In 2018, the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Programme, NEWMAP, in Anamabra state State awarded over N15 billion for World Bank assisted projects as an emergency response to cushion the devastating effects of gully erosion in some communities. The project, which should have been delivered in May 2020, has suffered setbacks due to poor work done and delay in providing counterpart funding among other issues. Radio Nigeria correspondent, Uche Ndeke, visited eight of the erosion sites and brings details of his findings.
Mrs. Grace Obionwu’s home has been partly washed away by flood. As a widow and mother of four, it is the place she calls home and the only inheritance she received after the death of her late husband. Now on the verge of losing the remaining part of the six-room apartment to erosion in Ugamuma village, Obosi, Idemmili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, the widow sounded frustrated when our correspondent approached her. “What do you want me to tell you?” she starts rhetorically.
“For 15 years, they will come and promise to work, every time, they will interview me and go. Later the NEWMAP people came and asked us to pack out. They started demolishing here as you can see the red mark,” she said pointing at parts of what is left of her home.
“They also promised to compensate us,” she continued, adding that, “when they came with compensation, they gave me N60,000 and I asked them, is the money for my relocation or to pay house rent? They insisted I should pack out and I told them I am not going anywhere,” she said vehemently even though the gully around her home has already swallowed her children’s playground.
Her story reflects the tales of woes faced by several others who live in erosion prone areas of Anambra State, even as they endlessly wait for contractors to complete reclamation of over 13 erosion sites contracts of which have been awarded by the state government.
As beneficial as rain is for human survival, people living in and around erosion prone areas do not pray for rain as every drop is viewed with the fear of further loss of homes or lives. Mrs. Obionwu confessed that the slow pace of work on the project has continued to torment her emotionally, especially during the rainy season.
“My husband is dead because of this same problem. My remaining two rooms, toilet and bathroom, everything is threatened by erosion. It divided the building into two. When they came, they said they will rebuild it but they only did the gutter. I did not see them doing the work,” Mrs. Grace Obionwu further said.
Other residents lamented that the only work done is a drainage channel, carelessly constructed in the middle of the erosion prone area without any effort to reclaim the 4.3 meters length site that was supposed to be done by the contracting firm, Chez Aviv Nig Ltd.
Mr. Patrick Agbindu, whose house was also affected by the gully, alleged that over 1,000 households have been washed away by the menace while not much has been done to tackle the erosion. He appealed to government to investigate the activities of Chez Aviv Nig Ltd.
When he visited, this reporter observed that only a drainage channel was constructed with no reclamation, which is expected to be part of the contract. According to the “Monitoring/Tracking Tool for Anambra State NEWMAP,” the contract for the site was awarded to the tune of N873,101,034, with a completion date of 2020 but only 17% of the work had been done even though 50% of the contract sum has been paid to the contractor.
However, when the contractor and Chief Executive Officer of Chez Aviv Nig. LTD, Mr. Frank Nnaji, was contacted on telephone, he denied all allegations pertaining to the contract and said they were coming from uninformed persons.
“One is that the contract is not about materials but about construction and the design keeps changing by the consultant and the client because of paucity of funds. We were supposed to construct culvert bet
ween the two communities that were divided into two, it was not in the design but when the community cried to NEWMAP, they accepted to do that, design was done and materials were procured to work on it but unfortunately, the World bank said we should stick to approved design, so we stopped and had to move the materials for the culvert which is 20Milimeter rodd to another site because we don’t have work for 20Milimeter road in Ugamuma Obosi.”
According to the ‘new NEWMAP document,’ work on the New Heritage erosion site was 94% completed, but findings show a sharp contrast at the time of visit by this reporter. Located in Onitsha North Local Government Area, the project was awarded in April 2015 at the sum of N288, 776, 188.90 with the completion target of December 2015. It was later extended and the contractor changed. A site engineer, Adaeze Osondu, who spoke on behalf of the contractor, said the project was in April 2021 re-awarded to her firm. This, for her, is a major cause of the delay though she assured that the project will be completed by the end of the year.
A residents in the area, however, queried why government would re-award a project that was almost completed as claimed by to another contractor.
