INVESTIGATION: Nigeria’s elusive K38 boats and the stolen billions

It was the vibration of the ringing phone that jolted him from sleep. The room was dark and cozy. The

It was the vibration of the ringing phone that jolted him from sleep.

The room was dark and cozy. The air conditioner hanging on the wall worked silently to keep the room as cold as London where he returned from earlier in the morning.

Outside, the sun was blazing as the power generator churned out alternating currents to keep the air conditioner alive.

“Alhaji, we have a deal!” the voice on the other end of the line said as Rabiu Hassan pressed the phone against his ear.

“I have spoken with the NSA – National Security Adviser – and he has given his approval. Let’s rally and seal the deal as soon as possible,” the caller said before hanging up.

Mr. Hassan, a shrewd defence contractor, was happy to learn the good news. The exhaustion he had sought to relieve with the afternoon nap, in his Abuja home, didn’t seem to matter anymore.

It was Saturday, November 19, 2011 and his life was about to get merrier.

Earlier that morning, both Mr. Hassan and his caller, Salihu Atawodi – chairman of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security – returned to Abuja from London on a British Airways flight.

A few days earlier, Mr. Hassan, chaperoned by business partners, had escorted Mr. Atawodi’s party, which included friends and colleagues, to go inspect brand new military boats that were up for auction at giveaway prices in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The boats, known in the military marine hardware market as K38 Catamaran assault crafts, are exceedingly fast and agile attack military boats renowned for powerful performance on shallow waters.

It can execute extremely sharp turns at high speed and decelerate from top speed to sudden stop within the twinkle of an eye. With its twin water jest and lightweight, it can operate at a speed of 74 km/h in shallow waters, like the creeks of the Niger Delta.

Read prologue to this story.

Part  2: Inside a Multi-Million Dollar ‘Defence Contract Fraud’: Suspects arrested in Israel as Nigeria fails to act

K38 History

In 2008, during the first rise of militancy in the Niger Delta, one of the earliest problems the Nigerian military faced combating the militants was the lack of assault crafts to navigate the shallow waters of the creeks in the region.

In response, the Umaru Yar’Adua-led Nigerian government contracted Amit Sade, an Israeli contractor and CEO of Doiyatech Nigeria Ltd to supply 20 units of K38 combat boats to the Nigerian Army.

Mr. Sade’s Doiyatech does not make boats neither does he own any other military hardware company. But he was the only handpicked bidder for the contract worth N3.12 billion at the time. There was no bidding process as contemplated by Nigeria’s public procurement law. In the contract, each boat was worth N156 million.

He was immediately advanced 80 per cent of the total cost of the 20 boats with a promise that the balance would be paid once supplies are completed.

With a bank account full of money, Mr. Sade left for the Netherlands where he outsourced the contract to TP Marine, a two-man shipyard.

Mr. Sade was a regular customer of TP Marine as well as the Nigerian government. At his prime as an Abuja contractor, he netted six heavyweight military contracts worth N6.721 billion.

He did not deliver on any of them, a report by the presidential panel which recently investigated military procurements in Nigeria revealed.

The contractor had also fronted for TP Marine to land jobs with the Nigerian Navy and the Dutch had no qualms taking on this new project.

A few months later, he returned to Nigeria with eight boats. The Nigerian military received the few he had and never bothered to ask for the outstanding 12. They seemed to have been impressed that he at least partly delivered on the job.

However, in anticipation that Mr. Sade would return to claim the remaining 12 boats for which he placed order, TP Marine continued production.

But the contractor never returned.

 

Four Years Later
Rabiu Hassan, a Nigerian defence contractor.

Four years later, Mr. Hassan, the Abuja-based Nigerian contractor was prospecting for military boats when some other Israeli contractors operating out of the Nigerian capital, linked him to TP Marine.

Hours after the introduction, he had his first meeting with Bjorn Neeven and Roland Kraft, owners of TP Marine in Paddington Hotel, London. That meeting was brokered by the new agents.

The boats were selling for N49 million each – a smaller fraction of the huge and overpriced N156 million for which Mr. Sade sold each boat to the Nigerian military.

TP Marine was, however, not willing to sell to a Nigerian company and they opened up to Mr. Hassan why that was so.

The boats, in the first place, originally belonged to Nigeria courtesy of the 2008 contract with Doiyatech.

TP Marine did not also have the authorization to resell these boats to Nigeria.

They were avoiding legal complications with the European Union and Mr. Sade. But they could not also hold on to the boats any longer as they were accruing demurrage and digging a hole in the company’s finances.

TP Marine offered Mr. Hassan a lifeline. They would sell to him if he could get a non-Nigerian company to buy from TP Marine before reselling to him.

“My brother, that was one of the sweetest deals I ever got in my life,” Mr. Hassan told PREMIUM TIMES. “I immediately grabbed the chance and committed myself.”

Half of the 12 outstanding boats were done, but for armoring. The other half lay in casts.

Excited, both parties entered a deal through the Israeli agents before departing London.

 

The outreach

When Mr. Hassan committed to buying these boats in London, he had no customer waiting to buy from him. He was only confident he would find one.

In Abuja, he was faced with two immediate challenges. First, he needed a non-Nigerian company to pose as the direct buyer from TP Marine. Secondly, he needed someone to buy the boats from him so he can make a huge profit.

To solve his first challenge, Mr. Hassan turned to Mustapha Mohammed, a much younger business associate.

Mr. Mohammed stepped forward with his defunct UK Registered company, Hypertech UK limited.

With his first challenge resolved, Mr. Hassan began marketing his boats.

His first point of call, he said, was Bello Haliru Mohammed, the defence minister at the time.

“I gave him a verbatim account of my London meeting with the owners of TP Marine,” the contractor said.

After describing how notorious Mr. Sade was in the defence contracting industry, the defence minister handed Mr. Hassan a five-page document containing a list of 31 failed defence contracts.

Mr. Sade’s companies – Doiyatech and D.Y.I Global Services Limited – dominated the list of defaulting contractors accused of not delivering for jobs they were paid.

The defence minister sounded helpless and powerless in checking Mr. Sade’s alleged antics, Mr. Hassan recalled.

When contacted, the minister, now facing trial for allegedly stealing public funds ahead of the 2015 general elections, texted a PREMIUM TIMES reporter saying he could not remember the meeting.

He could also not remember the five-paged document despite the fact that the defence ministry, in that same document and during his leadership, described the K38 military boat contract as having been “stepped down”.

When confronted with the documents, he dismissed them as Tenders Board document.

“Ministers were not members of the board during my time,” he said.

At about the same time that the minister had that initial conversation with Mr. Hassan, the defence ministry also received a letter from TP Marine intimating it of the 12 boats abandoned in the Netherlands by Mr. Sade.

Neither the defence minister nor the ministry acted to recover either the boats or monies paid out to Mr. Sade.

Mr. Hassan capitalised on the ineptitude and financial recklessness of officials at the defence ministry. He continued marketing the boats around government security agencies in Abuja.

Soon, he landed a bright green prospect in PICOMSS.

 

PICOMSS enters the fray
Salihu Atawodi offered to buy the K38 rather than use his position to pursue justice for Nigeria.

In response to rising banditry by sea pirates in the Gulf of Guinea and intense pressure by the International Maritime Organization on him to act decisively, former President Olusegun Obasanjo established the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety (PICOMSS) on July 1, 2004.

The idea was a short-term solution to sustain economically beneficial maritime activities in the gulf as security agencies charged with securing the waterways kept failing in their responsibilities.

Somehow, what was conceived as an ad hoc committee remained alive almost a decade later.

Its loosely defined job description meant that it almost often strayed into the responsibilities of the over a dozen other government agencies securing the maritime sector.

In 2012, facing stiff opposition from some maritime security agencies in the country, its chairman, Mr. Atawodi, launched an aggressive push to make PICOMSS a permanent government agency backed by law.

At the time Mr. Hassan marketed the boats to him, the PICOMSS boss was lobbying members of the National Assembly to pass a law making the agency a standing government parastatal.

Acquiring these boats fitted into his grand plan to establish authority in the sector and win over more undecided lawmakers, Mr. Hassan quoted Mr. Atawodi as telling him at the time.

He was eager to buy them. All six.

In his private office in Abuja, he had made 2D models of the boats with PICOMSS boldly printed on its shells.

Mr. Atawodi was neither interested in calling out Mr. Sade for disappearing with the initial contract funds nor fascinated about making any move to recover the boats already paid for.

In fact, he told PREMIUM TIMES the boats “technically” didn’t belong to Nigeria, after arguing he was initially ignorant of the boats’ history.

Months after learning about the boats, he assembled a team and they flew to the Netherlands, via London, to inspect them. On November 18, 2011, TP Marine gave the delegation a two-hour on-sea performance tour with the boats.

On the spot, they decided to buy. A sales contract was drafted immediately but there was a little problem.

 

How Much Will You Buy?
Defence chiefs routinely inflate security contracts with the intention of stealing the excess.

As customary with procurements within the Nigerian security industry, the cost is neither driven by economics or any known pricing mechanism. It is rather driven by how much the buyer – the government guy – is willing to pay without hurting the profit margin of the contractor. A consideration will also be made for the different levels of bribes to be paid to facilitators.

TP Marine offered the boats to Mr. Hassan at N49million each – at the prevailing Naira/Euro exchange rate in 2012.

The total cost for the six boats came to N294million.

With armoring upgrades, logistic and profits, Mr. Hassan said he initially set the total price at approximately N600million.

In the contract drafted in Amsterdam on the day of the inspection, the Atawodi team excessively inflated the contract to approximately N3.1 billion.

PICOMSS had limited funding. Mr. Atawodi was, therefore, unable to funnel the entire N3.1 billion from PICOMSS. He needed to draw from a special funding pipeline he had with the then National Security Adviser, Andrew Azazi.

The call to Mr. Hassan after the team’s arrival from the inspection trip was to inform him the NSA has been co-opted into the deal.

In an interview with this newspaper, Mr. Hassan blamed Mr. Atawodi for this astronomical contract inflation which would have seen collaborators sharing over N2.5billion

“There was nothing to hide,” he said. “I was supposed to deduct my own and give them the rest. With the National Security Adviser involved, I was fine with it. He is after all the chief accounting officer of Nigeria’s national security. If wants to buy it for (Euros)100 billion, who am I to say no?”

Mr. Atawodi did not deny inflating the contract but he claimed the excess N2.5 billion was for amouring of the boats.

“These things are expensive, you know,” the former PICOMSS boss said.

He also argued that he believed the boats were selling at non-auction retail prices.

 

The Looting Regime

Ten days after the inspection trip, even before his team submitted a report of the trip, Mr. Atawodi credited Mr. Hassan’s newly established Eco Bank account with N620.918 million from PICOMSS’ commercial bank account.

The payment was not immediately invoiced or documented in any other form. It had no logical correlation with the N2.5billion he and his collaborators planned to pocket. It was also higher than the original N600billion Mr. Hassan demanded.

Mr. Hassan said Mr. Atawodi followed up the curious fund transfer to him with a telephone call requesting him to hurriedly convert the money to United States dollars and hand over to the PICOMSS chairman that same day.

He claims he complied and delivered the first tranche to Mr. Atawodi in a Ghana-Must-Go bag. Meeting point that night was IBB Golf Club at the upscale Asokoro District of Abuja.

Mr. Atawodi denied this narrative, saying it never happened.

In 2015, the EFCC charged both men to an Abuja court for defrauding Nigeria of the same N620 million.

In court, Mr. Atawodi claimed the transfer was an upfront payment for the boats. Mid 2017, another Abuja court acquitted him.

Mr. Hassan’s bank statement, however, showed clearly that the controversial fund transfer happened between the two men.

 

A Conman’s Death

In the Nigerian defence contracting industry, double-dealing is perhaps the only commodity that can be considered more abundant than public monies to steal, insiders say.

After that first payment, Mr. Atawodi wrote a memo to the National Security Adviser, Mr. Azazi, requesting the release of N3.1 billion for the purchase of the boats.

The National Security Adviser unexpectedly foot-dragged. At the time, he favoured giving more maritime security control to an ex-militant warlord, Tompolo. In fact, the NSA had prepared a memo to the president demanding the scrapping of PICOMSS.

But the defining moment for this contract came after Mr. Hassan had a meeting with the NSA to market the boats.

It turned out that the PICOMSS chairman was trying to outsmart the NSA.

“The National Security Adviser was told a completely different thing and was never a party to fixing that amount,” Mr. Hassan told PREMIUM TIMES.

The steps taken by the NSA after learning of the price variation are what defines government contracting in Nigeria.

Read that in part four of this series…

SPECIAL REPORT: Women in Abuja communities abandon clinics, rely on traditional birth attendants for delivery

Asabe Joshua resides in Igu, a suburb of Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. Located about 15 kilometres from Bwari town

Asabe Joshua resides in Igu, a suburb of Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. Located about 15 kilometres from Bwari town of Bwari Local Government Area, the community is as rural as you are likely to find in many other parts of Africa’s largest economy.

A public primary health care centre is located in the village but it could just as well not have been there.

“I delivered my children through Mama (a traditional birth attendant (TBA),” Mrs Joshua, a mother of two, told this reporter.

“She does it better than the nurses in the (community’s) clinic and she is always available whenever we need her.”

It took the reporter a rough ride on a bike that set her teeth on edge to get to Igu. Along the dusty road connecting this rustic side to the glittering main city of Abuja are villages with names like Baragoni, Zuma, Gaba and Danko.

The commercial motorcycle bounced over bumps as the rider swerved from one side to the other, acrobatically avoiding the many ditches on the road. Residents who ply the road daily have accepted the rough ride on bikes as their fate. The earthen road has remained the same for over 10 years, apart from somehow managing to get worse every rain season.

An old wrapper tied around her chest under a blouse that was probably once white, 23-year old Mrs Joshua recollected how the health workers at the primary health centre in the community drove her into the welcoming arms of Mama the TBA.

“Before I had my first child, I attended antenatal on a regular basis. Sometimes, when I and other pregnant women get to the health clinic, it’s either the nurses are not on duty or they would ask us to come back the next day.

“When I began to have labour pains at about 5 p.m., my husband and neighbour went to the clinic to call the nurse. The one on duty told them to go back home and she would prepare to join us soon.

“After about 30 minutes, my husband went back to call her only to meet the clinic locked. My neighbour then called Mama, the traditional birth attendant who she said took delivery of her four children. After the delivery, I gave Mama N1,000 and she was happy,” Mrs Joshua narrated.

A TBA is a person who assists women at childbirth. She acquired her skills mostly by working with other birth attendants. They are usually old and experienced women who see their assignment primarily as helping their community with their skills.

WHY TURN TO TBAs

Women in parts of Nigeria, especially in rural communities, prefer being delivered of babies at home by a TBA than at a health clinic. The usual complaints are about the long walk to the clinic or the fees they charge. Some women think health workers are aggressive and so prefer the soft touches of the TBA who lives with them in the community.

Many health centres lack adequate medical facilities to take care of women during and after childbirth anyway, so many women do not see the sense in taking the long trip to such facilities.

Binta Nuhu is the Mama or TBA at Igu that Mrs Joshua spoke glowingly about. The reporter met her by the roadside sitting near a pile of greasy bottles and containers from which her daughter was selling engine oil. After the introduction, Mama excitedly dragged a plastic chair for the reporter to sit on beside her.

Mrs Nuhu said she is 55 years old and had been a TBA for over 25 years. She has seven children of her own, six of whom she proudly disclosed are adults blessed with children of their own.

Speaking in Hausa, Mama told PREMIUM TIMES about her experience and the challenges of being a TBA in Igu.

“I had a seven-month training at Rural Health Centre, Kafi Koro in Niger State. That was where I learnt how to take deliveries of children. I have taken deliveries of over 400 children and most of them are already married and have their own children,” Mrs. Nuhu said as she gleefully reeled out her professional profile.

“I used to collect N1,000 per delivery. But because of how difficult and expensive things are in the country now, I take N2,000 and sometimes N1,500. Whether they are twins or just one baby, I charge the same amount.

“Apart from farming, it is what I do for a living. I was also selling drugs but I stopped that last year because people always don’t pay for the drugs.

“I give injections and also treat malaria and Typhoid. When a patient comes to me, from the look on their face, I know the illness the person has so I collect money from them and go to a chemist to buy drugs and injections, if needed,” she said.

“When there are complications that I cannot handle, I refer the patient to the health clinic. But most times, the health workers are not available so we look for a vehicle or a bike to take the patient to the general hospital in Bwari.

“No woman has died under my care because I take action fast. Once I see that the woman is not responding well, I quickly call her relatives to rush her to the general hospital,” Mama said.

Hannatu Sunday was delivered of two of her children by Mama. Speaking in Pidgin English, she said she relied on Mama’s service because nurses at the health centre do not treat patients well “and they collect too much money.”

Hannatu Busala, a Traditional Birth Attendant at Shere Koro community

“Even during antenatal, they treat us harshly. Also, the delivery fee is N5,000, compared to the N1,500 we pay Mama.”

Mrs Sunday said she was delivered of only the first of her three children at the health centre in Igu.

“My church member introduced me to Mama. I had my second and last baby through Mama. She comes to the house to take deliveries, you don’t have to go to her place.

“I didn’t have any complications after delivery. My baby and I were okay. After delivery, we took the child to the clinic to weigh him and also for immunization. That is the only thing the PHC does for us,” she said.

Mama also took delivery of many of her grandchildren.

Joyce Zaka is Mama’s third child. Mama took delivery of her four children, she told the reporter.

“The PHC is not functional and there is no vehicle to take us to town. Another good thing is that Mama comes to your house to take the delivery. Just call her and she will come immediately. She is my mother, so I didn’t pay but she collects between N1,500 and N2,000 from other women.

“After delivery, we take the child to the health clinic for weighing. And we also take the child for immunisation at the recommended time,” Mrs Zaka said.

A visit to Igu PHC shows why the women who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES would rather be delivered of their babies by the TBA.

The centre was opened but empty when the reporter arrived. After about 30 minutes, Eunice Gagare, a woman in her late 30s, entered.

Mrs Gagare is a nurse at the clinic. She explained she was away at the next community to deliver a message.

She said most residents of Igu prefer the general hospitals in town.

“The women attend antenatal here but when it is time for delivery, we don’t see them. We will only hear that they have delivered or see them with babies. Sometimes when they have complications from the TBA, they rush them to the clinic but since we do not have equipment here to handle complications, we refer them to the hospital in Bwari town,” she said

On why the facility was closed when it should be attending to patients, Mrs. Gagare said: “There is no light in this community. So around 5pm, we close for the day because even if we stay till night, there is no light to work with.

“We only use our torch lights sometimes, when they call us for emergencies. But right now, our torch lights and phone lights are dead, until we see someone going to town to charge and bring them back the next day.”

LIKE IGU, LIKE SHERE KORO

This reporter next visited Shere Koro, near Igu where some residents also said they prefer TBAs to the community’s health facility because the TBAs’ services are cheaper and better.

Evelyn Mba, a mother of two, said she was charged N500 by the TBA who took delivery of her kids.

“She is very nice and friendly. She treats us like her daughters and tells us to pay whenever we have the money. But when you visit the health centre, you must pay immediately and it is N5,000. It is too much, most of us do not have such amount,” she said.

Another resident, Hannah Lazarus, said the distance of the PHC in Shere Koro was not a problem. “But people prefer the TBA because she sometimes take deliveries free of charge.

“If you tell her you do not have money, she will tell you to leave it. So sometimes after delivery, we give her foodstuff in appreciation,” she said.

The officer in charge of the PHC, Christiana Kagbu, however, said the women were not cooperating with health workers and do not appreciate their presence in the community.

“During antenatal, we advise them to come to the clinic when it is time for delivery but they never listen. They prefer the TBA to attend to them, but when complications arise they bring them to the centre. This makes our work really difficult because we don’t know what the TBA had touched or cut,” Mrs. Kagbu said.

“When we cannot handle a case we just refer it to the general hospital in town and it is far. We do not have ambulance, so the patients get people that have vehicles to take them to the hospital,” she said.

The TBA in Shere Koro was out of town at the times PREMIUM TIMES visited.

GOVERNMENT STREAMLINING TBAs

The Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said the government appreciates the place of TBAs in primary health care but is taking steps to streamline their services under the Community Health Influencers, Promoters and Services (CHIPS) programme recently launched by government.

According to Mr Shuaib, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, part of the initiatives of the CHIPS scheme is to identify TBAs and empower them to handle deliveries without complications.

He said the CHIPs are different from the traditional birth attendants, “who are typically not educated.”

“When a TBA takes births, they sometimes lead to complications such as death of the mother or child. The reason is because, they do not have the right skill.

“Now we want to be more rigorous in their selection. Now we want to set a bar below which we will not accept for Nigerians.”

“The CHIPS are community-based individuals who have been selected in collaboration with traditional leaders, religious leaders, opinion leaders, youth and community based organisations.

“Once that person has been identified and selected by the community members, they are trained over the course of three to six months. Not only in classroom-based training, but also practical field experience. These individuals will be responsible for basic interventions in the community.

“We are harmonising all those different interventions that are community-based and calling them CHIPS agents,” he said.

A public health practitioner, Qua’alar Katty, warned that women who patronise TBAs face a higher risk of having complications during delivery.

She said most complications in such situations lead to both child and maternal death.

“TBAs use tools that are not properly sterilized, which in turn causes infections that may lead to infertility,” she said

Ms Katty urged pregnant women especially those in the rural areas to always visit health facilities, because doing so benefits mother and child.

INVESTIGATION: Nigeria’s health centres still dysfunctional a year after govt began reconstruction

Primary health care system in Nigeria is dogged by multiple challenges despite billions of naira spent over the decades on

Primary health care system in Nigeria is dogged by multiple challenges despite billions of naira spent over the decades on health facilities by government at different levels.

Less than 20 percent of the 30,000 public PHCs in the country is fully functional, a recent survey by a nongovernmental body, CISLAC, said.

Going by the blueprint of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), a PHC should have one or more doctors, a pharmacist, a staff nurse and other paramedical support staff to provide outreach services.

It should also have a well-equipped open ward, labour room, children and female wards, doctor’s office and staff quarters, an ambulance for referrals and drugs and equipment for immunisation, preventive and basic curative care. The centre is also to provide monitoring and evaluation, as well as maternal and child health services.

More Promises, Less Action

The challenges PHCs across the country are facing prompted the Nigerian Senate in February to call on the federal government to put primary health care facilities across the country in good shape. The Senate asked its appropriation committee to ensure that funds were set aside to make the PHCs functional.

However, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES on January 31, stressed that provision of healthcare in Nigeria is a concurrent responsibility of the three tiers of government. Mr. Adewole appealed to the National Assembly to stop creating new PHCs so that existing ones can be put in good shape.

“We are also appealing to the National Assembly not to create more PHCs because having a building is not synonymous to a health centre. A building without human resources, equipment and drugs is not a health facility. Everybody wants to build a PHC in his village, but who will run it? So we are begging them to stop creating,” he said.

In January 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari flagged off a scheme to revitalise PHCs across the country to enhance the access of Nigerians to qualitative and affordable health services.

Under the revitalisation plan, the government through the NPHCDA and the Federal Ministry of Health wants to make at least one PHC fully functional in each of the wards across the country. In the first phase of the plan, the government selected a PHC in each of the 109 senatorial districts. State and local governments as well as development partners are expected to compleament this gesture by also selecting some PHCs for revitalisation.

