In 2020, a member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency, Abdulyekeen Alajagusi, nominated projects for the provision of motorized boreholes.
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Gaa-Lamba, a community in the Asa Local Government Area of Kwara State.
Salamatu Ayinde, a 26-year-old nursing mother, stood in front of her house with a worried look on her face.
Clad in a brown-striped wrapper that barely covered her chest, the nursing mother had her gaze fixed on the ground and one hand on her collarbone.
Ms Ayinde was lost in thought when SaharaReporters approached her to inquire about the Zonal Intervention Project (ZIP)-facilitated borehole in her community.
She looked up with a jolt, sighed and began to complain bitterly.
“That borehole has never been useful to us. It stopped working a few moments after its inauguration in January 2021,” she said, leading SaharaReporters to the borehole at the back of her house. “Since then, water has been a big challenge.”
Ms Ayinde's major concern that afternoon was where to get water to perform her house chores as a housewife.
For her water needs, the nursing mother had relied on a neighbour who had a borehole in her community.
“Every morning we usually take our bucket to a neighbour's compound to fetch,” Ms Ayinde said, gloomily. “But for the last few days, they have refused to pump water because they said people always disturb their sleep while fetching in the morning."
Ms Ayinde is not the only one disturbed about the water situation in the community. A woman in the community who identified herself as Iya-Ibeji is also troubled.
“In Gaa-Lamba, to get common water is a big problem for us," said the short fair woman. “We have complained to our community leader so many times, but they have done nothing.”
"When this borehole was brought, we thought we had finally won the battle of trekking long distances to get a bucket of water. But our joy was short-lived when the borehole could not serve us beyond a few days.
Gaa-Lamba is one of the communities that benefited from the Zonal Intervention Borehole Water Project facilitated by an honourable member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency, Abdulyekeen Alajagusi. But, the finding shows that even though the new borehole was installed, it could not serve the people beyond a few after it was opened.
The Water Situation In Kwara
Poor access to clean and potable water for use in many households across Nigeria has contributed majorly to the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and several others.
According to data from Water and Sanitary Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM) in 2019, only 14 per cent of the country’s population have access to safely managed drinking water supply facilities.
The survey also shows that access for people in rural communities is four times less than the population of urban areas. This is due to such supply points being more than 30 minutes away from their homes.
Meanwhile, in a recent report by UNICEF and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the north-central region ranks lowest of all geopolitical zones in the number of people using basic water supply, sanitation services.
Out of the 36 states and the federal capital territory (FCT), Kwara ranks 36th, just a step above Ebonyi which sits at the bottom of the table.
UNICEF reports that when sources of water are not within immediate premises, women and children pay the price of water collection.
The N100M Water Projects
To bring potable water closer to the people of his constituency, In 2020, a member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency, Abdulyekeen Alajagusi, nominated projects for the provision of motorized boreholes at Alapa/Onire Odegiwa Ward and at Afon, in the Asa Local Government Area of Kwara State at the sum of N25 million each (N50 Million in total).
The projects, which were part of the 2020 Appropriation Act, were aimed at resolving water scarcity across six villages. These villages are Gaa-Lamba, Labintan Alakuko, Giwa-Olowo, Ile Baale Afon, Sakama, and Gaa-Igboroko. It was placed under the supervision of the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority (LNRBDA).
A document released by the supervising agency which was obtained by SaharaReporters revealed that the budgeted sum (N100,000,000.00) was totally cash-backed on the projects.
To monitor the projects, SaharaReporters embarked on site verification of these borehole projects supervised by the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority (LNRBDA) at Alapa/Onire Odegiwa Ward.
Visits to the locations of these projects revealed that although new boreholes were installed at these villages, except for the one built at Giwa Olowo village that was found still serving the community, the other two installed at Labintan Alakuko and 0Gaa-Lamba could not solve the problem of water scarcity in these communities.
The borehole built at Gaa-Lamba was not functioning during SaharaReporters’ investigation, while that of Labitan Alakuko was functioning but could not serve the population that depended on it.
"The borehole is working but the problem is that it is not pumping water well," said Ismaila Alao, a resident of Labitan Alakuko Village.
"To fetch a 25-litre jerry-can, you would need to wait for at least an hour and this is why many residents do not even bother about the borehole.
"As you can see, it has been a while since we went there because no one is ready to contribute money to buy petrol and at the end, the borehole will not pump well," he added.
Like many disadvantaged communities in Kwara, where the presence of government was not felt in any way, people of Labitan Alakuko village have many years relied on wells and a stream for their survival and the women in the communities have to struggle daily with walking long distances to the stream to fetch water for drinking, cooking and doing chores.
When the borehole had just been drilled, it was a dream come true as women, children and men joyfully thought going to streams to get water would be a thing of the past.
“But we are still going to the streams to fetch water because the borehole is not enough for us," said a woman who was too angered to give her name.
When SaharaReporters visited the locations for the second phase of the projects in Afon, it was discovered that boreholes were installed at Ile Baale Afon, Sakama and Gaa-Igboroko villages.
While the people of Ile-Baale Afon were still benefiting from the water project installed in front of their community, residents of Sakama and Gaa-Igboroko complained of lack of water as the boreholes installed were not functioning. They were still forced to trek long distances to neighbouring villages in search of potable water.
Balikisu, a mother of five who is a resident of Sakama village said, "We fetch water from wells or streams. And Sometimes, we pay pushcart users money to get water for us to drink and do our house chores.
"All this would have stopped if the borehole installed for us was working well," Balikisu added.
LNRBDA Spends 50 Million Naira On Ote-Ballah Dam But No Value Derives
Another water project nominated in 2020 by Abdulyekeen Alajagusi for the people of his constituency was the rehabilitation of the Ote-Ballah Dam. N50 million was allocated in the 2020 Federal Government budget for the rehabilitation of this dam in the Asa Local Government Area of Kwara.
According to the information received from Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority (LNRBDA), the total sum of N50M was released to rehabilitate the dam which has been abandoned since 2003 and awarded to Micheal Jacobs Consulting Limited.
A visit to the dam by SaharaReporters showed that despite the public funds committed to the project, residents of the communities are yet to derive value for the money as they still scramble for water to meet their daily needs.
"It has been over ten years we fetched tap water here," said Kamaru Yusuf, a resident of Alalubosa Area, Ote, in the Asa local government area.
Another resident of Ote who identified herself as Amope said for the past seven years since she was married into the community, she had never fetched water from the tap.
"We only get water from hand-pupping boreholes and wells," Amope said.
When contacted for comment, Fatai Aberi, the Managing Director of Fab Confidential Limited told SaharaReporters’ correspondent that they had completed the project and got a 'satisfied' acknowledgement after the needed assessment from LNRBDA, the supervisory agency.
He said despite the N25 million contract sum released for the project, he also used part of his personal funds to see that the project was complete
But when told about the situation of some of the boreholes that stopped supplying water shortly after inauguration, he said, "For now, I can't promise anything but we will try and see what we can do."
No Comment on Ote-Ballah Dam
As at the time of filing this report, all efforts to get the reaction of the lawmaker regarding his failure to rehabilitate dam projects he had facilitated for members of his constituency were not successful. He did not answer several calls from SaharaReporters and did not reply to text and Whatsapp messages sent to his mobile line.
Also, Micheal Jacobs Consulting Limited, the company that handled the project, did not return several calls, text messages, and Whatsapp messages sent to them, asking for their comment on the dam project.