“If the project is really 94 percent completed, there is no way it would have been re-awarded to a new contractor. Otherwise, such a government must be wasteful,” he said.
This reporter found that most parts of the erosion devastated areas were yet to be reclaimed. The issue of transparency here was strengthened by the fact that another document titled “NEWMAP: A Game Changer” indicated that 10.98 hectares of land had been reclaimed while it remained silent on the target area to be reclaimed, which would have revealed the reality of the claim that 94 percent of the job had been completed.
It was gathered that the current reality around the erosion project has undermined the economic growth of the area. Residents said landed properties is nearly worthless as many of the residents who live in rented apartment are relocating while the vicinity is fast turning into a refuse dump. However, the site Engineer, Osondu who corroborated the claim by residents that the area was fast turning into dump site, said the development was also affecting the workers mobilized to site as the refuse keeps piling up. She noted that efforts were on by the company to deliver the project before the end of the year.
“We started this work April 2021 when it was re-awarded to us. Work is going on, we have filled some places. This is gabion work they are doing now, it’s better than stone pitching, and we have the material to use for it. It has three steps in height and they are doing the second step now. We reclaim all this places and plant grasses. I am sure it will be delivered before the end of the year 2021,” she said.
The contract for Ire Obosi erosion site was awarded in 2018 to the tune of over N1.3 billion and has a record of 58% completion. The target is for reclamation is 24.28 hectares while total area reclaimed as at April 2020 was 8.15 hectares. At the Nkpor site, it was gathered that the contract was awarded at the sum of over N1.3 billion but investigations reveal a deficit in structural design and other errors which the engineers working for company, MCC, blamed on the procurement entity during a recent visit of the House of Assembly Committee on oversight duty to the site.
Apart from the poor-quality job executed by the contractor as confirmed by a construction expert, Mr. Kingsely Okafor, the water channels were poorly terminated, a reality which may cause greater harm than the problem the project is meant to solve. It was observed that only the area close to the Enugu Onitsha Expressway was attended to while the greater part, spanning residential areas remained a threat to the people as houses have started caving in.
Engineer Okafor said: “looking at what is happening at the sites, one will simply think of what is actually in the contractors mind, whether they have conceived these projects as a project they will deliver as stipulated by the terms of agreement. My assessment is that where you come to a construction site, there are some basic equipment that are needed. But when you take a glance at this sites you find out that those equipment are not there and you wonder how they will deliver the project.”
Ijeoma Odogwu Onyeka, a resident of the area showed our reporter a fence that was recently pulled down as a result of heavy erosion adding that many remain in fear each time there is a heavy rainfall in the area. “The rainfall here is too much. When it is raining, it affects this place and it looks like it is caving in. This place is no longer good, we are pleading with the government to help us. We are worried about the children so they don’t fall inside,” she added.
When contacted, the manager of MCC Ltd declined commenting on the issues surrounding the substandard job and delay in the contract and asked this reporter to get a letter from the NEWMAP.
However, from available records from the monitoring tool for the NEWMAP, 20% of funds had been released to all contractors as contractual advance payment backed by Advance Payment Guarantee (APG), while others have received up to 50 percent of the total contract sum based on the certificates raised which the Media Officer for NEWMAP, Mr. Emeka Achebe corroborated. During an interaction, some residents of the affected communities pointed at the likelihood of the projects being abandoned as work stopped on most of them more than six months ago. The monitoring /tracking tool obtained by this reporter shows that most of the project sites are not nearing completion as at June 2020. While drainage lines had been done in some sites, most were not completed as the vast areas of land proposed to be reclaimed on paper is still devastated by erosion.
The contract was awarded at the cost of over N1billion for construction of remediation and channelization work at the Abidi Umuoji site, with a population of over 16,000 people. Target area for reclamation is 3.87 hectares while only 1.94 had been reclaimed. However, work had stopped on site at the time this reporter visited the site in july 2021 with residents wondering why such contract was awarded as an erosion control project when only road construction was being done.
According to them, there were more erosion sites that needed urgent government attention than that of Abidi Umuoji as they however noted that the road which was constructed under same erosion contract had aided movement in the are.
At the erosion site at Nnewichi in Nnewi North Local Govenrment Area, which spans over 2.5 kilometres, and was awarded at the sum of N3.6 billion to CGC-YSEJ Joint Ventures, our correspondent gathered that the project is yet to be completed. The proejct is expected to impact over 52,000 people, when delivered. While the total target area is 39.05, only a paltry 4.2 hectares had been reclaimed according to the “Volume 2 of NEWMAP: A Game Changer,” as at April, 2020.
The site engineer to the Nnewichi project, Mr. Tony Elebechi, who was on site to inspect the extent of damage caused by a previous rainfall claimed that 85 percent of the project had been completed and blamed emerging gullies and topography for the delay in completion.
“The total length, 2.5 Kilometers, is quite long and huge, you know. The problem here is that the land is very fragile. Once it comes in contact with water, it soaks and gets dissolved in water and then it gets detached. So, when we came in and started our initial investigation, it was not as big as this, but after two raining seasons, my God, it expanded, propagated, got deeper, got wider. So many houses were taken. But thank God, look at what we have done so far and we know it can expand no more. So, we have been able to remediate it. If you go down you will see we are doing channelization, and that is it,” he said.
At the Ikenga Ogidi site, the contractor had been paid up to 50% of the contract amount, yet investigation show that work is at 55% since it was awarded in 2018 as confirmed by the contractor. (How did you determine 55% completion? Cos in the next paragraph you say that that is the claim of the contractor. Whereas, here, it reads like your own assessment. Work has however stopped at Ndi Agu, Ogidi point as over 17,000 targeted population now live in palpable fear of possible collapse of buildings due to poor level of work done so far as confirmed by an independent contractor and engineer, Mr Kingsely Okafor.
Out of the 9.5 hectares of land to be reclaimed, only 0.5 hectares had been reclaimed, according to the journal released by the state. There seems to be a contradiction between the level of work done by the contractor and the journal available from the NEWMAP, as 0.5 percent which the journal claimed to have been reclaimed could not have translated into 55 percent of work as claimed by the contractor handling the project.
This reporter saw construction materials such as rods and other items buried by overgrown grasses, a sign that the area had been abandoned over a period of time. With only the entrance to the project site receiving some form of attention, two residents in the area, Mr. Christian Chukwudi and Obiora Nzekwe lamented that the completion is far-fetched.
Another resident, Mr. Etolue Nnadi who bought a plot of land in the area some years ago, said the slow pace of work has continued to discourage him from developing the site while the land continues to lose value.
“This situation can be best appreciated when one understands the economic value placed on landed property in different parts of the state,” he said.
“My land is close to the gully. For over a year, these rods have been here so we come to check if they will remove it for us so that even if it is a boys quarter that we erect here, we can manage it, but the work is not moving at all and we are asking the government to tell the contractors to do the work since government has paid them money,” he said.
The site engineer who gave his name as Gibson told our correspondent that he was mobilized from Rivers State to come and supervise the site. He claimed that the project was not abandoned but has only suffered delays.In response to questions put to him, the contractor, Mr Frank Nnaji, said that the delay was not the fault of the firm as constant change in consultant and other factors including price variations also contributed.
“Each consultant that come starts his own design and concept. He starts changing design and waiting for approval, before the approval will come, he will be removed and another person takes over and start his own design again. So it affected the projects and also we cannot implement a design without clearance from the World Bank, we waited for almost a year before the World Bank was able to look into the design and said no, let stick to what was procured earlier “.
Mr Nnaji said they were about coming for the stone pitching of the walls at Ikenga Ogidi site but were waiting for the client to look into the variations in prices as one bag of cement which sold at N1,650 naira in 2016 now sell at N3,650, Y16 material which was selling at N3,150 when the contract was awarded is now N7,800 naira even as dollar rate which stood at 305 in 2016 is now 550 naira per dollar.
These issues, Mr. Nnaji said, were fundamental adjustments that needed to be done to enable contractors of all the erosion projects move smoothly.
The Abagana erosion site has a length of about 7.9 kilometers covering over 12.6 hectares of land when it was awarded to Chez Aviv Nig Ltd. However, not much had been done even though it was gathered that the contractor recently drafted local engineers from Calabar and Port Harcourt and shared some portions of the project to them to speed up the work. Be that as it may, the work remains at snail speed, a situation which worries residents, including Mr. Joseph Ngonadi, who narrated how they now live in perpetual fear whenever it rains. Mr. Ngonadi claimed that the contractor which had tackled a big gully, which divided one part of the village road, might have been starved of fund.
The site Engineer, Mr Onyeka Ude, told our reporter that the work had been slowed down majorly by market forces. According to him: “When the contract was awarded in 2018, 10 MM rod was sold at N2,800 while presently it sells at N7,300 and the same goes for cement and other construction items. We have gone back to the procurement board to do a review of the amount and hope that once it’s approved, the job will be completed in the next one year.”
Due to failure to complete the projects as at when due, property and lives are lost at interval as narrated by Mr. Chika Okoye, who said he lost his farmlands to the devastating erosion menace.
The NEWMAP Communications Officer, Mr Emeka Achebe, while reacting to the delays in completion of the projects, said the COVID 19 pandemic accounted for the lapses in some of the project completion.
Investigations reveal that out of about 14 erosion sites on the NEWMAP document, one company CGC-CHWE joint Ventures LTD was awarded four of the contracts, another, CHEZ AVIV NIG LTD, got three while a third firm got two sites. For instance, the same contractor (CGC- CHWE joint ventures) handling the Abidi Umuoji site was awarded the contracts for three other sites including, Ojoto, Enugwu Ukwu and Nnewichi all to be delivered in May 2020.
Procurement expert and the Project Coordinator, Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, CIRDDOC Mr. Ralph Ndigwe, said that there is nothing wrong in awarding many projects to the same contractor provided the firm has the capacity to deliver on the jobs.
Section 2a (i-iv) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 stipulates that all bidders in addition to requirements contained in any solicitation documents shall possess the necessary professional and technical qualifications to carry out particular procurements, financial capability, equipment and other relevant infrastructure as well as adequate personnel to perform the obligations of the procurement contracts.
A construction expert, Mr Kingsely Okafor observed that the inability of the firms that got more than one project to complete them in record time is a clear statement that they did not have the equipment and manpower needed to execute the projects as recommended in the Public Procurement Act.
“From what I have seen, you find out that the project design has drainage system and also reclamation of the erosion ravaged areas. But when you look at the site at Ikenga Ogidi, Ugamuma, Abagana among others, they rushed to construct line drains but there is no effort so far to reclaim the erosion ravaged areas.”
He further stated: “Where you will do stone pitching, you find out that the equipment are not there. You will need excavator, compacting machine, how do you claim you have what it takes to deliver all in same year and period. Even the filling, where are the tippers that will provide the materials. You look at it and ask yourself if these contractors have in mind to complete these projects.”
According to the Monitoring/Tracking Tool for Anambra State NEWMAP, the company CGC-CHWE Joint was awarded the contracts for erosion control in Enugu-Ukwu in Njikoka Local Government Area and Abidi Umuoji in Idemili South Local Government Area, while CGC-YSEJ Joint Ventures is handling the construction and channelization at Nnewichi in Nnewi North Local Government Area and Ojoto in Idemili South Local Government Area. The two companies, however, used the same phone number – 09014701630 and same address – Plot 3016 Katempe Hill, Kubwa Road, Abuja, Nigeria.
The breakdown shows that Chez Aviv Nig Ltd got three reclamation and channelization projects at Abagana in Njikoka Local Government Area, Ikenga Ogidi and Ugamuma in Idemmili North local government area where residents claim nothing appreciable had been done. It was also revealed that Chez Aviv Nig Ltd got the three contracts using the same phone number and office address. The third firm – Company MCC located at Km 11 (Mile 7) Ikwerre road, Rumuigbo Port Harcourt, Rivers State, got two projects at Ire Obosi and Nkpor both in Idemili North Local Government Area, totaling over N2.7 billion, with different phone numbers and address – Plot 23/25, Unije Street, Independence Layout, Enugu State, Nigeria.
Commenting on the findings, a Member of the Anambra State Committee on Public Procurement Bureau, Chris Azor noted that the Public Procurement Law was enacted to ensure integrity in the public contracting process but failure to pay up counterpart fund by any state government tends to discourage the major partner (World bank in this case).
Azor faulted the Monitoring and Evaluation mechanism of the donor agencies, which he noted most often does not carry along the affected states, a situation which makes proper evaluation of work on site very difficult.
According to him, the partnership supports must be captured in the state budget and also follow through the budget process to reflect what have been done during the period of implementation to cover seaming loopholes in the entire process of contract awarding and execution which the Procurement law came in to do.
The World Bank had committed over N13 billion to solving erosion problems in the state ever since the inception of the project as confirmed by the NEWMAP. But the state government had not been able to meet up with the N1 billion it pledged as its counterpart contribution, it was gathered from the NEWMAP Communications Officer, Mr Emeka Achebe, who said only N300 million had so far been released.
The Communications Officer further explained that the governor was releasing the fund as the needs arise.
“Anambra State is lucky to have been able to intervene in about 13 sites through the NEWMAP opportunity, surpassing the benchmark of five project sites already given. So the sites are spread across the state. We have them in Saint Thomas Aquinas, Ama-Achalla, Ugama Obosi, Ikenga, Enugwu- Ukwu, Abidi Umuoji, name them. And so far, we have been making tremendous efforts. St. Thomas Aquinas erosion site in Awka is 100% completed. Ama-Achalla erosion site is 100% completed.”
“The first phase of Federal High Court, Ekwueme Square, has been completed. It was an emergency intervention requested by the state government. So, we are waiting for approval from the bank to commence with the second phase which is channelization of the water to ensure that it terminates in its natural body of waters,” he said.
Mr Achebe also maintained that the delay cannot be divorced from COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many contractors out of site, following the lockdown that was declared for some months.
On the contract awarded for the Production of Onitsha Urban Storm Water Management Master Plan to the tune of
N54,050,000, the NEWMAP Communications Officer said the government was yet to implement the plan due to paucity of fund.
Our reporter also spoke with the member representing Idemmili North and South Federal constituency at the House of Representatives, Mr Obinna Chidoka, who said that the ecological fund, which is domiciled with the Federal Government for states to access at least 0.1 percent of the 15 percent that goes to the federal and state governments, were not being utilized by the state governors.
Mr. Chidoka said in view of the shortcomings observed , he had to come up with a bill tagged: “Flood and Ecological fund Control Agency” which is aimed at ensuring that flood and erosion disasters would be given the needed attentions without the funds going to the governors who were not really thinking about the people it is meant for.
The Chairman, House of Assembly Committee on SDGs, Economic Planning and Donor Agencies, Mr. Ebele Ejiofor, confirmed to our reporter that some of the erosion sites were not properly constructed while some were almost abandoned for reasons yet to be ascertained by the state legislature.
Speaking on their visit to the sites, he said, “the contractors were nowhere to be found, though we met some site å. We need to see managers or the directors of the companies to be able to extract information from them on what is delaying the jobs. The engineers could not give us full details of what is happening there.”
Our reporter repeatedly called In an interview with the World Bank’s spokesman in Nigeria, Mansir Nasir but he did not pick calls to his given number. A text message sent to the same number did not yield a response. However, when the reporter called a second given number of World bank’s country office in Abuja, he was directed to a man who identified himself only as Ikenna from the management Unit, who said if the contractors were writing for a review of procurement process as regards the increase in commodities, including cement, rodd, gravels and other items , they should do so through the Project Implementation Units, PIUs, available in all the affected states.
According to him, it is the responsibility of the Federal PIUs to report to the World Bank Project Team where such complaints would be reviewed.
“They will come together on a round table and workout modalities on how the whole contracts will be reviewed as regards to increase in prices”
Asked what the World Bank is doing to ensure the completion of the erosion projects which were awarded in 2018, Ikenna said he was not in a position to answer as he is not in the unit responsible to do so. ” I can’t answer that question because we have people handling that project, so they are the people that can answer you on this. Channel it through the Project Implementation Unit. They are the ones working hand in hand with the World Bank.”
Culled from Radio Nigeria, Enugu.