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How Nestle Nigeria contaminates water supply of its host community in Abuja

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ON April 14, 2016, Nestle Nigeria assembled a team of geological experts, businessmen and politicians to witness the commissioning of a N5.6 billion water factory in Manderegi, an agrarian community in Abaji local government area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The factory is celebrated as the most modern water plant in Sub-Saharan Africa.

At the event, Nestle Nigeria promised to provide free access to potable water for not fewer than 1,000 residents of the community and improve technical competencies locally by establishing a technical training centre for the youths in Abaji.

Broken Promises, Deferred Hope

Two years after the water plant started full-scale operations, residents of Manderegi and its environs continue to struggle with chronic water shortages as the stream that serves as an alternative source of water supply is contaminated with wastewater directly pumped from the Nestle’s water factory. Also, the channels for the release of the waste water from the factory has created a gully erosion, that has caused serious ecological danger destroying farmlands and access roads in the community.

In contrast, a promotional video on Nestle Nigeria’s website shows a water fountain built by the company in the outskirts of the community that purportedly provides potable water to 1,000 residents of Manderegi community which, according to Nestle Nigeria, had made the residents abandon the local stream and gain to access clean drinking water.

When The ICIR visited the site of the water fountain, there were only four taps, which were expected to supply water to 1,000 residents of the community.

The advert also claims to have provided 111 jobs for the local community and embarked on Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) to help teachers in the local council area raise awareness on proper hydration and conservation in children which reached 25 schools, 100 teachers and 2,500 pupils in 2017.

In the video, the community chief, Alhaji Seidu Garba, thanked Nestle for siting the water plant in his community.

“We thank God for Nestle that came here to Manderegi, I am very glad,” he said before the video ended.

Time has proved Garba wrong.

Two years later, his tone has changed as expectations that the water processing plant would change the fortunes of the community for the better were dashed.

Garba Seidu, Manderegi Community Chief

Recounting the details of the water crises faced by the community, Garba told The ICIR that, since Nestle Nigeria set up the multi-billion naira water factory in Manderegi, the community regularly has suffered scarcity of water.

And any announcement made by the company to ease the water problem in the community is a promotional stunt to build their public reputation.

“Nestle officials approached me and said they wanted to extend water supply from their factory to their gates so that people in the village could have access to clean water for their needs. They said though they didn’t have the capacity to take the water into the village, they promised me that after one year they would ensure that a borehole is built inside the community to ease the burden of the people,” he said.

It was later we realised that the water project located at the outskirts of the village was not built to solve our water problem but to serve as a tool of propaganda, he added.

“We didn’t know it was a ploy by Nestle to supply water to their customers. Today is Monday if you go there you will see tanker drivers with vehicles there, they didn’t build it for us. They control the taps from their factory and they turn it off when the crowd is much, leaving us frustrated, and without water.

Early this year, Nestle commissioned another borehole project in the primary school that will serve the school and the community but till today there is no water from that borehole,” he said.

Nestle Nigeria constructed a metal container for the village chief which serves as his “office” where he receives guests. In front of the container is a tap head that hardly produces water. When Nestle Nigeria inaugurated the second borehole project in the primary school inside the community in January, people’s hope was raised, but the four taps through the water should pass remain dry till date.

 

The office built by Nestle for Garba Seidu, to entertain guests.

“Now we have resorted to fetching water from the stream to get our daily need of water. I leave them (Nestle) to God. Check the distance from this place to Nestle (water factory) just to fetch water, do you know how many kilometres that is,” he queried The ICIR.

Nestle has renovated a section of the LGEA primary school, Manderegi including the school toilet, but the restroom has been under lock and key because the borehole that is to serve the toilet is non-functional.

And despite the claim by Nestle Nigeria, the Headteacher of the school, Muhammed Sarki, told  The ICIR that there has never been a water sensitization exercise carried out by Nestle for teachers in the school.

“To the best of my knowledge, no training has ever been conducted for teachers in this school by Nestle to teach water sensitisation for teachers and pupils. As for the borehole, currently, it is not working because one of the machines got spoilt that is why we don’t have water. When it is restored then there will be water,” he told The ICIR.

A-sink-in-LGEA-Primary-School-Manderegi-restroom renovated-by-Nestle.

Like the school, the Primary Health Center, Manderegi,  also does not have water despite the vast, underground water table in this community.

Umar Saidu, the head of the clinic who was transferred to the centre four months ago, told The ICIR  that water is a big challenge because the clinic spends about ₦350 weekly to pay women in the community to supply water from the stream or from the water taps at Nestle’s gate.

