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From disengagement to disarray: The cascade of failed projects in Ekiti rural communities

More than minor inconveniences, failed government projects have brought immeasurable anguish to countless Nigerians.

The compound of Bello Omowunmi radiated with joyous celebrations as her younger sister, Kemi Adewale, welcomed her third child into the world. The immense happiness of Mrs Omowunmi, a respected Chief in Iropora-Ekiti, knew no bounds.

From the moment her 25-year-old sister arrived home from the delivery room, the atmosphere in this new mother’s house resembled that of a joyous naming ceremony. However, this elation swiftly transformed into sorrow as Mrs Adewale passed away within three weeks.

“I was resting in the evening when they rushed to my room that Kemi (Mrs Adewale) was not feeling well. When I got to her room, she didn’t look good at all. Her situation was critical and could not be attended to at Iropora’s health clinic. We quickly rushed her to Iyin, which had a better hospital. At Iyin-Ekiti, we didn’t meet any doctor so we had to transfer her to Ido. Just as we were about to put her on the bed, she gave up the ghost,” tears dropped from Mrs Omowunmi’s eyes as she recalled the events, seven years after.

It takes around an hour to drive from Iropora to Iyin and return to Ido.

Inside Iropora’s health facility where trees flourish instead of people

Residents of Iropora-Ekiti have been deprived of proper healthcare services for years. The only health facility in the community suffers from a shortage of staff, leading many residents to forgo visiting the facility and instead rely on local remedies for their ailments.

In 2015, a year before the death of Mrs Adewale, Michael Bamidele, the then lawmaker representing Ado-Ekiti/Irepodun/Ifelodun federal constituency, had facilitated the construction of two health centres for N24 million – one at Iropora-Ekiti and the other at Oke-Aga in Igede-Ekiti, a neighbouring town.

Back view of Iropora PHC facility scaled

The construction of a public health facility at Iropora-Ekiti sparked hope among residents. Sadly, their joy was short-lived as the structure was only built, plastered and painted, but never roofed and never used by humans.

Ayodele Oladimeji, the successor to Mr Bamidele, allocated a new N12 million fund for the completion of the projects in 2016. Both projects were placed under the supervision of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA). The Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation has confirmed full funding for all Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP) in 2015 and 2016.

UDEME’s report in September 2022 highlighted the deteriorating condition of these abandoned facilities amidst the overgrown bush. A subsequent visit in March 2023 revealed that the vegetation had grown even thicker, preventing the reporter from accessing the structures.

If this project had not been forsaken, perhaps Mrs Adewale would still be fulfilling her role as a mother to her children. Maybe Mrs Omowunmi’s family would not have to reminisce about their sister and mourn her untimely demise.

Igbara-Odo N115 million health facilities now used by termites 

UDEME’s May 2022 report shed light on the dire state of two fully constructed health facilities, valued at N115 million, left abandoned and decaying in the bushes of Igbara-Odo Ekiti since 2019.

Initiated in 2017 by Segun Adekola, the former representative of Ekiti South West/Ikere/Orun/Ise constituency in the House of Representatives, this project was later completed by his successor, Yemi Adaramodu, following Adekola’s unsuccessful bid for reelection to the National Assembly.

The recent visit to the project sites was a captivating sight. Apart from the overgrown vegetation that now enveloped the areas, the building along Ikogosi road stood as a testament to vandalism. Its windows and burglar bars had been stolen, leaving the facility exposed and vulnerable.

Facility along Igbara-Oke road

The community’s endeavours to revive the facilities have been in vain, as all parties involved, including the federal government, state authorities, and the Local Council Development Area (LCDA), have declined to assume responsibility for them.

Absence of need assessment, causes of failed projects?

Speaking with UDEME in April 2023, the king of Igbara-Odo, Edward Jayeola faulted Ekiti federal lawmakers for failed projects littered around.

As he spoke about his unsuccessful attempts to revive the abandoned facilities, he opined that these projects were redundant from the outset. With Igbara-Odo already having three government-owned hospitals in need of intervention, the construction of two more was deemed unnecessary, especially considering the lack of resident doctors in the area.

“They should allow us to have an input when they’re deciding. If they consult community leaders, there won’t be failed projects littered around. Why impose on us what we don’t need?” he questioned.

While needs assessment was a cause of the failed projects at Igbara-Odo, it was also the same at Iropora. 

Community leaders have raised concerns about being excluded from the project nomination process. During an interview with UDEME, Oladipupo Aduke, a female chief from Iropora-Ekiti, revealed that they were completely unaware of the project until the contractor arrived to initiate the work.

