Connect with us

Insight

‘Tribal marks, our identity, our pride’

Published

on

Like many of Africa’s traditional practices, tribal marks are fast outdated and many of those who have them loudly complain that the age-long traditional practice is negatively affecting their personality and fortune, reports MURITALA AYINLA

 

Even from his childhood days, Dr. Jacob Adeyanju, a lecturer in the Department of Educational Management at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), was loved and adored by his classmates and teachers alike. Because of his brilliant academic performance in his primary and secondary schools, encomiums and recognitions naturally came his way like bees to the honeycomb.

And after replicating outstanding traits he exhibited during his undergraduate years at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Ile-Ife, Osun State, he was rewarded with instant employment in UNILAG where he obtained his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). But Adeyanju, a man that always brims with confidence and optimism, got the shock of his life recently while at a forum in Manchester City, United Kingdom, for an academic conference.

Being the only black in the midst of attendees numbering about 300, he knew instantly he would be the cynosure of all eyes. What, however, did him in was not his distinctive black complexion; it was his conspicuous facial marks that nearly became the theme of discourse at the conference.

“Virtually, everyone looked at me with disdain and derision because of my facial marks,” he said. But when it was time for him to address the gathering, he took the participants by surprise with what was described as a “superb presentation.” He ended his session with a standing ovation. Reminiscing over the Manchester City incident, the academic agreed that it was a blessing in disguise after all.

Prior to his presentation, a number of the participants, who managed to speak to him, had rudely confronted him and asked why his face was “mutilated” with facial marks. “For me, what saved me from humiliation was my oratory skills and competence in the subject of discourse, which I think were more important than my physical appearance,” Adeyanju said.

But, at last, his physical appearance, which nearly stole the show of the conference, suddenly became irrelevant such that almost all the participants wanted to be his friends as they asked for his phone numbers and email address after the conference. Although the erudite scholar was able to ward off stigmatisation issues and prove to the world that his facial marks couldn’t encumber or be the yardsticks for his accomplishments, many with bold marks on their faces are not that lucky.

One of such unlucky ones is 30-year-old Olalere Sharafa, a fresh graduate of Communication and Language Arts of the University of Ibadan (UI), Oyo State. Up till now, Sharafa frequently blames his parents for “defacing” him with ‘Gombo,’ a set of multiple straight and curved lines of marks of about a half an inch apart inscribed on the cheeks on both sides of the mouth.

Despite making a Second Class Upper Division (2.1), he continually blames his scarified face for his inability to secure a job over the years. Still in the dark as to why his tribal marks terrify would-be employers, Sharafa cited a recent example of a job interview session that suddenly went awry when it was his turn to face the panel in an oral interview. Having passed a written test and scored the highest point, he was shortlisted in an advertising agency in Lagos for a modelling deal, leaving him ecstatic that he would soon secure a means of livelihood.

However, like a flash in the pan, his joy was short-lived as the job seeker was thoroughly disappointed when the panellists refused to attend to him for an oral interview, leaving the venue with “the worst humiliation in my life” instead of an appointment letter.

“The moment I stepped into the conference room, venue of the interview, the panellists were shocked to discover that someone who scored the highest point in the written test had tribal marks. They asked several times if I was Olalere Sharafa, I responded in affirmative and then I was asked to step aside,” he said.

That was one of many moments of dashed hopes, as the Ibadanborn applicant was bluntly told by the panellists that someone with facial marks was not needed for the job; his brilliant performance in the aptitude test notwithstanding. “I never knew that my facial looks could limit my potential as regards job even with my brilliant credentials.

Since then, I have become selective while searching for jobs,” he lamented. Although she has suffered a fate similar to Sharafa’s while growing up, Shade Olowoporoku learnt early how to cope with negative public reactions to her tribal marks.

With three longitudinal lashes known as ‘Pele’ on each of her cheeks and another three horizontal lines of marks beside her eyelids popularly called ‘Idoko,’ the 40-year-old stylist said she was chosen to undergo facial marks among her siblings due to her position as the first child of the family. According to her, every first child in her family, which is the popular Jagun family in Oyo town, must have a tribal mark regardless of whether the child is male or female.

This, she said, was a traditional sign of honour and a clear indication that the child is not a bastard. She added that while growing up, she encountered a lot of challenges, especially stigmatisation and embarrassment among colleagues and friends in school, while many called her all sorts of nicknames to deride and embarrass her. However, with the passage of time, she explained that she overcame the inferiority complex often induced in her by the undesirable public response to her tribal marks.

