BY MUHAMMAD M. ALI, OCTOBER 18, 2023 | 06:21 PM
In this report, YERWA EXPRESS NEWS uncovered how the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing's subpar execution of water projects has left students in Maiduguri struggling with water shortages, making it difficult for them to learn.
Usman Idi, an SS1 student at Government College Maiduguri, remembered how he was flogged when he went to fetch water in a nearby borehole for his ablution.
Fifteen of his school’s 16 boreholes are dysfunctional. The school’s about 5, 000 population scamper for water in just one, which was built in 2022 by AGILE. It has since become a general purpose source of water for cooking, lavatory and use in the staff quarters, among others.
The dining staff would walk a distance of about 0.4km every day to fetch several liters of water to cook for the students. Whenever this is not forthcoming, they have to cover an even longer distance to source from neighboring boreholes.
There is always a standing competition for water between teachers, dining staff and students at the borehole, a solar-powered configuration donated to the school by AGILE.
The remaining water sources of various sizes and setups are in different states of disrepair.
Picture of Idi with his friends
Idi was flogged because he went to fetch water for his ablution and other personal use in Ramat Polytechnic at a wrong time.
'We planned to use it for evening and morning prayers. But then four of us fell into the hands of some bullies who severely beat me with whips,’ he said.
Ramat Polytechnic is located next to Government College Maiduguri. The two schools share walls, but an ‘illegal’ passage connects them, which boarding students at the latter use to ‘escape’; but eventually becomes the shortest route to obtain water for their basic use.
Others also trek to Yerwa Government Girls College for similar purpose. But even with the distance, they got water not without challenges. When all options fail, students say they go to classrooms without bathing and their uniforms unwashed.
'The functional solar-powered borehole is not always accessible because the school dining facility also uses it. Sometimes we go to class without bathing. We also fetch water from Yerwa Government Girls College or Sir Kashim College of Education, but if the principal catches students, they are in trouble,' said Mohammed Salisu, a JSS 1 student at the school.
Picture of Borehole constructed by Hawawu Global Venture
Borno’s elite western school
But Government College is Borno’s oldest western school, with a history going back to the colonial period. It used to be the state’s or perhaps the North East sub-region’s elite school. It produced some of the state’s brightest, including past governors, lawmakers and businessmen, among others.
Residents in Maiduguri are disappointed that despite the caliber of its alumni, the school suffers from something as basic as water supply.
Government College is not short of water sources
YERWA EXPRESS NEWS investigations however showed that the school is not short of boreholes / water sources. In fact, our reporter counted a total of 16 in his visit to the school. Some are electric, others are solar-powered and a few others are hand-pumps.
The problem is that they are not functional. Some have never worked, while others broke down within months of their commissioning, staff in the school confirmed.
The only one in use now is a solar-powered borehole by the entrance of the school, which is entirely incapable of meeting the demands of the students and their teachers.
'We have about 16 boreholes, including solar, electric, and manual hand-pumped ones, but none are functioning. We rely on water from neighboring schools like Yerwa Government Girls Secondary and Ramat Polytechnic,' Mallam Babagana, a Chemistry teacher who lives in the school’s staff quarters said.
Explaining the circumstance, Alhaji K. Inusa, another teacher at the school, attributed the problem to a number of factors.
He told our reporter in September this year that there is a broken-down transformer in the school, which prevents electric powered boreholes from functioning, as well as vandalism and theft of solar system equipment.
'Our transformer has been down for some time now. We use our personal generator to power our houses. We have one functional solar borehole near the main gate, but it's not sufficient. Students and staff quarters residents have to go to neighboring schools to fetch water. That's the situation,' Alhaji Inusa explained.
A picture of Government College Maiduguri students at a borehole in Ramat Polytechnic
Picture of the illegal passage between Ramat Polytechnic and Government College Maiduguri
Vandalism, theft and contract malpractices as cause of malfunction
While students and residents blamed borehole malfunctions on vandalism and theft, YERWA EXPRESS NEWS investigations showed that there is also a major case of public contract malpractice.
In 2019, a solar powered borehole was constructed at the dining area of the school as a constituency project by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
Another was built for the staff quarters in 2021 by the same ministry and handed over to the school in 2022 as part of Sustainable Development Goals—also as a constituency project.
It would have been thought that even if these would not meet the school’s water needs, it would have greatly reduced it.
Boreholes: Build to not work
Interestingly, this reporter discovered that they only added to the number of non-operational boreholes dotting the expansive school.
The first, which never worked based on every available information, was built by Hawawu Global Ventures Limited while the second, which also stopped within the first few months of its completion, by Benoit Energy Services Limited.
Picture of Borehole constructed by Hawawu Global Venture
Projects not working
'At this point, it's been three years since they built this borehole, and it has never worked,' Alhaji Inuwa said.
'I've been in this school for two years, and I've never seen it work,' added Muhammad Musa Umar, an SS3 student.
Running for months only
The second one which worked, also stopped within the first six months of its commissioning.
Mallam Muhammad Nur Shettima, a retired teacher and the current chief imam of the school mosque, resides near the project site.
Mr. Shettima stated that the borehole was completed in April 2022 but ceased working within less than six months.