That is how the health centre has been able to prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases at the clinic.

WHO estimates a minimum daily entitlement of 20 litres of water per day for every individual to take care of basic hygiene needs including food hygiene, apart from laundry and bathing that require a large quantity of water. Most residents of Manderegi instead wake up every morning thinking about where to get water to meet basic water need.

Burden bearers of Manderegi

The Manderegi community has experienced a persistent water scarcity for over twenty years. Despite, several borehole projects launched by the federal government within this period, their usefulness has been short-lived.

Two solar-powered borehole projects built by the former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration in 2008, barely worked for a year before it stopped functioning.

Years later the people of Abaji continued to draw water from the stream until Nestle Nigeria came with a water project that promised to end the problem of water scarcity in the village.

Residents expected the Nestle water project would make potable water accessible because they would no longer travel long distances to get water.

But the reverse has been the case.

Aisha Ibrahim’s still engages in this daily ritual that has formed a part of her upbringing.

She has to wake up before the crack of dawn every day with her mother and siblings to walk for over one hour to the Manderegi stream to get water for their domestic activities for the day. It is a tough task for the eight-year-old whose exertion from the daily routine of fetching water affects her studies.

“I’m always late to school in the morning because before I get home from the stream and prepare for school, it would have been late,” she told The ICIR through an interpreter in her local dialect.

“At school, I feel sleepy in class because I have to get up very early in the morning to attend to my morning chores and it makes me tired but I try to stay awake and listen to my teachers. I would love to have a tap running close to my house so I don’t have to go very far to get water,” she said.

A 2016 study carried out by UNICEF in 24 countries in Sub- Saharan countries which include Nigeria indicated that women and girls in these countries bear the burden of water collection which a round- trip takes averagely 33 minutes which could possibly affect the education of girls in the region and prevent their attending school altogether.

Sadiu Salihu, another girl resident in the village,  told The ICIR that the physical exhaustion associated with the long distance to get water is her main concern.

“I have to trek every morning and evening to get water from the stream with my friends and sibling. The road to the stream is rough and hilly, and with water on my head, I usually feel dizzy and exhausted,” the eighteen-year-old said.

Sadiu Salihu,

She, however, explained that getting water from the stream is better for her because she prefers drinking from an unsafe stream than risk crossing the highway with water on her head, and become a victim of the road accident.

“The distance from this village to Nestle (water factory) is very far, and that means I would have to cross the major road with water on my head. Several women have died from crossing that road with water on their heads. To be on the safe side I would rather get my water from the stream which is safer,” she said.

She along with over 69 million Nigerians do not have access to potable drinking water and resort to getting water from compromised sources that put their health at risk according to 2018 data obtained from United Nations International Children Emergency Fund, UNICEF.

Sourcing water from a Contaminated Chalice

When The ICIR reporter visited the stream he noticed that the wastewater from the Nestle factory running directly into the stream through pipes. Also, cow dung littered the surrounding of the stream increasing chances of pollution.

A water sample obtained from the stream in Manderegi on 28th February tested at the National Institute of Science Laboratory Technology, Ibadan, shows significant pollution.

The tested sample indicated a high presence of pathogenic bacteria at 1.3 x 10-3 mg/L beyond the recommended World Health Organisation WHO, limits of 1.0 × 101 mg/L. Also, the total coliform count showed that it was 1.0 × 102 in excess against the WHO 0.00 limits prescribed by the global health body.

A high coliform count shows that bacteria associated with human and warm-blooded animal waste are present in the water. Diseases such as typhoid fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, and dysentery can be contracted from the water with a high coliform count. It is recommended that faecal coliform be absent from drinking water.

Femi Adediran, a registered chartered chemist and member of the Institute of Public Analysts of Nigeria, IPAN, told The ICIR about the contaminants to expect from a water processing plant.

“You could test for residual chlorine and if present, there is the possibility of having trihalomethanes (a by-product of chlorination if done in excess). There could also be increased turbidity/suspended solids from frequent backwashing and cleaning of the factory,” he said.

However, the pH of the sample was surprisingly low at 6.95 against the recommended WHO 7.0. The total suspended solids also showed a moderate 268mg/L and residual chlorine was absent from the sample.

The Biological Oxygen Demand, BOD, of the sample, revealed a high 12.88mg/L which is dangerous and reveals increased pollutants activity present in the water.

