BY JUDE CHINEDU
Nsukka is one of the largest towns in Enugu State, with a population of 309,633, according to the 2006 census (though currently estimated to have risen to 1,500,000). Its ‘cleanest’ sources of water, however, are from Asho, Ajie, Iyi-Nsukka, and Ikwoka Obimo springs located in different parts of the town. JUDE CHINEDU, who visited some communities in Nsukka, Igbo-Etiti and Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area which Adada River Dam ought to serve, reports on his findings
It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon in Nguru community in Nsukka Local Government Area of Anambra State. Toiling under the scorching sun in a small piece of land was Ikechukwu Ugwu, who had spent the entire day watering his pepper and tomato farm. He had stationed a tank in the farm from where he fetched water in a small cup which he applied to each crop in the farm. Ugwu is only able to do this with the help of his wife, who always comes to the farm with him.
Sadly, Ugwu spends a greater percentage of his earnings from the farm business to purchase water from vendors, who charge N8,000 for a tank of water. For a farming season, Ugwu buys 30 truckloads of water, amounting to N240,000. This has taken a serious toll on his finances as he now finds it difficult to take care of his family needs. He said: “We get water from the tanker drivers, who get it from the boreholes around Nsukka. Each load is between N8,000 and N9,000 and we buy over 30 loads before the rainy season.” Ugwu, however, is aware that the government was working on a dam just a few kilometers away from his small farm. He wants the dam completed so he could be relieved of the huge expenses and then boost the quantity of crops he is producing.
Bad as Ugwu’s situation appears, he is not an isolated case. For a retired civil servant and a native of Akachele Obimo in Nsukka Local Government Area, also identified as Thomas Ugwu, the story is even worse. He cannot afford to farm during the dry season because of the amount of money involved in getting water for his farm. Since his retirement from civil service many years ago, he had relied solely on the farm for sustenance. If there was a means, Thomas would love to cultivate a year round.
However, what the two are going through perfectly mirrors the debilitating experience of famers in other largely agrarian communities in Enugu North Senatorial zone, known to have enormous fertile land for agriculture. Thousands of farmers in this senatorial zone are willing to engage in large-scale agricultural activities all year round but for this set back. Curiously, Nsukka is one of the largest towns in Enugu State, with a population of 309,633, according to the 2006 census (though currently estimated at 1,500,000). Its ‘cleanest’ sources of water are from Asho, Ajie, Iyi-Nsukka, and Ikwoka Obimo springs located in different parts of the town. Also, Nsukka is home to the foremost University of Nigeria and boasts of abundant human, material and natural resources, but the town is plagued by acute water shortages, which seem to have defied government efforts.
Nonetheless, the springs are nowhere close to meeting the water needs of the people, and the only government-owned borehole is poorly reticulated and often not in use. Because of this, wealthy individuals now provide water for people by sinking boreholes and selling at very exorbitant prices. These water sources are mostly untreated and dangerous to the health of the people. Little wonder the people celebrated the award and subsequent commencement of work on the Adada River Dam project in 2010 with much enthusiasm.
A document from the Bureau for Public Procurement titled: FEC Approved Contract for 2010, indicates that the contract for the construction of the Adada River Dam and associated works was approved by the Federal Executive Council and awarded to an indigenous contractor, ROUDO Nigeria Limited in 2010.
The cost of the project, according to the document is N2,578,472,343.28 (Two billion, five hundred and seventy eight million, four hundred and seventy two thousand, three hundred and forty three naira, twenty eight kobo). The project, which was expected to be built in three phases – damming, water treatment plant, and reticulation with a capacity of about 1.4 million cubic meters of water per year, was supposed to be delivered in 24 months.
Work on the new dam did not start until June 2011, when a government delegation led by the then Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Ambassador Godknows Igali, flagged off the project.
Several promises, none fulfilledIgali promised that the dam would provide potable water, electricity and irrigation for agricultural activities, as he also warned the host communities against any act that would delay the project which would be delivered in 24 months:https://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/06/fg-flags-off-n2-57b-adada-river-dam-project-in-enugu/.
