In what looks like an endless circle of deception, the federal government continues to release billions of naira for the rehabilitation of Numan Jalingo road, but commuters continue to perish amid other economic consequences taking a toll on residents in both Adamawa and Taraba States; reports WikkiTimes’ Idris Kamal Ibrahim.
Tjjani Adamu is a vegetable dealer in Numan, Adamawa State. This means he has to ply the dilapidated Numan-Jalingo road at least once a week, this has resulted in a life of taking medication for him.
In the past, Adamu went to Jalingo three times a week to supply perishable vegetables to his hometown of Numan, but he can no longer afford to do so.
“I don’t have the capital to sustain the demand at the moment because drivers charge us exorbitant transport fares on the argument that they spend a lot to maintain their vehicles due to the nature of the road to Jalingo,” he said.
Adamu, in his mid-sixties, has more than half of his operating capital ceded to the bad nature of the Numan-Jalingo road. He had about N100,000 capital but at the moment, he is struggling to stay in business with as little as N30,000.
The travails of Adamu and his likes, steamed from the inability of the Federal Government to complete the rehabilitation of the 126km Numan-Jalingo road. The contract for the rehabilitation of the road was awarded to Deux Project Limited in 2017.
Checks by WikkiTimes reveal that the contract amount for the project was pegged at N11,650,570,513.89 (N11.6 billion)
WikkiTimes findings revealed that on April 14th 2020, the contractor was paid N130,892,026.58; on June 7th 2021 the contractor was also paid N117,187,500; on 23rd October 2018 another N117,244,094 was twice paid to the contractor; again on 2nd December 2021 N39,166,666.69; was paid to the contractor
Cumulatively, Deux Project Limited was paid N521,734,381.27 at different times to rehabilitate the 30-year-old Numan-Jalingo Road by the Federal Government.
In addition to Deux Project Limited, another company Global Hulk Service Limited also received N60,145,409.78 on 24th April 2020 with regard to the road project.
However, five years after the award and funds were released, the contracted company partially rehabilitated only three kilometres of the road.
“The road between Numan to Jalingo has been the way it is for the past 30 years,” Alhaji Danjuma, NURTW Chairman in Numan told this medium.
Registered as a ‘private company limited by shares’ the contractor is yet complying to with all mandatory government regulatory agencies in Nigeria, Deux Project details on the Bureau of Public Procurement website have shown. For instance, the company is yet to comply with Federal Inland Revenue Services.
A search for Deux Project Limited’s profile reveals that Dr Kayode Olaunji Olomolafe heads the board of the company while Olowolafe Gbemisola Olutayo acts as secretary. Other members of the board of directors of the company are Dr Ibiyemi walter Olatunde and Mrs Rita Lateh Olatunde.
However, five years after the award, the contracted company partially rehabilitated only three kilometres of the road. “The road between Numan to Jalingo has been the way it is for the past 30 years,” Alhaji Danjuma, NURTW Chairman in Numan told this medium.
In Nigeria, government projects are oftentimes abandoned even where the government makes funds available for the execution of a project. For instance, WikkiTimes in an exhaustive investigation uncovered how public funds were released to contractors for the rehabilitation of the Gembu-Serti road in Taraba state but the road remains in bad shape despite both Federal and Taraba State Governments claiming that the project has been completed.
In the case of the Numan-Jalingo rehabilitation project, the contractor has done three kilometres of the 126km of the work awarded to it.
Similarly, despite the repeated failed promises of those in government to ensure the rehabilitation of the road was completed, drivers and passengers continue to be at the mercy of thieves and suspected kidnappers while accidents persist, especially in the rainy season.
Numan-Jalingo Road Nightmare for Business persons
Alhaji Useni, a businessman, said Numan-Jalingo road spelt doom days for him. Accidents on the road consumed two of his commercial trucks, a fatality that almost got him out of business. “To lose two trucks to accidents on the road is not easy at all for me, my family and the drivers who earned a living driving the trucks,” he said.
