saw in the neigbourhood was at risk. It was like a film.”

Ahmad said apart from the numerous members of the group who were killed at El-zakyzaky’s house, leading brothers of the Movement, including Sheikh Muhammad Mahmud Turi, “were martyred.”

“Also, they killed 3 children of Sheikh Zakzaky, namely Hammad, Ali and Humaid, and their mother, Hajia Zeenat Ibraheem was shot severally. Also killed at the scene was a journalist working with the Kaduna State Media Corporation (KSMC), Alhaji Ibrahim Usman. And at last, Sheik was brutally shot and was arrested with his wife and has since been kept in detention, even against court order,” he added.

Attacks on IMN’s cemetery, film village and park (Darur Rahma)

In furtherance of the attack, soldiers from the same 73rd Regular Recruits at the Nigerian Army Depot also moved to the Movement’s park, which comprises a film village, cemetery and farm, occupying a large expanse of land located in Dambo Area of the city.

When New Telegraph visited the site, there were rubbles from the demolished structures on the land and the burial ground which were scattered during the attack.

According to Ahmad, many lives of the Movement’s members who had taken refuge at the location were also claimed by the violence, and that the soldiers allegedly moved the bodies to the mortuary at the ABU Teaching Hospital at Shika.

Nigerian Army reacts

Though when New Telegraph tried to speak with the Nigerian Army’s Spokesman, Brigadier General Sani Usman, he failed to pick his calls on many occasions, and when he did pick, he requested that messages should be sent.

But when questions were sent to him via a text message, he refused to answer. However, the newspaper’s Defence correspondent (name withheld), who the Brigadier General Sani was already familiar with, sent the same questions through a text message by phone. But rather than responding to the questions, Sani simply sent a warning message that read; “Don’t ever send me this kind of thing.”

Meanwhile, in its memo submitted to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry that was set up over the crisis, in January 2016 by the Kaduna State Government, the Army had claimed the clash was an attack by the IMN on the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS).

The report of the Commission reads in part; “The COAS and his entourage left Dutse for Zaria at about 11:30va.m., and arrived at about 2:20 p.m. However, along Sokoto Road, close to the IMN’s shrine called “Hussainiyya Baqiyyatillah”, a group of suspected IMN members in their hundreds, armed with dangerous weapons, blocked the convoy of the COAS. Efforts were made to appeal to them to allow the COAS and his convoy passage, but they remained adamant, saying that it was only “Mallam”, meaning the leader of the movement, who could instruct them to grant access to the COAS. Specifically, the Director, Military Intelligence, Provost Marshall (Army) and the Acting Director, Public Relations pleaded with them for about thirty minutes to no avail.

“The Nigerian Army noted that the senior officers in the COAS convoy took considerable personal risk by leaving their vehicles and trying to persuade IMN members. After about thirty minutes, what appeared to be gunshots were heard coming from the direction of the shrine while some of the IMN members appeared to be flanking the Nigerian Army delegation from the sides as if to encircle them.”

The report added; “The troops responsible for the safety and security of the COAS had to act and clear the road when it became obvious that he was in danger. The NA further noted that prior to the incident, Zaria was peaceful and the team that came to receive the COAS and his entourage transited through the same route 20 minutes to the blockade without any sign of procession.

“The Nigerian Army also posited that the “ambush” was pre-planned and premeditated with the aim of causing harm or even eliminating the Chief of Army Staff as the IMN members’ motorcycles and cars were neatly parked and the road was littered with heavy stones and bonfires. This and the prevailing security situation in the country, as well as a previous attack on the COAS in Borno State, were given as the context from which the Nigerian Army’s action of ‘shooting through the blockade’ was taken.”

However, in its defence of the actions on the following days, the Nigerian Army noted that security reports had indicated that members of the IMN were planning to retaliate and that arms and ammunition belonging to the group were already stockpiled at the three locations of Hussainiya Baqiyatullah, El-zakyzaky’s house at Gyallesu and the Daruh Rahma on Dambo Area of the city. This, according to the report informed the Nigerian Army’s decision to descend heavily on the locations.

But in the report, the Nigerian Army did not list the weapons recovered from the locations, and never gave the number of casualties recorded on the part of its victims.

…To be continued tomorrow

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Exposed! Nigeria’s Deputy Speaker in N1.1bn water contract scam

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Communities cry over shoddy projects

 

After about four months of investigations, New Telegraph’s reporter, MOJEED ALABI, exposes the corrupt practices in the execution of controversial N1.7 billion mini-water schemes in three communities in Osun State by members of the National Assembly, including the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Lasun Yusuff

 

On Friday, January 5, the sun was fierce and scorching in Ife-Odan, a nascent community in the West Senatorial District of Osun State.

Ileri-Oluwa Oloyede, an SS 2 student of Faith Foundation College, Ife-Odan, had just returned from market where she had helped her mother in her palm oil business. But the 16-year-old girl still had one more chore to do; to fetch water for the urgent need of the household.

Considering the stress she had gone through at the market, Ileri-Oluwa’s parents advised her to wait till sundown. But the longer she waited, the more difficult her chances of getting water became and the longer it would take the family to prepare dinner.