“There was a time I felt if I had the choice, I would have preferred to erase the marks and be regarded as a bastard to continuously have these marks on my face. It nearly ruined me if I had not fought the esteem-killing effect it had on me. “I remember when I approached people back in the days as a young lady, the expressions on their faces were often depressing if not discouraging for an ambitious young lady like me. Some will look at me and say: ‘Who is this?’ Some people would have already concluded that I am an illiterate person, just by merely looking at my face. Those days, I always wished I could wipe it off, because I felt I was losing a lot of relationships,” she narrated her ordeal.

But it is a case of different strokes for different folks for Ibrahim Gobir, a native of Kebbi State. He was indifferent about the effect of facial marks on his fortune, saying proudly that the ‘Gobirci’ on his face, comprising multiple slashes drawn from the eyelids and head region to the jaw with another one running from the nose to the right cheek, has nothing to do with his potential and fortunes in life.

According to the Lagos-based 38-year-old man, the ‘Gorbici’ mark is culture of the people of Bagobiri in Isah Local Government Area of Kebbi State, insisting that he had resigned to fate instead of bothering about stigmatisation and the possible adverse perception by anybody. This, he said, is the only way he can always make himself happy since there is nothing he could do to erase the marks. “How many people will I explain to that tribal mark is symbol of honour, riches and influence in my region? With or without marks, I will fulfil my destiny. So, as for me, I see no difference between someone with and without marks,” he concluded.

Genesis of facial markings

According to folktales, the historical background of tribal marks varies from one tribe or ethnic group to the other. Some historians said the art of marking the face dated back to the fifth Century B.C., when some foreigners who lived in Egypt began to mark themselves by cutting their foreheads with knives in an attempt to prove that they were not Egyptians.

Some history books conclude that the practice, which differentiated the foreigners from their hosts, was later adopted in other African countries. Another version of history debunks this assertion, saying facial marking began at the time when traditional kingdoms were invaded and people kidnapped, especially when slave trade crept into Africa. As such, clans started marking their members to distinguish themselves and enable them to know where an individual belonged to, should they have the privilege of returning home.

Reasons for facial marks

While tracing the genealogy of facial marks in Yoruba land, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, a renowned Ifa priest and cultural ambassador, agreed that the tribal marks have been in existence from time immemorial. He explained that the basic reasons for the marks were for identification and beauty, which Yoruba people proudly adopted as culture with time.

Elebuibon, who is a visiting lecturer of African Culture and Religion at San Fransisco State University, California, United States (US), explained further that there are spiritual dimensions to facial markings because some families in Yoruba land have it as a mark of tradition to consult Ifa Oracle before embarking on the marks to know if the facial marks won’t lead to the untimely death of their babies. Corroborating Elebuibon, the Alado of Ado Awaye Kingdom, Oba Demola Olugbile Folakanmi, said that tribal marks in Yoruba land was more than just a cultural practice for identification.

In Ado Awaye, a sprawling town in Oyo State, facial markings are part of criteria used, especially in the royal families, to ascend the throne of their forefathers, stressing that any prince who wishes to ascend the throne must as a matter of cultural imperative have facial marks.

The respected monarch told New Telegraph that was one of the reasons the royal stool of Ado Awaye remained vacant for almost 34 years due to litigations from different contenders gunning for the stool of the kingdom. He concluded that his ‘Gombo’ marks were among other things considered by the kingmakers before nominating him as the new king after the court’s ruling on the choice of the next ruling house. He said that his emergence as the 13th Oba of Ado Awaye was as a result of the ‘Gombo’ mark which was the type peculiar to the royal ancestors of the kingdom.

“Tribal marks are one of the things that qualified me above other contenders. Although due to a series of controversies, having facial marks is no longer strong criteria in the selection of king in parts of Yoruba land; the facial marks remain the benchmarks for choice of kings in Iseyin and Oyo kingdoms.

A would-be king must bear the ancestral facial marks in the ancient towns. As far as I know, all the sons of Alaafin of Oyo have the tribal marks regardless of the first or last. For royal family with this strong history of tribal marks, facial identity is what we don’t joke with,” the monarch said. Another usefulness of facial markings, according to the monarch, is that they are also used to settle paternity scores and identify the true biological father of the baby whose paternity is mired in dispute. In the days of yore when there was no DNA facility, family tribal marks given to a baby with questionable paternity issue were enough to douse the tension because the baby would not last for seven days after the marks.

Although tribal markings are no longer popular among the educated elite who reside largely in the cities, it is a practice that is yet to fade out completely. Findings show that the cultural practice is still somehow prevalent among the rural dwellers. For instance, as this reporter found out in the course of reporting this story, one can hardly see 10 people without two or more people bearing facial marks. From Ogbomoso to Oyo, Ilorin to Iseyin, Ondo to Abeokuta, Ibadan to Offa, facial markings as a cultural practice is still carried out for different reasons.

