By Niyi Oyedeji
ON OCTOBER 15 and November 13, 2018, few days to the end of his administration, former Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola, who is now Nigeria’s Interior Minister, awarded 11 contracts to 9 firms at the cost of N223.2 million. They were for the construction of 11 fire stations in various locations in the state.
Over two years down the line, investigation, however, revealed that many of the contracts were awarded as political patronage to APC chieftains in the state. What is more, although 10 of the fire stations have been completed, seven of them are rotting away. Work has not been completed on one while the remaining three which are currently in use are sparsely furnished.
The investigation also shows that there was no compelling reason for building the fire stations as there were no firemen or equipment to be used in them.
A document obtained from the official website of the Osun State government made available by the Public Procurement Agency (PPA) in the state revealed that a total sum of N223 million was paid for the contractors for the construction of the 11 fire stations at N20.3 million each.
The document confirmed the completion of 10 fire stations, with the last one at 75 per cent completion stage. When this reporter visited the locations of the fire stations, ten of them have, indeed, been completed but not furnished, while the last one has remained uncompleted for over two years.
Findings revealed that the fire stations were constructed in Ede, Ilesa, Ile-Ife, Erin-Osun, Iwo, Ila Orangun, Ikirun, Ikire, Ipetu-Ijesha, Ejigbo and Esa-Oke, but all are in the state of disuse.
Project awarded to party faithful
Findings have revealed that some of the contractors that were awarded the contract for the construction of the fire stations are faithful of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party in the state.
For instance, the number one name on the list of the contractors is Dekfam Nigeria Limited, a company that has siblings and relatives of Adegboyega Famodun, the APC chairman in the state as its directors.
According to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) dashboard, Dekfam Nigeria Limited was registered barely six months after Aregbesola was inaugurated as governor. The date of registration was April 6, 2011, with Registration Number: 946326.
It has No.12c, Obafemi Awolowo way, Aiyetoro, Osogbo, Osun State as its registered address, and is owned by Prince David Adekunle Famodun, Prince Janet Adebola Famodun, Prince Adedotun Babajide Famodun, Prince Joseph Adeyeye Famodun– all directors of the company.
The company, apart from being a private unlimited one, has no clear objective as to the kind of service it provides if it is construction, information technology-related, or general supplier.
When contacted, Adekunle Famodun, younger brother to the APC chairman in the state, whose mobile number was used for the registration of the company, told our reporter that he is only on the board of the company but not the owner or fully involved in the activities of the company.
He, however, refused to disclose the owner of the company and also declined to speak on the contract.
“I am just a member of the board of directors of the company but not the owner. I am not aware of all the contracts being executed by the company,“ he said.
Dekfam, like every other company that got the contract, was awarded N20.3 million. It was saddled with the responsibility of constructing a fire station in Ede town.
Also on the list of the companies that got the contract was Al-Baqee Nigeria Limited, a company that has Hassan Oladepo Adedapo, an APC chieftain in Ejigbo Local Government of the state has its major director.
Other directors of the company are: Kuburat Khadijat Adedapo, Jibril Opeyemi Adedapo, Sofiyat Adedolapo Adedapo, Suliyat Adedoyin Adedapo.
Al-Baqee Nigeria limited is also a company with no clear objective as to the kind of service it provides but was asked to construct two fire stations; one in Ile-Ife, the other in Ikirun.
De-Kingly Nigeria Limited, another company that has two APC chieftains – Araoye Kayode and Olapade Demola as its directors – was also awarded the contract of constructing fire stations in Erin-Osun and Esa-Oke.
Although the company was registered in 1997, it also has no clear objective as to the kind of service it provides.
Correspondent findings revealed that all the nine companies that got the contract have no clear objective of the kind of service they provide. None of them is registered as a construction company with the CAC.
Davechem Industries Limited is also one of the companies that got the contract and its main director, David Adeyemo, is a renowned chemical engineer.