“If I wait for the sun to go down, many more people will be at the well, and that would worsen the situation. And if the crowd becomes uncontrollable, the landlord may lock his gate and drive us out,” she said.

Thus, while the sun was yet to finally recede, Ileri-Oluwa and her younger sister, Florence, hit the road for a three-kilometre trek in search of clean water at the nearest well.

It is the same story for Michael Adeoba, who was also on the road, almost at the same time, with his father’s motorcycle to fetch water into some 20-litre jerrycans.

Adeoba, who had battled to get the motorcycle started, apparently due to some mechanical faults, decided to push it to a nearby mechanic workshop for a quick fix before going for the water.

He said: “This is what I go through every other day. Whenever I am on holiday, I always dread this experience. In fact, it is more of punishment than chore.”

The experiences of both Ileri-Oluwa and Adeoba reflect the pains and pangs of the people of Ife-Odan in their efforts to access clean water.

The situation is similar in many communities in the agrarian state, particularly during dry season when many wells and streams are dried up and public water supply is scarce due largely to poor electricity supply.

Addressing this perennial challenge was the concern of 12 parliamentarians, who represented the state in the National Assembly between 2011 and 2015, comprising three senators and nine House of Representatives’ members.

The federal lawmakers, who were elected on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) before the party merged with others to form the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), had pursued common agenda, apparently towards fulfilling their party’s campaign promises.

One of them and now the Chief Whip of the eighth Senate, Prof. Sola Adeyeye, representing Osun Central Senatorial District, told New Telegraph that the senators and the nine members of the green chamber had agreed to facilitate the execution of joint projects in the state, through the National Assembly’s Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP), otherwise known as “constituency projects.”

Therefore, when the 2012 budget was being prepared in 2011, they agreed to jointly facilitate the construction of a mini-water scheme in each senatorial district.

But Adeyeye’s original plan for his district, he claimed, was the reconstruction of the narrow Ojutu Bridge in Ilobu, headquarters of Irepodun Local Government Area. However, this position was overruled by Governor Rauf Aregbesola, “who said we should do water.”

“But none of us could singlehandedly fix water, so we decided to have three mini-water schemes across the three senatorial districts,” Adeyeye added.

After a careful study, Ife-Odan was chosen as the beneficiary community in Osun West; Ipetu-Ijesha in Osun East, and Ila-Orangun in Osun Central Senatorial District, for the construction of the mini-water schemes.

As captured in the 2012 Appropriation Act and contained in the South West Geo-Political Zone Mapping of Capital Projects by the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO), a total sum of N1,666,666,668 was budgeted for the projects at the rate of N555,555,556 for each.

But according to Ogun-Oshun River Basin Development Authority (OORBDA), the contract supervising agency, it eventually awarded the Ife-Odan scheme at the sum of N538,412,653.06; Ila-Orangun at the rate of N539,128,429.13 while N541,193,861.23 was approved for Ipetu-Ijesha project. Thus the new total sum released for the project stood at N1,618,734,943.47.

There was also additional budgetary allocation of N100 million each for the three mini-water schemes in the 2013 budget proposal but there was no evidence that the money was released.

Projects excite communities

When the beneficiary communities received the news of their selection for the location of the projects, they heaved a sigh of relief that potable water would no longer be a luxury.

According to the Risapetu and Regent of Ipetu-Ijesha, High Chief Ayodele Olayinka, some government representatives had approached the community’s palace on a Sunday in 2012, and demanded a parcel of land for the location of the project.

“We told them to wait till Monday but they insisted they needed to start that same Monday. Though Kabiyesi was still alive then, he was already very old. So, with two other chiefs, we  went there, and gave them the site. We were very elated and anxious to see the project commenced,” the chief explained.

He said true to their words, the contractor resumed to the location on the appointed Monday and began with the clearing of the bush.

“We were then visiting the site on a regular basis, at least, to show solidarity and support,” the chief added.

The experience was more exciting in Ife-Odan, where the government’s dam, created many years ago from Sekunrebete stream, which supplies water to the community and its environs, had been facing a series of challenges, including theft of its generator.

According to an officer of the state Water Corporation and the dam’s Superintendent Officer, Mr. Adeyemi Oyekola, who reluctantly spoke to New Telegraph, apart from the power issue, the dam was enough to serve the community.

He said: “In fact, there is no point bringing up a new water scheme. What this place needs is just a good generator, and repair of some of the machines and the reticulation networks, then, the community will be good for it.

“The major challenge here is power because the voltage is always low and cannot power the pumping machines.”

Thus, the desire to see the water scarcity problem addressed and the prospect of job opportunities at the site for the youth of the community inspired a farmer, Mr. Azeez Moradesa, to donate about four plots of land for the project.

The parcel of land is part of Moradesa’s inheritance and located beside his house at Araromi area of the town, which is less than two kilometres to the crisis-ridden dam.

He said: “So when they started the construction, I was employed as the security guard by the contractor. They were paying me N20,000 every month.”

Similarly, a former student of the Osun State College of Education, Ila-Orangun, AbdulKadir Oladosu, who was in year one when the construction work started at the Ila-Orangun site in 2012, said the students, in particular, were excited, “due to the suffering we were going through to get water.”

