It was an exciting moment for Mutawallen Dur when Yakubu Dogara flagged off the Zumbul Bondot Road in 2015 as part of his nominated constituency project. For Mutawalle and many other inhabitants of Wandi, Baraza, Durr, Zumbul, Dott and many other villages in Dass LGA, a sigh of relief has come their way. At least, they will be connected to their LGA headquarters in Dass and by extension the rest of the world after decades of hardship associated with the terrible road networks.
Seven years later, the story remains the same: “We continue to suffer as a result of hardship and bad road network, our hope is dashed away because this road has become a political cash-cow, to get money and woo political sympathy,” Mutawalle said.
Mutawalle told WikkiTimes that “work on this road usually resurfaces at election season, presumably to deceive us again that we will smile as soon as we re-elect them back to the office.
“What worries me most of the time is that this road has been used severally as a campaign tool, but we continue to bear the brunt after the election,” Mutawalle said.
Mutawalle was referring to Dogara’s promise in the build-up to the 2019 election where the former Speaker of the House of Representatives promised his constituents that as soon as he returned to the lower chamber of the national assembly, he will influence the timely completion of the road.
“The blessings God bestowed upon us are the road projects you see ongoing, besides the ones from Sum-Dull-Burga, there is the road behind the mountain in Dass and there’s the one from Pankshin-Mangu in Gindri, all in Plateau State. All these are the major road projects we are currently doing which, before completion, will cost N46 billion.”
“I want to assure you that if it were the Bauchi State Government that is constructing these roads, 60 years will pass, and they will still not have completed them, maybe most of us will probably die without us seeing them completed. But you are seeing the efforts we are making now.
“After winning the elections, God placed me in a higher position of Speaker and I told myself that it was now mandatory for me to fulfill my promise to the late Chief of Dull, to construct this road and provide Telecommunication networks so long as I am the Speaker”, Mr Dogara was quoted as saying at the time.
Years down the line, and despite billions of naira in releases, Mutawalle’s Durr and other communities left their tongues wagging as to when the road will be completed.
THE ABANDONED WORK
Flagged off in 2017, the 48KM Tudun Wus – Dott Road construction project in Dass LG of Bauchi state was to be completed within two years, but the project remains fictitious and the residents continue to bear the brunt.
The Road was lined up to cover eight communities: from Tudun Wus Junction in Dass town to Wandi, Baraza, Durr, Zubul, Polchi, Dott and Kwanar, all in Dass Local Government of the state.
WikkiTimes discovered that barely six years later, the Dass rugged road is full of deadly holes resulting from erosion.
From Tudun Wus, the construction reached only one community WANDI and stopped at Gabkar village before Baraza. It is just six kilometres from the starting point of the work and a few metres before the main bridge in the area.
From Gabkar to the other six communities, the road is in deplorable condition with yearly loss of lives and destruction of means of transportation from the residents and the commuters.
Similarly, from the ending part of the road ( Polchi Junction), the road started and stopped at GAWRI village about 7km away – the other parts of the road remain ghastly.
Inhabitants of the communities which are mostly farmers, groan.
RESIDENTS LAMENT AS HOPE FOR ACCESS ROADS DISSIPATE
From Tudun Wus Junction in Dass town to Wandi, Baraza, Durr, Zubul, Polchi, Dott and Kwanar, residents who spoke with WikkiTimes continue to lament the hardship they face as a result of the poor road network.
“Our nightmare as a people is more pronounced during the rainy season. Sometimes when it rains, we have to wait for hours before we cross some of the streams connecting our communities because the torrential rains will flood heavily and block the roads”, said Saidu Umar a resident of Zumbul.
Umar Alhaji, a resident of Polchi community said “The economic hardship we are still enduring as a result of these terrible roads remains unquantifiable. Transporting our agricultural goods to market under this condition is not only pathetic but overwhelmingly distressing– in fact, the pains are written in our faces and everyone could see it,” he regretted.
Umar recalled how his neighbour lost his wife who was in labour on the way to the hospital, an incident he says was a result of the bad roads. “There was no way we could rush to the hospital that night because it rained throughout the day and the streams were all flooded with water, one could easily assess whether it was the right time to cross or not. We have to wait till morning, and before we reach the hospital, as a result of prolonged labour, the woman calls it a day,” he recalls.
Residents of several communities in the constituency had one “terrible example or another to tell you regarding the conditions of the roads”, reiterated Mutawallen Durr. He said from economic to social life, the over 48km road remains their major “pandemic.”
“We were very optimistic when Dogara says as soon as he got re-elected, these roads will be a priority, but unfortunately, like many of his constituency projects, this one is also not kept”, he added.
THE PROJECT IS A TOOL FOR ELECTIONEERING CAMPAIGNS – RESIDENTS
Mallam Abubakar who holds the traditional title of Matawallen Durr said it has become a norm with the former speaker to use the roads as campaign tools. “We remember vividly how he promised to ensure the roads are done as soon as he gets back to the National Assembly. It has now become a habit, that anytime the election approaches, the contractor will return to the site and disappear as soon as the elections are over”, he said.