While some families and towns marked the face of their first child in order to retain their identity, others see the practice as sacred things and such, regard it as the first criterion for anyone to become the king or hold a chieftaincy title in their lands.

This, it was discovered, was one of the reasons why those from royal families, especially in some parts of Yoruba land must always appear in their deep and glaring marks on their face, without which they could be denied the royal stool. In this part of Nigeria, tribal mark is popular to the extent that most traditional rulers, particularly in the areas noted for the marks, have the facial marks. The marks, like in the Northern ethnic group, are in different sizes and patterns depending on the area.

The only notable difference is that Northern marks are thinner than Southern marks. Hence, Soju, Jaju, Bamu, Keke, Abaja, Pele, Gombo, Mefa Omoba, are common marks in the Yoruba land. In the Northern region, particularly among the non-educated Hausa/Fulani ethnic group, facial scarification is part of fashion which every son and daughter must proudly bear on their faces irrespective of what any civilisation ideology holds. Hence, aside from Bille and the Chika Baki marks among the Fulani ethnic group, some parts of the North, especially people of Argungu and Magoro are also at ease with Bagobiri and Gobirci marks. Others such as Zube, Yan Baka, Doddori are also adopted by Northern clans.

While the Kemberi (another type of mark ranges from 10 to 11 slashes) holds sway among the Kontangora Emirates in Niger State. For the Fakai people in Zuru Emirate, the Gobirci, the multiple strokes of marks with a vertical slash across the nose, is a beautiful mark to behold. In the Igbo land, the marks are not so commonly practiced as it is among Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani tribes but the short two lines of marks are usually inscribed close to the left side eyelid of most people of Anambra State.

But while the facial mark inscription is commonly done with male and female circumcision together in some places, the intense campaign against the practice, especially female genital mutilation by government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other international agencies is forcing the people and facial marks specialists to drop the female circumcision. According to Baale Oloola of Ibadan land, Pa Iyiola Alade Alabede, who claimed to be 156 years old and the oldest facial marks specialist in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, the marks and the genital circumcision are commonly inscribed with Abe, a sharp object used by the specialists, on the body of the bearers as early as 6a.m. to avoid loss of much blood and for speedy recovery.

The chief specialist said that black powdery substances made of healing herbs and ointments are applied on the marks for speedy healing of the scarification. He boasted that the specialists hardly experience complications when they mark or circumcise. Findings also reveal that both genital circumcision and facial mark are carried out on the children from day five to the age of two or above.

Explaining the reason for carrying out the facial marks inscription and circumcision at early stage of the child, Nurudeen Kasali Alabede, 40, another Ibadan-based specialist, said that it was easier for the specialists to perform the art on the babies and children at their infancy, adding that the older the bearer, the difficult it is for them to inscribe the mark on them and the longer it will take for the mark to heal. “Some families demand our service on four-day-old babies while some prefer the child to be up to two years before the circumcision and facial scarification is done,”Kasali added.

Facial mark patterns

While tribal marks vary in patterns and styles, depending on the ethnic or the family practicing the culture, they are not always restricted to the faces. Beyond the cheeks, the marks are also inscribed on other parts of the body such as abdomen, hands, legs, thighs, forehead, jaw, wrist, chest, back and other unimaginable places in the body.

These facial mark types in Yoruba land are also slightly different from one another. For instance, Abaja, a three or four horizontal stripes on the cheeks, is typically known among Egba in Ogun State. It is also slightly different from the type adopted in other parts of Yoruba land. The Pele of Ijebu, also in Ogun State, is also shorter than that of Ekiti State; while the Ila Oragun‘s version of Pele in Osun State is a bit wider than that of Owu people in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

So also is Gombo of Ogbomoso from the Egba in Ogun State. Investigations revealed further that in some parts of ancient settlements such Oyo and Iseyin in Oyo State and other parts of Osun State, birthdates of the bearers are inscribed on the abdomen. In some instances, others draw animals such as lizards or scorpions on the stomach or other parts of the body to show important historical background of the drawn object in their respective clans. Something similar is also noticed among the Yoruba in Ilorin, Kwara State.

The locals showed inscriptions on their abdomen, which were traced to be the names of the great-grandfathers or chief facial mark specialists, also known as Olola or Alabede, in their clans. Variety is also noticed in the number of marks inscribed on the body. For instance, aside the facial horizontal marks on each of the cheeks of tribal mark bearers, a plethora of marks equally dot their body parts. “I can’t count the number of marks on my face and other ones in other parts of my body,” said a man who identified himself simply as Sulaiman in Ilorin.

Same goes for bearers in the famous Alanamu Family in Ilorin. Many members of that illustrious family have nothing less than 200 marks on their face, comprising 100 on each cheek. Sulaiman, who claimed to be a brother to Nigeria’s former Minister of Works, the late Major General Abdul-Kareem Adisa, said other parts of his body were also marked with three slashes at both right and left side of his body from head to toe.

“Besides the visible vertical facial marks, which make people to call us ‘Kwara 11,’ there are other three slashes on all other parts of the body. In fact, I have it on all my joints – three on the right and left side. Like the late minister, most Ilorin indigenes have the marks,” Suleiman said.

Marked for success

While many bemoan the marks on their face, some famous personalities with scarification hardly complain that the marks they bear have anything to do with their attainments in life. In the political firmament, one notable face is former President Olusegun Obasanjo, an Owu man from Abeokuta in Ogun State who proudly wears his Owu marks like a badge of righteousness.

“Not many people know that I have three identity cards. The first is the international passport; the second is the national identity card and the third is my tribal marks,” he proudly declared in November 2014, as he collected his electronic national identity card from the National Identity Card Commission (NIMC). The former President has six lines on each side of his cheeks, marks peculiar to Owu indigenes.

It is also on record that some of the nation’s founding fathers had tribal marks. The list included Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, late Tafawa Balewa; the premier of the defunct Western region, late Ladoke Akintola; Ahmadu Bello, late Alhaji Sule Maitama; former military head of State, late General Sanni Abacha; former Kwara State Governor, late Rear Admiral Muhammed Lawal and former Sokoto State Governor, Attaihiru Bafarawa, among others.

The list equally extends to some of Nigeria’s best lawyers, medical experts, engineers, actors and musicians – many of whose contributions to national development will remain indelible. Prominent among such illustrious names with tribal marks are Chief Richard Akinjide, SAN; Niyi Akintola, SAN; juju music maestro, King Sunny Ade; Olaniyi Afonja popularly called Sanyeri; Ebun Oloyede, among others.

Nailing the coffin of tribal markings

A research work published in 2013 in the African Press Agency listed some ethnic groups it identified as those that traditionally have “some of the most invasive scars.” They included Jarawa in Plateau State, Igala in Kogi State, Yoruba (Oyo and Ondo), Hausa, Kanuri, and Nupe, among others.

The researcher also established the fact that tribal marking was practiced among Hausa and Igbo groups, noting that whether a person has tribal markings would depend not only on their ethnic group but also on traditional practices prevalent in their compound and family. However, with increasing access to education and Western values, many Nigerians have changed their attitude towards tribal markings, viewing the practice as primitive and unnecessary in these modern times.

Perhaps in a bid to respond to the prevailing public mood, political leaders have joined the fray by putting legislations in place at both the national and state levels prohibiting scarification of any kind on any Nigerian. One of such landmark legislative measures to discourage tribal markings came into effect in 2003, when the National Assembly enacted the Child Rights Act.

Among other profound provisions, the Act declares that “no person shall tattoo or make a skin mark or cause any tattoo or skin mark to be made on a child.” It Section 24(1) defines a “skin mark” as “any ethnic or ritual cuts on the skin which leaves permanent marks.” And for violators, the law prescribes a fine of up to N5,000 or a prison term of up to a month, or both. Several international and local bodies have since thrown their weight behind Nigeria’s efforts to make tribal markings a thing of the past.

For example, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which provides assistance to disadvantaged children and mothers worldwide, mounted campaigns encouraging all the 36 states to domesticate the Child Rights Act without any further delay. In 2011, the global humanitarian body said the Act superseded all other legislations relating to the rights of the child, including legislations enacted at the state level, urging every state to just “formally adopt and adapt the Act for domestication as state laws” and to amend or annul existing laws that contravene the Act.

The National Human Rights Commission, established in 1995 to monitor human rights and assist victims of rights violations, also called on all the 36 states in 2013 to adopt the Act with immediate effect. Interestingly, the campaigns have not been in vain because there is nothing to suggest that the law was not greeted with cold shoulders in most of Nigeria’s 36 states. As at 2011, no less than 26 states had passed and domesticated the Child Rights Act into law in their own jurisdictions. The list includes Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Jigawa, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba, Ebonyi and Bayelsa states.

As at 2013, Amnesty International reported that 12 states were yet to adopt the legislation. Although there is yet to be any record of violators to the law, there seems to be enough signs that the tradition of tribal markings is fast waning, especially in urban areas since the prohibition came into effect – though some still have attachment to their tradition.

Those who wish the practice dead often point to the medical risks associated with the procedure, as well as the stigma that is now associated with tribal marks. While other hold a contrary view, many sociologists and other researchers insist that their findings point to the direction that the practice’s popularity has declined generally among the populace. Reasons they often cite to back up their claim that tribal marks “no longer have a wide appeal” include the following: many historical reasons for having tribal marks are no longer relevant; people do not need the marks as means of identification because people are no longer being kidnapped in ethnic wars; society’s definition of beauty has changed over time, and belief systems have changed over time due to the influence of Christianity and the Western education.

