Floods reeked disaster on no less than 64,000 persons in Anambra State alone, according to the last impact report released by the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) on September 26, 2018.
Going by the scale of the devastation, which killed about 200 persons and displaced over 100,000 people nationwide, it would have been expected that the closest water-related federal agencies to these communities, the River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs), would have exhausted all in their ammo to proactively curb the destructive powers of erosions and flash floods. However, this does not seem to be so.
The Shocking Realization
Anambra Imo River Basin Development Authority (AIRBDA) received go-ahead from the Presidency and the National Assembly in 2018, to spend an estimated N1.9billion on the construction of VIP toilets, a mini-stadium, classroom blocks and 40 other line items that seem beyond the bounds of its constitutional provision. If the funds are fully released for all listed capital projects, the River Basin, whose fundamental function deals with the management of surface and underground water, will have fumigated farms, constructed civic halls and provide the customary solar streetlights as well.
AIRBDA also encroached into the territory under the Cross River Basin Development Authority, by promising to provide six motorized boreholes in Yakurr and Abi Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Cross River. In the same vein, the agency promised to pay N50million to Silverbird apparel for the construction of rural roads in Anambra State.
All told, AIRBDA will be cutting out of funds that should have been designated for erosion, flood control and other water-related issues, to build 13 solar streetlights, provide or energise six transformers, carry out varying range of works on six community halls/centres, and execute an HIV/AIDS programme. The water management focused institution will go on to do the following:
Construction of VIP Toilets in Ore Umuma-Isiaku and Isiogwugwu Hall Ideato South LGA, Imo State for N25million; construction/renovation of six (2) classroom blocks each in Amaraku Secondary School, Isiala Mbano LGA, Imo State and Umunkwo Girls’ Secondary School, Isiala Mbano LGA, Imo State; construction of Divisional Police Station/accommodation at Camp Nkpologu, Uzo-Uwani Lga, Enugu State for N70million.
Others include: Renovation and equipment of Community Hospital in Isioji, Nkpologwu, Aguta Lga in Anambra State for N15million; construction of market in Isioji, Nkpologwu, Aguta LGA in Anambra State for N20million; Arochuckwu Mini Stadium for N100million; fumigation of farms in Isiala Ngwa North LGA for N100million.
Furthermore, there is procurement of farm implements for farmers in Isiala Ngwa North and South LGAs in Abia State for N100million; supply of generators at Nri Anaocha LGA for N20million and the establishment and development of systems (GMS) Needs Assessment For Institutional Capacity, Strengthening of Gender and Human Rights For N8million.
The National Assembly also deemed it constitutional with the assent of the President for AIRBDA to spend N125million on two youth empowerment programmes in Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala Federal Constituency in Imo and Isiala Ngwa North and South LGAs of Abia State. Line items in AIRBDA’s spending plan were not just mis-aligned; no less than 31 others were lacking details uniformly seen across well-described projects in the budget. They were either lacking the name of the state where the project is to be executed, the amount of streetlights, boreholes, roads, etc., to be provided or a precise location for the said project.
Among the poorly described projects cited are 'Erosion Control in Umunne/Oduma/Nenwe and Erosion Control/Pavement in Amichi-Igboukwu road'.
The Story Continues In 2019
Meanwhile, the 2019 appropriation bill presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari in December also has a draft of 21 misaligned projects as well, 50 per cent less than those in the 2018 approved spending plan. Out of the 11 solar streetlights, the agency could execute if the bill sails through, five of them were in the 2018 act also.
Solar Street Lights at Over Rail Eha-Amufu Isi Uzo Lga, Enugu State, received N8million in 2018 and it could receive N15million in 2019. Solar streetlight in Mberi, Imo State, got approval of N14.9million in 2018 and N10million in the 2019 appropriation bill. Solar streetlights in Enugwu Agidi, Anambra State, had a budget of N16million assigned to it in 2018 and N20million in the 2019 Appropriation Bill.
Others include solar streetlight in Enugwu Ukwu, Anambra State which got N12million in the 2018 budget and received an additional N500,000 in the 2019 spending proposal and provision of solar streetlight at Irunnebo Village, Anambra State, which was given N40million in the 2018 budget, while it received N12.5million in the 2019 budget proposal.
AIRBDA also felt it was within its mandate to construct a bakery, build market stalls, construct classrooms, renovate a public school, execute another HIV/AIDS programme and crown it with the provision of four VIP public toilets in each of the five South-Eastern states of Nigeria. All of these will cost N188million that could have gone to the control of flood and erosion menace.
For 2018, the total worth of AIRBDA's misaligned project stood at N1,894,340,037, while for 2019, the value of misaligned projects was N188million.
What the Law Says
Going by the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Section 4 of the act establishing River Basin Development Authority stipulates their functions within set geographical boundaries to include:
- to undertake comprehensive development of both surface and underground water resources for multipurpose use with particular emphasis on the provision of irrigation infrastructure and the control of floods and erosion and for water-shed management;
- to construct, operate and maintain dams, dykes, polders, wells, boreholes, irrigation and drainage systems, and other works necessary for the achievement of the Authority's functions and hand over all lands to be cultivated under the irrigation scheme to the farmers;
- to supply water from the Authority's completed storage schemes to all users for a fee to be determined by the Authority concerned, with the approval of the Minister;
- to construct, operate and maintain infrastructural services such as roads and bridges linking project sites: provided that such infrastructural services are included and form an integral part of the list of approved projects; and
- to develop and keep up-to-date a comprehensive water resources master plan identifying all water resources requirements in the Authority's area of operation, through adequate collection and collation of water resources, water use, socio-economic and environmental data of the River Basin.
The Complicity Of The National Assembly
When SaharaReporters reached out to Chidi Amaliri, the Public Relations Officer of AIRBDA, to find out why the agency was planning to spend funds on projects outside its legal statutes, he refrained from giving an official response, saying the Director-General was in the best position to respond.
“Those are constituency projects that were put in by National Assembly members. They just used us as executing agency,” he grudgingly stated.
Continued attempts were made at speaking with the DG, but they were unsuccessful.
Abayomi Collins, a former member of the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2007, said the actions perpetrated by the RBDAs are “terrible and sacrilegious”.
“What is going on in all these river basins is terrible, sacrilegious,” he said in a phone interview.
“This is a very bad development that is going on. Google the River basin Development Act; when you talk about roads within their mandate, it simply talks about the road that is leading to an infrastructure that they are working on. If you talk about electrification, it could be a short-distance power connection to the project site. Not rural electrification, not a stadium, not all these solar panel and solar stuff.”
He further alluded to the connivance of the National Assembly in the misalignment of projects.
“If you look at that budget properly, you might see projects that are not within the purview of Anambra/Imo. You might even see a project from Kogi State. And the people are just being shortchanged, I mean, this is cruel. Would the members of the Water Resources Committee in the National Assembly say they don’t know the mandate of the River Basin Development Authorities?”
In his response to the claim of the AIRBDA PRO, that the projects were put in by the National Assembly, Collins, who also chaired the Water Resources Committee between 2004 and 2006 said: “That is where it will emanate; Anambra/Imo will not do that. It is the hooliganism of all these House of Reps members or senators that put all those projects in that place.”
AIRBDA was voted a total expenditure of an estimated N12.2billion in 2018. Its recurrent cost was N485,129,674, while funds for capital projects is about N11.8billion.
In the 2019 Appropriation Bill, Anambra/Imo RBDA received a proposed capital expenditure envelope of about N3.94billion and a recurrent expenditure of N528.8 million.
After the National Assembly received the 2018 budget proposal, it added over N500billion and at least 4,000 more line items, while taking away some of those inserted by the Presidency. Time will only tell what will happen when the 2019 budget is eventually passed.
However, numerous efforts by SaharaReporters to reach the National Assembly to make a comment on this proved abortive, as the contact numbers in the public domain either are not reachable or not answered. Calls and a text message were put through to Sabi Abdulahi, spokesperson of the Senate, but none was returned.