Due to the bad state of the Numan-Jalingo road, Alhaji Useni now prefers to transport goods to Gombe and Bauchi than to Adamawa or Taraba states. He has no plans to resume transacting in the two states soon, arguing that it is subject to when the Federal Government rehabilitates the road.
“Since two of my trucks fell on this Numan-Jalingo road, the choice of Adamawa and Taraba fizzled out of my mind.
“The road has made it impossible for me to relate with my customers in these two states.
“For now, I have decided to only transport my goods to only Bauchi and Gombe, pending when the road will be properly fixed by the authorities concerned,” he said.
For Muhammadu Yarima, a 45-year-old yam and fish dealer at Muda-Lawal market in Bauchi, supplying yam or fish to Bauchi from Taraba is out of his reach, adding that he does not contemplate taking the risk to engage Taraba because of the dreaded Numan-Jalingo road, a road he has to use from Bauchi.
He said, “It was my late grandfather who transacted with Taraba. At their age, the road was not as bad as it is today and they made brisk business.”
“I only supply Yam from either Benue or Nasarawa states and, sometimes from Kaduna State. Doing that from Taraba will only amount to incurring loss for me because I cannot afford drivers the kind of money that they want because the road is not user-friendly.
“It may interest you to know that at the moment, there is no group of merchants that engage Taraba for business because there is no road,” Yarima told WikkiTimes.
Drivers now charge businesspersons twice the amount that they charged them a few years back, a reality that takes a toll on businesses in the affected communities as well as neighbouring states.
With current economic realities everywhere in the country, businesspersons in Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe states found its transport fare not business friendly as it denied them profit.
“About 15 years back, I paid N2,000 to the bus driver to transport bananas for me from Jalingo to Numan but now I paid N6,000 to get a space in the boot to get a few bunches of bananas transported to Numan.
“The business is fast becoming unprofitable to us because we share whatever we made after selling with drivers. The take-home is not proportionate. As it is now, drivers make more money than us,” Jibbo Abubakar, 47-year-old banana seller in Numan told WikkiTimes.
Ahmed Jibrin, a 37-year-old dealer of ruminants in Numan, said the road has priced him out of business. He said from Numan to Mayo Lope, a journey that used to last for 35 minutes now takes a traveller nearly 2hrs, adding that it subjects his animals to untold hardships.
The animals, which are mostly goats, rams and sheep, become exhausted and weak before getting to the market, a development that affects their prices and invariably affected their earnings.
“Before the animals get to the market, sometimes some of them broke their legs while at other times some died because of the turbulence caused by big ditches on the Numan-Jalingo road and all these have an effect on their value,” he said.
He said businesspersons are now afraid to travel on the road with money on them because of the activities of thieves. “They block the three times in a week to rob passengers of their belongings,” he added.
Thieves, Kidnappers Hold Sway Along Numan-Jalingo Road
“Armed robbers and kidnappers can just stand head-on with a moving vehicle and ask you the driver to stop. The driver will have no option but to halt the car because he cannot speed the car to escape them.
“They operate at their will knowing fully well that drivers have no escape route. You just have to give in to their demand,” Jibrin said while narrating to WikkiTimes his encounter with armed robbers on the Numan-Jalingo road.
Aliyu Dahiru, a driver, said that in a single night, thieves may come out on operation three times along the Numan-Jalingo road. “If they realised that security personnel are coming to chase them, they simply change position from one end to another. They can operate for hours before security personnel can reach their location because the road does not support speeding. It is terrible for motorists,” he said.
He added, “Kidnappers can just guide people to the bush easily without much ado.”
Dahiru said it is not safe for both drivers and passengers to ply the Numan-Jalingo road at 6 pm or at night.
The Chairman of NURTW Numan said thieves can mount a roadblock at a particular location that is not more than three kilometres away from Numan town and operate successfully without any opposition from security men.
He said, however, that at the moment, the incidents have reduced because some military personnel were stationed on the road.
Drivers Plying Numan-Jalingo Road Spend Huge Sums To Maintain Vehicles
For most drivers, travelling on the Numan-Jalingo road is not profitable to them and car owners because a one-time trip would amount to expending a lot of money to maintain the car.
