Opinion

Olusegun Adeniyi: When Trillions of Naira Go to Waste

The president and chairman of the governing council, Chartered Institute of Project Management of Nigeria (CIPMN), Dr Victoria Okoronkwo recently estimated abandoned projects in Nigeria at N12 trillion. Listing the projects by geopolitical zones, Okoronkwo said the South-east has 15,000; South-west, 10,000; South-south, 11,000; North-west, 6000; North-central, 7,000: North-east, 5,000 and Abuja, 2,000.

Such level of waste and mismanagement of scarce resources speaks volume about our country. But it is all the more unfortunate that President Goodluck Jonathan, who in March 2011 instituted a Presidential Projects Assessment Committee (PPAC) headed by Alhaji Ibrahim Bunu, jettisoned the report eventually submitted on the issue. He treated the findings in the cynical manner he treated reports of several other committees he established (more than 60 at the last count) which were never implemented. Yet, according to the Bunu committee, 11,886 abandoned projects that would cost an estimated N7.78 trillion to complete littered the country at the time they completed their report! And here we are talking only of Federal Government projects.

Against the background that the committee actually calculated the cost of the abandoned projects by using the sums at which they were originally awarded and not today’s rate, it stands to reason that we may be looking at a cost worth many times more. But this waste is not restricted to the federal government because there is hardly any state today where you will not find hundreds of such projects in varying state of execution, abandoned for years. And when you calculate the money that had been expended on them, it runs into several billions of Naira.

What compounds the situation is that in a crazy system where many public officials often think more about their cut than in service delivery, even completed projects are sometimes abandoned to start new ones at astronomical costs. While that disposition is more prevalent at the state-level where most of the governors are so petty-minded that they would not want to touch projects commenced by their predecessors, Abuja also has its own peculiar situation which the unfortunate story below perhaps epitomizes.

In my book, “Power, Politics and Death”, I explained how, at my instance (based on advice from respected sports journalist, Mr Dudu-Orumen) the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua constituted the Presidential Taskforce for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He also appointed me as a member. Chaired by former Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, other members were: Dr. Patrick Ekeji (Secretary); Mr Segun Odegbami, Mr John Masteroudes, Mr Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, Dr Larry Isamuje, Col Abdulmumini Aminu (rtd), Mr John Fashanu and Ambassador Buba-Ahmed. The then President of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Mallam Sani Lulu was also appointed to represent the body before he was replaced by Aminu Maigari who succeeded him.
At our inauguration on 21st May, 2009, the late president said because it would be tragic if our country failed to participate in the first FIFA World Cup to be hosted on African soil, he had to make a “critical intervention to ensure that the national team not only flies our beautiful flag in South Africa but also does it in a way that pays fitting tribute to the Nigerian spirit”.

With experienced sports administrator, Alhaji Abba Yola, as head of secretariat, the committee went to work. We raised the funds, about a billion Naira, and eventually succeeded in qualifying Nigeria for the tournament. Thereafter, we assisted the NFF in their preparations for and participation in the January 2010 African Cup of Nations tournament in Angola. We also deployed part of the funds in hiring a foreign technical assistance to prosecute the World Cup while we raised the match bonus for Super Eagles players by 100 per cent throughout the entire period just to motivate them.

By the time our assignment ended in July 2010, following the conclusion of the World Cup in South Africa, the committee still had about N350 million remaining in its account. We had several options on what to do with the money, which most committees in similar situation would have shared among members, especially since it was raised mostly from the private sector. But we decided to deploy it to building a befitting secretariat for the NFF.

I remember that at the time, only few people believed that we could build a house in Abuja (where the cost of such projects is usually in billions) with N350 million. But after a long and painstaking process and having held several sessions with prospective contractors before picking one, we delivered the “Sunday Dankaro House”, right at the National Stadium Abuja in July 2013. The conditions for the contract were very stringent with an undertaking signed by the contractor, Messrs Paul-B Nigeria PLC, that under no condition would there be a price variation.

Standing on two floors, the edifice, built on a gross floor area of 2,000 square metres, boasts of a helipad, a courtyard, a penthouse and a manicured park. The ground floor of the building has a conference room and 12 self-contained offices with associate conveniences while the first floor has 14 of such offices. It also has a big conference hall and the office of the Secretary General. The second floor is the penthouse which accommodates the office of the NFF President with two conference halls. The complex also has a 200KVA generator, a borehole with ground and overhead tanks for 20,000 litres capacity and it has a parking space for 110 vehicles.

