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DASHED HOPES: Residents in limbo as ‘N3.8bn’ housing project for Sokoto flood victims lies in ruin

DASHED HOPES: Residents in limbo as ‘N3.8bn’ housing project for Sokoto flood victims lies in ruin
December 03
08:45 2022

In 2010, the Sokoto government, led by Aliyu Wamakko, initiated a 1000-housing project for flood victims in Goronyo, Gada, and Silame LGAs in the state. Several years later, an investigation by TheCable uncovered that the project, said to have gulped N3.8 billion, lies in ruin while several of those affected still live in pitiable conditions.


It was a sweltering afternoon in July 2022. Deep in thought, Rabi Ummaru sat under a tree in Kagara, a community in Goronyo LGA. In 2010, a flood submerged her community and several others in the LGA, destroying properties, displacing many, and killing some.

Over a decade after Ummaru survived the flood, she has not overcome the trauma of the incident.

“It was a terrible experience that I don’t pray to witness again in my lifetime. My family lost everything to the flood, including our house,” she said, with sadness spreading across her face.

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Her plight was worsened by the fact that a multi-million naira housing project initiated by Wamako to provide succour for her and others displaced by the flood has been abandoned for years. Of the 1000-house initiative, Goronyo LGA was to get 400 while Gada and Silame were to get 350 and 250 houses respectively.

By design, the project was expected to have Islamiyya schools, police outposts, health centres, mosques, potable water, electricity, and other essential amenities.

But the project, which is about two kilometres from Ummaru’s community, represents dashed hope. Daily, she said, the abandoned project — supported by the federal government as well as donations from individuals and civil societies — reminds her of the flood.

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Ummaru

“They promised to relocate us to the houses when completed, but that has not happened.  We have not gotten any apartment till now. What we got then was N8,000 and other relief materials donated to us,” she said.

THE GORONYO STORY… EIGHT YEARS AFTER

The Goronyo housing project is situated in Gidan Salihu village, which is 59 km from the state capital. It was awarded to SudRiva Construction Company Limited, owned by Martins Agbaso, a former aide on ecology to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo.

On May 28, 2015, Wamakko announced on Twitter that the project had been completed, posting that, “400 housing units constructed by Sokoto govt and donated to 2010 flood victims of Goronyo local Govt”.

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But when TheCable visited the site, several of the houses were found uncompleted and a number of them were seen rotting away.

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The area, now predominantly occupied by persons displaced by bandits, also lacks potable water as the internally displaced persons (IDPs) rely on untreated and uncovered wells, which puts them at risk of diseases.

The school buildings are also dilapidated, with defaced walls and blown-away roofs, while the health facility is not functional.

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Muhammadu Salihu, the sarkin fawa of Kagara community, said due to the neglect of the housing project, he and others displaced by the flood decided to remain in their villages.

Muhammadu Salihu

“A lot of us were displaced from our homelands during the flood. Till now, we have not heard anything about the allocation of the completed housing units while several of them are still abandoned. We have complained several times but nothing was done,” he said.

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Left with no option, a few of the flood victims who relocated into the completed buildings are faced with the harsh realities of living without basic amenities.

Maryam’s story is even more pathetic. The mother of five is battling eye-related issues and risks losing her sight. But with no medical attention coming her way, she is hanging on to faith for her healing.

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Maryam

“I have an eye problem and we don’t have doctors that will take care of us. I am about to be blind… I need help,” she said.

‘COMPLETED ON PAPER’ — CONTROVERSIES TRAIL GORONYO PROJECT

The Goronyo project has been bogged by several allegations of fraud. In 2018, the flood victims called out Wamako over the state of the project and asked President Muhammadu Buhari and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the disbursement and spending of funds earmarked for the housing unit.

Speaking with TheCable, Aliyu Bako, who led the protest, said the demonstration came in the wake of Wamakko’s claim that his administration had completed the project.

Signboard showing Goronyo’s housing project

Bako said in 2015, the former governor “misled” Muhammadu Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, to commission the uncompleted project, when only 288 of the 400 houses were completed.

“The (Wamakko) administration commissioned the project and claimed the 400 housing units had been completed but to our dismay, we investigated and found that only 288 houses had been completed. As of when the project was commissioned, some of the buildings were yet to even start. But (Wamako) said he had completed it on paper. That inspired the protest,” he said.

“The protest was to alert Aminu Tambuwal to follow up on the money that was allocated for the project, ensure its completion or ask the contractors to return the money given to them.”

Bako alleged that the Wamako administration’s decision to award the project to multiple contractors made it difficult to track its implementation.

“It is not one person that was given the contract. Wamako gave the project to different contractors. Some were given 20 housing units while some got 30,” he alleged.