The situation is more pressing as prices of car spare parts in the country inflate in a disproportionate manner to the amount drivers charge passengers per kilometre.
To drive on the road, especially during raining season, one must possess special driving skills to do effectively. Accidents occur more on the road around the rainy season “because at that time, the road is too muddy and trucks easily sink into the mud.”
Taxi drivers in Numan who before the condition of the road worsened, normally make two trips to Jalingo but now can only do one or two in a week.
Mohammed Yusuf, a taxi driver in Numan told this medium that car owners and their drivers are now in a constant feud over remittances. He said drivers share half of the money that they realised in a week or month with car spare part sellers.
“A tyre that used to last for three months now takes just two weeks maximally and fades leaving the driver with no option but to change it.
“The potholes and ditches on the road coast us shock absorbers almost on daily basis.
“Back shock absorbers rose from N2,500 to N6,000 while front shock absorbers rose from N3,000 to N9,000,” he said.
The Health Cost Of Travelling On Numan-Jalingo Road
To ply the much dreaded Numan-Jalingo road once a day, “I have to take N150 worth of drugs through self-medication,” Jibrin said while referring to the implication of plying the road on the health of passengers.
Another user of the road told WikkiTimes that, “because of the plethora of potholes on the road, if you visited Jalingo from Numan and come back the same day, be rest assured that fatigue will overtake you so much such that you cannot wake up the next day.”
Apart from fatigue and fever that normally accompany users plying the road, passengers and drivers alike sustain injuries through accidents. “You have to take drugs if you use the road,” said Mr Jibbo.
Senator Binus Yaroe Ignores Calls, SMS
Senator Binus Dauda Yaroe, the senator representing Adamawa South Senatorial zone, did not respond to the phone calls that this reporter placed through his line.
Besides, the senator did not respond to the Short Message Service (SMS) sent to his line. The SMS sent to Senator Yaroe on 16th June 2022 sought to know the efforts of the lawmaker towards ensuring that the rehabilitation of the Numan-Jalingo road which passed through his constituency, was completed.
On October 17th 2020, the lawmaker was quoted as vowing to mobilise lawmakers from the two states to speak with one voice so as to see to the execution of the project. However, after more than two years, the road remains as bad as it was.
Embargo on Federal Roads Deters Adamawa Govt From Renovating Numan-Jalingo Road
On its part, the Adamawa State government argued that the embargo deterring state governments from renovating federal roads prevented Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri from touching the road.
Engr. Mohammed Sulaiman, Permanent Secretary Adamawa State Ministry of Works and Energy Development told Wikkitimes that the decision of the Federal Government not to refund states for work done on federal roads forced Adamawa State government to not make any effort to renovate the road.
“We have other critical roads in the state that calls for urgent attention and response from the state government, why go into doing federal road?” he inquired.
Supervising Agency, Contractor Ignore WikkiTimes’ FOI Request
WikkiTimes has sent an FOI request to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing demanding an explanation as to why the renovation of the Numan-Jalingo road failed.
In the FOI dated 13th June 2022 and sent to the office of the Honourable Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola WikkiTimes sought disclosure of information about the total amount released to the contractor, why the project failed, procurement information for the project, details of companies that bided for the contract, what mechanism was used to select the company that eventually got the failed project and efforts on the ground to ensure the contractor return to the site to finish the work.
Similarly, another FOI request dated 13th June 2022 and addressed to the CMD/CEO Deux Project Limited demand the company to divulge how much it received for the rehabilitation of the road, whether or not it submitted bids for the project and why the company was unable to complete the project five years after the contract was awarded to it by the Federal Government and releases made in lieu.
WikkiTimes sent an email with the FOI to the contractor on 19th July 2022 after Mrs Roy Ola, Business Development Officer of the company asked this reporter to send the FOI to the dedicated email address of the company.
“It will be forwarded to the Project Manager handling the project,” she insisted.
However, neither the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing nor Deux Project Limited responded to WikkiTimes’ FOIs more than 14 days after receiving the requests.
This publication is produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation