Failures, Tears, Complaints Trail Lagos Multi-Billion Naira Slums Upgrade

Failures, Tears, Complaints Trail Lagos Multi-Billion Naira Slums Upgrade

Many supposed beneficiaries of the slum narrate their travails.

Failures, Tears, Complaints Trail Lagos Multi-Billion Naira Slums Upgrade

The tap water near Usman Bala’s home has run dry. The generator-powered bore hole installed at Kasunmu Street, Agege, in 2008, brought a much sought after succour to the residents; but packed up months later.

“When it first started, it reduced the task because we use to trek a lot before we can get water,” said Mr. Bala, 30.

Far away in Badia, Mohammed Ajadi’s row of shops has made way for the newly paved road and drainage at Afolabi Alasia Street. But he says he’s yet to get reimbursement months after he, and other landlords, were coerced into partly demolishing their buildings to make room for the road.

“They told us that if we didn’t do it, they would come and demolish everything,” Mr. Ajadi said.

Messrs Bala and Ajadi are supposed beneficiaries of the Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project, LMDGP, a slum upgrading project designed to provide essential services and infrastructures in slum communities in Lagos.

A multibillion Naira project

With a US$200 million credit facility from the World Bank, the project aims, primarily, to increase sustainable access to basic urban services through investments in critical infrastructure.

Nine slums in Lagos State are beneficiaries – Amukoko, Ajegunle, Agege, Badia, Ijeshatedo, Iwaya, Ilaje, Bariga, and Makoko – with multi storey school blocks, drainage channels, primary health care centres, roads, bore holes among other projects expected to be built in the communities.

The project, which began in July 2006, has a September 2013 termination date.

However, the quality and life span of some of the completed projects have continued to worry the beneficiaries.

For instance, the tap near Mr. Bala’s home is among the 15 constructed by the project five years ago, each with a 5,000 litre daily capacity, according to the LMDGP.

PREMIUM TIMES investigation showed that more than half of the boreholes have since stopped working.

A World Bank progress report stated that of the 75 completed boreholes across the state since the beginning of the project, only 23 were still working as at July 2012.

By December, the number had reduced to 20 boreholes.

“People complain that the water from some of the boreholes is not drinkable,” said Toyin Balogun, Community Development Committee Chairman for all the communities in Agege.

“Some have not been working ever since they were sunk,” Mr. Balogun added.

In 2008, the LMDGP sunk eight boreholes in Ajeromi-Ifelodun local government, three of them in Ayetoro community, with a promise that the taps could run for decades if properly maintained.

Only one – at Kehinde Street – is presently functional.

“The way they packed up is because of lack of maintenance. People cannot even have the capacity of chance to fix it,” Ibrahim Abass, a Secretary at Baale-Ayetoro CDA.

Mr. Abass operates the borehole at Kehinde Street where he collects stipends – that he uses to ensure that the machine keeps running – from residents who come to fetch water from the tap.

“LMDGP gave this borehole to this community. We went out to training through the LMDGP three years ago. They even enlightened us that this borehole is for us people and that if we can even maintain it, maybe 20-30 years, it will benefit us,” said Mr. Abass.

“But the LMDGP said that if there is any difficulty or any problem, we should contact them,” he added.

Months after the borehole became operational, a myriad of problems arose.

First, the water cylinder started to leak, then the generator and the pumping engine broke down.

“When the problem came, we make phone call (to LMDGP) but no way. I can even say twice or thrice I went to there and they said they will come and we didn’t see them,” said Mr. Abass.

“We don’t even know who can put us through to contact them (LMDGP),” he added.

After several efforts failed, the Ayetoro community took their destiny in their own hands, searching out a competent engineer and using the revenue generated at the tap to seek his services whenever the need arises.

“We don’t normally know people who can even put us through to repair it, that’s why we contact them.

“But as at now, when we faced it and we looked around, we see people who can even do the repair and they did it. As at now we don’t need to contact them again because we have the connection by ourselves.”