Agonies of fire officers without equipment
Our reporter visits to the 11 locations revealed that none of the fire stations has a functional fire truck, which is the primary equipment such a facility must possess.
A fire officer in Ile-Ife said working as a fire serviceman has been challenging. The middle-aged man, who cannot be named for fear of victimisation, told our reporter that the fire station lacks human capacity and adequate equipment to tackle even the most basic fire outbreak.
“We just moved to this newly constructed fire station last year, even though it has been constructed since 2019.”
The Ile-Ife fire station, a zonal station serving over four local governments in the state, has no functional fire truck to respond to any fire outbreak in any of the towns it serves.
The station only has hydrant pit, fire hydrant, delivery hose and stamp pipe but its fire tanker is no more good for use.
“We have been using this fire tanker for over 20 years. In fact, we inherited it from the old Oyo State government,” he said.
He told our reporter that the fire tanker is no longer working and that the station lacks basic equipment.
The newly constructed fire station in Ile-Ife has three office rooms and two other rooms ensuite, a model this reporter found out to be replicated in the other 10 fire stations.
Our findings revealed that the newly constructed fire stations in Ile-Ife, Ede and Ejigbo are the only ones in use, while the remaining eight have been under lock and key since their completion two years ago.
Fire officers working in Ede and Ejigbo, who spoke with this reporter, also decried the non-availability of essential equipment needed to carry out their duties.
A fire officer working in Ejigbo, who can also not be named, told our reporter that the station lacks personnel, fire trucks and other fire service equipment.
“We are just two fire officers here, no driver and no fire truck. If there is any fire outbreak in the town now, there is no way we could respond to it,” he decried.
Fire stations with no single fire officer
Apart from the fact that three of the newly constructed fire stations that are now in use are lacking personnel and adequate equipment to work effectively, The ICIR found out that four of the stations have been under lock and key since they were completed because there is no single fire officer in the towns where they are located.
The fire stations could not be commissioned for use because there are no fire officers to work in them.
Atolagbe Suliyat, a resident of Ipetu-Ijesha, told our reporter that there was no existing fire station in the town before Aregbesola constructed the new one. Notwithstanding, the new fire station has been under lock and key for the past two years, she added.
“Since they completed the construction of this building two years ago, we have been anticipating when the station would eventually be commissioned for use,” says Suliyat.
In Ila-Orangun, the old fire station has been converted to a mini market where rams and goats are sold; and the newly constructed one is overgrown with grass because it has remained under lock and key for more than two years.
One of the market women, Balogun Iyabo, who spoke with The ICIR, said the fire officers had left the town.
“We are the one occupying this place now since they have built a new station for the fire officers,” says Iyabo.
Similarly, the fire station that is being constructed in Esa-Oke lies in waste. Overgrown with bushes, the building is roofed but yet to be plastered.
Residents told our reporter that the building, the first fire station in the town, had been abandoned for over two years.
“They just stopped work on the site in 2019, and since then, the building has remained like this. You can see that bushes have even filled up the building,” James Afolabi told our reporter.
Fire station under lock in town with high incidence of fire outbreak
Erin-Osun is another town where a fire station was constructed but put under lock and key because there are no fire officers.
Our reporters findings revealed that the town is notorious for age-long communal clashes with Ilobu, its neighbour.
Whenever there is a crisis between these two towns, houses are usually set ablaze and razed to the ground. In September 2020, several buildings burnt during a land crisis between the two towns.
Similarly, in February 2021, several houses, shops, and vehicles were burnt during another border crisis between the two towns.
The residents were of high hope when the fire station was constructed and completed in 2019. However, their hope is fast disappearing, as they now think the building is just there for the optics.
Ibrahim Agboola, who was one of the people whose houses were razed during one of the ugly crises in the town, told The ICIR that the fire station could have averted his loss if it was functional.
“The day they razed down my house was the day I wished they had commissioned this station. I was helpless seeing my properties burnt down right in front of me,” Agboola recounted.