Inauguration of uncompleted projects

Five years after the projects were initiated, in February 2017, the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority (OORBDA), having allegedly certified the contractors for jobs well done, held a symbolic inauguration at the Ila-Orangun plant, and handed them over to the Osun State government, through its water corporation.

Though, the inauguration took place at Ila-Orangun, the documents and keys to the other two projects were also handed over to the state government. Thus, by this handover, New Telegraph learnt, it became the responsibility of the corporation to manage and operate the facilities for the benefit of the people.

Projects dead on arrival

Six years after people’s hope had been raised, New Telegraph’s investigations revealed that the projects have failed to ameliorate the water scarcity the communities face. In Ife-Odan the massive water plant erected by the contractor is yet to produce a drop of water.
When visited by our correspondent, the facility had already been overtaken by weeds and cobwebs, without anyone found in the compound.

The guard, Moradesa, who, apparently was disappointed by the turn of events, was not on hand to conduct our reporter round the facility. But his son, Joseph Moradesa, who did, was not impressed by the development.

When he eventually spoke to our correspondent, the guard expressed regret that six years after the project was initiated, there was yet to be water for the people at the plant.

Moradesa, who spoke in Yoruba language, said: “Even as the guard, since February 2017 when the place was transferred to Osun State Water Corporation, my salary has been reduced to N15,000 and I received the last one in October 2017. What pained me most is that this place is already abandoned and the purpose for which I donated the land may have been defeated.”

Also speaking, a palace chief, the Obajio of Ife-Odan, Chief Amoo Adegbite, expressed regret that the people’s hope had been dashed by the alleged poor handling of the project, saying the whole community was disappointed after so much expectation.

Adegbite said; “Many of us had thought what they wanted to do was to connect the dam and make the water supply easier. But we were surprised when they started digging borehole just few kilometres away from the dam, and we were worried that it might turn out to be a wasted effort due to our experiences with boreholes here.”

Son of a late traditional ruler of the community, Prince Gbade Morenikeji, who had visited the town for the New Year celebration, said one of the reasons the community voted against the return of one of the 12 representatives, Senator Mudashiru Hussein, was largely due to the abandoned water project.

Morenikeji, who works with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, noted that following the death of Senator Isiaka Adeleke, Hussein had been represented by the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), for the rerun election, “but because the water project he had facilitated to the community during his first term was seen as a scam, the people said, no way.”

Meanwhile, the superintendent at the community’s dam has revealed that with the construction of the water scheme, the pipes laid from the dam to the community had been destroyed by the contractor. He said: “Even if there is power supply it will be difficult to supply water because of the damage done to the pipes when they were laying their own pipes.”

In the same vein, at Iloro area of Ipetu-Ijesha, just a few metres away from Grammar School Road, location of the community’s own water plant, an ND I student of the Federal Polytechnic, Offa, Kwara State, Aduragbemi Idris, was guarding jealously a padlocked well.

She denied knowledge of any public water scheme in the neighbourhood, saying her uncle and owner of the house, reluctantly locked the well because of the pressure from the public.

Similarly, the Regent was livid with anger, as he showed our reporter his well within his own compound.

Chief Olayinka explained: “When they were laying the pipes, they fixed them in the wrong side and I told them that the side would not be good for the pipes due to the telegraphic poles. They didn’t take my advice, but after they had laid the pipes for about a month, they heeded my advice and moved to the other side. Later, we didn’t see them again.

“So, people are back to the streams as it was the practice in the olden days. We are just lucky that our people are not affected by water-borne diseases. Of course, it is now an abandoned project, and that is sad. This is because some of the ‘honourables’ (National Assembly members representing the state) who started the project are no longer in government. The new ones are now embarking on new projects individually, which are also already being abandoned.”

But when New Telegraph visited the plant at Ipetu-Ijesha, a security guard on duty, Mr. Adeleke Faleti, explained that the facility had been operational since 2016 till sometimes in November 2017, when it developed mechanical fault.

Faleti, who is an employee of Evermore Securities, a private security company, explained that apart from the challenges posed by erratic power supply and non-availability of diesel, the facility had served the few available ‘town tap points’ until it developed problems.

He said: “The engineer in charge is not on ground, and I am aware he has written to the state to complain about the mechanical faults developed by some machines.”

Also, a civil servant who lives in Ila-Orangun but craved anonymity, said apart from the four tap points sited at the water plant, there was no other public tap point within the vicinity that he was aware of.

The plant, which is located at the College High School area, in the community, serves only the people living within the neighbourhood.

“I cannot even attempt to fetch from the well in my house because it is too deep, and can take five minutes to get a single bowl of water. So, I have to drive to the water plant to fetch into jerrycans, at least every two days,” the source explained.

Osun State Water Corporation kicks, rejects projects

Embittered by the poor work done allegedly by the contractor, the state Water Corporation rejected the projects at Ila-Orangun and Ife-Odan. It said the water yields at the two sites were grossly inadequate due to the shoddy jobs done.

The corporation’s Deputy General Manager, Operations and Production, Mr. Ademola Odejide, an engineer, said the three projects were handed over to the corporation in February 2017, but after a careful study, those located at Ila-Orangun and Ife-Odan were returned to the agency for correction of all identified defects.

Odejide said: “Immediately we received the projects we wrote down our observations and recommendations, but our memo did not get to the governor on time because he was not around.

“But as soon as we received the go-ahead, only the Ipetu-Ijesha got our approval, so we sent back all the documents handed over to us for Ila-Orangun and Ife-Odan with the instruction that they should go and correct all the defects. We recommended a better industrial borehole for Ila-Orangun and raw water supply at Ife-Odan because the boreholes sunk could hardly yield 20 per cent.”

According to Odejide, the Ila-Orangun scheme is later provided with the required industrial borehole but the Ife-Odan project was  now being linked to the dam, which hasn’t been completed.

But another officer of the corporation, who craved anonymity, explained that the problem with the project is that both the OORBDA and the contractors failed to do their due diligence. According to him, researches have shown that borehole water in a basement complex terrain like Osun State cannot yield the required volume of water to serve a whole community.

“You know, in engineering, when something is not in your field, you can hardly know it; OORBDA is only known for dam, not for water supply. In fact, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources carried out a survey on water projects, which indicates that there are so many boreholes being drilled across the state especially in our own area, which are not yielding desired results because of the differences between the basement complex terrain and sedimentary basin.

“In Lagos, and parts of Ogun, borehole can easily yield required volume of water because it is a sedimentary basin. But these contractors don’t like to hear this. In fact, the contractors had in the past threatened to eliminate some of us, saying we are running them down. When the National Assembly invited some of our officers for explanation on the matter, because we explained all this, the contractor, which we later learnt is a federal lawmaker, threatened to ‘waste’ us.

“The current Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly owns the company that handled the Ila-Orangun and Ife-Odan projects. It is a secret arrangement between him and the contract awarding agency because it is against the law. Even, most of his colleagues who facilitated the projects didn’t know this until more than three years after, when the projects began to constitute problems,” the source said.

Search for contractors begins

Apart from the Ipetu-Ijesha project where the carcass of a billboard indicating the contractor’s name and other details could be found standing filthily on the wall of the plant’s fence, there is nothing to link the Ila-Orangun and Ife-Odan projects to their handlers. This informed New Telegraph to approach the OORBDA, as the contract supervising agency, for the details of the projects.

 

Ogun-Oshun River Basin Development Authority (OORBDA) responds

 

At a brief meeting held in January with our correspondent at the office of its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Olufemi Odumosu, in Abeokuta, Ogun State, the Ogun-Oshun River Basin Development Authority suggested to formalise its response to New Telegraph’s enquiries, saying further communication could be established afterwards.

Thus, in a tersely-worded letter, dated January 18, 2018, and addressed to New Telegraph, it explained that after competitive bidding processes, two companies were awarded the contracts in 2012. They are Sabbyn Nigeria Limited, an oil and gas company, and Nur and Company Nigeria Limited, an engineering company.

The letter, which was signed by Odumosu, also stated the locations awarded to each of the two firms and the amount approved for each of the projects, adding that the duration for the execution of the projects was 12 months.

It said the Ipetu-Ijesha project was handled by Sabbyn Nigeria Limited while the ones located at Ife-Odan and Ila-Orangun were awarded to Nur and Company Nigeria Limited.

The letter reads in part: “The contract award process was in line with the provisions of the Procurement Act 2007.”

However, the agency failed to supply other vital information including the details of the bidding processes, registration numbers of the selected companies, how money was paid to the contractors, reasons for the alleged abandonment of the projects, allegation of poor productivity, among others.

The agency had initially claimed its officers could no longer lay their hands on the projects’ documents because “it was a long time it worked on the files,” but following unrelenting requests from our correspondent, on January 31, 2018, the agency’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Saliu Adeniyi, sent the registration numbers and the addresses of the two companies via text messages.

CAC links Deputy Speaker to Nur & Company Nigeria Limited

Unlike the Sabbyn Nigeria Limited, which details were easily accessed on the internet, the details of Nur and Company Nigeria Limited, which executed both the Ife-Odan and Ila-Orangun projects, seemed to have been shrouded in secrecy, as the name could not be traced anywhere. It has no website, contact details, or even a social media account.

Its address at Plot 8, Impressive Close, off Dosumu Street, Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos, as reportedly quoted on its application document for the bidding exercise, belongs to a different owner entirely. The issue of this address alone caused more controversies than could be imagined, leading to the death of an octogenarian over the fraudulent acts of some alleged individuals.

But the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) helped in no small measure to unravel the mystery surrounding the owners of the companies, including the Nur and Company Nigeria Limited, which is owned by Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Lasun Yusuff.
The deputy speaker, according to our findings, used his personal company to secure the two projects, even as investigations also revealed that the high ranking parliamentarian failed to execute these projects as specified by the awarding agency.

Deputy Speaker keeps mum

The series of New Telegraph’s enquiries sent to the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Lasun Yusuff, through his media aides, including his Special Adviser (Media), Mrs. Lara Owoeye-Wyse, were unanswered.

However, upon receiving New Telegraph’s letter, which was submitted to Owoeye-Wyse on January 9, the deputy speaker’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Wole Oladimeji, called our reporter on Thursday, January 11, on behalf of his boss to deny any knowledge of the projects. But when asked whether he had raised the matter with his boss before giving defence, Oladimeji said no, and promised to revert. He has since not got back to New Telegraph till date.

Meanwhile, in the second part of this report, many interesting twists about the whole issue will be revealed.

 

Sabbyn Nigeria Limited found

Locating Sabbyn Nigeria Limited, which handled the Ipetu-Ijesha mini-water scheme, wasn’t a difficult task. A simple search on the internet revealed the company’s website, its owner, and contact details. Its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Abayomi Collins, an engineer, had represented Ifo/Ewekoro Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2007. He was Chairman, House Committees on Petroleum Resources, National Planning and Economy, and Water Resources.

Collins took time to explain his own side of the story, insisting that his company executed the project to specifications and that all rules were followed to the letter.

He said: “This project was handed over, inaugurated and was operational. We have certificates to prove this. When you complete such a project you are first given a mechanical completion certificate. Every system, generator, water and other things were certified okay. And it was handed over to Osun State Water Corporation because it is the end beneficiary.

“We completed the project in 2015 and men of the Osun State Water Corporation came to the site to understudy the situation. But officially, it was taken over in June 2016, which was even pretty long. People in the town can confirm that as far back as 2015, they were receiving water far away, where we terminated the pipeline at the Osun State University campus in the town, which is the remotest part of the reticulation network.”

Collins added that after the expiration of the six-month-defect-liability period, his company was discharged of any liability to the project.

“As a matter of fact, we were discharged completely in 2016, and since then we have been requesting for the payment of our own five per cent retention fee which was N26.7 million. Up till now, they have only paid marginally N8 million,” he said.

Asked why an oil and gas company would be awarded a water project, Collins explained that his company provided services to oil and gas, and that water service was also one of them. “So, it is part of the services we render. The company is registered with CAC. I am ready to open books for you on this.”

Collins also responded to the delay in the execution of the project. “This is typical of government projects. Projects progress as funding is made available in yearly budgets. We have several government projects with Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Ogun-Oshun River Basin Development Authority, which have not been funded in the last four years. We will only be able to continue when they are funded.”

 

•This is the first part of an investigative budget tracking report with the support of Macarthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)

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Banks’ contract staff: Slaving for peanuts

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To cut cost in the face of dwindling economy and stiff competition, financial institutions hire contract staff who earn peanuts. But this has jacked up fraud in the banking industry, reports TONY CHUKWUNYEM

 

Until January 31, Chinyere Amadi was a contract worker with one of Nigeria’s tier one banks.

 

Nowadays, she sits at home, taking care of her 11-month-old baby and thinking of what job to apply for or what business to do to support her husband who, according to her, is finding it increasingly difficult relying on his meagre monthly salary to take care of his young family.

 

“Given my husband’s situation, I sometimes feel that, perhaps, I should not have resigned from the bank. But I had reached a point where I could no longer continue working as ‘a contract staff ’ in that organisation.

 

“Despite the fact that my husband is finding it difficult to support us with his poor salary, he fully backed my decision to quit,” she said.

 

 

Chinyere attributed her departure from the bank to the fact that not only was her monthly salary of N64,000 hardly sufficient to relieve the burden on her husband, her job as a contract worker was so tasking that it had begun to negatively impact her ability to look after her baby.

 

Indeed, she said that she spent three weeks in the hospital last December as her baby was admitted for an ailment which had become quite serious because her work schedule made it impossible for her to detect the problem before it got complicated.

 

Slavery She said: “The job required that I leave home as early as 5.30a.m., to return sometimes as late as after 10p.m. We were also expected to be at work on Saturdays so there was very little time for us, especially nursing mothers, to spend with our families.”

 

The young mother, who graduated with a Second Class Upper degree in Economics from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, in 2010, disclosed that although she knew about the challenges of being a bank contract worker in this country, she had reluctantly taken up the appointment in 2014 when no other offer was forthcoming.

 

She said: “I did not initially want the job as it was common knowledge that despite having almost the same qualifications, contract staff earn far less than their colleagues who are employed on a permanent basis. But I had little choice because at that time, the most common opening for young graduates in the banking industry was being employed as a contract worker.

 

“However, it did not take me long to discover that the job was a form of slavery. We (contract staff) hardly have any breathing space; you cannot take or receive calls on your mobile phones while you are at work and getting permission to attend to urgent personal matters is a big problem.”

 

Amadi added that those who had permanent employment usually look down on the contract staff. “Apart from the tough work schedule, the insults and abuse that we frequently suffer in the hands of bosses who just wanted to show that they don’t have the same employment status with us can be so annoying that many people chose the option of quitting instead of being provoked into doing something rash.

 

“You can imagine that while the permanent staff who clearly don’t work as hard as contract workers earn about N150,000, we were paid N64,000.

 

Besides, while permanent staff are entitled to annual leave and leave allowance, its usually very difficult for contract staff to be granted leave and even then, they receive no allowance whatsoever,” she added.

 

Amadi emphasised that although she was yet to find another job and was having a tough time raising funds to start a business, she really did not regret resigning from the bank. 32,359 bank contract staff

 

However, it would seem that the likes of Amadi who have the courage to resign are quite few as data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in February shows that as at December 31, 2017, no fewer than 32,359 staff in the banking industry were employed on contract basis, accounting for 35.8 per cent of total bank staff, which stood at 90,453.

 

 

The NBS in its Selected Banking Sector Data for the fourth quarter of 2017 reveals that the number of contract staff in banks had consistently grown to 32,359 in the last quarter of last year.

 

Specifically, the report shows that banks had gradually increased their number of contract staff from 20,237 in the first quarter to 21,837 in the second quarter and 27,032 in the third quarter before increasing it by 19.71 per cent in the fourth quarter.

 

 

The report further shows that the number of executive staff of banks dropped from 197 in the third quarter to 188 by the end of last year, while the number of senior executives had dropped by 3,852 from 20,420 to 16,568 as at December 2017. Also, in the last three months of 2017, the number of executive and senior staff of banks declined by 4.57 per cent and 18.86 per cent respectively.

 

Cost cutting Analysts point out that banks began to increasingly employ contract staff and reducing hir-ing of executive and senior staff as part of aggressive cost cutting measures introduced in the wake of the crisis which hit the industry in the last decade.

 

The crises, which led the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to take over several lenders that were close to going under, resulted in massive job cuts in the industry with the departing staff being replaced with younger contract staff, who were ready to receive salaries that were less than half of what permanent employees were getting.

 

How it works New Telegraph findings show that banks adopted the strategy of outsourcing the hiring of contract staff to firms which usually have some form of close relationship with the lenders. For instance, the firms could be owned directly or indirectly by a relative/associate of a top shareholders or executive director of the bank.

 

Although the hired contract staff are seconded to the banks, these firms undertake all the processes required in the hiring of the contract staff, including advertising vacancies, conducting tests/interviews and issuing employment letters.

 

Also, in the event that the bank complains about the worker’s conduct, the person will not be sacked, but will be simply sent back to his or her employer. Industry sources said that while lenders pay outsourcing firms huge amounts for hiring contract staff, these companies pay the workers small salaries despite the challenging tasks they perform in the banks.

 

Rising fraud Interestingly, regulators have attributed the rising rate of fraud and forgery cases in the banking industry to the increasing number of contract staff employed by banks.

 

For instance, in the last few years, the Managing Director and Chief Executive of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim, has been repeatedly warning banks against the use of outsourced staff, pointing out that in 2015, over 75 per cent of fraud cases in the banking sector was traced to outsourced bank staff.

 

Last year, he revealed that bank examination reports indicated that the high incidence of fraud and forgeries in the banking system was linked to outsourced or contract staff.

 

The NDIC boss also stated that in as much as regulators appreciated the necessity for banks to cut costs, it was incumbent on all stakeholders to fashion out capacity building and other strategies to motivate all employees to contribute positively rather than engaging in criminal acts that impact adversely on the entire banking system.

 

Ibrahim told finance and business journalists in Ilorin in October 2015 that 64 per cent of fraudulent activities in the banking industry in 2014 were traced to temporary staff of banks.

 

Similarly, two years ago, the CBN Director, Banking and Payments System Department, Mr. Dipo Fatokun, disclosed that the apex bank had advised lenders to desist from giving sensitive banking roles to contract staff as they might not have a stake in the financial institution.

 

He said: “A temporary staff may not have a stake in the bank so to say. So, it is encouraged that if they have staff that are not permanent, they should not give them responsibilities or roles that will expose them to critical functions of a bank.

 

 

“If you are giving somebody an authority to approve transactions of high magnitude and he does not have a stake in your bank, then you are already exposing yourself. So, this has been going on and I believe many banks understand the need to rely on their key staff for major duties. That is one of the reasons the fraud attempts have been rising, but the value lost declining.”

 

 

However, findings by New Telegraph indicate that despite these warnings, banks not only continue to hire contract staff, but have started assigning these employees to sensitive roles that were previously reserved for full time or permanent staff.

 

An industry source attributed the development to the increasing need for banks to cut costs in the face of a tough economy and rising competition. The source said: “Before now, contract staff were not assigned to Automated Teller Machine (ATM) watch duties.

 

You will also hardly find them being told to perform customer service duties. But all that has changed. Also, in the past, most banks usually set a maximum value of between N200,000 and N500,000 as the limit for risky transactions that a contract staff can undertake, but these days, this limit has been raised to N1 million.”

 

According to fraud statistics contained in the latest Nigerian Electronic Fraud Report, which was prepared by the Banking and Systems Payment Department of CBN, the banking industry recorded 31,736 fraud cases involving N16.5 billion between January 2014 and December 2016.

 

The study shows that the frauds were perpetrated through various payment channels such as Across the Counter, ATMs, cheques and electronic-commerce platforms. Others are Internet banking, mobile banking, Point-of-Sale and web transactions.

 

The report states that in the last three years, there had been more attempts in the number of fraud cases, adding that the development could be linked to the tough economy. Commenting on the issue of banks’ hiring of contract staff, a management consultant, Mr. Dafe Edeki, blamed the situation on the country’s sluggish economy, which, according to him, continues to drive cost minimisation by companies. He said: “The banks are not exploiting the contract staff; it’s strictly business.