In Ajegunle, the incessant breakdown of the 500KVA transformer installed for the residents at Layinka Street, in 2008, have tilted their initial succour towards abject frustration.

“Every three months, the transformer must blow, and they will ask everybody to contribute money to buy something that spoilt,” said Johnson Oku, a resident.

Olawale Ariyo, an Electrical Engineer who helped install all eight LMDGP transformers in Ajeromi-Ifelodun local government five years ago, said that the “sub-standard equipment” used in the transformer is the cause of its continuous malfunction.

“The transformer is quite okay, but the feeder pillar is the problem,” said Mr. Ariyo, who also resides in Ajegunle.

“The main source on the feeder pillar supplying each of all the three feeder units is not strong enough.

“The armoured cable that they used is small. They used 70mm (millimetre), even that 70mm is not up to the main 70mm. What they are supposed to use is, at least, 90mm,” said Mr. Ariyo.

“Then, I wanted to tell them because the materials they give to us is what we are going to use. I knew all the cables they brought for that work will not serve well. I know all the other areas will be having the same problem because they brought the same feeder pillars and cables for all the transformers,” he added.

The transformer, located in the heart of the densely populated Ajegunle, serves, in addition to Layinka Street; Jibowu, Kojo, Arumo, and Olatoye Streets.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that ABP Engineering, the original contractors for the installation of the transformers sub-let the contract to the firm in which Mr. Ariyo worked.

“We were just sub-contractors, and we don’t even have access to the main manager,” Mr. Ariyo said.

“The people that used to come and supervise our job, we used to tell them that their cable will not last well but they said that’s what was produced for them.

”If those feeder pillars can be upgraded and the cable changed to something stronger, the transformer will work better,” Mr. Ariyo added.

 The demolitions

At a stakeholders’ meeting in June, 2011, the LMDGP assured dozens of leaders of Community Development Associations (CDAs) that the project would bring smiles to the faces of the residents.

“It is part of the World Bank policy that in the event of slums upgrading, residents should not be displaced, but rather, create as much as possible minimum inconveniences,” Bayo Kelekun, then Project Director, LMDGP, said.

“We need the co-operation of every community so that when contractors are set to commence activities, there wouldn’t be any delay,” he added.

Despite such promises, barely one year later, the Lagos State Government embarked on an aggressive demolition of major slums across the state, a move that had continually blurred the line between the World Bank funded slum upgrade and the state’s own urban renewal drive.

Last month, bulldozers and backhoes arrived, without warning, at the Oke Ilu-Eri slum settlement in Badia and destroyed hundreds of homes.

In Makoko, where the Egun community had established itself since the 18th century, primarily as a fishing village; the state’s demolition squad visited last July, rendering thousands of occupants homeless.

The forceful eviction triggered a protest in the community after a local chief, Timothy Asikpona, 50, was shot and killed in the process by the police.

In a notice by the Lagos State Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure to the community prior to the demolition, last year, the state berated the community for continuing to occupy and develop shanties and “unwholesome structures” on the waterfront without authority.

“The Lagos State Government is desirous of restoring the amenity and value of the waterfront, protect life and property, promote legitimate economic activities on the waterfront….to underline the mega city status of Lagos State and has decided to clear all illegal and unauthorized developments on its waterfront,” read the notice dated 12th July 2012.

Felix Morka, a former member of the LMDGP’s Project Steering Committee, PSC, said that he had insisted that the Makoko demolition was not in line with the LMDGP’s vision of upgrading slums.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Lagos state government remains in breach of the contract it signed with the World Bank under the LMDGP,” Mr. Morka, the Executive Director of Social and Economic Rights Action Centre, told PREMIUM TIMES.

“What is going on in Makoko has nothing to do with any type of responsible government intervention. The notice they gave to the community is very clear. The government made it clear that they want to use the place for economic activity. So far, we’ve established that they want to use it for boat clubs,” he added.

Mr. Morka, an advocate of the rights of slum dwellers, is the only member of a civil society appointed into the PSC, a committee that monitors performance and target as well as reviews the budget of the LMDGP and headed by a former Lagos State commissioner, Yemi Cardoso.

In the weeks leading to the demolition at Makoko, Mr. Morka had vehemently opposed the action in meetings of the PSC, which also had six commissioners and one local government chairman as members.

The state government ignored him and went ahead to destroy the structures at the Makoko waterfront.

In protest, Mr. Morka resigned from the committee.

“They never listen and they just do whatever they want. In Makoko, for instance, all they have done is put a borehole that doesn’t work, putting one old transformer instead of a brand new one. They’ve done nothing else, instead they are looking to demolish,” said Mr. Morka.

“I resigned because I felt and I’m still convinced that that demolition was a contradiction of the project. The project was for you to use the money and improve the lives of poor people, not to destroy their lives and hand their properties over to the rich,” he added.

‘Abandoned projects’

Prior to LMDGP’s interventions in the slum in Agege, an area spanning about 54 hectares with almost a 70,000 human population, there was no public water supply, despite the proximity of the state-owned Iju Water Works.

But flooding, during rainy seasons, posed a much bigger challenge.

Every year, the deluge of water that flows from Elere through Okekoto empties into the homes at Moricas, Awori, Oniwaya, and other surrounding communities.

In January 2009, LMDGP flagged off a water rechannelization project that would see the contained flood channelled through the Alfa Nla canal.

“I was there when the project was being flagged off and we were introduced to the contractor then,” Mr. Balogun said.

“After that time, the first contractor went away. The second contractor was nowhere to be found,” he added.

In March 2011, the LMDGP invited the Agege community leaders to a meeting in which they reassured them that money was not the problem since the projects were not funded by government budgetary allocation.

“They said maybe, for non performance, the first contractor was sent away. But the second contractor, they now adduced that the reason that maybe because of the torrential rainfall, that is why they could not continue the work,” Mr. Balogun said.

In Apapa-Iganmu local council, about 15 roads were earmarked under the LMDGP.

On February 21, elderly residents in some of the streets at Ijora-Badia, bearing placards, protested the non-completion of the roads in their area after they were forced to partly demolish their homes.

The residents, from Daramola, Ojora, Oniyide, Adetola, Giwa, Odofin and other adjoining streets; were irked by the inability of Seg Mahsen and Company Nigeria Ltd, the contractor handling the road, to finish the project after they had been made to demolish their buildings.

More than a hundred buildings, including frontal parts of houses, rooms, shops, and fences, gave way to the newly constructed roads.

“They (government) called us for a meeting and we volunteered that we have to go home and do our home work,” said Saka Yusuf, Vice Chairman, CDC, Apapa-Iganmu local council.

“We came to meet each landlord. All of them signed that any portion they wanted to remove, they were okay as far as we want better roads, which they complied with,” Mr. Yusuf said.

More than a year later, most of their roads had not been finished.

“If you see the road now, the rain is coming, people are struggling here. Most of the people who have buildings here are retired, widows, they have to cry for help,” said Adebayo Aremu, organizing Secretary to the CDC.

“We want them to complete the project, that’s our problem now and compensate our people who they demolished their houses. Many people affected in demolition,” Mr. Aremu added.

Raliat Bello, another resident, said that their letters to the state government, their council chairman, as well as the LMDGP had not yielded any result.

“We are suffering in this community,” said Mrs. Bello, Chairman of Abete Community Development Association.

“Why do they not help us in all they are doing? There is nothing they are doing for us in the community. We pay tax, land use, and when they come all the people that are selling here, they take money from them,” she added.

The road project, awarded in October 30, 2011, had been bedeviled with poor implementation from the consultant, Advanced Engineering, and the client, LMDGP, according to Oriyomi Olusegun, Project Manager for Seg Mahsen.