According to Water Research Center, a water sample with BOD between 1 and 2 mg/L indicates very clean water, 3.0 to 5.0 mg/L indicates moderately clean water and greater than 5 mg/L indicates a nearby pollution source in the water.

However, the pollution of this stream has continued unabated for over two years without the intervention of environmental regulatory agencies mandated to regularly carry out inspections.

Another Threat

The landscape of Manderegi has changed visibly since Nestle set up their factory in 2016.

Unregulated discharge of effluents from the factory has created a gully erosion that rendered roads in the community inaccessible and destroyed farmlands.

The gully erosion starts from drainage outlets set up at the back of the factory spanning over an estimated distance of 100m into the community.

Mohammed Kabir, a deputy youth leader in the community told The ICIR that the roads destroyed were motorable two years ago but now residents in the community use people’s farm as access roads to get to their destinations. Passing through this alternative route may get worse during the rainy season.

“Two years ago this place (pointing to the eroded portion of the road) was a major road where we used to get to our farms but now we can’t walk on foot through this place because of the erosion. It was from day one when they started operations at this factory that they started pumping wastewater into our community, it started small until it escalated to this level with the rains approaching this year it is going to be worse,” he said.

One of the outlets where effluents flow from the factory into the community.

Alhassan Abdullahi, is a certified graduate with a Nigerian Certificate in Education, NCE, from the Nassarawa College of Education, Akwanga but he is currently engaged in part-time farming.

He is sceptical that his source of livelihood might be affected by the erosion

“Farming is the main occupation for young people in this village but with our land slowly eroding away by Nestle activities I wonder what they expect us to do. When you apply for a job at their company they will tell you your skillset is not needed but they promised to open a training centre to train youths but I don’t know who they’ve trained in this village yet they’re destroying our farmland gradually,” he lamented.

The National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency (NESREA) is the agency saddled with the responsibility of regulating and monitoring the protection and sustainable development of the environment and its natural resources. It also imposes punitive measures on culprits.

Section 2 of the Environment Impact Assessment Act E12 of the 2004 NESREA Act stipulates that before private and public companies can carry out any activity, assessment of the potential impacts whether positive or negative, of the proposed project on the natural environment should be carried out first and obe.

Until the amendment of the NESREA Act in November 2018 which reviewed its existing regulations, increased strict penalties and permits the search of premises without a court warrant, the environmental body is no longer “toothless” according to a post on its Twitter handle.

Suleiman Oyofo, NESREA spokesperson told The ICIR in a phone interview that the reviewed regulations have strengthened the agency to respond to environmental issues and effectively monitor the activities of companies.

“Unlike before when we need a warrant before we can enforce compliance of the law, the amendment has made it easy for us to operate and given us leverage to impose stiffer penalties on defaulting public and private companies which is something we’ve not been able to do in a long time,” he said.

NESREA is still faced with the challenges of conducting routine checks and monitoring the activities of companies that flout environmental laws. The ICIR sought to know from Oyofo if the agency was aware of the environmental violations taking place in Manderegi by Nestle activities and their response mechanisms.

“No, we are not aware. The community will have to file a formal complaint to the Director General of NESREA and then we can swing into action and take it up from there,” he stated.

Nestlé’s response

Oluwafemi Ojo, the Human Resources Manager at Nestle Waters, Abaji declined to comment on the issue raised.

“You will have to give me a document to substantiate the claims you’ve made so I can send it to the corporate headquarters in Lagos for their response because I can’t speak on these issues. Or I can give you my email address to send your questions for me to forward it to the appropriate quarters,” he said.

The ICIR later sent the emails to Ojo and the Lagos corporate office requesting to know if the Environment Impact Assessment was conducted by Nestle before siting the factory in the community, but the mail was not replied as at the time of filing this report.

Calls placed to the public affairs manager, Victoria Uwadoka, was answered by a female operator who asked the reporter to call back after an hour. When the reporter called back an hour later he was told the spokesperson was unavailable.

An environmental activist with Environmental Rights Action, ERA, Olatunji Buhari, said a functional public water system is the best way to make potable water accessible to people.

Sustainable Development Goal six can only be achieved by creating innovative solutions to make water available for all, he added.

“The easiest way to make the prescribed 25 litres daily quota of water which is a right for every Nigerian, readily available is by making our public water systems work. The usual complaint from the government is that there is no money but we are saying use innovative taxations by compelling big companies that use more water pay more but you will be shocked that the taxes paid by these companies are no different from the costs of water that a three bedroom flat pays,” he said.