“How many are we at Iropora to be having two health centers? MOB (Michael Bamidele) was supposed to see the king and the chiefs to ask for what we really needed in this town. As it is, people even prefer to take herbal concoctions rather than visit the existing clinic,” she said.

This fact was also corroborated by Grace Oni, the Officer in Charge of the Primary Health Center in Iropora. Speaking to UDEME, she revealed that despite the staffing issues they face, they are compelled to conduct door-to-door campaigns, sensitizing residents about the importance of utilizing the health facility.

Joel Ajayi, the king of Iropora-Ekiti also shared a similar stance with Mrs Aduke. He said he could have asked for the enhancement of the existing facility had he been consulted.

Ekiti’s federal representatives are hard to reach

While speculation surrounds the lack of community engagement as a cause for failed projects in Nigeria, little attention has been given to the lawmakers’ failure to assess the needs of their constituencies prior to project nominations. To address this, we directly approached lawmakers to investigate their alleged neglect of conducting needs assessments.

We contacted seven current and former representatives: Hon. Ogunlola Omowunmi (Ijero/Ekiti West/Efon), Hon. Olufemi Bamisile (Emure/Gbonyin/Ekiti East), Hon. Yemi Adaramodu (Ekiti South senator-elect), Sen. Abiodun Olujimi (former Ekiti South senator), Hon. Olusola Fatoba (Ado Ekiti/Irepodun/Ifelodun), Sen. Olubunmi Adetunmbi (former Ekiti North senator), and Hon. Akinyede Awodumila (Emure/Gbonyin/Ekiti East constituency at the Federal House of Representatives.

During April-June 2023, only Hon. Omowunmi and Hon. Bamisile agreed to be interviewed, but subsequent attempts to conduct the interview were unsuccessful as they stopped responding to our calls. The remaining representatives did not respond despite multiple attempts.

The challenges faced by this journalist in reaching out to the representatives raise another concern about the accessibility of Ekiti lawmakers to their constituents.

Community engagement and needs assessment; what does the law say in Nigeria?

Festus Ogun, a human rights advocate and Managing Counsel at Festus Ogun Legal (FOLEGAL) in Lagos, argues that the process of federal constituency projects in Nigeria is largely unconstitutional.

Mr Ogun emphasized that Nigerian legislators neglect to engage with constituents before nominating projects, undermining the government’s primary purpose of ensuring people’s welfare, as mandated by the constitution.

The absence of needs assessment and corruption lead to project failures. Mr Ogun stressed the significance of understanding people’s needs and conducting assessments before project nomination to safeguard citizens’ welfare. He urged the new leadership, including the National Assembly, to prioritize needs assessment for meaningful change.

“There is a fundamental difference between needs and wants. The experience over the years has been that the legislators who facilitate these projects seem not to really understand the desire of their people as stipulated by the constitution.

“Section 14(2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.

“It is out of place for you to provide what your people do not really need, for you to fail to conduct needs assessments while purportedly providing welfare for the people.  That cannot be welfare. Providing what will not be useful to the people cannot be termed as welfare. And that defeats the spirit and essence of the law. That particular provision of the law places a duty on all tiers of government to ensure that the welfare of our people is their primary aim,” he said.

Failed projects, a setback to Ekiti, Nigeria’s economic development 

Failed projects in Nigeria hinder progress and have wide-ranging impacts. Professor Awe Abel, an economist and Dean at Ekiti State University, revealed in an interview that these failures often stem from political campaigns rather than genuine community needs, showcasing the influence of “political arrogance” in their execution.

Without feasibility studies or needs assessments, politicians make promises without considering the relevance to specific communities, taking the people for granted. Consequently, this leads to shattered expectations, wastage of resources, increased poverty, lower living standards, reduced employment opportunities, discouraged investors, eroded trust in the government, and heightened insecurity.

Way forward for the Tinubu’s administration

Prof. Abel advised the new administration led by President Bola Tinubu to form a committee for a comprehensive reassessment of failed projects nationwide. He emphasized the need for needs assessments and evaluating the relevance of existing projects. Prof. Abel stressed the significance of engaging constituents in project planning and advocated for legislation ensuring project continuity during political transitions.

He said: “This particular government should try to do needs assessments and for the ones (projects) that have been put in place, they should try to assess whether they can be continued or any attempt to continue would be a waste of energy and resources. The projects in the first instance, were not relevant projects to the needs of the community.

“There should be a bottom-up approach to planning. Politicians should engage in continuous dialogue with their constituents before initiating any project, be it at the state or federal level.”

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