Picture of Mallam Shettima
'After construction, it worked for about five months or so before breaking down. We contacted the contractor, but they couldn't fix it and even removed the sumo (presumably a component of the solar system). It's been about 8 months now, and they haven't returned despite numerous calls,' he explained, adding that 'even when it was working, we only had water during specific hours: 11 am to 1 pm.'
Even though they did not feature in the list of constituency projects for the given years, the office of Hon. Kadiris Rahis, member representing Maiduguri Federal Constituency, participated in their commissioning. It also listed it on Facebook among the lawmaker’s constituency projects.
Since it was not listed, this publication could not establish the cost of the projects—or even how much was released for the contractor. However, Kadiri’s other water projects have been working effectively from their completion without any challenge, this paper can confirm.
Picture of solar powered borehole constructed by Benoit Energy Services Limited
Discrepancies in the contract specification
Notably, our reporter cited some discrepancies in the contract specifications.
For instance, in the 2021 project, an iron-made tank had solar panels on top. However, the carrier which was designed for six panels had only four installed.
Mr. Shettima also confirmed that 'the number of panels they brought were four.'
Section 16(28) of the Nigerian Public Procurement Law 2007 requires procurement contracts to include warranties for the durability of goods, the exercise of requisite skills in service provision, and the use of genuine materials and input in execution. Additionally, Section 16(5) of the law emphasizes conducting public procurement to achieve value for money, fitness for purpose, and promoting competition, economy, and efficiency.
In the execution of the water projects, these requirements do not seem to have been met.
What the contractors say
Benoit Energy Services Limited claimed to have done its part.
'We have constructed the borehole. It was a free flow solar powered borehole without a battery,' a staff of the company whose name was given on Truecaller as Abdulkarim Baakarim Borehole, said over a phone conversation.
When asked whether he is aware that the borehole stopped working a few months after installation, he did not argue; but said it was the borehole sumo that got damaged.
'Yes, the borehole sumo got burnt. We removed it already and we are waiting for somebody, a Good Samaritan to help us with something to fix the borehole for them but the situation has not been easy,' Abdulkarim added.
About the number of panels, despite the panel carrier being designed for six, Mr. Abdulkareem said the panels are not supposed to be six but four.
Furthermore, this reporter attempted to contact the executing company, Hawawu Global Venture Limited, but was unsuccessful.
An email address provided at the Corporate Affairs Commission portal was incorrect as several mails sent thereto kept bouncing back.
Section 16 (5) of the Public Procurement Law states that a supplier, contractor, or service provider may be a natural person, a legal person, or a combination of the two. Suppliers, contractors, or service providers acting jointly are jointly and severally liable for all obligations and responsibilities arising from this Act and the non-performance or improper performance of any contract awarded pursuant to this Act.
Section 16 (16) of the law states that the burden of proving fulfillment of the requirements for participation in any procurement proceeding shall lie on the supplier or contractor.
Section 58 (1) of the law states that any natural person not being a public officer who contravenes any provision of this Act commits an offense and is liable, upon conviction, to a term of imprisonment not less than 5 calendar years but not exceeding 10 calendar years without an option of a fine.
What the supervising ministry say
Borno’s controller of the Federal Ministry of Housing who spoke on the matter also confirmed that the contracts were awarded by the ministry.
However, speaking on project that was executed by Hawawu Global Venture, which never worked, he said his office did not supervise the execution.
'The project was carried out by Hawawu. For this particular work we did not supervise it. The contractor came from the main office in Abuja. He is supposed to open file with us here but he refused.
‘He had come to our office once and took us to the project site. But from that time we did not see him again. The project was executed by the contractor during Covid-19.
‘So, as far this project is concerned, we don’t know anything about the execution, ' Engr. A. A Baba, the supervising engineer of the projects said on behalf of the controller.
On the other project, which worked for few months only, the controller said they commissioned the project and it was working then.
'We have commissioned the work but not in a ceremonial way. We are going to contact the contractor to verify why he removed the sumo and if there is anything we can do about we will do it, ' he added.
Speaking on the number of panels for the borehole, contrary to the contractor, he confirmed that the panels were supposed to be six.
However, he noted that there were cases of vandalism in the school, noting that many panels made for boreholes in the school were stolen.
'This, in fact, is surprising because we have constructed many borehole in the school and the school has enjoyed it. I know a borehole in the school that worked for over six years, ' the engineer further explained.
Section 16 (21, 22, 23) of the law states that the accounting officer of a procuring entity and any officer to whom responsibility is delegated are responsible and accountable for any actions taken or omitted to be taken either in compliance with or in contravention of this Act. The accounting officer of a procuring entity has the responsibility to ensure that the provisions of this Act and the regulations laid down by the Bureau are complied with, and concurrent approval by any Tenders Board shall not absolve the accounting officer from accountability for anything done in contravention of this Act or the regulations laid down hereunder.
Section 58 (5) of the law adds that any person who, while carrying out his duties as an officer of the Bureau, or any procuring entity who contravenes any provision of this Act commits an offense and is liable, upon conviction, to a cumulative punishment of:
(a) a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 calendar years without any option of a fine; and
(b) summary dismissal from government services.
However, all these guidance by law did not seem to have played out in the execution of projects at Government College Maiduguri.
The executing entity who is expected to monitor the project diligently and to make sure the work were done properly only appeared to have failed in continuous monitoring of the project, and thus could not immediately detect the irregularities while beneficiaries continued to bear the brunt.
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