 


*This investigation was made possible by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR). The report first appeared on ICIR

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BUSINESS

Wema Bank, Dana Airline in alleged money laundering scandal

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One of the nation’s topflight banking institutions, Wema Bank and Dana Air, owners of Sri Sai Vandana Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) have been fingered in a money laundering crime and may be prosecuted by the anti-graft agency.

According to a source, the airline’s inflight donation collected between 2014 and 2018 without following due process is the bane of contention.

“The EFCC will take it up. We will investigate and prosecute the crime element once prima facie is established,” the acting spokesperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Tony Orilade said.

Dana started Nigeria’s Sri Sai Vandana Foundation in 1995 and commenced the inflight donation in partnership with the Sickle Cell Foundation of Nigeria. But after the airline suffered a major crash in Lagos in 2012 in which 153 persons died, it ceased the collaboration, ‘re-strategised’, and solely ran the inflight donations.

Reports also reveal how Dana through Sri Sai Vandana Foundation, got the inflight donations between January 2014 and October 2018, raking in millions of naira deposited into the Wema Bank account number 0121291839 without due registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), a prerequisite for complying with the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) regulations.

The EFCC official stated that the company will be sanctioned and that when there is a vacuum that is when we will lift the veil.

He further explained that by ‘lifting the veil’ he simply means “The company cannot run without humans. So, it is when everyone denies being members of the company that we go after the individuals.”

In line with the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, it is mandatory every Designated Non – Financial Institution, DNFI, to register with SCUML in order to legally operate in Nigeria.

Contravening the SCUML guidelines have some specific penalties, including “suspension or revocation of license, fines or imprisonment or both,” according to Sections 15 to 17 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended).

It stipulates a maximum of 14 years jail term for an individual but, in the case of a corporate organisation, the law says such organisation would pay “a fine of not less than 100 percent of the funds and properties acquired as a result of the offense committed” and would also have its license withdrawn.

Precisely, the law defines the unlawful act listed in subsection (2) of the Act to include “corruption, bribery, fraud, counterfeiting, and piracy of products…or any other criminal act specified in this Act or any other law in Nigeria.”

As such, Wema Bank officials involved in Dana’s account opening process may as well be prosecuted by the anti-graft agency, as soon as SCUML forwards its findings to the EFCC.

Source: ICIR

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INVESTIGATION

Sanwo-Olu’s Chief of Staff, Tayo Ayinde dumps wife, …Marries millionaire’s sister

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Barely one year after the crash of his marriage, popular Lagos politician, Mr. Tayo Akinmade Ayinde has found love again. He is romantically involved with Doyin Ojora, a popular society lady. Ayinde, who presently serves as the Chief of Staff to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state, was the Director-General of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu Independent Campaign Group between 2018 and 2019.

This newspaper gathered that Ayinde ended his marriage to his first wife, Titilola, shortly before Sanwo-Olu’s gubernatorial project kicked off. Sources disclosed that Ayinde decided to end the marriage to Titilola and send her packing, for the flimsiest of excuses, which continue to elude the couple’s close friends. Not satisfied with his decision to call it quit with his first wife, Ayinde, reportedly, denied her access to their children.

Close sources disclosed that Ayinde’s decision to end his marriage with Titilola, has refused to sit well with his close friend. They can’t seem to fathom why he would dump the woman, who started from the scratch and made a lot of sacrifices to make him what he is today.

Sources revealed  that Titilola almost went into a state of depression when all efforts she made to reconcile with her family was frustrated by her estranged husband. Left with little or no option, the 49-year old lady left Nigeria and relocated to the United States, where she currently resides.

Meanwhile, Ayinde has since found love in the bosom of Doyin Ojora, a party-loving society girl. The two have since consummated the affair and now carry on as husband and wife. Doyin is in her late 30’s, and she is the niece of Otunba Adekunle Ojora, the boardroom businessman. She once worked with Ayodeji Joseph, during his tenure as Chairman of Apapa Local Government. Later, she was appointed as a caretaker of Apapa Local Council.

Ayinde, who hails from Ikorodu, Lagos State was born on the 24th of August, 1964 at Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos. He is an alumnus of Havard Business School, Boston, USA and University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Ayinde is a former security and intelligence personnel. He had previously served as chief security detail to the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu from 1999 to 2007.

A source close to the chief of staff, however disclosed that he and his estranged wife have been separated for about 3 years and they finally divorced last year. “It was as a result of irreconcilable differences, he’s a good man who has right to live well.