 

Any organisation that wants to stay competitive would take advantage of the demand and supply gap in the labour market by offering small salaries because there are millions of people who are ready to do that job for half the pay. Anyone who is not comfortable with the terms of employment should not sign the employment letter.”

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Unending collapsed building trials

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For about four years, two major cases of building collapse have been in court without a likely end to punish the culprits. DAYO AYEYEMI reports

 

There has been a spike in the number of building collapse in the country with over 20 cases recorded in the last 15 years. From Lagos to Abuja, Jos, Kaduna, Benin, Imo, Abia, Anambra and Calabar, the menace of building collapse dots the landscape, with attendant loss of lives. Between 2003 and 2018, more than 350 lives have been lost to the nuisance of building collapse.

 

Of more concern is the lack of punishment for those responsible for the collapses until the public outcry that greeted the collapsed guest house of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in 2014, where over 100 people including foreigners lost their lives in Lagos State. This was followed by another four-storey building belonging to Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited, the developers of Lekki Gardens, in 2016 in Lagos. More than 30 people died in the collapsed building.

 

Before these two incidents, owners and developers of collapsed building across Nigeria were walking freely as if they were above the law. The best the nation could do to check them was to set up an inquiry to unravel factors leading to the collapse and possible solutions just like the Abimbola Ajayi-led Lagos State Tribunal of Enquiry on Building Collapse in 2012.

 

However, it is interesting to know that four years after the collapse of SCOAN’s guest house building and two years after the Lekki Gardens’ incident, members of the public, especially professionals in the building environment, are worried over the unending court trials of the alleged culprits.

 

Trials The Lagos State Government filed 111 counts against the Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church of All Nations and four others after a Coroner’s inquest indicted the church and the contractors of the building. Charged alongside the Trustees of SCOAN are Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company; Jandy Trust Limited; and two engineers, who built the collapsed structure.

 

Also, the Lagos State Government had, in 2016, arrested and arraigned the Managing Director of Lekki Gardens Estate Limited, Richard Nyong, before the Lagos Division of the State High Court over alleged complicity in the events leading to the collapse of a building in Lekki area of the state on March 10, 2016.

 

Arraigned alongside Nyong before Justice Sybil Nwaka were Lekki Gardens’ Executive Director, Sola Olumofe; the firm’s contractor, Odofin Taiwo; Omolabake Mortunde; Omotilewa Joseph; Lekki Gardens; Get Rich Investment Limited and HC Insight Solution Limited.

 

The defendants were charged with six-count charges for failure to obtain building approval for the collapsed building and involuntary manslaughter, offences contrary to and punishable under Section 75 (1) of the Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law of Lagos State 2010, and Section 229 of Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015 respectively.

 

As at the time of filing this report, New Telegraph gathered that the two matters have been going through hearings and adjournments in the last four years. Up till now, the cases are still pending in courts. Expressing concern, first Vice President, Nigeria Institute of Building (NIOB) and former President of Building Collapse and Prevention Guild (BCPG), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, noted that the trials were still on-going but expressed worry over the slow procedures of the courts.

Besides, he raised another issue about what has happened to the sites of collapse buildings, pointing out that by the law in Lagos State, government ought to have taken possession. He said: “Many buildings that collapsed, the Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning Law 2010 says that such land should be confiscated by government. How are we sure that this is being followed?

 

We need to verify if this section of the law is working.” Responding to questions on justices for the high profile cases during the ministerial briefing of the state’s Ministry of Justice last week, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem, said that government would ensure justice in the cases against the founder of Synagogue Church of All Nations, Prophet T.B Joshua and other high profile cases.

 

On the slow pace of justice over Synagogue building collapse, Kazeem added: “The wheels of justice moves slowly, especially when it is a high profile case. As you know, that case has been on for a couple of years. Only recently, the prosecution closed its case. And usually when the prosecutor closes it case, the defence counsel is expected to open his.

 

“Rather than do this, the defense counsel filed a no case submission, claiming that the state government has made no case against the clergy. They lost that no case submission. So they have been instructed to open their defense so that the matter can move forward. And I believe that very soon, the case will come to conclusion. “

 

Even when these trials are yet to be concluded, another onestory building collapsed in Lagos in April 2018, in which two people died, while scores were injured It was learnt that the building sited at 9, Abeje Street, Morikaz road, had been marked as been distressed by the state government officials before it finally caved in.

 

Extremely disturbed by frequent cases of built collapse in Nigeria, building environment professionals have tasked themselves on self-regulation and the need to commence the use of National Building Code (NBC), which stipulates minimum conditions for all stages of building project delivery.

 

The latest resolution among professionals, comprising engineers, builders, architects, real estate developers, town planners and surveyors, was coming following a storey building that caved in at No 9, Abeje Street, Morikaz Road in Agege Local Government Area of Lagos State penultimate Sunday.

 

Suggesting the way forward on the platform of Housing Development Group, the Executive Director, Construction Finance, National Assembly Staff Housing , Dr Beni Goka, said that peer reporting, self-regulating, whistle blowing, creation of building inspectorate division would go a long way to halt cases of building collapse in the country.