Senator Ayogu Eze, who represented Enugu North Senatorial Zone at the time, and is credited with attracting the project, was optimistic that the dam would change the lives of the zone. He promised to ensure that funding would not hinder the speedy completion of the project.
He had said: “I want to assure you that this dam will change the lives of our people; it will change the lives of the people of our senatorial district and above all it will provide one resource that our people have been crying for. It will provide water to Nsukka because Nsukka is going to be the capital of the new Adada State.”
Sadly, 10 years after the much celebrated flag-off, the Adada River Dam Project is yet to be delivered, leaving the people sad, confused, used and abandoned.
A visit to ROUDO Nigeria Limited. Our reporter arrived at the construction yard of ROUDO Nigeria Limited, Nkpologu, Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area, about 12:30 pm on Friday, March 5, but there was no sign of life at the site. The entrance gate to the yard was shut and heavy construction equipment, which obviously had not been in use for a long time, were seen both inside and outside the yard. Meanwhile, a dark, soft spoken security guard in his late 30s offered to provide our reporter with the contact of the project manager but later declined after speaking with him on the telephone.
On Tuesday, March 9, our reporter went back to the site and was fortunate to meet the project manager, Engr. Justin Ihedioha. Despite persuasions, he declined granting an interview for fear of being ‘misquoted’.
He said: “A lot of people have come; there was a guy that came the other day from one of the national dailies. I had an interview with him but what I saw in the news was different from everything we talked about. So, it is not right for me to be granting interviews without letting the authorities know, because when it comes out in the paper or on the TV, I’m not the only one that will see it. I’m only a messenger.”
At the dam site
Engr. Ihedioha however, permitted our reporter to take pictures of the dam. He, thereafter, referred our reporter to the consultant in charge of the project, Engr. Adeniyi Fajemiyo. When contacted on the telephone, Fajemiyo said he was not the right person to speak with. When prodded further, he sent Engr. Ihedioha’s number to our reporter, insisting that he was the one on ground. On getting back to Ihedioha, he angrily responded that he has given our reporter the contact of the man in charge and he should not call him on the matter again.
At the site, it was also observed that work on the embankment had reached an advanced stage, and the dam holds a large volume of water. However, vendors were seen pumping water into their water tanks for onward distribution to nearby communities including Nsukka urban. One of the drivers, who declined to give his name, said he prefers coming to the dam because he gets the water free of charge.
Work on the water treatment plant, which is part of the project, has not started and there is no sign that it will commence anytime soon, leaving water vendors to continue distributing untreated and unsafe water to the people. There is also no visible sign of reticulation equipment at the site.
It was also observed that the road connecting Nkpologwu to Akpoga in Uzo-Uwani and other communities in Igbo-Etiti was cut in two as the bridge was blown away. Sources in the community revealed that the dam collapsed on August 14, 2019, a year after the embankment was completed. This was disastrous as properties, farmlands and crops worth millions of naira were lost. Some community members told our reporter that they are afraid of a second collapse of the dam.
Water everywhere, none to drink Chijioke Attah, a journalist and Chairman, Nsukka Forum, narrated the harrowing experience the people usually go through in search of potable water. He described the situation as very bad, stating that one cannot vouch for the hygiene and quality of the water circulated by vendors.
“The situation is critical,” he said. “In the evening and in the morning before the children go to school, you see those carrying barrows and plastic cans going to fetch water, exposing them to avoidable road mishaps. This is not good.”
He added: “You can’t turn on your tap in your kitchen and wash your dishes unless you have money to drill a borehole. It is not good for the wellbeing of the people. So, the water crisis is really biting and the government has to do something about it.”
Tales of deflated hope.
The traditional ruler of Useh community in Aku, Igbo-Etiti Local Government Area, one of the three communities on whose land the dam is situated, Igwe Charles Ochi, narrated how work started on the dam but soon fizzled out for no known reason. He said that his people welcomed the news of the project with high expectations as it was the first of its kind around the area and the entire South-east.