In all, the government hopes to revitalise 10,000 PHCs.

“It’s not FG that is revitalizing, what we said is that we want to see 10,000 PHCs revitalized in Nigeria because if 10,000 is done, it will cover about 100 million people.

“We only did this to stimulate the governors and many of them have taken it up. At the last count, Niger has done 40. We did three in Niger and we call them model PHCs. President Buhari commissioned one in Kuchingoro. In Kaduna the governor has done 255. I’ve commissioned in Kebbi, Abia and other states. What we are asking the governors to do is to invest and partner with us.

“I can also tell you as of today, the World Bank has done about 1500 PHCs. The EU is committed to 774. The British government is doing 950. FG is committed to 110 last year. This year we will do more. So, over all, we are adding them together and we will now ask the states ‘how many they’ve done, where are they located?’ We are also doing an inventory of the PHCs done by ALGON.”

In December last year, the federal government initiated a N28 billion health fund that targets the revitalisation of at least one PHC in each of the country’s 774 local government areas.

Mr. Adewole, who inaugurated the special intervention, said it would be formally rolled out in 2018.

Dysfunctional state of Nigerian health care centre’s.

While the government shuffles plans, shortage of primary healthcare services continues to force women in Nigeria to patronise untrained traditional birth attendants, despite the serious risks involved.

According to a survey conducted by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), in Nigeria one in 13 women dies during pregnancy or childbirth.

Although many of these deaths are preventable, the coverage and quality of health care services in Nigeria continue to fail women and children. At present, less than 20 per cent of health facilities offer emergency obstetric care and only 35 per cent of deliveries are attended by skilled birth attendants.

American businessman and co-founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, at the expanded National Economic Council meeting held at the Presidential Villa, Thursday described Nigeria’s Primary Health Care system as ‘broken’ 40 years after the first attempt by the government to make it functional.

“The evidence for this can be found in the epidemic of chronic malnutrition or stunting,” Mr Gates said.

While noting that a strong primary care system takes care of 90 percent of people’s needs, he lamented that Nigeria is the most dangerous country for child delivery.

Dysfunctional state of Nigerian health care centre’s.

PREMIUM TIMES exclusively obtained the list of the 109 PHCs the government said it was rebuilding.

Earlier, the newspaper sent reporters to visit PHCs randomly selected — at least one PHC in each of the six geopolitical zones. The reporters found almost all the PHCs they visited in a terrible state, unless the handful revamped by donor organisations and some state governments.

North East: Borno State

Gamboru Health Centre is located in Limanti area of Maiduguri in Borno central senatorial district. Inscribed on some of the furniture is Borno State PHCDA.

The medical personnel would not speak on record because they were not authorised to speak. But they told PREMIUM TIMES that the facility was recently renovated by UNICEF. A plaque showed that the organisation undertook the project.

“We know the organisation carried out many renovation last year”, said one of the senior nurses.

The state executive secretary of the state PHCDA, Suleiman Melee, said the federal government was yet to start work on any of the three PHCs it selected in the state.

“Of course there are minor repairs in some places but they were done by the state government or development partners. As at today, none of the three selected PHCs (by the FG) has been renovated,” Mr. Melee said.

North Central: Nassarawa State

Agwatashi PHC in Obi local government in Nasarawa South senatorial district is one of the three centres in the state earmarked for revamping by the federal government.

A tour round the facility showed that it is functioning and well-equipped. It boasts of equipment such as a cold room, staff quarters and a well-stocked drug store. The situation of this centre is way different from those at other centres visited, indicating the world of difference a speedy and faithful implementation of the rehabilitation scheme can make to primary health care delivery in Nigeria.

“The facility does not lack basic amenities, it is fully-equipped because this facility is supported by the Decentralised Facility Financing (DFF). Most of the funding sent to this facility is by the DFF and we make judicious use of it, as you can see”, the officer in charge, Ayuba Adole, said.

Dysfunctional state of Nigerian health care centre’s.

There is a functional borehole supplying water round the clock and a generator to supply electricity mostly at night whenever the inverter is out of service.

There were two security men, six medical staff, six voluntary staff and one NYSC member. Mr. Adole, however, said lack of trained medical personnel and ambulance for transportation of transferred patients were major challenges of the centre.

South East: Ebonyi State

The PHC in Ngbo is one of the three selected for renovation by the federal government in Ebonyi State. Ngbo is a village in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of the state.

A staff of the centre who refused to give her name for fear of victimisation said a Federal Government official visited the hospital last year and collected a list of what needed to be done at the hospital.

“I was surprised when a few months later a contractor showed up and repainted the building and changed a few wooden doors to iron doors. He also built a generator house and left. That was all they did. No supply of drugs or any equipment. They even did a poor painting job,” the staff said.

The hospital, the staff said, has a functional solar electricity system and also a generator, courtesy of the state government.

Our reporter who visited the hospital saw signposts of various renovation jobs done in the past by the federal government through the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P). These include renovation of the hospital, construction of a motorised borehole and a staff quarters. The staff confirmed that some of those works were actually done by SURE-P.

South West: Ondo State

The PHC system in Ondo State is yet to feel the impact of the revitalisation scheme, as the centres are facing huge funding and facility challenges, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

The PHC visited is located in Ijare, Ifedore Local Government Area in the central senatorial district of the state. It is listed as one of the PHCs selected by the Federal Government but the revitalization plan is yet to be carried out.

A building meant to boost the capacity of the centre to accommodate more patients was abandoned due to lack of funding. The facility is understaffed and lacks basic materials required to care for patients. The facility also lacks adequate manpower, it has no resident or visiting medical doctor.

Dysfunctional state of Nigerian health care centre’s.

The clinic runs on the Performance Based Funding (PBF) system but hardly has enough fund to buy even reagents for its laboratory or drugs for its pharmacy. It was gathered that the centre is giving about N600,000 a quarter by the state government to pay its ad hoc staff and for running costs. Due to insufficiency of fund, the ad hoc staff had not been unpaid for two months when PREMIUM TIMES visited.

One of the staff who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES off record, as they were not authorised to speak to journalists, said the last time the centre was renovated was in 2009 by the government of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko. PREMIUM TIMES also learnt that during the administration, women were delivered of babies at the centre free of charge and sometimes got gifts.

But at the moment, they are charged a token for delivery materials the hospital could not provide.

“We cannot send away patients because we do not have the materials to use. We have to do the little we can, just to ensure they are taken care of,” one of the staff said.

The Executive Secretary of the state Primary Health Care Board, Akanbiemu, told PREMIUM TIMES that PHCs in the state were funded by the state government in collaboration with the World Bank.

“I am aware that the Federal Government is proposing an intervention in the states, but we are still waiting for that. We know it is coming but we are yet to have it in place,” he said.

North West: Kano State

The PHC in Shuwaki is one of the three selected for renovation by the federal government in Kano State. Shuwaki is a village in Kunchi Local Government Area of the state.

As the reporter approached the facility, it became clear that it was still awaiting any kind of makeover. A part of the main gate was falling apart, grass covered the entrance to the main building and the paints were peeling off the walls. The dilapidated PHC was built about 18 years ago and is the only health facility in the community. But it has been provided no equipment or personnel to play the role for which it was built.

“We do not have a doctor or nurse,” the officer in charge of the centre, Ado Mohammed, told PREMIUM TIMES.

According to Mr. Mohammed, the workforce consisted of five Community Health Extension Workers (CHEW), one Junior CHEW and a lab technician.

Mr. Mohammed said lack of water supply was one of the big problems. “We buy water from our own pockets,” he said.

Power supply is epileptic and the centre has no generator or inverter. The centre also has no ambulance.

Aisha Sani, a laboratory technician has been at the centre for over five years. “Since I have been working in this facility, no renovation has been done. The way I met this place, that is the way it is. No water, the toilet is very bad and no resources at all for a standard health centre.”

Dysfunctional state of Nigerian health care centre’s.

Mrs. Sani said she stopped running HIV tests at the facility when the authorities stopped providing test kits.

NPHCDA Responds

When PREMIUM TIMES put its findings to the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, he explained that the revitalisation scheme will be implemented over the course of several years.

“All of that is happening. Maybe some of the health facilities that you have gone to have not been handed over to the communities because we do not even have the human resources.

Dysfunctional state of Nigerian health care centre’s.

Dysfunctional state of Nigerian health care centre’s.

Dysfunctional state of Nigerian health care centre’s.

Dysfunctional state of Nigerian health care centre’s.

Dysfunctional state of Nigerian health care centre’s.

“We have started the process of mobilising about 1,600 basic midwives who will be deployed to help manage some of the health facilities. We are looking at also getting funds from the Basic Health Care Provision Funds which hopefully will provide the resources to equip and provide commodities for some of these health facilities,” he said.

Mr. Faisal said it will be a misunderstanding of the plan of government to say just 109 centres would be revitalised.

SPECIAL REPORT: Four years after award of contract, Osogbo-Gbongan road remains a death-trap

Ever since he became a bus driver at Wema 448 Motor Park, Ibadan in 2002, Sunday Oke, 67, has literarily

Ever since he became a bus driver at Wema 448 Motor Park, Ibadan in 2002, Sunday Oke, 67, has literarily been living from hand to mouth with his wife, a local trader, and three children.

However, things got worse in 2013 for the Ibadan indigene, who plies the Osogbo-Ibadan route, due to the never-ending construction work going on in the Osogbo-Gbongan axis of the road.

”My expenses on the vehicle is far beyond the money I realise,” Mr. Oke said almost moved to tears.

“I spend a minimum of N20,000 on this vehicle monthly. The steering control unit that could last for one or more years if the road is in good condition, now takes just a month to repair. The hardship is so tough that the microfinance institution has become my saving grace for countless times. I lend money for repairs and maintenance from ‘SEAP.’ I usually reimburse every other month after borrowing.”

Mr Oke’s experience captures the major challenges bus drivers and private car owners have to contend with since the Osun State Government commenced work on the Akoda-Gbongan axis of the Osogbo-Ibadan road in 2013.

When the Osun State Government kicked off the construction of the 30km Gbongan-Akoda road, named Omoluabi Motorway, and the Adebisi Akande Trumpet Interchange Bridge in Gbongan, Ayedaade Local Government Area in June, 2013, motorists and residents alike jubilated on the prospect of safe travel on the road that leads the state capital to the expressway that links Ibadan, the largest city in West Africa.

The 30km road project, which includes construction of a dual carriageway and bridge was awarded to RATCON Construction Company Ltd at N29.3 billion. It was proposed to be completed within 18 months. It is now over 50 months.

The project tagged, ‘road revolution’ by the state government was borne out of the need to transform Gbongan/Akoda city from the neglect experienced under the past administration of Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola to an economic beehive, Governor Rauf Aregbesola said.

Gbongan – Osogbo route under construction

”Bad roads regrettably are responsible for many road accidents that claim lives and leave hitherto able-bodied individuals permanently incapacitated, an avoidable depletion of our valuable human resources. Bad roads also have health cost, besides the possibility of road accidents. People are loath to travel on bad roads because of the possible challenge to their health after the trip.

”Good roads, on the other hand, will enhance economic and social activities, bring down the cost of goods and services and reduce the wear and tear on vehicles,” Mr Aregbesola said while flagging off the road project in June, 2013.

According to information on the official website of Osun State Government: www.osun.gov.ng, the road is intended to have four pedestrian bridges, street lights, two layers of asphaltic surface with 60mm and 40mm thickness, reinforced concrete side drain, culverts and ditches, reinforced retaining wall, earthwork landscaping and road marking and signs.

However, contrary to this vision, the road is laced with ditches, huge potholes, failing drainages and bare ground in most parts, thereby making life unbearable for commuters.

But why has the Gbongan-Akoda road construction been delayed since the award of contract? PREMIUM TIMES sought answers.