Now, efforts are afoot towards upping the ante. In March, a new bill specifically meant to exterminate the soul of tribal marks practice was sponsored by Senator Dino Melaye, elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), representing Kogi State. If eventually passed into law, the bill, which had scaled the hurdle of second reading, would finally put an end to the “inhuman treatment of children” in the name of tribal marks.

He said reasons why Africans give marks such as identification and paternity claims could no longer be tenable in the face of civilisation and technological advancement. Describing the marks as emblems of disfiguration, the lawmaker said most bearers have developed low self-esteem while some are treated with scorn and ridicule, including rejection by the female folks.

“The irony of these marks is that it makes victims subjects of mockery by friends. Imagine someone being called a tiger because of the thick cheek resulting from facial marks. These people have been subjected to different reactions. Many of the grown up adults have confessed that the most terrific debacle of their lives is their tribal marks. Some have become eunuchs because of this stigma. Imagine a boy in the class of the 25 pupils carrying tribal marks. His mates will call him the boy with railway lines.

“These tribal marks have become emblems of disfiguration and have hindered many situations of life. Some have developed low selfesteem, they are most times treated with scorn and ridicule…many innocent people, mostly children… had inadvertently been infected with the deadly HIV virus. Sharp instruments used by the locales to inscribe the tribal marks were not sterilised, thus exposing kids, even adults, to the risk of HIV/ AIDS,” the senator said.

Like the lawmaker, Maroof Olumuyiwa, a Lagos-based psychologist, said that an individual with facial marks mostly feel reduced in terms of beauty and this could make such person to become unnecessarily reserved, as they sometimes have the impression that they are different from others. “It is natural that most people with tribal marks have the notion that their beauty had been tampered with.

Consequently, in terms of socialisaton or networking with people, they might experience inferiority complexity. Many of them might not be able to interact freely with people, even in situations where they have what is expected of them. Mockery words like: ‘Owala’ or ‘Okola’, ‘you fight lion?’ often discourage them but those with strong determination are not usually affected by this.

It is not uncommon that pupils with facial marks are always subjects of ridicule among their peers. Take for instance, if a 12-year-old boy with facial marks was to mingle with pupils of one of the super-rich schools in Nigeria for a debate or quiz competition, there is no way he will not feel inferior seeing other kids without facial marks no matter how brilliant he is,” the psychologist said. As for the Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency (LASCA), Dr. Oluseyi Temowo, the health hazards involved in the process of tribal markings cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand, since they are often carried out with “unsterilised sharp objects.”

His concern is that the child being adorned with marks at a very tender age could easily contact HIV virus aside the pains he or she would undergo as a result of the marks. According to him, the marks, if not well taken care of, can be infected with tetanus which can endanger the life of the child. “Hepatitis B or C is another risk involved in the practice aside HIV.

This is because most of the facial marks specialists are not so educated; they do not believe in the existence of micro-organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eyes. Hence they take issue of sterilisation with levity, thus endangering the lives of their clients with contagious diseases. So it advisable people patronise orthodox medical facilities for circumcision, if necessary,” he added.

But Pa Alade Alabede debunked allegation of unsafe practices among the local facial mark specialists for circumcision and tribal marks, boasting that some orthodox medical practitioners patronise them when they experience complications in the course of circumcising the babies.

The aged man said that aside the healing powder and ointment applied to the mark or circumcised genital organ, they also invoke some incantations to put ‘things’ under control when necessary. The facial specialist, however, blamed the gradual extinction of the cultural practice on the campaigns against the practice and their patronage, lamenting that it was almost a year that he last inscribed facial scarification. Unlike the time when the practice was hugely popular, many tribal marking specialists said they hardly circumcise or inscribe facial marks in three months. According to Pa Alade Alabede, unlike the olden days when an average specialist could perform circumcision and markings for about 15 children or more in a day, there is virtually no work for them to do nowadays.

Going by the fears expressed by the aged specialist, who said he built houses from proceeds from tribal marking and circumcision, it appears their trade and services are no longer needed in the society such that none of their members now relies on the job as a means of livelihood. “With the current development, our survival is threatened; our cultural heritage and values are fading out.

I can’t remember the last time I inscribe facial marks on somebody; I only did male circumcision about six months ago just for N1,500. With the civilisation and advent of orthodox health facilities, the world is no longer embracing our services,” he added. Does this signal the final interment of a tradition that used to be a source of beauty and pride among various ethnic groups in the country?

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Insight

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

Published

on

In conclusion of this two-part story, MOJEED ALABI reports the details of the contract scandal involving the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Lasun Yusuff, who secures contract award from the same government he serves

 

Whereabouts of Nur & Company Nigeria Limited unknown
                                                      
Unlike the Sabbyn Nigeria Limited, it was easier for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for our reporter locating the whereabouts of Nur and Company Nigeria Limited. For a company that handled two out of the three projects at combined sum of N1.1 billion, it has neither website nor social media account. At the projects’ sites, the company fails to put up any signpost indicating details of the contracts, the contractors, among other necessary information, as required by law.
                                                      
New Telegraph reporters arrested
On Thursday, February 1, 2018, when our correspondent visited Plot 8, Impressive Close, off Dosumu Street, Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos, which Nur and Company Limited quoted as its office in its documents with the contract awarding agency, the guards on duty at the house said there was no company with such name within the compound.
While our reporter, accompanied by his colleague, Mr. Stanley Ihedigbo, was attempting to gain graphic evidence, the security men accused him of taking photographs of the house without authorisation, and got him arrested by policemen.
The owner of the building, who was later identified as Mrs. Dupe Dare, and from whose company – Impressive Chemicals – the street’s name was derived, immediately ordered that the reporters be taken to the Alausa Police Station, where they were subjected to embarrassing scrutiny.
The visibly angry Dare had told the police that she suspected the reporters were members of an unnamed syndicate, which she claimed, had fraudulently used her property to secure loan from two banks without her consent.
In her narrative at the station, Dare said sometimes in 2015, agents of Skye Bank Plc., security men and court bailiffs, had besieged the property, chasing out all her tenants and employees on the allegation that the house was used to obtain a N660 million loan in 2012 without repayment.
“I was shocked to my marrow because I never banked with Skye Bank, and had never taken any loan. For more than six months, we were in court, with my lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, in charge of the matter,” she said.
Amid sobs, she further narrated her ordeal to both the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the station, Superintendent of Police Bakfur Kyes, and the Divisional Crime Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police Johnson Domchak.
“I was told the fraudster had taken contracts from government in 2012 and needed money to execute them. So, that year, the bank claimed the individual had approached it, using fake version of my property document to secure the loan. The pressure was so much on my family that my mum could not bear it as she died same year.”
She said after about seven months of court processes, and following presentation of the property’s original documents, the court ruled in her favour, and the premises were reopened to her in 2016.
                                                          
Another bank lays claim to the property
The embattled property owner, who refused to reveal the identity of the individual or company illegally using her property to secure loan, added that in 2017, another financial institution, again emerged with another court judgement to gain possession of the property.
The troubled Dare said: “And this time it was Heritage Bank Plc. The bank claimed that before it acquired the defunct Enterprise Bank Plc., the suspect had taken a loan of about N70 million from the defunct bank, which he or she failed to service.
“Up till this moment, I cannot fathom why my property should remain the target of such fraudsters, and the way these people came to take photograph of my house, I learnt, was also how those fraudsters kept using the pictures of my property to secure loan. In fact, we are still in court over this.”
Based on this narration, Dare urged the police to charge the reporters to court to unravel the “real reason” for visiting her property.
However, after many hours of interrogations and cross-examinations, the police granted the reporters bail with the newspaper’s Crime Editor, Mrs. Juliana Francis, standing as surety, with instruction that they must return to the station on Monday, February 5, for further interactions, which they surely did.
 
Banks respond to enquiries
When contacted, the concerned financial institutions, which confirmed the development, however, failed to disclose the details of the transactions, claiming it was a confidential matter between the banks and the customers.
In a text message to our correspondent, the spokesperson for the Heritage Bank, Mr. Fela Ibidapo, had written: “Many thanks for your earlier text. Unfortunately, you would agree with me that the information sought is confidential between the bank and the customer, particularly as per pre-signed contract.
“Thus I ask that you permit me to decline any comment in this regard. Nonetheless, please let me know if I can assist in any other way.”
However, when our correspondent reached out to the Head of Information Unit of Skye Bank Plc, Mr. Nduneche Ezurike, he was directed to meet his colleague, Mr. Rasheed Bolarinwa, who, many weeks after messages had been exchanged, could not give definite response.
                                                                  
Nur & Company Nigeria Limited Officer declines comment
Sometimes in February, the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority made available to New Telegraph mobile telephone number of a representative of the company, who the newspaper later identified as Mr. Ebenezer Famgbebe, an engineer.
When called on the phone, the engineer, upon the introduction of our correspondent by name, had mistaken him for another member of the House of Representatives from Osun State, Prof. Mojeed Alabi. He immediately showed courtesies, but was astonished to learn that the caller was another person entirely.
He confirmed his relationship with the company but declined to make further comments on all the questions asked including the location of his company’s office.
To all these enquiries, he responded: “Please, I cannot say anything about our projects. Ogun-Osun River Basin is our client and I don’t have any mandate to talk to you. I cannot also tell you our office. Go to Ogun-Osun, you will get whatever you want there. Thank you!”
That was how Famgbebe ended the call.   
 