This was one of the issues that counted against him when he contemplated contesting for the governorship, Aswaju told him that “koni yawo nile,( he doesn’t have a wife) so, if he decides to do that now,is it wrong? The source said.

SOURCE: First Weekly Magazine

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INVESTIGATION

Crisis rocks Nigeria Centre for Disease Control as D-G refuses to leave after tenure

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There is apprehension in the Abuja head office of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as a result of the decision of the Director-General (D-G), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, to remain in office after the expiration of his tenure.

Despite the order from the Permanent Secretary of the federal Ministry of Health, Alhaji Abdullahi, who is the overall boss of the ministry in the absence of a minister, that Ihekweazu should vacate office based on the content of his appointment letter dated August 1, 2016, he has bluntly refused to obey the instruction.

A presidency source, who is in the know of what is going on in the agency, declared that the Permanent Secretary has made an official complaint against the D-G to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.

The presidency source said: “There is a complete loss of confidence in the D-G and the top officials no longer hold meetings with him”.

Aside the fact that this action may affect the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari, it may also affect the mandate of the agency to effectively respond to the challenges of public health emergencies.

NCDC Memo

The source declared that the Presidency is already shopping for a replacement “and this will be announced soon”.

The top four directors in the agency are Dr. Joshua Obasanya, Mrs. Olubunmi Ojo, Mrs. Nwando Mba and Mr. Y.Y. Abdullahi. Of these four, Obasanya is the most senior.

There are also Deputy Directors such as, Dr. John Oladejo, Mrs. Elsie Ilori, Dr. Priscilla Ibekwe, Dr. Chinwe Ochu and Dr. Olufemi Ayoola “and I can tell you for free that these top officials don’t see eye to eye with the D-G again”.

One of the junior officials in the ministry declared: “Our D-G has vehemently refused to vacate office, despite the instruction from the Permanent Secretary”.

He said Ihekweazu assumed office on August 1, 2016 based on a letter signed by the then SGF, Babachir David Lawal.

With Ref. No. SGF.6/XXI/356 and entitled APPOINTMENT OF NATIONAL COORDINATOR/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THE NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (NCDC), the letter reads:
“I am pleased to inform you that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved your appointment as National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer of the National Office for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC).

“The appointment took effect from 25th July, 2016 and your emoluments and other conditions of service are as provided under Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances etc.) (Amendment) Act, 2008.

“I am to add that your tenure terminates at the end of this Administration unless otherwise decided by Mr. President.

“Please accept my congratulations and best wishes on your appointment”.

The source declared that Ihekweazu “pressed all the buttons” to ensure a renewal of his tenure in May and April but a fresh letter was not given to him.

“He should have left office since May 29 but he has been using delay tactics. I can tell you that the morale is down in our office. All our ogas (directors) don’t attend meeting with Dr. Ihekweazu again.

“I remember the last meeting they had with him was about two days after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for another term on May 29.

“The D-G should have left office on May 28 but he told them that he would leave office Tuesday of the following week. Twenty four hours to the day, he called them again and announced that he would leave office the following Thursday. All of a sudden, the next thing we saw was a letter from the D-G, informing all directors, heads of departments and members of staff that he would go on one-week leave from June 13 to 21”.

The letter, dated June 11, 2019, reads:
“Dear Colleagues, I will be proceeding on annual leave from the 13th to 21st of June, 2019.

“During this period, Dr. Joshua Obasanya will act in my capacity as Director-General.

“I am very grateful for the hard work and support from you all in the first half of this year. It has been an extremely busy period but with a lot of success and remarkable achievements.

“The prospects of what we can achieve in the next half of the year are very exciting. I look forward to more progress on this journey.

“Once again colleagues, thank you very much for your support.
Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu”

The source said the paragraph ‘The prospects of what we can achieve in the next half of the year are very exciting. I look forward to more progress on this journey’ is already causing ripples in the agency as it is believed that Ihekweazu does not want to vacate office, despite the expiration of his tenure.

The source alleged that the D-G “is still signing cheques and awarding contracts, backdating them to May 27”.

“There is a serious lacuna in our office. The sit-tight syndrome is already affecting our operations here. There is also the allegation of nepotism against the D-G. Since the D-G resumed from the one-week leave, I have not seen our ogas (directors) in his office. Now, we hear all kinds of rumours.

“There is tension everywhere. One of the ogas (directors) told me that they will not have any meeting with him. Honestly, since the Permanent Secretary advised the D-G to leave, I wonder what he is still doing in the office”.

Established in 2011, the core functions of NCDC include prevention, detection and control of diseases of public health importance.

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