WE SUFFER ON THIS ROAD – DRIVERS

Commercial bus drivers at the Gbagi motor park, Ibadan, have deserted the road due to the high rate of car maintenance fees incurred by them.

One of the drivers, who spoke with this reporter said that the Gbongan-Akoda way has been degraded to a ‘road less taken’ as many drivers prefer to abandon their vehicles rather than travel.

Ongoing construction at the Gbongan Trumpet Bridge

“Why would we ply the road only to return and make a cheap money-venture for mechanics on expenses such as shock absorber, spring board, steering control unit, brake shoes among others?” he queried.

”Only motor park buses available for regular drivers and who have no choice ply the road since the maintenance cost isn’t on the driver himself. We haven’t scrapped out the route on our travel map because of the consideration to meet the needs of some passengers,” he added.

Omolewa Sikiru, a driver at the Olaiya /Aregbesola Motor Park in Osogbo said that despite the increased cost of vehicle maintenance, the transport fare has remained the same due to the country’s economic situation.

“The pain we bear is excruciating and personal. For over four years now, the transport fare is still fixed at same cost. We can’t place a stiff-necked cost on passengers because of recession in the country but I, for one, run a mechanical check-up on my vehicle at least two times weekly.

“Honestly, I cannot accurately calculate my cost on weekly basis but a close example is one of my colleagues who just spent N40, 000 on the accumulated faults on his vehicle. This is how expensive it is to repair our buses. It’s so harsh but I have to do it because I can’t watch my family starve,” Mr Omolewa lamented.

For Musa, a commercial driver at the Wema 448 Motor Park, Ibadan, the project was more attention-seeking and with political undertone.

”I have been plying this road for the past 20 years and I can say that the road has never been as bad as it is in the last four years. The intention to dualise Gbongan -Akoda wouldn’t have been perceived to be such laced with selfish political interest such as campaign to harvest votes, if it had been completed as at when due.

”Now, the work has not even reached half. It harbours risks for the users. For the record, two of our road users from another garage have had fatal accidents on this road. I spend a minimum of four thousand naira on my vehicle every time I visit my mechanic, all of these defied the intention behind this huge project.”

He said the Osun State Government shouldn’t have initiated the project when it wasn’t buoyant enough to complete within stipulated time.

HOW WE MANAGE TO DRIVE ON THE ROAD – NURTW

Investigation by this reporter revealed that the government financed the project with an initial mobilisation fee of 15 per cent payment in 2013. Evidently, a component of the project, the Trumpet Bridge, is near its completion.

But the dualisation is yet to fully commence as the path for dualisation has only just been channeled at the Morakinyo route to RATCON yard, with works undertaken by compactors and bulldozers.

An officer of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, at Wema 448 zone, Adeagbo Segun, reveals how members of the union have been managing to travel on the road.

Gbongan – Ife axis, right under the Trumpet Bridge

Mr Segun said that while they travel on an average of 80 kilometres speed because the road is bad, negligent drivers of private cars, who rarely travel along the route ram into them in their bid to avoid potholes, thereby making accidents inevitable.

“There are measures in place to control the speed of our workers on the road. If any of our drivers is reported by his co-driver on the highway or affected passenger to have oversped, we either warn such driver if it is his first-time or seize his vehicle for certain days and weeks,” he said.

LACK OF FUNDS DELAYING US – ENGINEER

A site engineer of RATCON at the Gbongan road, Patrick Ijalaye, told this reporter that the delay should not be blamed on the contractor.

“There are only two factors that cause delay in road construction, either flood as a result of heavy rainfall in its season and unavailability of funds to run project. In this case, it’s the latter,” he said.

“It’s not our fault that work is dragging and halted sometimes. We temporarily put work on hold after expending the fund remitted to us. When there’s enough money to work, we will only have little or none to urgently deal with other contingencies.”

He hinted that the road construction will take at least a year more to complete.

On whether he could provide paperwork for the past payments made by the Osun government, Mr Ijalaye said only the State’s Ministry of Works and Transportation was in capacity to divulge such information

Meanwhile, another top official of RATCON disclosed that fund wasn’t the only factor responsible for delay on the construction.

He explained that the former contractor in charge, Dany Boumikhael, a Lebanese, died early into the project.

“Most of us working on the project now weren’t part of the team that started the work in 2013,” he said. “As a matter of fact, the first contractor died before coming back from Christmas break. Since then, staff management and work supervision have not been stabilised because it even took three months before another contractor could be transferred for the Gbongan project.

STATE GOVERNMENT KEEPS MUM

All efforts at getting the reaction of the state government on the current status of the project was frustrated.

A working compactor en route Gbongan junction from RATCON yard

At midday, November 9, 2017, our correspondent reached the office of the Permanent Secretary of Osun State Ministry of Works and Transportation, Nurudeen Adeagbo, after being scheduled for an appointment.

After the reporter waited for over an hour, the official declined granting the interview.

The same evasive attitude was put up by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Information and Strategy, Semiu Okanlawon, who after initially agreeing to speak denied the reporter an interview.

Meanwhile, the state Ministry of Works and Transport did not respond to a Freedom of Information request on details of the project.

Mr Adeagbo told a PREMIUM TIMES journalist in a meeting he insisted must hold before replying to the FOI request that he will only release the information if the journalist ‘liaises’ with the Ministry of Information.

When reminded about the provision of the FOI act and that the request had been submitted since January 2018, Mr. Adeagbo insisted on his stance.

He also declined to facilitate the ‘liaise’ with the information ministry and failed to explain how this journalist would go about it.

DRIVERS CRY FOR HELP

With Mr Aregbesola’s tenure as governor coming to an end in November, motorists fear the road will be left in its terrible state till a new administration comes in.

“In reality, Governor Aregbesola’s government cannot complete this project again,” Mr Oke, the bus driver, said.

Also, Muyideeen Olaoye from Segelu motor park expressed doubt on the completion, saying it will only be good if the incumbent government can, ”sincerely ensure proper handing-over” to its successor.

”I am only hoping that the next government in Osun State will take this project as priority as soon as soon as its gets inaugurated because as it is, the current Osun Government will not finish that road,” he said.

SPECIAL REPORT: Why Nigeria, Cameroon must collaborate on wildlife protection

The proximity of Cameroon’s Korup National Park to Nigeria’s Cross River National Park is one example of how contiguous protected

The proximity of Cameroon’s Korup National Park to Nigeria’s Cross River National Park is one example of how contiguous protected areas facilitate cross-border poaching of wildlife. Conservationists have long discovered that parts of the bush meat sold in South-eastern Nigeria is sourced from Cameroon and now advocate that both countries need to further collaborate to stem the loss of endangered species in their border regions.

Kolawole Talabi

Ayamba Ntui hails from a small village called Nsan in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River. Cross River is Nigeria’s South-easternmost state and is home to the Cross River National Park ― the country’s only national park that consists of two discontinuous habitats: the Okwangwo and the Oban Divisions.

The park occupies 4,000 square kilometres, one of the largest in the country. Mr Ntui hunts for a living here, and among his favourite game are porcupines, red deers, monkeys and antelopes. He doesn’t belong to any hunting club or shooting guild, but he contributes, on an irregular basis, to a cooperative society of local hunters in his community. Yet the few hundred naira he contributes is barely enough to support the administrative efforts of his self-help group.

“Sometimes, when we enter the forests and return,” Mr Ntui said, trudging a beaten path in the forest “then we sell the [bush] meat and make some contributions.”

Hunting is an ancient activity with cultural and commercial values in Africa but the creation of national parks to protect the continent’s dwindling wildlife puts the practice in conflict with conservation objectives.

In a country, such as Nigeria, lacking centralised social security, the hunters’ cooperative Mr Ntui belongs to is a kind of informal safety net for life’s emergencies. As a matter of fact, Mr Ntui doesn’t own a mobile telephone, one of the ubiquitous essentials that most middle-class Nigerians take for granted. He simply cannot afford one. Apart from his old rifle, the only protective gear he owns is a green Khaki overall and his resplendent ethnic headwear. Despite the hardship he faces, he is resolute in his decision to fend for his family by hunting in the forests that straddle his ancestral home.

Mr Ntui is certainly not alone. Poor hunters in Cross River State number in their thousands.

But his source of livelihood presents a challenge to the environment ― loss of biodiversity. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) estimates that there are less than a few hundred lions in Nigeria. Yet such dismal figures have not stopped hunters and poachers from killing these endangered animals. In early March, a hunter paraded the carcass of a forest elephant he had killed in the Idanre Forest Reserve, about 600 kilometres west of Cross River in Ondo State. The native hunter, Ojo Adaralode, is reported to have acted to protect the property and farmlands of his community from the incursions of the elephants. Tunde Morakinyo, an environmentalist, defends the hunter in a tweet, stating that hunting is not illegal in forest reserves.

Forest reserves are not wildlife sanctuaries unlike national parks. Hence different conservation regimes are applicable to these protected areas according to Nigerian law.

In a 2009 survey of traded bush meat in eight transboundary areas, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) revealed porcupines as the most commonly sold animal. The research focused mainly on communities bordering the Cross River National Park and Korup National Park. It established that out of 2,961 carcasses found in the markets, 845 (making 28.5 per cent of the total) were of porcupines. Other highly traded species include blue duikers (649), red duikers (394) and monkeys (356). In a more recent report released in 2015, researchers from the University of Uyo found that porcupines, deers and monkeys are still three of the top four species hunted in the Oban Division of the Cross River National Park.

Ayamba Ntui, local hunter from Cross River State

The WCS report also revealed the total value of porcupine carcass to be N2.4 million over the 48-day period of the survey. Adjusting for inflation, that value would be N5.6 million ($15, 430) today.

Andrew Dunn, country director for WCS Nigeria and co-author of the 2009 survey, has worked in Nigeria for a decade. He says the price of bush meat is higher in Nigeria. Most of it is transported across the border from neighbouring Cameroon.

“There is a large bush meat market in Aningege [in Cross River State],” Mr. Dunn said, “and another one in Benue State.” His conservation work has earned him undue scrutiny by the government of Cross River for an entirely different environmental issue ― the proposed trans-Cross River superhighway. He has been vocal about the construction of the super highway that cuts through the national park and other protected areas. He has often argued that the infrastructural development is harmful to the flora and fauna in the park. This position remains unpopular with the Cross River State government, so, he’s rather wary to give details on the bush meat subject.

It is very hard to ascertain the exact figures in cash value or dry weight of wildlife that is being traded between the two countries. Lack of reliable data is one reason, but the porous borders remain the greatest challenge. Yet the latter factor is a more complex problem with political origins that dates back to the early 20th century. First, the territory occupied by the Korup National Park was once administered as a British Mandate. Following the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which stripped Germany of its colonial possessions in Africa, the colony of Kamerun was divided between British and French authorities.

The French Mandate was etiologically referred to as ‘Cameroun’, and it was the larger of the two colonial divisions. A game of thrones soon ensued.

The British Mandate comprised two non-contiguous territories, northern and southern Cameroons. Nonetheless, both Cameroonian territories were governed from Nigeria where the British had already carved a big country out of a colony and two protectorates in 1914. By 1946, both Cameroonian jurisdictions ― northern and southern ― were being administered as UN Trust Territories and would remain so for the next 15 years. In a United Nations-backed plebiscite in 1961, the people of northern Cameroon voted for a union with Nigeria, while their southern compatriots opted to be absorbed into the French Mandate of Cameroun.

Ayamba Ntui, local hunter from Cross River State 2

In a span of 100 years, the area occupied by the Korup National Park (established in 1986) has gone from being a German territory to a British Mandate to a Cameroonian province.

Such historical geopolitical tussles have undoubtedly left their marks on the landscapes. Fragmentation of forests have significantly reduced the geographical range of primates in the region, notably the Cross River gorilla. This is the direct result of having the Nigeria-Cameroon borders fall under different governance regimes, even though they belong to the same biome. Mr Dunn wants greater collaboration between Nigeria and Cameroon. Beyond the occasional joint patrols and sharing of information between the authorities of the two national parks, he is calling for a ‘trans-boundary’ approach to the issue.

“There’s an urgent need for improved trans-boundary collaboration,” he said. “I’m for the creation of a trans-boundary protected area. I’m for the creation of a trans-boundary world heritage site.”

Israel Mboto, a park ranger, has seen several good public initiatives for communities living near protected areas become redundant. The officer who started working in the Cross River National Park in 1999 has witnessed government-sponsored agroforestry programmes being abandoned. The neglect is attributed mainly to poor monitoring and evaluation by the authorities and a carefree attitude on the part of the beneficiaries.

“In our agenda to reduce poaching, the National Park Service went into livelihood improvement schemes for hunters,” he recalled.

“The government stocked farms [with seedlings] but in the long run the programme was not successful.”

In some instances, notes Mr Mboto, loans that had been granted by microfinance institutions to local communities cannot be accounted for. As the challenges increased, Cross River National Park adopted a radical strategy in the hope of reducing cases of poaching. Nowadays, the park recruits poachers especially those who are physically fit and trains them as rangers just to discourage hunting as an occupation. Rangers argue that this measure has helped in curbing poaching within the boundaries of the protected area. Yet cultural preferences for bush meat also play a big role in these areas.

Carrie Vath, an American researcher (formerly of the University of Florida) who carried out part of her doctoral dissertation in Cross River, says the biggest threat to wildlife is a combination of increasing human populations and the gradual conversion of forests to farmlands. “The answers to these difficult questions are not known and simply outlawing the bushmeat trade is not a viable option,” she said. “People need to eat meat [as a source of protein] and we just need to determine how it can be harvested in a sustainable way so that future generations can enjoy the taste of wild game.”

Both Messrs Mboto and Vath agree that porcupines are the favourite of consumers in the region, but Mr Dunn said, “I have heard that the pangolin meat is the sweetest.” A Nigerian cargo of pangolin scales was recently seized in China.

Mr Ntui. the hunter from Nsan, says if he gets government subvention to go back into farming he would stop hunting.

Some of us hunt because we are jobless,” he said.

Disclaimer: Although support for the investigation came from the African Academy of Sciences, the funders had no editorial oversight whatsoever in the course of the reportage

ANALYSIS: How Saraki is commanding loyalty, maintaining vice-hold grip on Senate

While his emergence as senate president proved a mastery of political manoeuvrings and cunningness, his manner of control of Nigeria’s

While his emergence as senate president proved a mastery of political manoeuvrings and cunningness, his manner of control of Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber appears clearly Machiavellian, one that broods no opposition.

As Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki has ensured that neither his ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, nor President Muhammadu Buhari, can have any substantial slice as far as the control of the upper legislative chamber is concerned..

At least three senators who dared to oppose Mr. Saraki have learnt the hard way that no one challenges the king, a stern warning to others who might want to dare the politician, whose father was also a leader of that chamber in the Second Republic.

However, to understand how the Kwara-born politician achieved this feat, one needs to understand how he emerged Senate President.

SARAKI’S EMERGENCE

The politics that played out in the emergence of the former Kwara State governor was ample signal to what the chamber would experience under his leadership. The APC had emerged the ruling party, winning not only the presidential election, but also majority in both chambers of the National Assembly. The party, therefore, thought it best to decide who to anoint as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives. A straw poll was held with Ahmed Lawan from Borno defeating Mr. Saraki. The APC thus adopted Mr. Lawan as its candidate for the position of senate president.

Mr. Saraki would, however, have none of it. Rather than lose a seat he has coveted for so long and worked so hard to clinch, he would rather dine with the ‘enemy.’ He thus secured a clandestine agreement with members of the opposition PDP to secure their support while ensuring that a PDP member, Ike Ekweremadu, emerges his deputy.

Thus, on the day the formal election for senate president was to be held, while majority of APC senators, about 50, were waiting for President Muhammadu Buhari who had invited them to a meeting with him at the International Conference Centre, Mr. Saraki and other “rebel” senators of the APC moved into the National Assembly complex, where the police had thrown a cordon to prevent workers and reporters from entering, for the “election” of principal officers.

A total 57 senators loyal to Mr. Saraki, most of them PDP members, unanimously “elected” him after he was nominated by Senators Dino Melaye and Sanni Yerima. Mr. Saraki was quickly sworn-in as the new Senate President even as majority of his APC colleagues were at the ICC waiting for Mr. Buhari.

The emergence shows that Mr. Saraki, a former member of the PDP, would trade political allegiance for personal gains and interest. For the ex-banker, there is no scruples. The Senate would later experience more of this.

SHOWING CONTROL

The APC was furious with Mr. Saraki’s emergence. Leaders like Bola Tinubu, ex-Lagos governor and an influential member of the party, worked to ensure he was removed and a fresh election held. Mr. Saraki would have none of it. Perhaps to further spite the party or ensure his loyalists were properly rewarded, Mr. Saraki also ensured that juicy committees of the Senate were reserved for either his APC loyalists or PDP senators who backed him.

After months of scheming to remove him, without success, the APC ate the humble pie. The party accepted Mr. Saraki’s election but asked that its own preferred candidate, Ahmed Lawan, be made Majority Leader.

Again, the former Kwara governor would have none of that. His loyalist and key ally, Ali Ndume, had emerged Senate Leader and Mr. Saraki needed that position to ensure his party eventually towed his line.

For months, the situation remained until Mr. Ndume did the unthinkable, challenging the senate president over the chamber’s handling of the confirmation process of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

NDUME’S TRAVAILS

One of the leverages the APC administration knew they had over Mr. Saraki was his false asset declaration trial. Although the trial was being conducted at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), most of the evidence being used came from the anti-graft agency, EFCC. And the man who made that possible was Ibrahim Magu, the man picked by President Muhammadu Buhari as chairman of the EFCC. Mr. Magu had in the past led the investigation into Mr. Saraki’s activities. For this and several other matter, Mr. Saraki and his allies vowed they would not confirm Mr. Magu as EFCC chairman, sources told PREMIUM TIMES.

But Mr. Magu hails from Mr. Ndume’s home state, and he has a responsibility to support his confirmation. He therefore sided with the president against Mr. Saraki. He began to spearhead moves to convince senators to confirm Mr. Magu, thus working directly against Mr. Saraki’s interest. After the Senate controversially rejected Mr. Magu’s nomination, for the first time, Mr. Ndume was livid. He met with President Muhammadu Buhari, wherein he opposed the stance of the Senate, saying the upper chamber did not reject Mr. Magu. He should know, he was the Senate Leader.

Mr. Saraki would, however, have none of that. Mr. Ndume was removed as Senate Leader and replaced by Ahmed Lawan. The Senate initially claimed it did that to accommodate the original interest of the APC, but many Nigerians including Mr. Ndume did not buy that.

Two months later, Mr. Ndume, now an ordinary member of the Senate, did the ‘unthinkable.’ He asked his colleagues to investigate media reports of alleged illegality by Mr. Saraki and another by the senate president’s key ally, Dino Melaye. Although Mr. Ndume did not make the allegations himself, nor authored the media reports, he was suspended from the Senate for six months based on the recommendations of its ethics committee for daring to raise such issues.

Senator Ali Ndume

The treatment of the once powerful Mr. Ndume made one thing clear to lawmakers and observers: only one person controls the Senate and it is clear who that is.

ENTER ABDULLAHI ADAMU

One of the perceived strengths of Mr. Saraki in the Senate, is his relationship with former governors who are now senators. One of such is Abdullahi Adamu, a former Nasarawa State Governor.

Often Mr. Saraki would refer to the two-time governor as ‘elder statesman.’ But that did not deter Mr. Saraki from teaching Mr. Adamu a brutal political lesson when the politician dared to challenge him.

The problem started at the plenary on the day the senate adopted the report of the conference committee on amendment to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Act. Mr. Adamu raised a point of order on the ‘haste’ at which the report was passed, but the Senate President told him that his observation had been ‘noted.’

Mr. Adamu would later lead nine other APC senators out of the chamber while the plenary was still on. Speaking in turns, they alleged that the altering of section 25 of the Electoral Act, which put election of federal lawmakers first before those of state lawmakers and state governors, and the presidential election last, was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari. They criticised the senate president for passing the bill in a haste and for not allowing thorough debate.

President Muhammadu Buhari addressing the Part chieftains during the Party’ 4th National Caucus Meeting held Monday night at the Presidential Villa Abuja. PHOTO; SUNDAY AGHAEZE. FEB 26 2018

“Why do we want to make a law that addresses one particular issue targeted at a person. This is very partisan. You could see from the body language, from the utterances that it is a pre-determined thing by a political party that is threatened by the APC government,” Mr. Adamu said.

Abdullahi Adamu

Mr. Adamu broke the unwritten rule in the Senate. He dared to lead some sort of rebellion against the senate president. He had to be dealt with. First, he was removed as chairman Northern Senators Forum. Then, he was accused of siphoning about N70 million belonging to the group, an allegation he has since denied.

Even though the senate spokesperson, Sabi Abdullahi, said the ‘elder statesman’ was not being punished for his role on the electoral act controversy, many including Mr. Adamu had no doubt why he was so treated.

Few weeks after his removal as head of the northern senators’ forum, a colleague accused Mr. Adamu of plotting to remove the senate president. Even though he denied this, he has been vocal in attacking Mr. Saraki and other senators supporting him. In separate interviews, he accused pro-Saraki senators of working to sabotage the APC government of President Buhari and also branded the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, a tool Mr. Saraki uses in doing his ‘dirty jobs’ at the senate.

Mr. Adamu’s ordeal is, however, far from over. Unlike Mr. Ndume before him, he has not been suspended, although some of his colleagues would want that to happen.

OMO-AGEGE HUMBLED

Of the nine senators who joined Mr. Adamu in criticising Mr. Saraki’s handling of the Electoral Act controversy, Ovie Omo-Agege was the second to be cautioned. The Delta Central senator was a key figure in the dissension to the electoral act amendment. He was one of the three who was allowed to raise points of order by Mr. Saraki during the debate. He sought to invoke Order 73 of the senate standing order. If granted the leave, the votes of each senator would have been recorded and all votes counted by the clerk after the division bell has been rung. But Mr. Saraki ruled him out of order.

Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Delta-APC. [Photo credit: THISDAYLIVE]

He decided to join the nine dissenting senators to address journalists. First he alleged that the House of Representative did not form a quorum when the issue was considered and that 59 senators were opposed to the amendment. He also said ‘Section 25’ of the amended Act was included to target Mr. Buhari. The referral to the president got him into trouble.

The following Tuesday, Dino Melaye (Kogi-APC) drew the attention of the Senate specifically to the comments made by Mr. Omo-Agege and consequently, the senate resolved to look into the matter and asked its committee on ethics and privileges to investigate.

Senator Dino Melaye [Photo: dinomelaye.com]

That was the same committee that indicted Mr. Ndume and called for his suspension.

The committee was given four weeks to report back, but the ‘culprit’ as the Senate spokesperson would later call him, decided to eat the humble pie before he is shamed publicly.

In what has been considered a smart move, Mr. Omo-Agege on February 22 apologised to the Senate. Perhaps to prevent the Ndume experience, the senator told his colleagues that he agreed his remarks were ‘offensive.’ He, therefore, apologised. Despite the apology, however, the ethics committee would be allowed to complete its task, the Senate spokesperson said.

TOWARDS 2019

While observers easily note that the reprimanded senators suffered their fate for daring to challenge Mr. Saraki, the senate president always ensures he is not directly involved when punishments are to be meted. He has also ensured that the Senate’s own rules are followed as much as possible. To drive home some of his policies and retributions, the experienced politician has created a ring of loyalists who dish out the execution according to his desire.

One person key to his control of the senate is Dino Melaye. He is one of those who has stood by Mr. Saraki since inception and has never hidden his unalloyed loyalty to the senate president. In the cases highlighted, Mr. Melaye played key roles. He was one of those whose investigation Mr. Ndume called for, he signed the letter conveying Mr. Adamu’s removal as head of northern senators, and also called attention of the Senate to the statement by Mr. Omo-Agege.

Mr. Saraki, through a carrot and stick approach, has been able to maintain effective control of the Senate. However, as the politicking towards 2019 increases, more senators like Mr. Adamu may dare the senate president, especially those who know they need the APC and President Buhari’s support to win re-election.

INVESTIGATION: Nigerian health centres still abandoned a year after govt launched reconstruction

One year after the Federal Government flagged off a scheme to revitalise 10,000 primary healthcare centres across Nigeria to make

One year after the Federal Government flagged off a scheme to revitalise 10,000 primary healthcare centres across Nigeria to make them ‘fully functional’, PHCs especially in rural Nigeria remain in poor state.

Under the first phase, the federal government which is collaborating with the lower levels of government and development partners in the scheme, said it will work on a PHC in each of the country’s 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria. This means, three in each state and one in the Federal Capital Territory.

PREMIUM TIMES in February randomly selected and visited some PHCs in Kano and Kaduna states in the North-west region of Nigeria and found that very little work had been done.

PHC Shuwaki

The Primary Health Centre in Shuwaki is one of the three selected for renovation by the federal government in Kano State. Shuwaki is a village in Kunchi Local Government Area of the state.

As the reporter approached the facility, it became clear that it was still awaiting any kind of makeover. A part of the main gate was falling apart, grass covered the entrance to the main building and the paints were peeling off the walls. The dilapidated PHC was built about 18 years ago and is the only health facility in the community. But it has been provided no equipment or personnel to play the role for which it was built.

“We do not have a doctor or nurse,” the officer in charge of the centre, Ado Mohammed, told PREMIUM TIMES.

According to Mr. Mohammed, the workforce consisted of five Community Health Extension Workers (CHEW), one Junior CHEW and a lab technician.

Primary Health Center, Shuwaki, Kunchi LGA. Kano state

“We don’t have qualified medical personnel and the facility is understaffed. The CHEWs take deliveries of pregnant women and also attend to patients. When there is any case we cannot handle, we refer to Bichi General Hospital, which is about 30km from this centre.”

The building is old and the beds inside the wards just as dilapidated. Mr. Mohammed said lack of water supply was one of the big problems. “We buy water from our own pockets,” he said.

Power supply is epileptic and the centre has no generator or inverter.

The centre also has no ambulance. “When there is a need for referral, we tell the relatives to provide a means of transporting the sick person. So, they hire a bike or vehicle to convey the patient to the general hospital,” Mr. Mohammed said.

Aisha Sani, a laboratory technician has been at the centre for over five years. “Since I have been working in this facility, no renovation has been done. The way I met this place, that is the way it is. No water, the toilet is very bad and no resources at all for a standard health centre.”

Mrs. Sani said she stopped running HIV tests at the facility when the authorities stopped providing test kits.

“The last time an HIV test was conducted in this facility was about three years ago. Whenever we request for test kits, we don’t get them. So we stopped requesting and since then, we don’t run HIV tests here,” she said with a shrug of the shoulders.

Primary Health Center, Shuwaki, Kunchi LGA. Kano state

Aminu Musa, a CHEW, was seen administering an intravenous injection on a patient. He does stuffs like that because there is no qualified doctor, he explained.

Mr. Musa said the state government provides some drugs, such as anti-malarial and antibiotics, which the centre dispenses to patients free of charge.

A patient who identified herself as Mariam confirmed this. She had been using the facility since 2013.

“I had my baby here. It is about 15 minutes’ walk from my house, so I come here for treatment. It is the only health centre in Shuwaki so I don’t have a choice. They give some drugs free of charge, while we pay a token for some other drugs”.

PHC Chiromawa

The sorry state of PHCs in Nigeria is fully reflected in the abandoned centre in this village in Ungogo Local Government Area of Kano State. Located within a thick bush, the facility was under lock and key at the time PREMIUM TIMES visited.

Through the broken windows, walls and doors, the reporter could see rats and insects that had taken it over. After about 15 minutes, the reporter’s inspection of the facility was interrupted by the arrival of a young man in his early 20s.

Musuba Yahaya brought out a key from his purse and opened the gate. The reporter accessed the rooms, old and dirty and covered with cobwebs. The ceilings appeared ready to fall off.

Mr. Yahaya is not the gate or security man. He is a CHEW, he told PREMIUM TIMES. Since the facility was built in 2008, no renovation had been done, he said.

Dilapidated state of health facility in Chiromawa P.H.C

“This facility is an empty building and there is actually nothing going on here.

“Whenever there is a patient, those people over there (pointing towards a group automobile mechanics) will call me and I will give the patient the drug available. There are no drugs now. We refer patients to Waziri Shehu, about six km away or Murtala General Hospital, which is 15km away.”

Mr. Yahaya said the facility ‘serves’ eight villages.

“Binta is in charge of delivery but she is out of town now. She is a graduate of School of Food Hygiene. There are no nurses or midwives in this facility. We only have one CHEW, one JCHEW and one volunteer health worker,” Mr. Yahaya said as he gave a rundown of the operation of the PHC.

“We do not have enough health workers, no ambulance, no equipment, no light, no generator, no toilet, no water,” he said in response to the reporter’s inquiries.

The village head, Umar Chiromawa, said no individual or government official had been around to inspect the facility, “not to talk of renovating it.

“This facility was built in 2008 and ever since then, nothing has been done. As you can see, the building is old, the windows are broken, no equipment, no adequate manpower and no resources at all. And even the CHEWs and JCHEWs that are assisting us here are not being paid,” the village head said.

Primary Health Center, Shuwaki, Kunchi LGA. Kano state

“Government should renovate this facility and also equip it for our community. Other hospitals are far from this community and cannot be easily accessed. About eight other communities depend on this health centre, so the government should make it a better place to (deliver) health services,” Mr. Chiromawa said.

PHC Tsangaya Damagar

This centre is located in Doguwa Local Government Area of Kano State. It was 10:15a.m when the reporter arrived. She observed the facility had just been renovated, but it was empty. The main gate laid slightly open but the door of the building was closed, although not locked.

The rooms were newly painted and the environment neat, but there were no equipment to be seen. The labour room was bare. Some record books were left carelessly on an old wooden table, an indication that someone had been in the facility earlier that morning. By 12 noon when the reporter left, no staff had showed up at the centre. Only a man of about 45 years had.

“My wife left the house last night with my sick child that she was going to the health centre and since then, she hasn’t come back home. So I came to check on her but she is not here. I don’t know where they took my wife,” the fragile looking man said before hurrying away on his bike.

All efforts to locate a worker at the facility failed: no resident knew the whereabouts of any of them.

PHC Unguwan Shanu

From afar to a close up view, the facility was welcoming with its gate and building wearing a new coat of creamy orange paint. It is one of the three centres in Kaduna State selected for renovation by the federal government. Located in this community in Kaduna North Local Government Area, the centre is sited to provide care for about 28,000 people from seven villages, including Unguwan Shanu. But despite the evident renovation of the building, basic equipment and manpower remained to be provided.

In a brief conversation with the reporter, Hauwa Ahmad, a medical lab technician, pointed out that the facility was renovated but not yet revitalised. She said the factors that make a fully functional health facility were still missing.

“The government has done well by renovating the building but they should do more on the inside than the outside,” Ms. Ahmad said.

“The building is beautiful and neat on the outside but we lack adequate equipment inside it. There are cases we should be able to handle in this facility but because of inadequate equipment, we refer to Kawo Comprehensive site, which is about 45 minutes’ walk from here. So the government should provide equipment because we are willing to work but the equipment are not there,” she said.

“This building was renovated in 2017 by the state government, in collaboration with the federal government,” the officer in charge of the centre, Ruth Yakubu, later explained.

“As you can see, the paintings are still very new and clean and the environment is also clean but that is all that was done. The government did not provide us with equipment that will make our work easy and effective,” she said.

Pointing to an abandoned room, she said, “We do not even have a labour ward, talk less of equipment for delivery. That is the corner we use for delivery. We do not have an ambulance or even a small car that can be used for referrals or in cases of emergency. So whenever there is a need for referral, the relatives of the patient hire keke or borrow a vehicle to transport the patient to the destination,” she said.

The chairman, Facility Health Committee, Unguwan Shanu, Garba Mohammed, lamented that the centre lacks adequate staff to attend to the thousands of people that access it.

“We have only seven workers and the work is too much for them. We only have one nurse, six Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs), no doctor or pharmacist at all. So, we need the government to employ more workers to reduce the workload on our staff. About 28,000 people access this centre, people come from six other villages to get medical service here.

“The issues of water and electricity supply are also of great concern. Though we have a solar-powered borehole which the state government mounted for us, we still buy water, as the borehole is not yet functioning,” he said.

However, a patient, Bilkisu Abdul, said the centre was providing service to the people “to some extent.”

Speaking in Hausa, she said “I have been visiting this hospital for a long time. I had my three children here and I enjoy their services. Whenever I come here for treatment or bring my children for treatment, I pay for some of the drugs. The workers do not collect any fee for immunization, it is given to the children free of charge. The workers are kind as they attend to us as soon as possible whenever we come for treatment,” she said.

PHC Kwarbal B.

After several hours driving through bumpy roads, due to wrong directions by passersby, our reporter arrived at the newly renovated health facility. Located in the old city of Zaria, Kaduna State, most of the residents did not know about PHC Kwarbal B.

The reason, though, is not farfetched. When PREMIUM TIMES visited, the centre had just been handed over by the House of Representatives. Until the renovation in 2017, it had been abandoned for several years, so residents were not yet aware of its changed fortune.

Lawal Mustapha is a staff of the state Ministry of Health deployed to head the renovated facility.

“This facility was handed over to the local government a week ago, so we are just a week old here. All the manpower are from the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Centre. A House of Reps member brought all the equipment as directed by the federal government, so for now we have adequate equipment in the facility,” Mr. Mustapha said.

PHC Iddah

As we drove into Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State, we caught sights of men butchering rams, women cleaning homes or bathing kids in front of huts, and teenagers gathering firewood. We must be very close to Iddah where the PHC we were looking for is located.

But it took a few more kilometres to finally arrive Iddah. The environment of the health centre was eerily silent, like a graveyard; until a bike passed by to change the atmosphere. We drove through a wide-open black gate into an empty building. After almost 20 minutes of waiting and still nobody to be seen, we pleaded with a boy outside to call anybody who works at the facility. The boy soon returned with a young man in his early 30s.

Obadiah Matthew is a CHEW. He was the only worker available at the moment and was only washing behind the building while we waited, he said. He said the building was renovated in 2017; and that was all that was done about the facility.

The surrounding is neat and the building new. Viewing from outside, one would think activities were going on inside the building . But one would be wrong. A tour of the facility showed it could not be functional, as major equipment, manpower, and other resources were missing.

The centre has no ambulance, so patients provide bikes or other vehicles during an emergency.

“We do not have equipment in this facility, I cannot even say adequate equipment,” Mr. Mathew said.

“We just need a few equipment, even if they are just tools for our labour room and other small ones. The light here is not stable so when there is no light and we need to take delivery, we use phone lights or torch lights. The patients understand though; they know we are trying our best. They are also aware we do not have a generator.”

The facility has no qualified medical personnel – doctors or nurses. The CHEWs treat patients ad take deliveries of pregnant women.

“Though the facility does not meet all our health needs, it is better than none. They still give us some drugs,“ a patient who walked in some minutes later said.

Speaking in Pidgin English, the patient who simply identified herself as Blessing, said the general hospital in town is too far away so people around use the PHC. She said drugs are dispensed to them at a subsidized price.

In an interview with Premium Times after the visits of the PHCs in the two states, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said the revitalisation scheme of the federal government will be implemented over the course of several years.

“What the government is doing is putting funds dedicated from the Saving One Million Lives programme and we are renovating health facilities. Apart from renovating it, before it is said functional, it needs manpower, equipment, utilities and drugs.

“All of that is happening. Maybe some of the health facilities that you have gone to have not been handed over to the communities because we do not even have the human resources.

“We have started the process of mobilizing about 1,600 basic midwives who will be deployed to help manage some of the health facilities. We are looking at also getting funds from the Basic Health Care Provision Funds which hopefully will provide the resources to equip and provide commodities for some of these health facilities,” he said

Mr. Faisal said it will be a misunderstanding of the plan of government to say just 109 centres would be revitalised.

“There is a whole lot more than the 109 health care facilities that are going to be renovated,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.

SPECIAL REPORT: The travails of Osogbo’s kid hawkers

Life has always been challenging for Adebayo Selim and Boxing Day of 2017 was no exception as he wanders on

Life has always been challenging for Adebayo Selim and Boxing Day of 2017 was no exception as he wanders on the Olaiya-Alekuwodo road of Osogbo, the capital of Osun State, in search of would-be-buyers for his stock of Fan ice cream.

The 15-year-old Junior Secondary School, JSS 1, student of Ifeolu Middle School is one of the many kids who dare the scorching sun to sell Fan Milk to earn a meal or two for the day, certainly never three.

Other times, their ‘hustle’ takes the form of catering for basic school needs and in extreme cases, fending for their respective family.

“I started in 2016,” the third child of a family of five told PREMIUM TIMES. “I joined because there was no money. The school uniform I used to wear was bad and my parents won’t buy me another, they don’t even have money. But the main reason why I started this business was because I wanted to buy a bicycle. The distance between my house and school is very far. I used to walk because my parent won’t give me transport fare. When I told them I wanted to buy the bicycle, they scolded me.”

His day takes a rigid routine. He arrives at the distributor’s depot as early as 7.00 a.m. and retires with day’s proceeds at alternate post-meridian hour. His profit has never been more than N700 in a day.

“I will take the goods in the morning and go back to remit the money realised at night. I will remove my own gain. I sell up to N3,000 goods in a day. Sometimes, I make up to N700 (profit) when business booms,” he says wryly

Selim

Sadly, despite being on the ‘job’ for more than a year and half, Selim has not been able to purchase his dream bicycle. Instead he opted to pay for his school fees, uniform and when there was an excess, he bought a phone.

“I haven’t bought the bicycle. I used my savings to buy phone because all my friends have phone. I won’t stop until I buy my bicycle. I still trek to school.”

A SCOURGE

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, Nigeria has 10.5 million out-of-school children, the highest rate (47 per cent) anywhere on earth. Almost one out of every three primary age children and roughly one out of four junior secondary age children are out of school.

School Children Infographics

With children under 15 years of age accounting for 45 per cent of the 171 million population, the burden on education has become overwhelming for the nation currently facing numerous social challenges.

Many of those who struggle to enrol in school, drop out early, UNESCO says.

This may be the case for Ayo Omisola, a JSS 3 student of CAC model school Gbaemu, Osogbo if things remain as they are.

Omisola, 13, joined the ‘business’ in 2016 when there seemed to be no hope of paying his JSS 2 school fees.

“I went there by myself,” he said adjusting his Ankara (fabric) dress which appears faded apparently due to regular exposure to the sun and constant use. “I used to pass through the (distributor’s) shop and I know what they do already. I told my mum and she agreed.”

“I have been doing this for up to three years. I use the money to pay my school fees. The last amount I paid was N1,400 (fees per term).”

Omisola doesn’t know when he would stop the trade as fortune still refuses to smile at the family. His highest academic aspiration is SSCE. “I wish to further a little bit more in education. At least to the SSCE level.”

Omisola’s closest friend is Ojo Segun, a resident of Popo, Osogbo, who joined the trade in March 2017.

Probably, out of ignorance or sheer willingness to sustain companionship, both friends ply the same route with their carts. Consequently, their companionship would subject them to sharing customers which would have been for one had they decided to split.

On this day, this reporter met them at the Akindeko junction of Alekuwodo. Apart from their sales strategy, these friends have many things in common; they are of the same age, take goods from the same distributor, but Segun has more to contend with apart from paying school fees.

“They use to collect money from me at home but most times, I give willingly,” he said declining to tell this reporter his family composition.

At peak periods, Segun makes about N600 profit. After feeding, keeping part for school needs, the remaining cash goes into buying food for the family.

Segun

Sales doesn’t seem satisfactory on this day as his cart still contains much of the stock he started out with.

“There is no punishment if we don’t sell all stock,” he replied to inquiry on how account is balanced at low sales periods. “We take the remaining back to distributor.”

HOW KIDS ARE RECRUITED

Located in a residential area, Oluwaseyi ventures has over the years been a fertile ground recruiting poverty-stricken children in Oke-fia, Alekuwodo, Fagbewesa and other nearby areas into the Fan Milk business.

Popularly called ‘Mummy Temi’, Afolabi Folasade, owner of the store boasts that recruiting the kids ”was a way of helping them”.

She gleefully explained the process of recruitment when this reporter, requested enrolment for a ‘sibling’ in need of support.

Oluwaseyi ventures [Photo Credit: Kemi Busari]

“It doesn’t require more than guarantor; father, mother or guardian. Someone that will assure us that he won’t run away. Then, phone number, address and we’ll trace him to the house to ascertain he truly lives there. That’s all.”

She explains how the ‘help’ brings in the prospect of making profit.

“For large, we give it out at the rate of N80; if he sells 30 or 40, all the N20 profit will go to him (the reporter’s ‘sibling’). There is one that sells for N150, we give them at N100. He’ll get N50 profit multiplied by the amount sold. We give N50 (ice cream) own at N35 and the N15 profit will still ‘enter’ his pocket.

“So, if he is very serious, before he goes home at night, he would have realised enough. That’s if he’s not like Olamide.”

At 10-year-old, Olamide is the youngest of the kids patronising Oluwaseyi Stores. His ‘unseriousness’ lies in his ‘way of life’, Mrs. Folasade would later explain.

“He is the youngest but he is very stubborn, he has one small girl he gives money. He will say ‘my wife come and take.’ (laughter). I don’t use to care anyway, for me, my money must be complete.”

A 20-minute trek on the Gbongan-Ibadan expressway soon brought this reporter in contact with Olamide.

OLAMIDE

He won’t agree that Mariam, a Primary 5 pupil is his ‘official girlfriend’ but he says he constantly gives the 5-year-old ice cream from daily stock and ‘small change’ occasionally.

However, the life of Sikiru Olamide, 10, is more interesting than his early introduction to relationships. Of all the kids, he is the most industrious, known by all for his audacity to trek longer distances, he takes larger stock than others and will never return until he sells the last ice cream.

Although the youngest, Olamide is the oldest in the trade, having started in 2015 at the age of 8. His audacity earned him a nick name among his peers; ‘Mo fe lo pa yoku’, literarily meaning ‘I want to go and make the remaining money.’

“He is fond of saying this,” Omisola chipped in taunting his little friend.

Olamide

The goal four of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, of the United Nations aims to ensure that by 2030, all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education. But this aim seems far-reaching for young Olamide who at the age of 10 had dropped out of CAC Primary School, Gbodofon, Osogbo.

Unlike his colleagues who spend their earning on school financial obligations, Olamide has other plans.

“I give my parents money every day, except on days I don’t make enough. I also make daily contributions and I want to use the return to buy clothes.”

On this day, December 31 2017, Olamide claims to have N7,000 which he plans to use in buying cloth for New Year celebration.

Olamide doesn’t have any professional ambition but he says he would like to be ‘the chairman of the whole Nigeria’ so that he ‘can give orders to people.’

He doesn’t have a plan to stop the business. “Until I make it. Until I buy a car,” he said of his ambition smug confidence.

OPTIMISTIC SADIQ

David Sadiq, an SSS 3 student of Osogbo High School didn’t remember what month he started selling Fan Milk in 2017, but he remembers why. “I joined because I needed money for my upkeep and school,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.

Sadiq wants to be a lawyer

Despite constantly sacrificing Sunday church services to make enough cash, Sadiq, an indigene of Osogbo has not been able to save enough for his forthcoming Senior Secondary School Examination, SSCE.

“I don’t know how I will pay for my WAEC yet. I am working towards getting a part of the fund so that my parent can help me add to it.”

Without the hope of furthering beyond secondary school level, Sadiq relishes the hope of being a lawyer ‘one day.’

NO BICYCLE FOR CHILDREN

Even though the likes of Olamide, Segun and others would prefer to ride bicycles to sell their goods, their distributors’ insistence on the use of carts has denied them reality of their dreams.

Faramade Opeyemi who attended to this reporter at Kemiaj ventures, a distribution point along the Gbongan-Osogbo road explained why she may not be able to provide a bicycle for this reporter’s ‘12-year-old sibling.’

Kemiaj stores, Gbongan Road

“You need to come with him whenever he wants to start. We don’t have bicycles for now. If we do, we don’t just give it out. We will consider your age and height. Bicycles are not meant for ‘small children’ and we don’t give it to them,” she said.

All efforts to seek audience with the management of Fan Milk were unsuccessful. When this reporter visited the Head Office located at Eleyele Industrial Layout, Ibadan, none of the officials agreed to speak. After being passed from one office to another, the relentless reporter leaves exasperated.

VIOLATING THE LAW

Meanwhile, an education expert says the development is a violation of the Child Rights Act.

Hassan Soweto, who coordinates the Education Right Campaign, blamed the Osun State Government for the development.

“It is child abuse and a violation of the Child Rights Act,” he said. “Every child has a right to appropriate care which includes shelter, food, clothing, education, health care and recreation and if the parents are incapable of providing this, the state must take charge.

“That we have this phenomenon in Osun State is an indictment on the Governor Aregbesola administration, whose anti-poor policies of paying half salaries has rendered many working class parents incapable of fulfilling their core responsibility to their children.”

A STATE OFFICIAL REACTS

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary, Osun Education Quality Assurance and Morality Enforcement Agency, Lawrence Oyeniran, said the state government ‘machinery’ is effective enough in tackling the violation of these children.

“Our purview is to ensure that no student is found on the street within the hours of 8.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. when they should be in classroom. We have Education Marshall Officers whose responsibility is to ensure students are kept away from the streets.

“When a student is found on the street, they (marshalls) accost such student and ask why he or she is not in school. If their responses are that my ‘parent has not done this, my parent has not done that,’ they will lead such students to their homes. They will educate the parent on the need to provide for the student.”

He said state officers have ”never seen any child selling Fan Milk in Osogbo, especially during school hours.”

“There is no report to us either officially or unofficially,” he said.

In the midst of the official helplessness to curb the social anomaly and a cut-throat business environment, kids like Omisola, Segun, Olamide and a host of others will continue to pound the streets in search of their daily bread, in a hostile terrain.

Buhari’s SGF spends N65 million on website

The Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF, in 2017 appropriated and claimed to have spent

The Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF, in 2017 appropriated and claimed to have spent N65 million on its website.

PREMIUM TIMES review of the 2017 budget performance of the OSGF revealed that N65 million was budgeted for the already existing website while the office claimed that N64, 855, 875, the amount released, had been fully utilised.

Quoted as ‘OSGF WEBSITE,’ the budget performance record remarked that the ‘procurement process is ongoing.’

The office of the SGF is currently occupied by Boss Mustapha who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2017. The office was formerly occupied by Babachir Lawal who was sacked after President Buhari adopted recommendations of a report of a panel headed by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, which investigated allegations against Mr. Lawal who was suspended for months.

PREMIUM TIMES could not ascertain which of the two government officials executed the project.

Appearing before the Senate committee in January 2018 to defend the 2017 budget performance, Mr. Mustapha said the office received 50 per cent of its appropriation for capital projects.

“Performance for capital is N1.2 billion released as at end of December, 2017. It represents 50 per cent. We are hoping that the National Assembly will extend the lifespan of the budget so that we can handle other procurement processes.

Apparently, the fund release for the website is one of those captured in Mr. Mustapha’s 50 per cent but the cost and execution of the project left more to desire.

Spokesperson to Mr. Mustapha, Mohammed Nakorji, when contacted, declined to answer PREMIUM TIMES’ questions on how the fund was disbursed.

“I’m not an accountant please,” he snapped.

Meanwhile, technology experts say the claim was suspicious and impossible.

After a review of the website, communications officer of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, PIN, Sodiq Alabi said the claim that N65 million was spent on the website looked ‘very impossible.’

“We have reviewed the website, it is simply shocking that N65 million was spent on the website. It’s implausible,” he said. “OSGF must provide more details on what they did with the money. The website has no special features to justify more than a million naira budget.

A screen shot from the website. [Photo credit: Www.osgf.gov.ng]

“It doesn’t look like they are even updating the website. The copyright is 2013. It looks very impossible and suspicious. At least the SGF office should tell us what they did with the money. They should tell us what they did with the money so that Nigerian tax payers’ mind can be at rest.”

Cheta Nwanze, Head of Research, SBM Intelligence, after a review of the website, said the N65 million could never be justified.

He said, “The website was built using the Joomla CMS, which is a free content management system. All of the media is hosted on YouTube, which is an external server. It uses Google Hosted Libraries for its content distribution. No way can it cost ₦65 million, unless I heard you wrong.”

He said the maximum cost for such a website would be $105 per month.

“Depending on the hosting package, $100 per month can get you a very good hosting plan. If you insist on using Google apps to host your emails and documents, that’s $5 per user per month. So you can do the maths.”

‘Overwhelmed’ by Lagos waste, foreign firm contracted by Ambode turns to local PSP operators

The foreign firm contracted by the Lagos State government to rid the state of solid wastes has turned to local

The foreign firm contracted by the Lagos State government to rid the state of solid wastes has turned to local private waste operators for help in evacuating the wastes from residential areas, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

Visionscape Group, a Dubai-based environmental utility group, contracted by the state government last year is engaged in talks with the local waste operators (also known as public sector partnership, PSP, operators) on collaboration for domestic waste collection.

One of the talks, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, took place between the foreign firm and the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, an umbrella body of over 350 PSP operators, on January 19th at the office of the firm’s lawyers in Lagos.

At the meeting, both parties agreed to explore collaboration and concluded that their consultants meet to draft possible terms.

Another meeting between both parties’ consultants held on January 22 at Visionscape’s office where it was agreed that the firm would send draft terms as a template to engage individual members the next day.

At the PSP operators’ general meeting on February 1, the group reportedly agreed to consider collaborating with Visionscape on favourable conditions but that all negotiations would be carried out collectively through the Association of Waste Managers while contracts would be signed by individual companies.

However, on February 12, Visionscape shocked the operators by placing advertorials in national dailies calling for Expressions of Interest for the “short haul transportation of municipal and solid waste” in the state.

The advertorial gave the PSP operators two days to submit their interests.

Foreign firm, local waste

Last year, the Lagos State government passed a new environmental law which terminated its previous partnership with the private waste collectors and empowered Visionscape Group and its Nigerian subsidiary, Visionscape Sanitation Solutions, to take their position.

While Visionscape became the sole concessionaire for residential waste collection, the PSP operators were assigned to collect commercial waste from schools, churches, industries, hospitals and other businesses.

An estimated 14,000 metric tonnes (about 490 trailer loads) of solid wastes is generated in Lagos daily, according to the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA).

The new law also saw LAWMA transition from waste collection operations to a new role as a regulatory body.

Last month, Visionscape, which is in a public-private partnership with the Lagos State government, commissioned a Transfer Loading Station in Lagos Island as part of its efforts to rid the state of solid wastes.

The firm claims to manage thousands of tonnes of waste daily, serving over 20 million residents across various communities.

“Our workforce of over 29,000 dedicated employees utilise specialist vehicles and equipment to perform a wide range of services for the efficient management of every phase of the waste stream,” Visionscape stated on its website.

But despite its efforts at waste evacuation, heaps of refuse have continued to be a common sight across the state, from Ojuelegba where refuse bins are overflowing to Okokomaiko where refuse heaps adorn the major road.

A refuse heap at Ojuelegba.

Unhappy that their new role will not enable them to recoup their investments, the PSP operators dragged the government and the foreign firm to court.

But in October last year, both parties agreed to an out-of-court settlement.

On February 12, Visionscape placed advertorials in, at least, two national dailies calling for Expressions of Interest for the “short haul transportation of municipal and solid waste” in the state.

According to the advertorial, to qualify for participation, the bidder shall be a licensed and recognised PSP, owning and operating at least two “environmentally friendly” waste trucks.

“They advertised their incompetence, their inability to fulfill their contractual obligations for which they are celebrated as experts and to which our State Assembly unprecedentedly passed a law exclusive for them inserting the name of their company in Lagos State law to be the only ones that must collect domestic waste from the state,” said Margaret Oshodi, a PSP operator.

“By this publication, they appropriated to themselves the role of state agencies of Lagos Waste Management Authority LAWMA and Ministry of Environment MOE amongst other regulating and statutory agencies.

“They also tacitly show that the PSPs are good at what they do. PSPs have been helping them move most of the waste they appropriated to themselves through state laws while their promoters look helplessly as their contractor daily engage the services of these same operators they have disparaged all over their sponsored media.”

A source privy to the discussion between Visionscape and PSP operators told PREMIUM TIMES that the newspaper advertorial came as a result of a breakdown in negotiations with the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria.

“We were unable to agree on a sharing formula and now they are resorting to a divide-and-rule tactic by targeting our members individually,” said the PSP operator who preferred not to be named to avoid victimisation.”

‘A glorified PSP’

Part of the negotiations, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, was a proposal for the payment of N30,000 per trip to dump the waste at the landfill at Epe.

A local PSP operator evacuating the waste at Tinubu Square.

Olalekan Owojori, a consultant to the PSP operators, described such a proposal as “ridiculous.”

“In 2006, the government was paying N25,000 per trip to dump at Olusosun, and there was a possibility to do more than three trips per day,” said Mr. Owojori, the director of Wellbeck Consulting Ltd.

“You can now imagine taking your truck all the way to Epe at N30,000 per trip and you are not likely to do more than a trip because of the traffic.”

According to Mr. Owojori, the PSP operators went to court because their means of livelihood was threatened.

“The government was proposing to take away 80 per cent of their current activity by taking away the domestic waste collection and leaving them with commercial waste collection,” said Mr. Owojori.

“That meant that 80 per cent of what they currently do is being taken away and that can only lead to job losses, business failures and business closure.

“During the course of going to court, we now found out that this 20 per cent has further reduced to 10 per cent. Because the commercial that was supposed to be managed, in the areas of markets, government buildings, public schools have also been conceded to Visionscape.

“Visionscape now has a monopoly of the market by controlling 90 per cent of the market, so we were even worse off from where we started.”

Visionscape street sweepers having a rest inside the National Stadium in Surulere.

Mr. Owojori further said Visionscape’s advertorial calling for Expression of Interest from the PSP operators “was not done in good faith.”

“In the spirit of possible collaboration, we wrote a letter to Visionscape to draw their attention that, presumably, this is in line with us working together but it should be done with a great degree of respect on both sides.

“And you can’t just be inviting our members to come individually when we had told you our resolution, that if we are going to consider working with you, let us know what the terms are. Let’s see what the terms are and we can then explore that possibility.

“Two days to come and reapply for a job that was taken away from us and you have not specified what the terms and conditions will be, you have avoided talking about this and we have been on this for over a month.”

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, the lawyer representing the PSPs in court, said he is only aware of settlement talks between his clients and Visionscape.

“I know that there have been some meetings which we attended but what we agreed was that the consultant and the lawyer should exchange some details of possible contractual agreement and we are waiting on them for that,” Mr. Adegboruwa, a human rights activist, told PREMIUM TIMES.

“It would seem that it’s always when the case is about to come up (in court) that everybody starts running up and down.”

For Ms. Oshodi, the two-day time frame given to operators in Visionscape’s advertorial showed the company’s “false illusion of self-worth.”

“Visionscape assumes that the legislation of operators out of existence through the connivance of the state legislature will send operators scampering to their office,” she said in a Facebook post.

“They are dead wrong. It will only send them job seekers. They will soon realize that we are investors too and money talks. We need millions to fuel and fix the trucks on a daily basis and those who worked hard to earn it will not fritter it away just because a company enjoys waste monopoly.

“Visionscape is just a glorified PSP whom our state resources, land, building and money is placed at its beck and call. Somewhere along the line they will run out of money or the state will go broke funding them without private capital.

“If the government is really interested in Cleaner Lagos or even cleanest Lagos, let them give the PSPs the same contract terms as Visionscape and we will deliver in a week.”

‘We have the capacity’

Olabode Opeseitan, a spokesperson for Visionscape, said the newspaper advertorial was one of the moves by the company to have an out-of-court settlement with the PSP operators.

“There is a contract that says that residential evacuation of waste can only be done by Visionscape and Visionscape has therefore mapped out plans to do that,” Mr. Opeseitan told PREMIUM TIMES.

“They looked at the volume of waste generated in the 57 local councils, including the riverine communities, everything is based on that plan.”

Mr. Opeseitan blamed the seeming incapability of Visionscape to evacuate the waste generated in Lagos on the company’s difficulty to bring in its equipment into the country and added that the issues started late last year.

“We have the capacity, Visionscape is a globally acclaimed company in the area of waste evacuation and what they are doing is the total package – they are not only bothered about taking the waste off the streets but also the landfills where it would end up.”

On the company’s newspaper advertorial, Mr. Opeseitan said only PSP operators with the “minimum acceptable standard” would be selected.

He justified Visionscape’s decision to invite individual PSP operators on the grounds that some of them possibly felt that their union officials were trying to short-change them.

A refuse heap at Festac Town.

When contacted, Kehinde Bamigbetan, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, told PREMIUM TIMES that the advertorial was not placed by the state government.

“They (Visionscape) should be in a position to respond to it,” Mr. Bamigbetan, who was appointed to the post last month, said when asked if the advertorial meant the company lacks the capacity to tackle waste in Lagos.

“The company is the one handling it (waste) now.”

But during a visit to The Nation newspaper’s office last Tuesday, Mr. Bamigbetan said the government’s discovery of more than 2,000 illegal dumpsites in the state led to its termination of the partnership with PSP operators.

“When we came on board, we realised there were many problems with the waste management system being championed by PSP operators,” The Nation quoted Mr. Bamigbetan, a former journalist, as saying.

“We found out that there are over 2,000 illegal dump sites across the state and these PSP operators illegally dumped refuse on these sites. We discovered the PSP operators still face logistics challenges, despite managing the system for several years.”

Mr. Bamigbetan said the government engaged Visionscape in a bid to deliver a modern method of waste management in the state.

“The firm is expected to bring in 600 compactors and waste bins to manage waste in all the 377 wards across the state. The delay in the importation of these compactors is responsible for the challenges we are facing now,” he added.

Ms. Oshodi, however, accused the commissioner of being “economical with the truth.”

“Everything was working fine and Lagos was clean until the state government decided to contract the waste management of Lagos to their cronies,” she said.

“They are paying for their ignorance. When the rains come they will get a different bite that waste is different from any job for the boys.”