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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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INVESTIGATION

How Abuja-based society woman allegedly killed man, terrorize community in Abia

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Residents of Umuchiakuma in Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia were treated to an unusual tragic spectacle on January 4, 2018 when an Abuja-based society lady stormed the village with policemen and allegedly ordered the Policemen to open fire on youths who blocked her way.

Monica Ota Uche, an indigene of Umuchiakuma based in Abuja, is notorious for acts of criminality, including assaults and unlawful use of police escorts, whenever she visited the community.

On that day she ordered her police escorts to shoot Chimezie Anyaoha, a 35-year old engineer who had come home for a family wedding, for blocking her way.

Engineer Chimezie Anyaoha

More than one year after, she has used her connections at the nation’s capital to stop the police from filing murder charges against her. Now the family of the deceased are crying for justice.

THE WHISTLER traced Pastor Simon Anyaoha, father of the deceased engineer, to his residence at Umuchiakuma, Arochukwu local government where he expressed the family’s frustrations and their cries for justice.

 Pastor-Simon-Anyaoha
Pastor Simon Anyaoha

Recounting the tragedy, Pastor Anyaoha who is of the Watchman Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement in Arochukwu, said Ms. Uche ordered the police to kill his son in cold blood and in the glare of other youths in the community.

It all started when youths of the community blocked Ms. Uche from using her police escorts to abduct a patient at the Mercy Catholic Hospital. The patient was earlier shot by the police at the community primary school playground on the orders of Ms. Uche for allegedly destroying one of the canopies she used for rentage in the village.

According to Pastor Anyaoha, the deceased had rushed to the hospital when he heard that a boy had been shot in the leg by some policemen brought into the village by Ms. Uche for allegedly destroying a canopy that belonged to her.

“My son had come to the village for the wedding of the youngest sister of his mother which was to take place on January 4, 2018. Around 9 on that day, he prepared and went to the primary school where the wedding was to take place. On getting there, he discovered that a boy that used to work with him was shot by mobile policemen brought into the village by Monica Ota,

“The youths of the community rushed the boy to Mercy Hospital. My son then joined others to visit the hospital to see how the boy was faring. But on getting there, the story was that this woman took mobile policemen to the hospital to forcefully whisk the boy away,

“But the youths of the community who have heard what happened and that Monica was planning to take the boy away to an unknown destination, they mobilized themselves to prevent the policemen from taking the boy out of the village. They blocked road leading out of the village. My son also joined them,

“This woman ordered the police to open fire on the boys again. Even when the boys started running after police started shooting, they were still pursued. The police pursued my son into the bush where he tried to take behind a house and shot him dead. The bullet fired at him came in from one side of his stomach and came out through the other side. He was dead before they got him to the hospital.”

After Pastor Anyaoha confirmed the death of his son at the hospital mortuary, he reported the incident to the Arochukwu Police Station where they took his statement and a police officer was asked to confirm the death at the hospital.

The Arochukwu police reported the matter to the Abia State Command in Umuahia and three officials of the State Criminal Investigation Department came to Umuchiakuma village for further investigations. The father of the deceased was also asked to accompany them back to the state command to make further statements.

Officials of the C.I.D came back to the village a second time to speak with eyewitnesses, including the traditional ruler of the village, Eze Henry O. Umachi, all of who confirmed how the deceased was shot by the police escort of Ms. Uche.

The family of the deceased rightly expected the police to file homicide charges in court against Ms. Uche and the policemen who did her bidding.

But two weeks after the C.I.D came to the village, Pastor Anyaoha went back to the state command at Umuahia to find out how the investigation was proceeding. But he and community leaders who accompanied him got the shock of their lives.

“Those handling the case told us that Monica Uche had come and taken the case file to Abuja,” Pastor Anyaoha stated, meaning the case had been transferred to Abuja.

But as if to confirm their suspicion that Ms. Uche had used her connections again to kill the case against her, she came to the village two days after with policemen around 1 a.m to ‘arrest’ about nine youths and whisked them to Abuja.

It was in Abuja that the story changed. Ms. Uche allegedly used her influence to turn the case against the deceased and other youths in the village who had protested her criminality.

By the time the police charged the case to court, the deceased and the nine youths arrested by Ms. Uche were charged with terrorism! Ms. Uche claimed the youths were shot because they were members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), a claim disputed by residents of Umuchiakuma.

A youth leader in the village, Kalu Agwu, who spoke to THE WHISTLER corroborated the account of the incident given by the father of the deceased and denied as false claims that those shot were members of IPOB.

“I was working at a building site when some youths in the village ran to me saying Engineer Chimezie had been shot by four policemen attached to Monica Ota Uche,” he said, adding that the youths were so enraged that they went and burnt down her house in the village.