 

Explaining, he pointed out that it has been discovered that many developers or builders preferred to place their town’s man as lead constructor or supervisor in building site despite that fact that he was less qualified for the job. “Another factor is owner’s inundations; either an attempt to build what they are not capable of for the sake of plain mischief, being cheap cum poor judgement among others,” he said. The expert, however, appealed to construction finance companies to play a key role with insurance companies to tackle the menace.

 

A board member of the Chicago Association of Realtors, United States of America (USA), Mr. Abdulfatai EFTY, noted that Nigeria’s built environment professionals would need to regulate themselves in order to stop the  activities of quacks and collapse of building in the sector.

 

According to him, timely intervention of the Real Estate Development Association of Nigeria (REDAN), Nigerian Institute of Building and other stakeholders would be required to stop building collapse.

 

He said: “Self-regulation for now can come in form of setting up or updating the present building codes not only on paper but making sure members adhere to them. “Sanctions and punishment can be meted out to members and the whole world is made aware whenever this occurs. This will set the tone for everybody to know that the associations are not playing.” The U.S. based realtor urged finance companies to play a very crucial role by ensuring release of construction loans in “draws” after thorough inspection and approval by independent licensed inspectors as practiced globally.

 

“This Inspector must be wellpaid so as not to be influenced with money. Thus a well-paid independent inspector that screws up knows he or she would go to jail,” he said. Lecturer in the Department of Building, University of Lagos, Professor Martin Dada, called for advocacy for the enactment of a law to enforce provisions of the building code. “Let us keep this in the front burner; let us continue to engage all stakeholders, including our lawmakers, to this effect. Let subnational entities, specifically the states, do their part.

 

Let the professionals arrange themselves to start using the code,” he said. He appealed for a way out of the building collapse quagmire through building condition survey, saying there was need for a baseline, an holistic framework. He wants private inspection to be accommodated in the building code.

 

There have been major building collapses in Nigeria from as far back as the 70s. For instance, 27 people had lost their lives in October 1974 when a multi-storey building under construction in Mokola in Ibadan collapsed. Three years later, in August 1977, 28 people were killed when a residential building in Barnawa Housing Estate, Kaduna collapsed. In June 1990, between 50 and 55 people lost their lives when a three-storey building collapsed in Port Harcourt.

 

Apart from SCOAN and Lekki Gardens’ building collapse incidents of 2014 and 2016 respectively, in which about 150 people died, the nation has witnessed major building failures in the past. Some of them included the four-storey building, comprising 34 flats popularly known as ‘Titanic’ that collapsed in Ebute Meta, Lagos in July 2006 with 28 casualties; uncompleted collapsed building at 2, Ikoli Street, Off, Gimbiya Street in Garki, Abuja in August 2010. 23 people died in the incident.

 

Two more uncompleted buildings have collapsed in Abuja since then. There was also school building that collapsed in Bukuru, Jos, Plataea State in September 2014.Ten among 30 pupils were killed. In July 2013, another three-storey building collapsed in Ebute Meta , Lagos, killing seven people.

 

As if that were not enough, a building under construction in the Agbama area of Umuahia, Abia State collapsed in May 2013, leaving up to seven people dead. Also in December 2011, an abandoned church building collapsed in Angwan Dosa, Kaduna collapsed, leaving five people dead. In March 2006, a 21-storey building belonging to the Bank of Industry, on Broad Street, Lagos Island, caved in.

 

The collapse, which occurred days after fire had gutted two floors in the building, killed two people and injured 23 others. Also, on July 11, 2013, an old three-storey building on Hadeja Road in Kaduna metropolis collapsed, leaving three people died. The Abimbola Ajayi- led tribunal of Inquiry in 2012 noted that Lagos State had recorded 135 cas- es of building collapse in the last seven years.

 

 

It also identified gross indiscipline and corruption by all stakeholders as major causes of building collapse. These, it said, rendered the relevant state laws ineffective. Some of the factors responsible for building collapse range from quackery to poor workmanship, use of substandard materials, lack of supervision, poor foundation and structural defect among others.

 

Out of fifteen incidents of building collapse that took place in 2017, Lagos State still has the highest number of cases and casualties followed by Imo, Anambra States and Abuja, Most of the cases of failed structure occurred in private buildings between May and October 2017. While Lagos recorded seven cases of collapse building within the period, Imo and Anambra States recorded four and three incidents respectively.

 

In order to reduce collapsed building incident, Lagos State in August 2017, commenced the demolition of 114 distressed buildings in the metropolis. Fifty- seven of the 114 distressed buildings marked for demolition was said would be pulled down during first phase of the exercise.

 

It was gathered that officials of Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA, stormed Lagos Island, where at least 34 of the buildings were sighted and commenced the demolition.

 

The General Manager of LASCA, Lekan Shodehinde, disclosed that the agency identified 114 of such distressed buildings that needed to be demolished across the metropolis, adding that others would be demolished during the second phase of the exercise.

 

According to him, government would no longer wait for owners of distressed buildings to remove them on their own, stating that experience had shown that such owners did not always remove such structures. Shodehinde explained that once a distressed building had been demolished by the government, the owner would be given 90 days to pay the demolition cost, failure of which government would seize the land.

 

As people await outcome of the trials, timely intervention of the real estate developers, builders, engineers and other stakeholders would be required to stop building collapse in Nigeria.

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