“We are really suffering. A project that can be completed within a year. You see them back now. They will try at least a mile and you wouldn’t see them anymore; they are back because of the forthcoming election”, he insisted.
Alh. Yau Umar Mohammed, the village head of Zumbul, said the community is now hopeless that the road will be completed anytime soon.
“Our first and foremost problem is our road. This road is a federal government road. It is only during the election that they will come and start something as if they are serious. So what we want now is let the state Governor do something on this road to help us.”
The village head wondered why the road was not completed “nearly seven years since it was awarded to the contractor,” he said.
Another resident of the community, Alh Saidu Husaini said: “The road was started by Dogara but things are not working. All these communities here, this road is their major problem”.
“The people of Zumbul are not the only ones in pain because of the deplorable condition of the road, anyone you ask in these wards will definitely tell you that his problem is the road before any other thing”, he stressed.
DESPITE BILLIONS IN RELEASES, 48KM ROAD REMAINS A MIRAGE
WikkiTimes has unearthed a series of releases made to Datum Construction Nig. Ltd amounting to billions of naira for the road project– but despite these releases, not much progress has been recorded in constructing the road. For instance, on February 27th, the sum of N706,614,513.5 with payment code, 234001001, was made to the company. On 21, Apr 2020, two additional payments were made to the same company, amounting to N305,414,729 just as another N174,522,702.10 with payment number,1000673971-7 was made to the same company for the construction of the road linking the communities.
On the 28th of April 2020 four different payments, each at One Hundred and Seventy Million, One Hundred and Ninety Thousand, Four Hundred and Seventy-six Naira, Nineteen Kobo (N174,190,476.19) were made to the construction company, amounting to Six Hundred and Ninety-six Million, Seven Hundred and Sixty One Thousand Nine-Hundred and Five Naira (N696,761,905). On 09, Oct 2018, the sum of N207,918,239.20 was paid into the coffers of the company just as another stupendous N207,918,239.20 with payment number 1000515766-5 was made the same day for the same purpose.
On 31, May 2019, Datum construction Nigeria LTD also received N271,428,571.40 into its coffers just as another money amounting to N180,952,381.00 also landed in its account on 18, Oct 2019.
Of the few payments tracked and analysed by WikkiTimes, Datum construction company has received the sum of Two Billion, Seven Hundred and Fifty-One Million, Five Hundred and Thirty-One Thousand, Two Hundred and Ninety-Eight Naira (N2,751,531,298) for the construction of the 40km road.
Unfortunately, despite these few payments tracked and analysed, WikkiTimes can authoritatively report that not more than 3km of the road has been completed.
When contacted to explain why the project was not making progress over the years despite evidence of releases, the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Bauchi Field Office says it was not in possession of the information WikkiTimes sought for. Instead, one Mahmood Kawu wrote and directed our correspondent to write to the Minister of Works and Housing who the letter said was in a better position to respond to WikkiTimes’ FOI request.
Calls and text messages put to Hon. Yakubu Dogara were neither answered nor returned as of press time.
POLITICIANS GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING BECAUSE NO ONE HOLDS THEM ACCOUNTABLE – CSOS
Some civil society organizations in Bauchi State advocating for good governance describe as unfortunate the activities of “some politicians” who they say have formed the habit of “shortchanging the people.”
“It is quite unfortunate that Legislators who are the stewards of the Communities to bring about meaningful development are the ones sabotaging development in the communities. This is uncalled for”, argues Seun Justin Onarinde, Team Lead, Young Leaders Network.
Seun argued that the major reason why politicians get away with “these dubious acts” was that “no one holds them accountable. They choose to disconnect from their people and bribe a few stingy ones among the citizens. Oftentimes, the Politicians connived with greedy Contactors to do substandard jobs”, he said.
Seun advocated for proper enlightenment and education, because “The Community needs to be empowered to hold their elected officials accountable for every work they do. The first tool for empowerment is information. The Community needs to be armed with the knowledge of what has been allocated to them in the budget”, he added.
Mr Nkem Ogbonna, the Executive Director, Better Life Restoration Initiative, BERI a local NGO in Bauchi says one of the ways to curb corruption in constituency projects was to get them publicised.
“All constituency projects should be publicised to direct beneficiaries early enough so as to inform them about the release of funds for its execution. The contract documents should have a direct beneficiaries or host community endorsement column where the key stakeholders of the project should sign before the money is released”, he opined.
Mr Nkem also said Lawmakers found shortchanging their people should be denied the opportunity to vie for elective positions in the future.
“Those who short-changed their people should be denied tickets through court orders, I suggest their political opponents should sue them to all relevant anti-corruption agencies and capitalize on them for political gain”, he added.
FOI REQUEST IGNORED
When WikkiTimes wrote a Freedom of Information request addressed to the Bauchi office of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, the ministry replied, asking our reporter to direct his request to the Minister; for, the Bauchi office was not responsible for supervising the work. WikkiTimes sent the same letter to the Minister of Works and Housing as advised by the Bauchi office, but the ministry was yet to respond months after the request was sent.
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