By Aminu Adamu Naganye
Disguised and awarded two different times, a 2.5km Baima-Rumba road facilitated by Hon. Abdullahi Saad (fondly addressed as Baba Iyali), a member representing Ningi/Warji Federal Constituency in Bauchi State remains a shadow of former self even after funds were released to two different contractors.
The road was awarded and paid twice to two distinct contractors, using two different nomenclature, presumably to facilitate the release and diversion of funds.
Hon. Abdullahi Abdulkadir Saad requested the project as part of his constituency project, aimed at “bringing succour to the communities.”
The lawmaker attracted the project in 2020 which was meant to be completed in 2021, but an investigation by Xchange Hama Media reveals that the Iyali’s constituents still bear the brunt associated with the terrible condition of the road.
The investigation shows that Ree Engineering LTD and First Brick Construction LTD were paid separately in April 2021 and September 2021 respectively for the same work at the same part of the road linking the two agrarian, rural communities.
Ree Engineering LTD was paid the sum of N27, 085,241.85 on10th April, 2021for the construction/rehabilitation of 2.5km earth “Road-Rumba Road Warji LGA”.
Records of payments obtained from an open contracting portal, govspend shows that at the first instance, the Road was documented as Rumba-Road where the sum of N27, 085,241.85 was released on April 10, 2021.
The road, however, was given another different name, Baima-Tiyin Road, and the sum of N19, 632, 551.19 was released to a different company, First Brick Construction Limited on 29th September 2021 as “advance payment in respect of the construction of Baima-Tiyin road in Ningi/Warji federal constituency.”.
Documents obtained by this medium revealed that the two companies in total received N46, 717, 793.04 for the same project, but surreptitiously awarded twice almost nothing has been executed.
And despite these releases, this medium can authoritatively report that the road remains in its ruinous and dilapidated condition. A visit by our reporter to the area shows that only a few mini culverts were constructed while commuters and villagers continue to suffer and wallow in pain.
The agonies of the affected communities are particularly more pronounced now as farmers commence conveying their agricultural produce from the farm. The road when completed would have eased their suffering in conveying their farm produce back home, in addition to facilitating easy access to markets.
Despite releases, Road still not motorable
Xchange Hama Media can report that despite the cumulative release of N46, 717, 793.04 for the road construction, only a handful of negligible and shallow culverts were constructed, a development not commensurate with the amount of money released for the project.
Our reporter found no sign of any construction company as of the time he visited the site. The companies have vacated the site and abandoned the project with no traces of their equipment.
The excavation of some parts of the road has further worsened its already deteriorating condition, exposing villagers and travellers to excruciating difficulties. Commuters must divert through farms to cross certain disastrous spots as water had logged parts of it, denying access and compounding movement on the road.
Some residents of Rumba community in Tiyin of Warji LGA disclosed that abandoning the work after the road has been altered from its earlier situation made it worse for them to move to neighbouring communities, and markets and transport their farm harvest currently.
A member of one of the affected villages who craved anonymity told this medium that “failure to construct this road has been torturing the entire people that ply this road, especially during the rainy season. We suffer too much and the work that was started made it more difficult for us.”
Another resident of Rumba community Mal. Umar A. Buba said although they were told some reasons why the work stopped; they are eager to see work resume to bring succour to the communities.
“The reason for the stoppage of the work was, we were told, due to rain. We were told very soon they will return to work as the contractor has been credited with the fund. But honestly, we are just being patient because we have no alternative. Peacock vehicles and private vehicles no longer follow the road. We only use motorcycles to convey our farm produce to the house and to the market with much difficulty. This is the challenge we have at the moment.”
Shuaibu Rumba is a commercial motorcyclist popularly known as Okada that traverses the road all the time to eke out a living by transporting people and their goods. He said that the bad shapes and curves on the road hasten to spoil their motorcycles and exposing them to so many dangers. “To be honest, this road from Baima – Tiyin has been our nightmare as Okada riders because our new motorcycles easily get damaged here because of the terrible condition of the road. I swear by Allah, the wire on the wheel of a new motorcycle is the first casualty due to the road’s multiple problems.”
He added that “It was Baba Iyali that enticed us with this road, we heard that he came to Warji and talked about the road. We pray that he will bring back the contractors to continue with the work to construct the road because virtually nothing is done on the road. We were informed that the road will link up Warji to neighbouring LGA in Jigawa but now we manage to ply through peoples’ farms.”
CAC Records show Contractors’ status as inactive, not qualified to bag award
Open source records obtained by this medium show that the duo of Ree Engineering LTD and First Brick Construction LTD were engaged in the construction through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology through the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute to execute the projects are not qualified to get the contract award in the first instance.
Records from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and Nigeria Check have shown that the companies’ statuses remain inactive.
“Also when a company status shows inactive, that means the company has not been paying its annual return. Such a company stands the risk of losing its registration. An inactive company can’t be awarded a contract by either the state or federal government and even ministries or agencies”, a CAC official was once quoted as saying.
Ree Engineering LTD, according to its record in CAC database, was incorporated on September 2, 2011, as a private unlimited company with RC 977055 as the registration number. The company owners/directors include Praise Emeka Robert, Victoria Emeka Obi, Emeka Obi with a physical address at Block 506 Flat 14, Maseru Street, Wuse Zone 6, Abuja.
Although the company’s address in the CAC portal shows BLOCK 506 FLAT 14, Maseru Street Wuse Zone 6 Abuja, our reporter could neither trace Ree Engineering nor any construction company in the said address as only residences were found around the area. Residents of the area averred that they were not aware of any company with such a name around the vicinity.
The second beneficiary company, First Brick construction LTD was incorporated on August 7, 2013, as a private company limited by shares with registration number RC 1134025. According to the available records, the owners/management of the company include Suleiman Othman Ningi, Aisha Umar Zambuk and Umar Usman Zambuk with a physical address at BLKG6 Flat 1, Owner Occupier Kubwa, Abuja.
When the reporter arrived Owner Occupier in Kubwa in the Federal Capital Territory in search of BLK G6 FLAT 1, the given address of First Brick Construction Ltd, after endless wandering and inquiries from residents, the company appears to have no physical office at the identified location as it claimed.
The two companies could be said to have relocated from their locations without updating their details with the CAC or they are simply non-existent, hurriedly-formed-suitcase companies that feast on such projects through connivance with the awarding institutions to rip off public funds.
Search results on the two companies suggest they remain inactive on CAC portal, hence not qualified to get the contract in line with provisions of the public procurement act.
The contractors also have no digital presence as they could not be traced to any dedicated website while First Brick Construction Ltd appeared to have two Facebook accounts with 6 and 77 followers and last updated in 2014 and 2018 respectively. Searches about Ree Engineering yielded no results.
The investigation further reveals that the companies are of questionable standing and have fallen short of the minimum requirements to qualify for the contract as stipulated by the Public Procurement Act (PPA) 2007.
According to the act, “a bidder may have its bid or tender excluded if the bidder is in arrears regarding payment of due taxes, charges, pensions or social insurance contributions unless such bidders have obtained a lawful permit in respect to allowance, the difference of such outstanding payments or payment thereof in instalments”.
As inactive companies that did not update their data with CAC, they are by law entities that fail to comply with Sections 417 – 424 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) Act, 2020, in filing and updating their annual returns with the Commission.
According to the CAMA, Section 417 states that every company must make and deliver its annual returns to the Commission every year. Hence, an inactive company is described as one that has not been carrying out any business or has not made any significant accounting transaction or has not paid its annual dues in the last two fiscal years.
The duo of Ree Engineering LTD and First Brick Construction LTD have failed to meet up with the obligational provisions as stipulated in the sections of the Act to qualify them for the award yet they not only acquired the contracts but apparently failed to deliver.
Meanwhile, the member representing Ningi/Warji Federal Constituency who facilitated the project Hon. Abdullahi Abdulkadir Saad denied any infraction in the road construction, saying that the funds have been justifiably utilised.
According to the community’s representative at the lower chamber, the road was being constructed in pieces due to the unavailability of funds to construct a standard road “because budget money comes in piecemeal,” he argued.
“Firstly, the road was worked on as an earth road in the 2020 budget under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Secondly, we decided to do a standard road if possible based on the availability of funds. We started last year under NBRRI. This year too we have budget provision to continue Insha Allah,” he said.
Asked if he was satisfied with the level of progress of the work and whether the resources have been justifiably utilised, Hon. Saad claimed to have plied the road several times and was privy to its conditions before and after the work.
“I know this road because we plied it several times over. Note that for that road to come to live (sic), we need plenty of money which is difficult to get at once. So we keep on making efforts to get the big money, over N1B will be needed to do that road. Because there is one big bridge needed at Kankare portion of the road.”
The legislator contested that few culverts were constructed as the project. “Talking about a few culverts is erroneous because last year so many culverts were constructed,” he insisted.
He added that “Federal government work is not like State where there is more flexibility. Once money voted finishes, work has to stop until another money comes. And check out the time frame of the Federal procurement process. Till now NBRRI has not given an award for the road project to continue. And mind you whatever you are able to put on the project is what government agencies award. Next year what you get and put on the budget is what they award like that.”
However, fact-finding visits by this medium to the road and interviews from the members of the Rumba and Baima communities confirmed that there was no work justifiably done with the released funds on the road.
Some members of the community argued that the road is as good as its prior state or even worse off due to excavation at some points.
A resident wondered why all the purported construction works started from the same spot on a road that is more than 10 kilometres roughly.
Isah Bala Tiyin said that the road is the only way of getting to Katanga, the headquarters of Warji Local Government Area, from their community and they are hurt by abandoning the project while it is crucial to their socio-economic activities.
“Almost everyone in this area was happy when the work started. But now, I think you can see for yourself since you followed through it. We are appealing to them to come and do the work or even return it to its previous condition,” said isah Bala.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development which first awarded the contract to Ree Engineering Limited and paid over 27 million naira snubbed FOI request presented to it seeking clarifications and answers to questions surrounding the projects. Although it received the request since 21 October 2022, the agency was yet to respond as of press time.
In the same vein, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology through the Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI) failed to comment or respond to FOI request sent to it demanding an explanation of the duplicity and possible infraction on the award and lack of execution of the project.
This republished report is produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.