Editor's note: Nigerian farming communities lack access to water for dry season farming despite billions of Naira spent on dams and irrigation projects. In most rural communities in Nigeria, farmers are often out of job during the dry season due to poor access to water.
This invariably implies that a large chunk of Nigeria’s arable land is not cultivated even when the country struggles with poverty and food insecurity.
An investigation by Olajide Adelana revealed how inefficiency and mismanagement of resources by the country’s river basin authorities may worsen food insecurity.
It is dead silent here.
There is no farmer immersed in farm work, no usual rumblings associated with irrigation sites, no land cultivated, no crops seen, no hydropower equipment.
Everything is silent and there is nothing to suggest that over N7 billion earmarked for the construction of Ivo river dam, hydropower and access road in Mpu, Aninri local government area (LGA) of Enugu state, has been reasonably utilized. The proposed construction site now serves as a temporary shelter for herdsmen and their flocks.
The project lays abandoned. It was intended to control erosion and flood, develop 5MW hydropower component and make 500 hectares of land available for irrigation for residents of Ivo town in Ebonyi state and neighboring communities of Okpanku and Ukey in Enugu state.
Now, it has become an awful eulogy of how abandoned and uncompleted projects are scuttling Nigeria’s food security drive.
Abandoning projects is a tendency in Nigeria. In 2015, it was estimated that there are 56,000 abandoned government projects worth N12trn across the country, says director of administration, Chartered Institute of Project Management of Nigeria, David Godswill Okoronkwo, in an interview with a Nigerian newspaper in June, 2015.
This ugly trend has however continued to harvest more communities into its fold. Few understand this better than residents of Okpanku and Ukey and Ivo communities whose livelihoods have been affected by the failed project.
Some five years ago, Calampo Onyejie, a resident of Mpu was a farmer. Today, he sustains his family by conveying passengers on a motorcycle. Despite not faring better compared to five years ago, Onyejie says he would not recommend farming to anyone in the area. He believes that until government invests in agriculture by providing requisite infrastructure, it is an unprofitable business.
Sadly, such investment as the Ivo river dam project has become a sad reference for wasted potentials of an agricultural community. And this is not hard to tell
The handling of the work raises questions on whether the right expertise was contracted for the job. And this was alluded to in a 2017 report by the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), a body saddled with promoting transparency and accountability in government’s financial management.
According to the report, actual work at the site commenced in October 2010 with a completion period of 24 months but had to be redesigned and relocated in January 2013 due to the unsuitability of the original project site.
Before then, Messrs Anbeez Services Limited was appointed a technical partner to the contractor; D.A Construction Limited in 2012. Thereafter, the contract sum shot up by 72.9 percent from N2, 143,301,160 to N7, 916,833,895.78.
One may argue that Anbeez’s expertise is justified but the sequence of event does not necessarily support this. In fact, at the time the company was hired as a technical consultant it seemed to have had its plate full.
On October 10, 2010, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) under former President Jonathan awarded a N5.997 billion contract with a completion period of 36 months to Anbeez for the construction of Jada Multipurpose Dam in Jada LGA area of Adamawa state. But more than 7 years later and with nothing less than N1.919 billion allegedly expended, the project is yet to be completed.
Sadly, the same fate has befallen the Ivo river dam project.
Why is this so?
A freedom of information (FOI) request sent to the Federal Ministry of Water Resources was not answered within 7 working days stipulated by the FOI Act. The only response received from the ministry came a month later stating that the FOI request has been forwarded to the appropriate quarters.
Efforts to speak with the company were unsuccessful as there is no traceable website. A visit to the registered address of the company at 161 Dogo Dutse, Jos, Plateau State showed that the company had relocated.
As at November 2017, it was estimated that about 116 major projects domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources are either uncompleted or abandoned. Even then, most functional dam and irrigation projects are either inefficient or underutilized. A case in point is the Yola Irrigation Project which was conceived in 1981 and has had N423, 289, 779. 23 expended on it by different administrations from 1979 to 2016.
Despite the potential of the 37-year-old project to benefit over 2500 farmers, generate over 10, 000 direct jobs, produce over 1300 tons of paddy rice, 2500 tons of fresh vegetables, and 50 tons of maize, the project is yet to be completed. The project, according to a FRC report, is 60 percent completed and only 370 hectares of the potential 12,000 hectares have been developed for irrigation.
“We are somewhat limited at the moment. In terms of the productivity of the land especially rice we get about 8 tons per hectare. That means 80 bags assuming each bag is 100kg. That means if you are to cultivate twice in a year you will have 16 tons per hectare,” says Abubakar Muazu, the Managing Director, Upper Benue River Development Authority in charge of the project in an interview in his office in February.
Experts however argue that Nigeria is only shooting itself in the foot and aggravating the already poorly organized food sector by not genuinely fighting impunity and corruption.
The effects are already manifesting.
In July 2016, United Nations’ Children Education Fund (UNICEF) reported that over 2.5 million Nigerian children were suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) also had unpleasant news. It reported that some 7.1 million people living in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger were severely food insecure.
Nigeria however needs to get her act together, not just for its own sake, but also for tackling the increasing humanitarian crisis in other West-African states.
An article published by Pulitzer grantee, David Hecht in 2008, traced the 2005 malnutrition crisis that killed thousands of children in Niger to Nigeria. The report says, “...thousands died of malnutrition, not because Niger had had a particularly bad harvest, but because there was a food shortage in Nigeria,” which saw an increased exportation of food to Nigeria “and people in Niger could not afford the ensuing higher prices”.
To bolster Nigeria’s agriculture for rural development strategy, President Buhari on March 26, 2018 constituted a Food Security Council (FSC) to develop new measures and projects to create more jobs in farming, fisheries, animal husbandry and forestry.
This act, observers say, underscores the urgency that the present government is attaching to agriculture in light of the devastation caused by Boko Haram in the agrarian northeast and frequent clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the middle belt and southern part of the country.
It is believed that the FSC constitution is the first in the series of steps to revive abandoned projects and ensure that farmers and host communities begin to realize their potentials and contribute to the nation’s economy.
Experience has however made farmers like Onyejie, doubting Thomases. He would rather see the physical results of the council than accept their proposal as true.
“I don’t believe them. Until I see these efforts with my korokoro eyes everything is just da.mn lies.”
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This investigation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR
Meanwhile, NAIJ.com had previously reported that how irrigation projects get abandoned in Nigeria.
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