INVESTIGATION: How Yobe govt diverted N326m meant for a project in Gov. Buni’s LGA
INVESTIGATION: How Yobe govt diverted N326m meant for a project in Gov. Buni’s LGA
HOTPEN – Yobe State Government has claimed to have completed the building of a N326 million worth of community sport center in Buni Yadi, the state governor’s place of birth. However, investigations revealed that the project has not been carried out, in what is a flagrant violation of the state’s procurement laws.
Buni Yadi is a major town in Gujba, one of the 17 local governments in the state. Besides many other things, the town’s name is popular in the headlines for the series of Boko Haram attacks it had come under, including an infamous one on a government secondary school in 2014 where schoolchildren were butchered. The town had to be eventually deserted, as the attacks only became more frequent thereafter.
The town is still recovering from the ravages it has suffered, as are many other parts of the state. Beyond infrastructure and livelihoods, a lot needs to be still done on trauma healing and mental rehabilitation, among other psychosocial support, especially among young people.
Currently, young people in the town only make-do with uncompleted buildings and open glades in adjoining neighborhoods and streets as football fields, for local football, as their only recreational activity. An internet entry showed how recreation and sport promote healthy living, mental well-being and stronger social bonds among people, including healing of trauma and pain.
When it could be thought that it was in this interest that the government of Yobe finally decided to build the community sport center, our investigation revealed otherwise, as the project only ended up being executed in paper.
Young people in the town told our correspondent that they have only two open fields they use for a competitive football. The first is called Arsenal and the other Barcelona, named after English and Spanish football clubs, respectively.
Arsenal is sited inside Government Day Secondary School Buni Yadi, while the Barcelona field is an undeveloped land belonging to someone. They told our reporter that when the owner decides to develop the land, they will look for another place, as they have done variously in the past.
Now both fields have become waterlogged, and thus inaccessible, forcing them to give up football until after rainy season. Some who insist on playing, also have to wait for a portion of the field to dry up, before another rain submerges it.
These comments were made few months after the state government claimed to have completed a community sports center in the locality.
How it happened
In 2020, the government approved a project to build the sport center in Buni Yadi through its ministry of youth and social development for a total sum of N323, 316, 885. A call for tender was published in June 2020. In the request for proposal, the project’s specifications were given as: ‘…consists of Main Bowl and Football Pitch, Grand Stand, Popular Stand, Centre Referee and Linesmen Residence, Gate House, Restaurants, 3Nos (sic) 6 Compartment Public Toilets, Chain-link Fencing Ware, Mechanical Workshop, 2 Nos (sic) Volleyball, 2Nos (sic) Basketball, 2Nos (sic) Tennis, Handball, Badminton and High Jump Courts.’
A check on the state’s bureau of public procurement portal in August 2022 showed that the project was also marked 100 % complete since September 25, 2020. It also showed that the project was awarded to one Grey Land Multiple Investment Limited—a company later checked to be registered under Nigeria Corporate Affairs Commission with registration number RC1051395, located at AB10 Safana Road Unguwar Sarki in Kaduna.
However, residents of the town told YERWA EXPRESS NEWS that they are yet to see anything as such. Follow up checks by our reporters in the town showed that the said project does not exist.
Similarly, when YERWA EXPRESS NEWS contacted the company about the project, it said no such contract was awarded to it, even though Mr. Mustapha Abubakar, who is believed to be the chief executive officer of the company, said he had heard of the work.
‘No, we did not do the work. I heard of it but I did not know how it ended up. I did not receive award letter. You should go to the ministry to ask who they gave the contract to,’ the CEO told our reporter who contacted him August 16 through a phone number given on the procurement record.
It appears that the company’s name was used to cover up what could be a deliberate ploy to divert the contract funds. Having listed it on its portal, and more so certifying it as having been fully completed, the state’s bureau for public procurement has also committed an offence contrary to the laws establishing it, which mandates it to verify contracts and ensure proper documentation for all public procurements, among others.
Section 6 (5) (a) (b) (c) of the state procurement act said the bureau’s mandates, among others, are: ‘the harmonization of existing government policies on public procurement and ensuring probity, accountability and transparency in the procurement process.
‘The establishment of pricing standards and benchmarks; ensuring the application of fair, competitive, transparent, value for money standards and practices for the procurement and disposal of public assets and services.
‘The attainment of transparency, competitiveness, cost effectiveness and professionalism in the public sector procurement system.’
The bureau is mandated to ‘prevent fraudulent and unfair procurement and where necessary apply administrative sanctions.’
It also goes further to say that any public officer who in any way influenced violations of the terms of a contract should be punished.
Curiously also, the project did not appear, or as explicitly as possible, in the state’s 2020 budget and the auditor-general’s report 2020. It was not in the budget proposal, the final and approved copies as well as the revised version.
Reaction of the residents
A few of the residents of the town spoken to by YERWA EXPRESS NEWS said there is a need for such a facility in their community. They said sports help to keep some of them occupied, especially in the evening.
But lack of designated and standard sport centers, they said, leaves them running from pillar to post every evening looking for where to spend their recreational time.
‘Even those of us who do not play football look forward to the evening so we could go and watch others play,’ a resident said, adding that ‘it keeps us engaged, entertained and happy.’
But Abubakar Zanna, a young footballer said ‘each time we play, we do it with fear that the landowner will come and send us away.’
Most of them are not aware of the sports center project, which the government had claimed it had already completed. They were nonplussed when our reporters asked them for a direction to it.
A few who claimed to have been aware of it were disappointed it has not yet materialized.
‘We are not aware of the things you are talking about because if a community sport center is constructed in this community, we will be the ones to tell the world, because we are the ones to make use of it and we will be happy if such things happen in this community,’ Abubakar said.
‘We only heard rumors that the government wanted to build a community sport center in Buni-Yadi; that’s all,’ another resident added.
The Yobe State Council on Public Procurement, which is supposed to ensure proper vetting of contracts and all other necessary paperwork, is comprised of the commissioner of finance (as chairman), attorney general, secretary to the state government, head of service and the governor’s special adviser on economy. It also has ‘two people of proven integrity’ drafted from every of the state’s three senatorial districts, with the director general of the bureau as its secretary.
What the governor said
When contacted, Mohammed Mamman, Governor Mai Mala Buni’s director of press said he knows nothing about the project.
Mr. Mamman, who releases information regarding activities of the government, asked our reporter to ask the people directly involved in the project, even though it was part of his principal’s first budget in office.
‘You should contact the office responsible for all these projects. I cannot have every single information,’ he said.