“It’s sad that despite several donations from Nigeria and foreign bodies, the government did not complete the houses for the people who are displaced. They are still homeless.”

Muhammad Abubakar, who also took part in the protest, lamented that nothing has changed since the demonstration.

“Since we did that protest, nothing has changed. No progress on the work. Some of the flood victims are living in the completed part of the houses. The majority of them are still in their villages because nobody would want to come and stay in an uncompleted building,” he said.

‘WE WEREN’T CARRIED ALONG’ 

TheCable understands that a lack of adequate consultation with community leaders and affected victims contributed to the failure of the 400-house unit.

Muhammad Sambo, the district head of Goronyo, said he and other community leaders in the area were not carried along when the project was initiated.

An abandoned school project in Goronyo

Sambo said there was no official allocation of the houses to the affected flood victims. He added that at some point, the houses were occupied by bandits. This, according to him, prompted the decision of the community leaders to allow those displaced by insecurity to occupy the uncompleted project.

“I was not part of any group leading the project right from the beginning till date. It was during the commissioning of the project that the Sultan asked me to look after it,” he said.

“No official allocation of the housing unit for the victims, the houses are just abandoned… no maintenance. This is because the right people were not carried along.”

NO SCHOOL, HEALTH FACILITIES IN GADA LGA’S 35O-HOUSING UNIT

At Tsaro in Gada LGA, the situation is slightly different. The 350-housing unit was awarded to Redsea Nigeria Ltd while Dinya Engineering Nigeria Ltd was the consultant.

The project was commissioned by Sule Lamido, former governor of Jigawa state, on September 24, 2013.

While the housing units have been completed and inhabited by those displaced by the flood, the lack of essential amenities has made living there a nightmare for many of the residents.

At the camp, there is no water for residents. Like in Goronyo LGA, residents depend on untreated wells. The proposed health facility and school, which should have been part of the project, were never completed.

Amina was two years old when the flood displaced her family and left them homeless for months before they found refuge at the camp. Now 14, she has never been to school before.

At Gada, girls desire education.

“I don’t know what a classroom looks like since I was born,” she told TheCable. Like Amina, many young boys and girls at the camp have never had an education. Only those with the financial muscle send their wards to school in the town, which is about 25 km away.

Women at the camp also lamented difficulties in accessing healthcare. When TheCable visited the housing unit, the abandoned school and health facility had been turned to open defecation sites.

Hadiza Umar, one of the residents, said due to the deplorable condition of the road, some pregnant women have died while on their way to town for delivery.

“Honestly speaking, we don’t get both western and Islamic education here which is very dangerous to our future. We also suffer a lot due to the scarcity of water,” she said.

“Likewise, we don’t have hospitals. Our women face a lot of issues while giving birth due to the bad roads and lack of hospitals. We have had situations where pregnant women die on their way to the town.”

Ibrahim Hakimi, one of the leaders at the camp, said while the housing unit has helped him and several others displaced by the flood, the absence of amenities has made their stay challenging.

Women fetching water from untreated wells at Gada LGA

“Our major problems are lack of schools and hospitals. We also have the problem of water supply. We have boreholes that are faulty and no longer functional. The boreholes need repairs for regular water flow. We also don’t have roads, the roads linking the town to Goronyo LGA are poor,” he said.

The 65-year-old added that the lack of electricity in the camp usually heightens security concerns at night.

SILAME LGA: COMPLETED BUT DESERTED

Silame’s 250-housing unit, located at Sabon Garin Alu, was commissioned on January 8, 2013. Like that of Gada LGA, the project was completed but also faced a dearth of basic amenities.

Muhammadu Galadima, district head of Sabon Garin Alu, said residents often battle acute water scarcity while schools in the camp are in terrible shape.

Access to healthcare is another major challenge. Galadima said the only primary healthcare centre (PHC) within the camp lacks adequate personnel and drugs.

During a visit to the camp, it was observed that while some residents inhabit some of the houses, several were occupied by rats and birds.

According to Galadima, “there are over 100 houses not occupied” in the camp. “It is very unfortunate for the houses are becoming moribund because they are unoccupied,” he lamented.

The development has created an opportunity for hoodlums to thrive. Galadima told TheCable that several of the houses have been destroyed by hoodlums, adding that they have carted away items such as electric wires and doors.

TheCable understands the houses were deserted by intended beneficiaries aggrieved by the allocation process. Several of the displaced flood victims vowed not to return to the camp, alleging that the allocation process was politicised.

Wakili Dansanda, head of Tungar Abdu Kwala, one of the affected communities, said some recipients of the houses were not the flood victims. This, he said, left him and other potential beneficiaries rankled.

Wakili Dansada speaks with TheCable

“When this project was completed and commissioned, the governor (Wamako) invited me and leaders of other affected communities and warned everyone against being political about sharing the houses. He specifically said only those affected by the flood should be given an apartment,” he said.

“But they didn’t share it accordingly. That was how the problem started. Those of us who were not happy about the situation went to complain to the governor. We dropped our complaints for his aide and they promised to revert.

“Till now, we have not heard from them. There was actually politics in the sharing process of those houses. The victims of flood were not even given half of those houses. So, a lot of us refused to relocate to the camp because we felt cheated. We will relocate there anytime they do the right thing.”

Some flood victims refused to relocate to the completed housing project in Silame.

Visits to Dansanda’s village and several others in Silame LGA showed that residents are still at risk of flood.

“It’s worrisome seeing how we are still homeless years after the houses have been completed. The thing is too much for us,” Galadima said.

‘2010 FLOOD VICTIMS NOT PROPERLY COMPENSATED’

In a 2020 study, Yakubu Matoh and Daiyabu Muhammad said victims of the 2010 and 2015 floods in Sokoto state were not adequately rehabilitated and compensated.

The study, published in the FUDMA journal of politics and international affairs (FUJOPIA), a publication of the Federal University Dutsin-Ma in Katsina state, highlighted the plight of the flood victims.

“The source of livelihoods of about 75% of the victims were affected. Consequently, socio-economic problems among the affected communities have steadily risen,” the research said.

“Government agencies (both state and federal) responsible for rehabilitating the victims have not lived up to the expectations of the communities. The study recommends among others; the adequate compensation of the displaced victims by the government should be made without sentiment.”

Flood is a major annual headache in Nigeria. As of November, 34 of the 36 states in the country have experienced flood with an estimated 3.2 million persons affected, 1.4 million displaced and 612 lives lost.

Umar Yakubu, executive director, Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch (CeFTIW), said there is a need for increased scrutiny of emergency funds earmarked for flood and other outbreaks in the country.

“Emergency funds is one of the areas with the highest risk of corruption. Because it’s termed emergency, the degree of scrutiny and accountability is very low, so people tend to bastardise it. Those areas need more scrutiny, especially from civil societies and the media,” he told TheCable.

 

‘WE EXPECT TAMBUWAL TO COMPLETE THE PROJECT’

Bashar Abubakar, a media aide to Wamakko, told TheCable that his principal could not complete the Goronyo project because his tenure elapsed while work was ongoing.

“Yes, my oga (Wamako) initiated the project but you know the administration ended while the project was on. In fact, on the eve of our handover, the project was still on. You cannot finish all your projects because of limited time,” he said.

“So, we expect the present administration to complete the project, and that’s why I want you to also hear from them to know their plan. We cannot continue what we don’t have power over. Government is just like a barrack, soldier goes, soldier comes. We completed and distributed that of Gada and Silame LGAs.”

Multiple efforts to get a response from the Sokoto state government and contractors who handled the project proved abortive.

On June 6, TheCable submitted a freedom of information (FoI) request to the state ministry of land and housing, seeking details about the project.

Picture of signed FoI 1

Picture of signed FoI 2

The FoI, sent in line with the provision of sections 2(3) & (4) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, 2011, was acknowledged by the office of Ahmad Moyi-Tambuwal, permanent secretary of the ministry.

But months after it was sent, the ministry is yet to respond — in contravention of the FoI Act. When the reporter eventually called, Moyi-Tambuwal referred him to the office of the secretary to the state government (SSG).

“We have no connection with the housing project, it was handled by the SSG’s office. The SSG is in a better position to tell you more about the project,” Moyi-Tambuwal said.

TheCable reached out to Muhammad Mainasara Ahmad, the SSG, but he did not respond to calls and text messages sent to him.

CONTRACTORS KEEP MUM

Like the state government, the contractors handling the project were not forthcoming. When contacted via telephone, an enraged Agbaso declined to comment.

“Who the bloody hell are you to call me and ask for my comment on the project? You don’t call me to ask me about a job that the state government took from me 12 years ago. You are calling me and telling me you want to have my comment. Is something wrong with you? Don’t call me again for such rubbish, please. Go and call the then governor, now a senator, who took the away the job from me,” he said.

When the reporter tried to probe further, he fired back: “My friend, stop that rubbish please. You’re getting me very angry.”

When TheCable checked his company on Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) website, it was nowhere to be found. Further checks showed that the company does not have a functional website or social media handles.

Dinya Engineering Nigeria Ltd also refused to comment when contacted while there was no detail of Redsea Nigeria Ltd on CAC’s website.


This is a special investigative project by Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF) in partnership with TheCable, supported by the MacArthur Foundation. Published materials are not views of the MacArthur Foundation.

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