Fire officers languish in old fire station
While the newly constructed fire stations have not been commissioned for use, fire officers using the old fire stations bear the brunt of working under deplorable conditions.
When our reporter visited Ikire, Ikirun, Ilesa and Iwo, the fire officers met there are still maintaining the old buildingswhich are in poor conditions.
They lamented the conditions of the buildings they currently occupy while the new ones rot away.
A fire officer in Ilesa said the fire officers have been using the old station situated in the middle of the town’s market for over twenty years.
“Although our fire truck is faulty now, we always find it difficult to navigate our way out of the market whenever we want to take the truck out for any service.”
Our reporter also visited the newly constructed fire station in the town, which is not only under lock but has also been vandalized with its burglary proofs carted away.
It is a similar scenario in Ikirun, where the back of the newly constructed fire station has been turned into a place where people openly defecate.
The fire officers were met in their old rickety station, where the roof of the building is already leaking.
Like other stations visited, the fire truck at Ikirun fire station is also no longer functioning.
“We have been told we will be moved to the new fire station, but we are still anticipating when that would happen,” says the officer on duty, who does not want his name mentioned.
Osun among 10 most indebted states
Meanwhile, according to the Debt Management Office, Osun State’s domestic debt profile as of 30th June 2018, stands nearly at N136 billion while its total external debt stands at $102 million equivalent to N37 billion when calculated based on the prevailing dollar to naira rate which was N360 then. All together, Osun accumulated a total debt of N172.4 billion by the first half of 2018.
As of December 31, 2018, the debt profile has jumped to N183.8 billion. The state domestic debt rose to N148 billion while its total external debt slightly decreases to $99 million, an equivalent of N36 billion at the exchange rate of N360 to a dollar.
Our reporter finding shows that the state incurred additional N11.4 billion debt within six months, part of what was used to fund the N223 million fire station project, which turned out to be a white elephant project.
As of today, nearly three years after the exit of former Governor Aregbesola, Osun remains among the 10 most indebted states in Nigeria.
Sixty new fire officers undergoing training already ― Osun Government
Adelani Baderinwa, who served as the Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Osun State during the administration of Aregbesola acknowledged the fact that the fire stations were awarded by his former boss.
Baderinwa added that the fire stations were constructed because of the essential need to have them in the state.
“I am not sure if provisions of equipment for the fire stations were part of the contract but some of the fire stations had been completed and commissioned before we left office,” says Baderinwa.
He also said that he is unaware of the fact that APC chieftains were part of those that got the contract, asserting that due process was followed.
He, however, directed our reporter to speak with the former Commissioner for Home Affairs in the state, Obawale Simeon, whose office facilitated the contract for more information.
However, Simeon, who is now the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in the state refused to talk to our reporter.
He requested to see the reporter in person before he could speak. He also did not show up for the zoom meeting to which he earlier agreed with this medium
Our reporter also reached out to Ismail Omipidan, the Chief Press Secretary to the current state governor, Gboyega Oyetola, who told this reporter that the government is on the verge of finalising the employment of 60 new fire officers.
“As I speak to you now, 60 new fire officers are currently undergoing training to work in these fire stations.”
Omipidan also said that the fire stations had been commissioned for use since 2019, adding that the government has also purchased new fire trucks and has repaired the old ones.
“I am not aware of the fact that the fire stations are under lock and key; what I know is that some of them were commissioned for use as far back as two years ago.”
For over three weeks, our reporter also tried to speak with Lawal Tajudeen, the Osun State Commissioner for Home Affairs, who oversee the activities of the fire officers and fire stations in the state for his comment on the fire stations rotting away. All the efforts were fruitless.
Tajudeen asked this reporter to come for an interview on June 23 but he failed to meet the appointment.
After then, he did not answer multiple calls put through to his mobile phone and did not acknowledge nor reply to text messages sent to his phone.
* This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation