Producing ceramics, meals from donkey
Donkey is a common and ‘forbidden’ animal in some parts of the country. But in Ebonyi State, it has become precious, UCHENNA INYA reports
In the past, donkey meat was common. It was forbidden for people to consume it let alone the parts including the skin, blood, bones and other parts scrambled for as it is today.
Nobody ventured into donkey business in Ebonyi State. It was not largely consumed by the people; those who were eating the animal did so secretly to avoid being ridiculed by others. But today, it has become a lucrative business.
Donkey meat business has served as a source of revenue to the poor, rich and government.
Donkey has become a king of animals in Ebonyi State. It is openly consumed by people and also sold in hotels and restaurants where it is served to customers who eat it knowingly or unknowingly. Its parts including the skin, bone and blood, have become hot cake.
The faeces is hotly demanded by farmers who use it as organic fertiliser.
The parts are usually exported by Chinese and local manufacturers who use them to manufacture different goods. Ebonyi State has the largest donkey market in West Africa.
The market known as Nkwo Jakki, which came into existence in 1997, is located at Ezzamgbo in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of the state. It was a small market when it was established but it has become so large today apparently because of the lucrative nature of the donkey business.
A minimum of 20 trailerloads of donkeys are taken to the Ohaukwu depot on a daily basis from Maiduguri, Kastina and Kano as it has proved to be the highest source of revenue to the people of the state.
Chinese are always found in the donkey depot loading the skins in large quantity to their places where they convert them to raw materials for production of different goods.
The skin is used by the Chinese for many purposes including manufacturing of shoes, waist belts, wristwatches and handbags among others. Donkey’s bone is used to produce ceramics, including plates while the blood is used to produce fish and fowl meals.
A special part of the meat known as Gelatin is obtained from the skin of the donkey by soaking and stewing. It is also used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine called Ejiao.
Chairman of the donkey sellers, Abdullahi Oladipo Yinusa, told our correspondent that donkey business had provided job opportunities to numerous people including those selling water and grasses.
According to him, donkey business is the highest job creator in Ohaukwu Local Government Area in particular and the state in general.
Chinese agents, he said, were everywhere in and around Ohaukwu Local Government Area to buy donkey skin which is sold at the rate of N24,000 per unit. He disclosed that people throng the market from Port Harcourt and Owerri to buy donkey, describing the patronage as vibrant.
Abdullahi appealed to the state government to provide them with residential area where they could call their own. According to him, elsewhere where such depot exits, the operators of the market are provided with befitting residence since their business is a blessing to their host communities.
The chairman, however, commended government for providing them with adequate security in the market.
He said: “The market came to be on June 28, 1997. When we came down here, there was nothing like these houses; there were only thatched houses.
“Luckily, we are inside the depot because these donkeys come from Maiduguri, Kastina, Kano and other border towns in the North. “This market has been the greatest revenue-earner for the state and local government. It is the highest job creator for the state and local government.
“The challenge we have is that they have refused to provide for us a place that we can call our own as it is the case in other places where they have Hausa community.
The market here is our residence. Apart from that, we have been living peacefully with our host. “You can find out that we are a blessing to them. You can see the people selling grasses and water.
It is a source of revenue to them. This is because we do not have the means and access to these facilities. “It is a money spinner.
The skin, not only the meat, generates revenue for the state and local government. It is on a high demand now. I do not know what the Chinese use it for. “It is a daily market. The sales we make depend on the demand.
We have two major market days here which is Orie and Eke. Those days we sell highest because people come as far as from Port Harcourt, Rivers State and Imo State. If you look at these vehicles they come from far.”
A butcher, Paschal Ogwa, said donkey business had created jobs for the people in the area.
According to him, for each donkey killed, he is paid between N500 and N700 while he slaughters about 30 or more a day. He disclosed that over 200 youths are in the slaughter business and make handful sums each day as about 2,500 to 4,000 donkeys are killed each day.
