By Yekeen Akinwale
The Government of Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria desire to cater to the needs and interests of the less privileged, particularly the physically challenged, was demonstrated in 2017 when the government awarded the contract for the construction of a modern rehabilitation centre in Maigana, Soba Local Government Area.
The 320,826.49 population of the agrarian community deserves such a facility the government had thought and matched words with actions- awarded the contract for the sum of N229,000,000 to a construction company, Terrific Engineering.
The rehabilitation centre in Soba is one of the three located in the senatorial districts in the state.
Each rehabilitation centre consists of classrooms, hostels for males and females, staff quarters, a security check post, a dining hall, a workshop venue and a conference hall, said Haruna Yakasai- Director Kaduna Rehabilitation Board.
“The Centre will be available to individuals living with disabilities which are but not limited to the crippled, the blind etc. and also there will be an adaptation of persons without disabilities as well so that the government can foster harmony and community among these people in their communities and will accommodate just 500 students each because of logistics.”
But three years later, the contractor had only done less than 50 per cent of the work, according to Sulaiman Yusuf, an independent procurement monitor who was among members of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) trained in 2019 by Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) on open contracting and project monitoring in Kaduna State. The training, held with support from MacArthur Foundation, was part of deliberate efforts to involve citizens in governance through procurement monitoring.
Though details of the contract were not available on the Kaduna State Public Procurement Agency (KADPPA), the project is implemented by the Kaduna State Rehabilitation Board. Officials at the agency also declined to provide the Bill of Quantities (BOQ) of the project, Yusuf said. The duration of the project was supposed to be six months but it has been stalled by what government officials described as “institutional bottlenecks”.
Yusuf believed the project would impact the local community if implemented. “It will help in imparting knowledge to people with disabilities for them to self-reliance,” he said.
Impact of town hall meeting
Not satisfied with the pace of the project, Yusuf said he was able to meet with the contractor of the project at a Town Hall meeting that had the locals in attendance including government representatives from state and local governments. “ After organising a Town Hall meeting, the contractor promised to hand over the project in two months’ time,” he said.
The town hall meeting proved to be effective, according to the independent monitor. When he visited the third time, Yusuf said there was a huge improvement in the project compared to when he visited the first time. “Huge improvement was observed in my third visit.”
Mohammed Sani Kassim, the team lead of the independent procurement monitors for Zaria says the project is nearing completion.
“After the town hall meeting, they continued the work but you know we conveyed the meeting in March and that was when we entered the lockdown in Kaduna. COVID-19 affected the whole cycle,” Kassim said.
“Immediately after removing the lockdown, work continued. The last time I went there, they have done plaster, they have done the roofing and were even painting at that time.”
According to him, the work done is more than 80 per cent completion on the centre.
Juvenile Detention Centre Abandoned
Since 2017, the work for the construction of a Juvenile Detention Center in Zaria town had been stalled. The state government envisioned that the centre when completed will help to curb crime and reduce the impact of drug abuse among young people in Kaduna State.
A recent report by Public Health Reviews said a prevalence of 20–40 per cent and 20.9 per cent of drug abuse was reported among students and youths, respectively in Nigeria. Commonly abused drugs include cannabis, cocaine, amphetamine, heroin, diazepam, codeine, cough syrup and tramadol.
As of April 2021, 10 per cent of the people in Kaduna State were involved in drug-related problems.
It was believed that a Juvenile Centre would help reduce this prevalence.
Awarded at the sum of N63,136,090.50 to M/S Asaka Construction Limited, the project had attained only 40 per cent completion when Abbas Mahmud Abubakar, an independent procurement monitor visited the site located in Zaria.
Abubakar says the contractor left the site of the project over a year ago and never returned. But he would later find out that lack of mobilisation by the state government for the construction work supervised by the Ministry of Justice is responsible for the abandonment of the project.
Locals told the procurement monitor that the contractor came and removed all his equipment and never returned.
“The project has not been completed,” he says, adding that it has been stagnant.
According to him, the contractor after the first mobilisation by the state government wrote another valuation that has not been responded to. He says that the supervising ministry claimed it was willing to release funds to the contractor but nothing has been done.
“I don’t know what could be delaying the completion of the project because I still made some follow-ups at the ministry.”
Abubakar disclosed that information about the project was not found on the official website of the Kaduna State Public Procurement Agency (KADPPA).
“The information about the project was not from the DPP platform. But if you go to the procurement unit of the Ministry of Justice, it is there. What I observed was that the project was given from the procurement unit of the Ministry of Justice.”