“So, when we were coming for the inauguration, our people went there with the various communities, Aku, Nkpologu, Akpugo; we all went with our various traditional dance groups hoping that in less than two years the thing would have taken off. They took off in earnest but after four months, work stopped. We don’t know what happened. And when you go there to make enquiries they will tell you that the other consultants have left and that these are a new group.”Unfortunately, there has not been any form of communication between the traditional ruler and the contractors. “We were completely cut off. We don’t even know who to hold responsible for certain levels of damages, especially when there was a collapse,” the Igwe said.
The traditional ruler of Akpugo Ezedike Community, Uzo Uwani Local Government Area, His Royal Highness, Igwe Vigo Aninefougu, also recounted the joy with which his community welcomed the dam project. He said they had assumed that the project would be completed in a few years, so his community can start enjoying the benefits of having a dam just like farmers in Northern Nigeria.
Igwe Aninefougu said: “They use dams for agriculture and other purposes but this is the only dam I can hear of in this part of Eastern states. I don’t know of any other place where we have a dam in this region, especially Enugu State. So, we thought the whole thing will just be in a few years and we will begin to enjoy the benefit of the dam. But unfortunately, the whole thing lingered for so many years.”
He accused the contractor of failing to honour an agreement they reached with the community to be supplying them with portable water throughout the duration of the project, thereby exposing his people to contaminated water.
“We don’t have any other area where we get water except Adada. So, we agreed that at the starting point they were going to supply us with water. That they were going to engage drivers to give us water on a regular basis. You know water is life and you can’t do without water. But those things were never done by the company constructing the dam. Instead, we pay for the water from tankers.
“In fact, God has been on our side. You see, all these Fulani cattle use to pollute the water. They can drop these faeces in the water while drinking and they match through it, the soil and every other thing will just flow to our side and we drink it. You know God has been saving my people. It has been like that all along. Our belief is that what God created and asked us to take will not be a poison to us. That is our belief,” he said.
Attah said he has been monitoring the development at the project site since 2011. Unimpressed with the pace of work at the site, he wrote a letter to the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in August 2020, through Nsukka Forum in search of answers.
According to him, the ministry in their reply blamed the slow pace of work on the site “dwindling fortunes of the Federal Government” which has affected other projects being undertaken by the government. He said that the ministry “quickly said that they have achieved 65 per cent of that project which means they have been able to do the damming of the river. They said they have got a site where they were supposed to build the water treatment plant.
Attah said: “Nothing much is happening there. You see that the construction site yard is a ghost place. Nothing is happening there, there is no sign of life, which means that work has stopped there for now. And we all know that this has impacted seriously on the water problem in Nsukka.”
He wondered why 10 years is not enough to complete a project that should have lasted for only two years.
The disastrous collapse of the damDespite assurances of a world standard dam, the Adada Dam collapsed on August 14, 2019, leaving the villagers in anguish. Millions of naira was lost and some farmers escaped death by the skin of their teeth. Igwe Ochi recalled the incident with trepidation, stating that it was an experience, which left many farmers in pain. He regretted that since then, the government is yet to reconstruct the bridge.
“On that dam collapse, many farmers lost their crops, their source of livelihoods, lost everything including their machines. Their farmlands were completely erased. We thought they (the government) were coming up with any kind of compensation but we did not see any, he said. Even if there were compensation, the real farmers were not compensated. It has happened like that from the beginning, people who are supposed to be compensated are not always compensated.
“But that’s not the issue. The issue is that our hopes are being dashed. We felt that with the presence of that dam there will be water supply at least to the communities. Our people are still suffering because of the lack of water. We also felt that the dam will be a source of energy, that is, in terms of power supply. Nothing is forthcoming.
“We also thought that this would offer our youths employment but nothing came from it even the ones we gave to them at the beginning as security personnel, most of them were laid off for flimsy reasons or no reason at all. We really are getting confused.
“The stakeholders are not talking to us. The people who are involved are not talking to us. The contractors are not talking to us. We can’t even point out what is happening. We don’t know who to hold on to. Using your medium, we are calling on the government for a kind of intervention and hasten up whatever it is.“If you pass through that place you will discover that the major road is cut off.
