By Usama Dandare
Isn’t it surprising that right in the Seat of the Caliphate, is a fence built at the cost of ₦772m?
In Nigeria, misappropriation of public funds and authority stealing has over the years became an established business by those in the corridors power and it never ceases to bother the ordinary man, treasury looters are more often accorded high respect among the society and in some instances, they are even given traditional titles for a job well-done.
A very much alike scenario is the monumental fraud against the people of Sokoto State in the construction of a perimeter fence at the state government house and perhaps, one of the most expensive fence in Nigeria and indeed Africa as a whole. The Sokoto State Government House is located at Lodge Road, along one of the calmest and the most secured area right at the heart of the state capital.
On Wednesday July 24, 2013, the Sokoto State Executive Council presided over by the then Governor of the state, now Sen. Aliyu Magatakarda Wammakko, resolved to give the state Government House a new look with the awarding of a multi-million Naira contract for the construction of a monolithic concrete fence at a miraculous price of about ₦772m.
Defending the project, the then state Commissioner for Information, Malam Danladi Bako narrated that the new perimeter fence at the government house was hinged on security and other reasons, he noted that the fence had suffered degradation since its construction several years ago coupled with the fact that it is too low in height, and the entire wall right from the perimeter of government house is going to be pulled down and replaced by recast walls. He said the new fencing project would include “increase in the height of the concrete walls and expansion to include the new buildings that were acquired by government and to replace a lot of all the damaged parts, the project has a completion period of four months and includes the provision of two high quality furnished car parks on each side of the main entrance to the government house.”
Several spectators made it clear right from day one that the entire project is simply too grandiose and of no importance – taking into account the total absence of almost all basic amenities for the common man – and the contract should therefore be revoke, instead the funds allocated for such project should be re-channel to several other pressing needs, for instance; some dilapidated infrastructures that are critical to the state like roads, schools, hospitals, affordable houses and several other areas in dire need of urgent intervention.
Considering the fact that Sokoto State – according to the country’s poverty profile for 2012 revealed by the National Bureau of Statistics – is the poorest state in Nigeria with the highest poverty rate of 86.4% but to my uttermost trepidation, Governor Wammakko vehemently turn deaf ear to the yearning of the poor and went ahead to waste ₦772m on constructing a mere fence for an already well fence and secured government house while the poor citizens continue to live in squalor and untold hardship.
Though there were serious security challenges ravaging the nation and the North in particular, which must perhaps prompted the needs for an enhance security measures to be put in place for the protection of lives and properties but necessarily not a fence, instead there are uncountable ways of tightening and improving security.
I failed to surmise how a state with almost all of its citizens living below the poverty line of $1.25 per day will lavish a whopping sum of ₦772m on constructing a mere fence instead of initiating a program that can at least subdue the rate of poverty in the state and ease the long suffering of the masses.
With ₦772m, one can establish a mini tomatoes processing plant that can provide at least nothing less than a thousand jobs which will in turns lower the menace of joblessness among our teaming youths which is perhaps the main genesis of the so-called insecurity, looking at the fact that Sokoto State is one of the leading producers of tomatoes in the country.
In recent years, Sokoto State have been experiencing severe drought, desert encroachment and flooding, over 70 villages around the Rima Basin Dam are being devastated annual by flood caused by the release of excess water from Goronyo dam, while no serious action has ever been taken by the government to tackle these issues if not some few relief materials dashed to affected victims whenever such natural disaster occurred. ₦772m can undoubtedly make a lot more impact in the re-channelisation of the waterways and build high embankments, and tree plantation to address desert encroachment.
Sokoto State is far left behind in terms of education, there is an absolute lack of infrastructures in the state’s schools, learning materials and a conducive atmosphere for the prosperity of education in the state. If channeled into upgrading the dilapidated structures in our schools, the whopping sum of ₦772m released for the construction of the new government house fence will construct approximately 250 class room blocks at an average of ₦3m per block, which will perhaps go a long way in restructuring the present state of lack of structures in the state public schools.
Somewhere last year, Governor Wammako constructed an ultra-modern orthopedic hospital in his hometown of Wamakko at the cost of over ₦450 million. It means that ₦772m can build almost two orthopedic hospitals for the benefit of the common man and instead of building a mere fence, Wammakko should have build another orthopedic hospital at either Yabo or Illela Local government to improve health-care delivery in the state. Is there any sense in building a multi-million Naira fence while thousands of children are dying from malnutrition and maternal/infant mortality is on the rise?
It’s now beginning to appear that the entire fencing project is nothing but an authority fraud, a fraudulent initiative to deceive the peace loving people of Sokoto State and cart away with their hard earned millions all in the name of constructing a new fence, at a place where the old one still looks new and solid.
According to details of the project made available to the general public, the structure was due for commissioning in November 2013 as construction work on the new perimeter fence was billed for completion in a period of four months from the day of awarding the contract on 25 July, 2013. But to my total dismay, the ₦772m fence is yet to be completed not to talk of commissioning almost two years after now.
On a visit to the government house, one will agree with me that the fencing project have for long been abandoned by both the state government and those handling the construction; only the front-view of the government house wore a new look but the back and both side-views are still as untouched as they were in 1988. Work has since stopped at the government house for over a year now.
Finally, it’s imperative for the new administration of RT. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal to probe the past regime on this project and other abandoned projects in the state; the construction of new administrative blocks at the Usman Faruk Secretariat, the State Independent Power Plant and the construction of 500 housing unit at Kalambaina just to mention a few. In the spirit of change, the new administrative should as a matter of now ensure that the anti-corruption agenda of the APC is well establish in the state by righting all the wrongs of the previous administrations and the perpetrators should be force to face the full wrath of the law.
Just like President Buhari, Governor Aminu Tambuwal has no excuse for failure, the people overwhelmingly vote him in amid high hopes of making their dream of a corrupt free Nigeria a reality.