“Is this a wall or drainage? I don’t know” said Yafati Ali.
Yafati Ali was reacting to a drainage and road project being constructed in her community, Bulabulin Garandam, in Borno, northeastern Nigeria. It is a project the people have yearned for a long time, and the state government has recently answered that call.
The contract was among many such projects within the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC) and Jere Local government area, awarded in the 2022 budget at the cost of 2.8 billion to a local company.
The ward head Bulama Modu took a HumAngle reporter around the contract site, including a section starting from a mosque to an area linking a biscuits company, explaining that the drainage as presently being constructed will create new problems for them rather than alleviate them.
The drainage construction started above the ground as its foundation instead of the usual standard of digging some inches into the ground. The Ward head, Bulama Modu, while reacting to it said that “the nature of the drainage construction makes it hard for elderly people and children to pass. If vehicles wanted to enter particular streets or park close to their houses, they would have to go round to other areas and locations to park. Rainwater that normally gathers in some places in our areas now goes into our houses”.
The state Governor, Babagana Umara Zullum, visited the area in July and inspected the project, following which he complained about the poor planning and measurements. According to the ward head and a resident, Kashim Allamin, he also apologised to the residents that the drainage would not be finished before the beginning of the rainy season but assured them that next year the work would be ready for use.
However, he didn’t inform them or engage the community on what will happen to the houses of those who would be affected by the road and drainage construction. A resident of the community who pleaded anonymity said that there was no mention of compensation for houses or other properties to be demolished for the work to continue.
“Is this a drainage or a wall? I don’t know. Even if we don’t know anything, we know that there is a problem with this drainage construction,” said Yafati Ali, a resident of the area.
She laments that they could not connect a channel from their homes with the drainage as the foundation started above the ground. The structural defects also posed risks for children, as Yaganama lamented that “how could our children step on it if we send them on errands or going to school?”
The flood risk
The state governor recently established a team to assess the impact of the flooding. He also lamented that more than 1,000 houses had been illegally built on routes that ought to be water channels.
A resident of the community that preferred to be anonymous disclosed that the flood water had submerged the area around the Covid19 hospital, including a road, making it inaccessible to vehicles. He added that people are already evacuating the rain waters that went into their houses using buckets, but when it rains again, the water returns.
The drainage construction is reported to have put residents in danger and made them vulnerable to flooding because the water that may enter their homes would not be able to move through the channels built to connect with the drainage.
Child labour accusation
The community members complained that the contractor building the drainage was working with children and exploiting them. Instead of using adults, they were taking advantage of the minors and underpaying them, he said.
“They engage the children and pay them as little as ₦500 ($1) for work which an adult will be paid ₦2,000 ($4),” said Kashim.
This situation calls for concern about the use of children in a construction project. In January, the Child Protection Bill was signed into law in Borno. It provides the framework for the protection against child labour and abuse.
Borno state House of Assembly passed the Child’s Right Act for assent by the state Governor in Dec. 2021, and the Governor assented to the bill in Jan. 2022. He announced that “it was a new year gift to the children”. Borno state was the first state in the Northeast to domesticate the Act, which was enacted in 2003 to protect children, among other things, “protecting children, boys and girls falling victims of abuse and exploitation in all of its forms” according to the National Human Rights Commission website.
Reportedly, the road projects, which are to be executed within one year, will also have two bridges and drainage with specifications and guidelines approved in the contract signing.
The permanent secretary overseeing the ministry of works, Eng. Ali Goni Lawan said the first slot of the road projects is the 5.324km combined dualisation with drainages and two bridges at Ahmadu Bello Way to link Bama road, and Shehu Sanda Kura road at the cemetery junction. It was awarded to EEC at the cost of N8,76,304,408.18 billion.
The second slot, he noted, is the 8.2km road construction, which consists of Baga road market- Jajeri – Umarari- Bulabulin with another one linking Texaco- Churchkime – Abdu One road at the total cost of N2,812,405, 577.48 billion which was awarded to Obtuse Tech Engineering Company Limited.
HumAngle contacted the spokesperson of the company contracted for the project, Bukar Tijjani who said that “Wrong survey work was done as the area is full of up and down areas. The Governor had also visited the work site, and we are going to destroy the wrongly constructed areas and do great work. Our local company is equally up to help in whatever way we can.”
*This story was produced under the HumAngle accountability fellowship.
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