The main road was completely cut off by that dam burst. If there is going to be an intervention let there be an intervention so that our people can smile again. So, that is the dividend we have been hearing about. Let us really partake in the democracy dividends.
“With that dam burst, many of our people, who farm downstream, are all afraid because you don’t know the standard of the work there. They are afraid because you don’t know what will happen if the dam breaks again. Most of the farmers there are graduates who are ready to go into the farm.
“They don’t just want to produce for themselves but to produce for the populace. We have been full of expectations. We are expecting that if something positive happens, we will still benefit from there. The continued delay has frustrated a lot of people. With that dam overflow, many people lost hope and they went back to the cities.
Igwe Vigo Aninefougu of Akpugo community said the Federal Government failed in inspecting the quality of material used in the construction of the dam so he is afraid that the dam could collapse in the future.
He said: “Just like what is said earlier, if the Federal Government has interest in this area, they should have been inspecting both the materials they are using there. I don’t know. Supposing they did the work and left it and within a few years, the whole thing blows up. It will be very difficult to call them back.
“But they were on the site already when the thing blew up so they had to start again. It is very unfortunate. We are just suffering. We couldn’t get the joy we are supposed to derive from that dam”.
Representatives evade calls, ignore text messages
Our reporter reached out to some National Assembly members representing the affected area but they all ignored calls and text messages sent to their telephone lines. First was the Senator representing Enugu North Senatorial zone, Sen. Chukwuka Utazi, an indigene of Nkpologwu community, one of the villages hosting the dam project. Utazi is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable diseases.
On Tuesday, March 9, our reporter called Senator Utazi on his known mobile number (0803 772 61**) but he failed to pick up the call. Our reporter made two more attempts to reach him via voice calls but none was successful. A text message was sent to his mobile number on March 15, seeking to know how he feels about the dam project, which lingered for 11 years.
Our reporter also sought to know what he had done to ensure that the project was completed in the interest of his people. This text too was ignored and subsequent calls to his mobile number were ignored. Another text message was sent to him on March 20, but there was no response.
Also, efforts to reach the House Deputy Chairman on Health Institutions, Chief Martin Oke, who represents Igbo-Etiti/Uzo-uwani Local Government Area, failed as he ignored text messages and telephone calls put across to his known mobile number (0803 711 81**). Our reporter first called him on March 9, but he did not pick up. It was followed by a text message but the text too was ignored. Our reporter also resented the text on March 15, but there was no response. Several other calls were made to his mobile line but he ignored all of them.
Federal Ministry of Water Resources responds to FOIA request
As part of efforts to get true details of the project and why it has lingered for so long, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), request seeking to know why the project has lingered for so long; the exact amount so far released to the contractor handling the project; to what extent the ministry has gone to ensure that the work done already is of the best standard and when the project will be completed, was sent to the Federal Ministry of Water Resources on April 6, 2020.
In a response dated May 4, 2020, and sent through the Director, legal services, Ibrahim O.N, the ministry said that the total amount so far released on the project is N2,778, 193,704.88 (Two billion, seven hundred and seventy-eight million, one hundred and ninety-three thousand, seven hundred and four naira, eighty-eight kobo.
It confirmed the name of the contractor as Messrs. Roudo Nigeria Limited, whose office address is at Kilometer 17, Aba- Port Harcourt Road, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
On the level of work done already, the ministry said that work on Dam Bottom Outlet was 100 per cent completed; Raw water intake works and tower was 100 per cent; Access bridge to intake water was 100 per cent while dam embankment was 99 per cent. It also said that work on the spillway was 100 per cent; the water treatment plant was 27 per cent while project Access road and culverts was at 60 per cent.
The letter further reads: “Based on the current situation of works going on at site, the percentage of completion of works on the Dam Component is about 97 per cent complete while the overall completion Dam and the Treatment Plant is 71 per cent.”
There was no response to the request for information on why the project had lingered for so long; the standard evaluation strategy adopted for the project, and the completion date of the project.
This investigative report was supported by MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.