Corporate Affairs Commission spills the beans
This rather unusual development compelled New Telegraph to apply to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) through a lawyer, request for the company’s details as part of efforts towards ascertaining its authenticity.
On February 12, the CAC released the result of the search conducted listing the company’s shareholders as Mr. Yusuff Sulaimon Lasun of 3, Sarumi Street, Orelope Bus Stop, Egbeda, Lagos; Yusuff Olamide Ayomide, Yusuff Gbemisola Feyisara and Yusuff Omowunmi Rasheeda, all of the same address, as above who New Telegraph found out are the deputy speaker’s wife and children.
It further listed the four individuals as the company’s directors with the addition of Oladimeji Ayodeji Yusuff, with the same address, as the fifth director.
Meanwhile, in another document supplied by the CAC, Mr. Yusuff Rafiu Olalekan, who New Telegraph found out to be the deputy speaker’s immediate younger brother, was listed as a director of the company. His quoted address was, Investment House, 2nd Floor, 21/25, Broad Street, Lagos State.
However, in a message addressed to the CAC in 2011, the company conveyed the decision of Mr. Yusuff Rafiu Olalekan to resign as one of its directors, and the appointment of Olamide Ayomide Yusuff, Gbemisola Feyisara Yusuff, Oladimeji Ayodeji Yusuff and Omowunmi Rasheeda Yusuff, all as directors.
A copy of Mr. Rafiu Olalekan Yusuff’s resignation letter, which was attached, was dated April 12, 2011, with the company’s address quoted as Investment House, 2nd Floor, 21/25, Broad Street, Lagos State.
                                                               
Efforts to get deputy speaker’s reaction proved abortive
Through the Special Adviser (Media) to the deputy speaker, Mrs. Lara Owoeye-Wise, New Telegraph made spirited efforts to get the reaction of the parliamentarian but all efforts yielded no fruit.
On January 10, when our correspondent visited the National Assembly, neither the deputy speaker nor his special adviser was on ground. Mrs. Owoeye-Wise then suggested that a copy of the letter should be photographed and sent to her via WhatsApp which the correspondent did as instructed.
After waiting patiently for days without response, our correspondent sent a text message to Owoeye-Wise on January 22, for follow-up and she replied via a text message thus; “I’ll give you a response tomorrow, unfailingly. Thank you.”
On January 25, she sent another message, saying; “The Chief Press Secretary (CPS) said he had reached out to your editor. That is what he said when I discussed with him yesterday. Thank you.”
On January 26, Owoeye-Wise advised our correspondent to recompose his message and resend to her via her WhatsApp, promising to forward same to the deputy speaker directly and provide the feedback in less than 24 hours.
Our correspondent’s message had read: “Good morning, Aunty Lara and thanks a lot for your efforts. As a follow-up to my last discussion with you concerning the FoI request letter from New Telegraph Newspapers over the mini-water schemes in Ila Orangun, Ipetu-Ijesha and Ife-Odan, I write to let you know that we are yet to get any response like you promised.
“Recall you said you would discuss with the CPS and that he would contact me after you asked me to make my request official. If you recall ma, I sent the letter to you on January 10 but by Thursday January 11, I received a call from someone who later identified himself as Mr. Wole Oladimeji and CPS to the DSP (Deputy Speaker). He told me the DSP knows nothing about the project but I simply advised him to discuss with the DSP first. My Editor, Mr. Ayodele Ojo, told me same person called him and that he was the one who directed him to me. Since then, neither my editor nor myself, has received any response, either in written or verbal form, until I reached out to you again and you told me the CPS had contacted my editor. Your sms, which claimed my editor has been contacted by the CPS was not only surprising to me but also to my editor.
“However, further investigations have revealed the DSP is linked to one of the companies that handled the projects, especially those of Ife-Odan and Ila-Orangun, that is; Nur and Company Nigeria LTD. All we need is a clarification ma. The other people involved have given their own side of the story ma. Thank you very much ma as I await your intervention to get an official reaction from the DSP.”
Till date, New Telegraph is yet to receive any response from the office of the deputy speaker.         
 
Other National Assembly members kick
Two months after the inauguration of the projects, and precisely in April 2017, some members of the House of Representatives, who said they were inundated by complaints from the beneficiary communities, had embarked on a tour of the three projects to ascertain the authenticity of the people’s claims.
The House of Representatives Caucus comprising Mrs. Ayo Omidiran from Ayedaade/Irewole/Isokan Federal Constituency; Mr. Yinka Ajayi, representing Boripe/Ifelodun/Odo-Otin Federal Constituency; Mr. Gafar Amere, representing Ayedire/Iwo/Ola-Oluwa Federal constituency and Mr. Ajibola Famurewa of Atakunmosa East/Atakunmosa West/Ilesha East/Ilesa West Federal constituency, visited the locations.
According to Famurewa, officials of the Ogun-Oshun River Basin Development Authority and two representatives of the state Water Corporation were part of the inspection tour.
He told New Telegraph that prior to the inauguration, apparently frustrated by the slow pace of work at the sites, the members of the National Assembly had in 2016 petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to report suspected foul play, even after all the budgeted funds had been released to the contractors.
“But rather than inviting us, we never heard anything from the EFCC till date. The only thing we noticed was that the contractors returned to the sites in a surreptitious manner,” Famurewa added.
When New Telegraph approached the EFCC for details of the matter, its spokesperson, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, demanded an acknowledged copy of the petition to locate the exact unit of the anti-graft body handling the matter. But none of the petitioners could provide a copy.
Meanwhile, Senators Babajide Omoworare and Olusola Adeyeye denied complicity in the matter, saying it was unfortunate that the projects were poorly handled.
Adeyeye said: “Personally, I had suggested that we fixed Ojutu bridge in Ilobu but eventually the governor said we should do water. And to do water, none of us could singlehandedly fix the water and so we decided to have three mini-water schemes across the three Senatorial Districts.
“It was Lasun that was given the assignment to link up with the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority for the execution. You know very well that I am neither an engineer nor a contractor. So, when they claimed they had finished it, honestly I thought they had finished, it was later on that we heard that the thing was not working and that the people had done a very shoddy job. I am told that some members of the House of Representatives have written a petition to the EFCC to look into it.
“Let me tell you, the crisis on the matter, I should not intervene for now, because if I do, I will make things worse. Let them handle it because in the end, it is the people that would be the beneficiaries. But if in the end they sweep it under the carpet, it can be very dangerous for them. The man, who supervised it at the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority, came into my office and he was crying. But I drove him out. I told him that if he had been given a project and he didn’t do it well or he awarded it to a fraudulent contractor, he should go and fry in his own smoke.”
In a similar vein, Hon. Omidiran also distanced herself from the allegation of fraudulent practices in the execution of the projects, saying she was saddened by the development.
When contacted, the duo of Senator Mudashiru Hussein and Honourable Rotimi Makinde, who had failed to win their re-election bid, said since they are no longer in the parliament, they could hardly give any information on the matter. They directed our correspondents to the incumbent members of the parliament.
 
Procurement Laws bar public officers from taking government contracts
An officer of the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), a non-governmental organisation, focused on procurement monitoring, Samuel Offia, has explained reasons government officials are banned by law from taking government contracts.
According to Offia, towards promoting transparency, fairness and accountability, and to avoid unholy interference in procurement processes, Sections 58 and 59 of the Public Procurement Act 2007, forbids public officials from participating in or awarding contracts.
Citing specific laws, Offia said: “Part 5 (VI) that is, from Section 25 down to Section 38 of the Public Procurement Act 2007 provides for the steps, conditions/due processes to be followed in award of contracts. So contract offence(s) are clearly itemised in Section 58 of the Act. 
“One of the ways we can curb this menace of corruption rubbing our nation is to have the system open at all times, and by so doing, citizens will get to know what is being done or was left undone and then ask questions at every stage of the process.”    
 
Constituents should recall representatives –SERAP boss
The Executive Director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, has described as an impeachable offence the use of companies belonging to public officials to execute government contracts.
In an interview with New Telegraph, Mumuni said the rot in the National Assembly could be stopped when the people show concern about how they are governed and they realised their power to determine the fate of elected officers.
He said: “If the allegations are found to be true, it is enough for the constituents to initiate recall process and seek for prosecution of the concerned representative(s).”
 
•This is the concluding part of an investigative budget tracking report with the support of Macarthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)

Continue Reading

Insight

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

Published

on

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)

Save

Save

Save

Save

Continue Reading

Insight

Banks’ contract staff: Slaving for peanuts

Published

on

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.”

Continue Reading

Trending

Take advantage of our impressive online traffic; advertise your brands and products on this site. Call

 

For Advert Placement and Enquiries, Call:

Mobile Phone:+234 803 304 2915

 

Online Editor: Michael Abimboye

Mobile Phone: 0813 699 6757

Email: mmakesense@gmail.com

 

Copyright © 2018 NewTelegraph Newspaper.