Faruk Ahmadu, 52, is one of the few literates in Yabo, a community in Sokoto State where most dwellers engage in subsistence farming.
In 2020, when building construction commenced in the village, Mr Ahmadu explained to other residents what the building was meant for and the benefits therein for them.
“I could remember in 2020, people were heavily gathered at the project site, glancing at the signboard– but couldn’t understand what the contractors were building and how it would be beneficial to the entire community,’’ Mr Faruk, a civil servant, said.
“I called people’s attention and told them what the new construction meant and that if completed, all of us will enrol our children there to learn skills that would change their lives in the future,’’ he added.
Earlier in 2019, Aminu Shagari, the lawmaker representing Yabo/Shagari Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives at the time, nominated the construction of a skill acquisition centre in the Yabo Local Government. The centre was to be situated in the Yabo community.
However, on 11th June 2019, Mr Shagari lost his seat to Abubakar Yabo, but the project was nevertheless continued.
The project was allocated N40 million and was placed under the supervision of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).
Completed but not accessible
There is now a tilt to the story. The construction is complete, but the centre is non-functional. Mr Faruk and others who had imagined the project’s benefits and dreamt how their children would acquire skills from the centre are now left in despair. Completed three years ago, the skill acquisition centre is still yet to be open for use.
“I thought the centre would be functioning three weeks after the construction was completed. But now, it has changed to three years, and nothing is ongoing there,’’ Mr Faruk said. “I hope that when my children finish secondary school, I can take them to the centre to learn skills if it’s later opened,” he added.
Sani Jabbi, another community member, said the project should not have been situated outside the town. However, he reckoned he would still allow his children to access the centre once it was opened.
“I would like the centre to be opened even though it was built outside the town. My children will be using bicycles or bikes to go and learn things,’’ the 58-year-old farmer said.
Constructed but not equipped
As presented by the former lawmaker, details of the project show that funds for both the construction and equipping centre were included and allocated. Information from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation indicates that funds for 2019 ZIPs have been fully released.
However, when UDEME visited the centre, there was very little to show for it. Some areas of the centre’s walls had cracked, and the ceilings were sagging.
Faruk Bawa, a 52-year-old security guard at the centre, attended to this reporter on a visit in May.
“I have been taking care of this centre for about three years. I was employed by Faruk Danmadina, a representative of the contractor,’’ he said.
When he opened the interior for UDEME’s inspection, dust and cobwebs were most visible. There was no trace of equipment except for some chairs, suffocated in the dust with the tag ‘Hon. Aminu Shehu Shagari’ written on them.
“Nothing is inside, apart from the chairs they brought. They didn’t bring anything again,’’ he added.
Yabo community head helpless
Yabo Community Leader, Alhaji Muhammadu Maiturare, appears helpless over the condition of the centre.
“I know my position if the centre was commissioned,’’ he said. “I was once a two-term lawmaker, and I understand everything. There was a time I was told about what to do with the centre, and l said okay. So, we are three district heads here. Maybe they will pick people from each ward. It’s his centre, so we can’t interfere in something that is not ours,” he added.
The community leader also highlighted the current legislator’s effort to open the centre.
“All I know is that the current lawmaker is doing his best to see that the centre is open but do you think it could be open without anything inside?” he asked rhetorically.
The Sokoto State Manager of SMEDAN, Mohammed Shuaibu, noted that work was 80 per cent done the last time he visited the location of the centre.
“I know about the project, but the last time I visited there, maybe sometime in 2020 before COVID-19 (pandemic), the work was 80 per cent done, and I wrote a report and sent it to the head office. I [thought] the contractor would have equipped the centre, and since then, I didn’t visit the centre again,” he said.
Asked about the status of other equipment apart from chairs, Mr Shuaibu directed UDEME to another official. “There is something behind that, and I don’t know it. I urge you to reach out to our head office for a follow-up to know what is happening,” he said.
No response from the head office despite trials to reach them.
However, he added that power transmission between the present and past lawmakers contributed to the reason why the centre remained closed.
“You know that the lawmaker that facilitated that project in 2019 is no longer there. And the representative would be the one to decide whether the centre will commence work or not. This is also one of the problems.”
Meanwhile, UDEME tried to reach Mr Yabo, the current lawmaker, through his personal mobile contact; he did not answer or reply to calls and messages sent to him.
Peter Hassan, the Executive Director of the Network for Employment and Development Initiative (NEDIN), said the project, at inception, is probably not centred on citizens’ needs and, as such, cannot stand the test of time.
“We are supposed to be operating a democracy which is defined as the government of the people. Therefore the citizens or community members should be engaged by the government and senators representing them so that they present their demands for intervention and they can take ownership and ensure its functionality for effective usage,” Mr Hassan said.
He added that corruption and embezzlement of funds budgeted for projects also result in abandonment.
“Another cause is corruption, if the funds budgeted are not used judiciously to equip the completed project. It is the reason why some projects like that are damaged after construction since it’s not equipped.”
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