According to him, each butcher kills between 30 and 50 donkeys per day, while some men and women make money by fetching water, grass and even firewood for the animals and are usually paid fatly and instantly. One of the dealers, Ebenyi Mathew, said the business had assisted him in big measures. He said: “I have used this business and got married.
Also, I was able to build my house with the proceeds from the business and it is still moving on fine. “We have high demand of the meat now than before.
Even in the consumption which was very low, people prefer it now to other types of meat because it is not costly. If you have like N200 or N300 you will buy enough meat that can serve you. But for others like cow and goat meat, you must have at least N500 before you can buy meat that can serve you.
“The skin is where we make our gains because some Chinese always come here to buy them off and even stay by the side waiting for buyers. “Even the skin is costlier than the meat. The skin is sold between N30,000 and N35,000 while the meat is sold between N20,000 and N25,000.’’
On the amount required to join the business, Mathew explained that one could use between N250,000 and N300,000. He said: “It is a business that if you start it, within three to six months, you will recover the amount you used to start it. You can see that the market is expanding unlike before and it is because the business is moving fine.’’
A pregnant woman, Mrs. Esther Umeh, a native of Ngbo Court in Ohaukwu Local Government Area who came from Lagos where she was living with her husband, said the business was still moving smoothly.
Umeh disclosed that she came from Lagos after getting the information that donkey business was very lucrative. She said: “The donkey business is good. Chinese have made it to be a moving business that one can enter and survive. Donkey meat is like bush meat and it has no disease.
Chinese came in and said the skin was very useful to them and started exporting it to their country. They said the skin was used to manufacture drugs and other things in their area.
“The demand for the skin is very high that we made good gains. Every day, donkeys in four trailers are slaughtered in this market, Nkwo Jakki. I have been in the business for two years. I joined when the Chinese started exporting the skin. My husband and I came down from Lagos to join the business because it is very lucrative and it is moving very fast.
“Donkey skin is costlier than its meat because it is hotly demanded by the Chinese.
When the Chinese started exporting it, it became very expensive. The skin was sold N60,000 per donkey that time but the price has crashed to N12,000. Despite this, the skin business is still moving very well.
The Chinese that usually come for the skin lodge in a hotel; they no longer come into the donkey market to buy off the skin.
“The Chinese now have contractors who are part of us and who arrange the skin and take to them at the airport from where they go to their country. “Before now, the Chinese used to hang around us for the donkey skin to be arranged for them but they now have contractors who they deal with directly. When the contractors take the skin to them, the Chinese will use kilo and measure the skin and buy it.
The contractors sell the skin to the Chinese at N3,000 per kilo. The contractors buy from us and take it to the Chinese. The price of jakki is not fixed. You can get the big one at N40,000 or N50,000. You also get the small size at N20,000, N15,000 and N10,000.
After preparing the meat, you will find it difficult to differentiate it from cow meat. “When you come here at 5a.m., you will see many buses lined up by buyers who buy in any quantity.
They come from Enugu, Anambra, Cross River and other states. They use it in restaurants; they normally mix it with cow meat and sell to their customers in the restaurants and hotels. I eat donkey meat and it is very sweet. It is diseasefree because veterinary doctors come here every Wednesday to immunize the donkeys against diseases.
Even, our governor used to come here to check the environment. “Every part of donkey is useful. Monkey bone is used to produce ceramic plates while the blood is used to prepare pig and fowl meals.
No part of the donkey is a waste. We usually prepare the bones for people who come from neighbouring Enugu and Anambra state to buy them. When they grind the bones, they will mix it with something and produce ceramic plates. It is only our chairman that sells the bones; no other person is allowed to sell it. He sells it and owns the money. You can take some bones to your home but if you take it in large quantity and you are caught, you will be in trouble.
“I used to kill 12 donkeys in a day but I am killing only two per day because of money. I am running short of money now and I can’t kill the number I used to kill in a day. In this business, you can make profit and you can also suffer losses especially now that they have destroyed the business.”
