Abandoned dam projects

For a nation that desires to make agriculture a cornerstone of its economy, the revelation that about 400 water projects or dams are lying fallow or wrongly sited is a worrisome development.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Water Resources, Sen. Bello Mandiya, made the disclosure on Tuesday while briefing newsmen after the budget defence session it had with the Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu. Adamu lamented that many of the dams had no utilisation downstream.

Sen. Mandiya noted that some dams were sited where they could not be constructed and stressed the need to have them prioritised for completion before the end of this administration so as to achieve the purpose for which they were intended.

A couple of years back, the House of Representatives, disturbed by the quantum of abandoned projects scattered all over the country, decided to institute a probe into a number of abandoned projects valued at N230bn. The figure was arrived at by the Nigerian Society of Builders (NSB).

The decision to institute the probe was sequel to a briefing by the chairman of the ad-hoc committee on the probe, Hon. Ademorin Kuye (APC-Lagos), after the House Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, declared a public hearing on the matter open on Tuesday following a media report.

Kuye also revealed that preliminary findings showed that some of the government’s properties were being used by individuals and corporate bodies, who do so without remitting any revenue to the federal purse.

Citing some of the projects, he noted that the estimated economic loss at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, from 2004 till date, was about N52.6bn, while about N126bn had been lost in rent to the NET buildings from 2006 to date.

The lawmaker also explained that some of the abandoned projects came about as a result of the relocation of the capital city from Lagos to Abuja in 1990, as well as the commercialisation and privatisation exercise during the Obasanjo administration.

However, this is not the first time the House would resolve to carry out similar large scale probes but the efforts were pursued desultorily and later abandoned. The culture of abandoned projects stretches beyond the mandate the House has set for itself. The phenomenon has been identified as the bane of the nation’s infrastructure development. At the root of this malaise is corruption and lack of continuity by successive administrations, both military and civilian.

Painting an ugly scenario in 2018, the Director of Administration of the Chartered Institute of Project Management (CIPM), Mr. David Godswill Okoronkwo, said at the conference of the CIPM held in Abuja that there were approximately 56,000 abandoned government projects littering all over the country.

Okoronkwo gave a zone by zone breakdown of the projects in forlorn state as follows: South-east – 15,000; South-west – 10,000; South-south – 11,000; North-west – 6,000; North-central – 7,000; North-east – 5,000 and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja – 2,000. The total cost of the projects was put at a whopping N12trn which is equivalent to the nation’s budget for one year.

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and the then Deputy National Chairman (North-west) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Lawal Shuaibu, also weighed in at the conference. They both blamed the ugly scenario on lack of planning and corruption by government officials and contractors. They, however, said government officials should take the biggest blame on the failure of most projects littering the country.

Senator Shuaibu, who spoke first, said, “No reason other than corruption. Either the money is stolen or the cost of the project is reviewed upward and left for another year’s budget. And you are not even sure that the National Assembly/State Assembly would approve the review and so, the project is abandoned because some people want to eat from the project.”

Blueprint Weekend cannot but agree that corruption is truly at the root of the deep-seated culture of abandonment of projects. When contracts are awarded, government officials demand unreasonable percentages as their own cuts. When that is done, the contractors do not feel obligated to handle the projects as expected let alone complete them, consequently leading to variation requests. And where such requests are not entertained, the projects are abandoned. Where the projects are not abandoned, they are poorly executed and the purpose defeated in the long run.

Other factors responsible for failed or abandoned projects include the refusal of our political office holders to see governance as a continuous exercise. Most incoming leaders, especially from different political affiliations, are armed with the mindset to start new projects regardless of the importance of the ones they have inherited, the underlining reason being that by awarding fresh contracts, they can make their own huge cuts. There is also the tendency to embark on white elephant projects under which most leaders hide to enrich themselves.

Be that as it may, we strongly recommend severe punishment for contractors who fail to execute contracts awarded to them as well as their collaborators in government to serve as a deterrent to those with such criminal mindset.

In a similar vein, those who indulge in collecting proceeds illegally in respect of government’s properties are also driven by corruption. They too should not be spared.

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