Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
In Ekiti State, many laudable infrastructural projects started with admirable zeal and had gulped billions of naira over the years, are currently wasting away, overtaken by weeds and begging for urgent attention. Some of these projects were embarked on by past and present state governments, and federal lawmakers representing the state.
The projects included Eyiyato Enterprises Development Centre, Ilupeju-Ekiti; Diary Farm, Ikun-Ekiti; Road Materials Construction Company (ROMACO), Igbemo-Ekiti and market structure for each of the 16 local governments. Others were Oba Adejugbe Hospital, Ado-Ekiti; Civic Centre, Fajuyi Park, Ado-Ekiti and Ado-Ekiti Water Works.
Eyiyato centre was built by the immedaie past administration of Kayode Fayemi in October 2012. When Daily Sun visited the complex along Ire-Ilupeju Road, Oye Local Government, it was over grown with weeds, indicating long years of abandonment.
ROMACO, hitherto a state owned, was privatised by Fayemi and renamed by the new owner as New Concept Construction Limited. It is located on the Ijan-Igbemo Road and produces granite and asphalt for road construction. It was obviously sited in that area because of the huge deposits of raw materials there. While its duplicate in Afao-Ekiti under another private firm has grown in leaps and bounds, ROMACO has become a ghost town.
Most of its equipment had packed up. The reporter met only two men there who were obviously security men guarding the premises. While they didn’t want their names in print nor willing to produce the contact of the new owner whom they said was in abroad, they alleged the company was rendered unproductive due to the failure of the manager to repair the faulty machines
“This company can employ 50 men if it starts operations, but right now and for almost two years now, we have been ineffective as the owner hasn’t repaired the equipment that developed fault. When in operation, we usually have the ministries of works, mines and steel development and other government agencies coming to patronise us, but right now, no such thing is happening. But this place will bounce back once the owner returns,” one of the men volunteered.
Oba Adejugbe Hospital was among the yet to be fully completed projects of Fayemi, which were however commissioned in October 2014, with pomp shortly before Ayodele Fayose took over as governor. It is not being put to use because there are still many things to be fixed.
The Ado-Ekiti Water Works was started by Senators Babafemi Ojudu, Olu Adetunbi and Tony Adeniyi. The three federal lawmakers embarked on the project in their first tenure. The project was abandoned since they failed to return for second term in 2015.
The poultry farm in Afao-Ekiti was built by Fayose during his first tenure. It was abandoned since Fayose’s “hurried” exit in 2006. Safe for a recent little effort by the Ekiti State University’s Entrepreneurship Department intervention that brought some initiatives, the facility would have passed for a complete ghost area as many of the equipment and buildings are conspicuously worn out.
These are just few out of the many abandoned projects including roads in rural areas dotting the state. Although, a recent effort of urban renewal and infrastructural development by the Fayose-led administration put in place structures in form of fly over, new Governor’s Office, high court complex, modern markets, dualisation and beautification of major roads in the state capital and headquarters of each of the 16 local government areas and others, much is still left to be desired.
Madam Olubisi Ajao in Igbemo, a resident said: “I am into palm oil making business. Here in Igbemo, we have a government project that is supporting palm oil making. But sometimes the equipment we have failed and we don’t have the wherewithal to get them. This is why our work is in most cases delayed. We want government to pay more attention on this business and also the rice business in Igbemo. We need modern equipment that could make our work easier. In this place, we can make about two oil palm containers.”
Fayemi, All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate told Daily Sun: “Politicians are adept at playing politics with the lives of citizens, I don’t play opportunistic politics. What I am going to run on is my record and if you can controvert that record, then, let us go to the market place.
“Did I not run free education up to secondary school three level? Did students under my administration not enjoy free JAMB, free payment for their WAEC? Did they not have laptop computers from JSS one to JSS three? Were all the schools in Ekiti not fixed when I was governor?
“And if you go round, those that were unfortunate in the sense that they were not completed before we left are still like that. Go to the roads, you would see that where we stopped in the rural areas is where you would find them; the palace, town halls, hospitals, markets, the pavilion and civic centre.
“And if you go and check local governments in Ekiti are being owed between seven to nine months now. I never owed any single local government worker one naira in my four years in office. The state government workers that I owed one-month salary, I explained to them the context of that one-month salary.
“Ekiti receives its federal allocation in arrears. The money for that September came in October when l was living office when I was leaving office and it was not used to settle the salary of September. That is the only salary I owed.
“I have a record to defend. Is it my social security benefit for the elderly, my empowerment programme, youths in commercial agriculture, the youth volunteer scheme, the traffic management, the peace corps, health workers and ambulance?”
Commissioner for Information, Youths and Sports Development, Lanre Ogunsuyi, also spoke: “Most of those abandoned projects were done by bonds obtained by the last administration from the Security Exchange Commission (SEC). The blame should be put squarely on the doorstep of SEC. The SEC’s duty wasn’t restricted to merely dishing out the funds but to also to sustain them. But we found out that the SEC neglected that critical aspect of its responsibility. The contractors just put the structures there and abandoned them.
“Last administration didn’t base those projects on the needs of the communities so the people were not involved, responsive and protective of them, and didn’t identify with them. Most of them are 90 percent completed, like the housing estate in Ifaki, which we have been maintaining at a cost to this government because it is not functional.
“If a project is not satisfying the yearnings of the people, the people would not identify with them and it would look abandoned.
“There are also projects abandoned even at conception. The last administration tried to build an airport, a new government office, flyover on which consultancy fees were paid and they were abandoned.
“You can also talk about the citing of the projects which are also wrong. Take the markets for example the one in my local government in Moba was built behind a police station at the outskirts of the town. Even a fool would know that the market cannot work there because it is built far away from the town, and hidden in an obscure environment; no security, water or electricity.
“The diary farm built by the Federal Government through the Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority many years ago in Ikun-Ekitj, is a system design failure. It was built for the Australian cows not for the nomadic cows we have in Nigeria.
“During the last administration, we had a governor who felt that he would go and import cows from South Africa without consideration for the fact that the cows from the cold region of South Africa could not do well in the temperate region of Nigeria. So the cows were dying in droves and it resulted into arrests and all that and the whole project failed.
“There were also projects done merely for political reasons, such as the Igbemo ROMACO quarry site. Government cannot do business they can only facilitate businesses by providing an enabling environment. The people who were given those projects did not sustain it.
“We rehabilitated Ire clay firm, paid counterpart funding but the only challenges there is the road. Government is just a shareholder in the firm we are paying only a percentage. Same goes for the Gocci Water firm. It is a private company and that axis has electricity issues.
“Government cannot just go to a firm not doing fine and take it over. The questions the management of that Gocci water should answer is that if other water firms in town are doing fine, why can’t Gocci that has a name not doing fine? But we learnt that electricity has been a problem in that axis. We leant that the axis is not yet connected to the national grid. Power is a general problem in this country now.
“On education, there were policies summersaults before we came in. Segun Oni did at one time say he wanted to do some schools a hundred percent boarding, others hundred percent day. We found out that some of the schools had less than the number of teachers in the schools. People could not afford the boarding schools and they took their students to the day schools The day schools were far away from the abode of many students. We met a chaotic system and had to do system re-alignment and that is why you have seen the tremendous change in education in the state.
“We put out N2 billion for small and medium scale enterprises. Before now, it was Ofada rice. But with us, it was Igbemo rice and we amplified that. We had an agric Summit which was well attended and which results may not be out so soon. We also sent some farmers to Ghana and they have come back and planted their cocoa.
“We embarked on afforestation programme in all the local government areas in 2005 and 2006, and trees were planted. But by the time we came back in 2014, we met the situation just like we left it. But we are working on a systematic reclamation of the forest.
“Our government inherited arrears of salaries from the previous government and the situation has grown worse with the recession. There was once a month that the Fayemi administration got over N8billion as allocation. This administration has collected over N1billion, salaries themselves are about N2.6 billion.
“When you get the allocations and they are disappointing, then you can’t do what you are expected to do, chiefly salaries payment. Government is just a catalyst, so what we have done is to through the World Bank loan get soft loans at very minimal interest and give this to individuals.
“There is a boom in the number of people that have gone back to farm. Even the civil servants formed a farmers’ guild. We have supported independent bodies and organised seminars.
“We have collaborated with the agric bank, industrial development bank and other organisations that act as catalysts, to improve on agriculture. We have enriched the curriculum to include entrepreneurship or agriculture in schools.
“For whatever money spent by a government for a particular purpose, there are a million other contending purposes that that money could also have been put into. So I will not quarrel with somebody who thinks that money spent for flyover could have been made to create millionaires over night.
“One thing about construction is that if you think it is exorbitant today, in 10 years time, it would be seen as ridiculously cheap. That fly over was a project for which Fayemi administration had paid N350 million for consultant fee but they never started anything on it. But we paid and we increased the length, as experts on transport management advised.
“Now you know many building materials have had their prices risen to over 300 percent prices. It would lead to abandonment of government didn’t respond to price variation.
“You also need to do some aesthetics around the flyover. You cannot just put the flyover without the aesthetics that is why you have the fountain, and the parking lot, and greenery and all that.
“We mean well for our people, we will reduce the number of monthly salaries owed if not paid all before the next election. It is something we take seriously.
“As much as our legacy projects are dear to us, our people are dearer to us because we know they have to be properly taken care.
“We thank them for their support and we urge them to continue to support us. That is why we have put up the continuity agenda so we wont have abandoned projects in the state. We are hoping that if we have a successful transition, we will complete these abandoned projects.”