The Chairman, Organised Butchers Association in the market, Onwe Valentine, lamented that the business was no longer profitable as it used to be. He added that many people had joined the business which made the Chinese that used to buy the skins with big amount of money to reduce the skin price.
Valentine, however, acknowledged that despite the current challenges in the business, it has provided jobs to teeming youths, men and women. Onwe explained that Chinese no longer come to the market to buy the skin because of men of immigration who arrest them for illegal trading.
He said: “This business is good but that was then. The reason is that things are no longer the way it used to be, women are running at a loss and the state government now has eyes on the business. Government has raised the tax they are collecting from us and it is making women to run at a loss. Before we were paying N150 per donkey but now it is N400.
This is different from other revenues government collect from us. “The skin was hot cake before now. There was a time the skin was sold between N52,000 and N57,000 per donkey but now it is between N8,000 and N14,000. Women were making gains the time it was sold N52,000 and they were happy in the business. The bone from the donkey is used to produce plates and ceramics while the blood is used to prepare chicken and fish feeds.
Everything about donkey is very useful. We normally burn the bone, bag it and sell to people who use it to produce the ceram-ic plates. It is sold by kilogram between N25 and N30. After burning and bagging the bones, I move them to Enugu. There is no gain in the bone business but we do it because it is needed by the people who want it.”
The Secretary of the association, Prince Amadi Okechukwu, told our correspondent that multiple taxation by the government had negative effects on the business. He explained that the market had no good facilities and called on the government to provide necessary facilities in the market since government was generating money as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from the market. Okechukwu said the business was no longer lucrative as it used to be. He said: “This market is an international market. People from far and near come here for business.
This market has created jobs for our youths, women and aged. Thousands of people of this state work here as you can see. This market offers money to government. We have two sections in this market.
In my own section we have over 40 butchers. Meat sellers are over 200 while those that watch the meat intestines are over 50. Those who wash the intestine charge between N20 and N25 per donkey skin. Each month, government makes at least N3 million as IGR and we don’t feel any government impact in the market. All the facilities we have here were installed by us with our money.
If government is taking from us here, it should provide facilities for us because the one we constructed by ourselves are not enough. We are not feeling any government impact in this market.
They should help us to put this place in order because they are generating income from here. “Government collects N400 per donkey. The government also collects N200 per skin while the Ministry of Environment collects N100 per donkey. There are other revenues government collects here; we are paying heavy tax here and it is affecting the business..
“People come from near and far to buy donkey meat, skin, bones, blood and other parts which they use for different purposes. Everything about donkey is business. The skin is actually depreciating; it was sold N60,000 before but now it is sold between N15,000 and N20,000. We sell the blood meal in kilograms. Each kilogram costs between N25 and N30. “The demand for the donkey skin is actually no longer high as it used to be.
The cause is a result of dollar rise; when dollar goes up, the price will go up. But when dollar depreciates, the business will come down. Multiple taxation has sent several people away from the business.”
When contacted, the Chairman of Ohaukwu Local Government Area, Clement Odah, said the position of government on the donkey market remained positive. Odah said the donkey market had become serious and important market.
He added: “The position of government in respect of the donkey market is positive because we support the market in the aspect of local market economy. Before now, Ohaukwu has been popular for industrial setting. The donkey market in Ezzamgbo is the regional headquarters for donkey market in the whole of the South-East.
Also, other states in the South-South including the North make their supplies from the Ezzamgbo donkey market. The demand for the meat has increased in the sense that Chinese have been coming into the market to buy the skin.
The donkey market is a serious business and every part of the animal is useful, from the headto- toe. “Before now, it was just the edible part, that is the flesh of the donkey that was so important but now with the discovery by Chinese, the skin has become more important than the flesh and it has increased the demand for donkey.”
Exposed! Nigeria’s Deputy Speaker in N1.1bn water contract scam (II)
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
Exposed! Nigeria’s Deputy Speaker in N1.1bn water contract scam
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)
Banks’ contract staff: Slaving for peanuts
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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