“The consultant, in the inception of this project, they did not have any design drawing. When we came to this project, we did not have any drawing and they collected money for the drawing. N1 million,” said Mr. Olusegun.

“When we came, we had to design this road by ourselves, in which we hand over the design to them, which were not paid for,” he added.

Mr. Olusegun said that the road project, estimated at N1.5 billion, had seen a 71 percent completion rate but the company had been paid “just 25 percent.”

“If you are saying that somebody has done 71 percent of the job and you have paid 25 percent, look at the ratio. How do you want us to proceed, with the level of work we have done?

“We see it as a motive to frustrate us out of the job.

“Part of the frustrations they have given to us, they did not deliver the contract to us as at when due. We are asking them where is the drawing? As I’m talking to you now, they cannot present the drawing of this road,” Mr. Olusegun.

“We are now asking them to pay us the 71 percent of the job so that we can forge ahead. May I tell you that we have only one road that is left, which is Ojora. Every other road they are either finished or in finishing stage.”

A letter written by Seg Mahsen and Company Nigeria Ltd addressed to Dayo Oguntunde, LMDGP’s Project Director, detailed a five month construction work with unpaid fees amounting to N655.65 million.

“We are left with no option than to take it up with you the unwholesome attitude or posture that has characterized the management of our contract to the extent of financially crippling us for unclear reason,” read the letter dated November 26, 2012.

“Speculation is rife that, because you don’t want us to win anymore contract again under the project, that is why you are out to frustrate this Badia roads project opportunity by your resulting in writing us different threatening letters despite our huge unpaid bills,” it added.

 Project report

The December 2012 World Bank project report rated both the progress towards the Project Development Objective and the Overall Implementation Progress of the LMDGP as ‘moderately unsatisfactory.’

“After the last mission because of the suspension of civil works due (to) lack of compliance with safeguards, little progress has been made in the provision of infrastructure through the construction of water supply facilities, schools, health centres, roads and drainage facilities,” the report stated.

“Disbursement has remained below expectation, after six years of implementation only 50.9 percent has been disbursed and with an outstanding balance of US$94 million, of which US$33.95 million of commitments on on-going contracts and US$74.38 million non-committed.

“The project is due to close by September 2013 and the major question will therefore be to (decide) the best use of the amount that cannot be utilized given the challenges that the project has encountered since inception,” the report added.

In terms of access to potable water, 23,000 people, out of a targeted 112,500, have been provided with access to improved water sources under the LMDGP since 2006 – a 20 percent success rate.

Efforts to get the LMDGP interviewed for this article were not successful.

In late December, last year, the agency demanded for an official letter requesting for an interview from PREMIUM TIMES.

After the letter was submitted in early January, there was no further response from the agency.

Follow-up visits to their office and phone calls yielded no result.

However, in response to PREMIUM TIMES enquiries, the World Bank stated that the most important thing was that projects are undertaken in accordance with the Bank’s policies and are sustainable over the longer term.

“Though under World Bank financing, projects are not implemented by Bank teams but by government agencies, a lot of work is being done to ensure and improve on the quality and standard of the projects,” said Obadiah Tohomdet, Senior Communications Specialist at the World Bank, in an e-mail response.

Mr. Tohomdet stated that the recent demolitions by the Lagos State government were not “directly related” to the LMDGP.

“All of the subprojects undertaken under the project with the support of the World Bank have been screened for their environmental and social impacts – including resettlement – and the project team has worked with the affected communities to mitigate any negative effects,” Mr. Tohomdet added.

Recently, compensations have begun for some of the residents at Badia whose properties were demolished.

In Ajegunle, Mr. Abass sells a 20 litre container of water at N20; with the proceeds he has kept the “only surviving” borehole in the area working.

“The ones at Kojo and Oduduwa are not working now… we have told LMDGP if they can help us repair them so that people can use it, because throughout Ayetoro, it’s only this one functioning,” Mr. Abass said.

“And it is not even enough for them,” he added.

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