At the commissioning on 18th July 2013, former Vice-President Mohammed Namadi Sambo handed the keys to the offices to then NFF President, Alhaji Aminu Maigari, after which he planted a commemorative tree. But now to the all-important the question: What has happened to this building, more than two years after commissioning? Nothing! The NFF simply abandoned it. Even when their rented office, the “Glass House” went up in flames last year, nobody has had the good sense to take possession of the house specially built for football administration in Nigeria.

Why have they not done so? I learnt all kinds of requisitions have been made for some jumbo sums of money to furnish the building and because such funds have not been given by the federal government and the NFF fat cats cannot take from their FIFA allowance to buy chairs and desks, the building can go to ruins for all they care. Let me not even go to the matter of some “emergency builders” within our football administration who were disappointed that their companies were not given the contract that they probably would have abandoned. Of course, Nigerians now know that such matters in Abuja are usually about “goat and yams”!

So, for more than two years, that edifice on which many of us sacrificed our time and energy has been lying fallow and I will not be surprised if it is already being vandalised from inside. Very soon, I am almost certain, someone would cart away the generator and other valuables and may be in another two years, there would be a line in the budget for some billions of Naira to buy or build a “befitting” house for the NFF. That is the way we are in Nigeria.
I have gone to this length on the “Sunday Dankaro House” not only because I am involved but also because it tells a compelling story about our country and the kind of waste that has become the defining feature of our public life. Of the thousands of abandoned projects that lie fallow all over the country, many were actually completed before some people decided, for whatever reason, not to put them to use, like it is the case with the NFF building.
I have said it before and I want to repeat myself: President Buhari has several reports to work on because all that his immediate predecessor did was to establish committees, collect their reports and keep them in his drawers. In the instant case of Ibrahim Bunu’s PPAC report, I believe that President Buhari can make use of it by putting together a small team of professionals that will give him some clear directions on the way forward. He can also ask the Prof. Itse Sagay-led advisory committee on anti-corruption he just constituted to come up with a legal framework that would discourage such waste of scarce resources in future. To the extent that at the heart of most abandoned projects is monumental corruption, it is important that we enact legislations that would curb the antics of those who have perfected the art of wasting public resources in the bid to feather their own nests.

On the ones currently abandoned without completion, the president should seek specific solutions to each of the projects, even if it means giving some of them away to stakeholders in the private sector at bargain prices so that they can, at least, be put to use and in the process, add some value to the economy. On the specific case of the “Sunday Dankaro House”, I hope the minister of sports (whenever one is appointed) will direct the NFF to move in because if they don’t, in another year or two, some people may be asking for billions of Naira to “rehabilitate and furnish” an edifice built with just about N336 million!

On the whole, the ultimate lesson is that, as a nation, we cannot continue to waste scarce resources the way we are doing and expect any meaningful development.
Between MTN and Etisalat

Two years ago, MTN did a public relations coup on one of its rivals, Etisalat, by getting their star promoter, Saka, to port to MTN. It was a celebrated case in the world of advertising and I wrote about it on this page, praising MTN for the feat. But two years down the line, Etisalat seems to be having the last laugh as a result of the quality of its operation. Since I use both networks, I can attest to the fact that Etisalat is far more reliable than MTN in several respects but what actually puts the network ahead of the rest is in the reliability and speed of its data.

That much was admitted recently by the MTN Chief Executive, Sifiso Dabengwa. “The key issue really for us has been to improve the data quality and speed,” Dabengwa told reporters and analysts at the company’s results presentation. “Clearly, Etisalat’s network, from a data point of view, has been better than ours.”

Such honesty, as displayed by Dabengwa, is rare in Nigeria’s corporate world but it may turn out to be MTN’s redemption. Having admitted that they have a challenge–and it is really not only about data because calls on MTN lines are practically impossible these days—I hope Dabengwa and his team will work towards repositioning the network that was once a pride to subscribers. For Etisalat, I can only say, keep it up!

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The Verdict Written By Olusegun Adeniyi and Culled from Thisday; [email protected]

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