Peter Kalu, another eyewitness who spoke to the reporter, claimed Ms. Uche ordered her police escort to shoot the youths who tried to block her from taking away a patient from the village hospital, stressing any story about IPOB is diversionary.

“Everyone knew what happened in our village, how policemen were ordered to shoot by Monica Uche, and they shot him dead for nothing. The story about IPOB is all lies,” he told THE WHISTLER.

When contacted, the Abia State Police Command said the case file had been transferred to Abuja and the Command would not make any comment. Ogbonna Geoffrey, spokesman of the Command said: “That case is no longer with us, it has been taken to Abuja so I cannot say anything on it,” he told THE WHISTLER on phone.

Some other eyewitnesses in the village who did not wish to be mentioned confirmed the murder, saying Ms. Uche is notorious for terrorizing residents of the community anytime she visited the village.

They claimed she is well-known in the community and beyond for audacious acts of criminality against people who cross her path and has often used her connections in Abuja to escape justice.

When contacted, the Abia State Police Command said the case was no longer in its custody. Spokesman of the Command, Ogbonna Geoffrey, “the case has been taken away from us so I cannot tell you anything about it.”

When THE WHISTLER reached out to Frank Mba, the Force Public Relations Officer, he also claimed ignorance of the case.

“The case happened before my appointment, so I don’t have any information to give you. But if I can get the details of the IPO and may be able to get the information you want,” Mba stated.

But when he was given the details of the case and the IPO, he stopped picking his calls and refused to respond to text messages.

Although the Umuchiakuma community has moved on with life since the incidence, the parents of the deceased are yet to recover from the shock of seeing the corpse of their eldest child riddled with bullets on a day they were supposed to celebrate.

“My wife now suffers from high blood pressure and we are always in and out of hospital while all family responsibilities have fallen on me because the boy that used to take care of us has been killed. I am retired and do only pastoral work now,” said Pastor Anyaoha.

“All we are asking is that justice be done. This is a country with a government and laws. We want those who killed our son to be brought to justice.”

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INVESTIGATION

Audit report indicts NPA MD, Hadiza Bala-Usman of N20bn contract fraud

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NPA MD, Hadiza Bala-Usman

These are not the best of times for the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman, as an audit report conducted by the Auditor-General’s office has allegedly indicted the her for various questionable transactions.

Part of the recommendations include that the Bala-Usman-led NPA should refund about N5.18 billion to the Federation Account for various unreconciled transactions.

Investigation shows how spending under Hadiza Usman keeps rising even as the NPA flunks its audit.

The fraud which runs into billions of naira was uncovered by an ‘audit query’ of activities of the NPA between 2016 and 2018, Per Second News gathered.

The Auditor General’s Office concluded, however, that the NPA’s financial records were riddled with so many bookkeeping deficiencies, irregularities, and errors that a reliable audit was simply impossible.

The office of the Auditor General of the Federation also came hard on the NPA boss for gross “betrayal of public trust” as demonstrated by her flagrant abuse for due process in the way and manner she runs the agency, citing documents obtained by this newspaper.

Highlights of the damning report from the office of the Auditor General of the Federation include her refusal to remit VAT deductions running into billions of naira and in foreign currency denomination to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

For instance, the query highlighted unremitted deduction to Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to include N3,667,750,470. $148,845,745.04, Euro 4,891,449.50 and £252,682.14.

The NPA under Hadiza Bala Usman was also accused of” excessive increase in administrative operational expenses” extra budgetary expenditures on hotel accommodation and under disclosure of expenditures on hotel expenses”, Corporate social Responsibility Projects, diversion of funds through the Nigerian Port Today, to the sponsorship of National Assembly Programmes, amongst other.

The queries which covered over 100 issues, also asked Hadiza Bala Usman to make various refunds to government, especially in instances where such expenditures could not be justified.

Investigation also uncovers that the Audit team reviewed NPA’s policy on implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility Projects/ Programmes and discovered that records relating to CSR fell short of the level of compliance with the Public procurement Act 2007.

In 2016, the NPA spent N286,412,628.00 on CSR while in 2017, the figure rose to N2,496,248,775.00 and N5billion in 2018. The Audit team found out that “beneficiary needs were not properly assessed or identified before the implementation of CSR projects/ programmes.

The Audit team observed to its chagrin that there was no evidence of compliance with public procurement Act and that most of the CSR projects/ programmes were inflated and accordingly ordered that the “sum of N5.18 billion should be recovered from the Managing Director of NPA, being the value of, inflated amount under her watch.

The committee also observed that delivery of CSR items were not accompanied with delivery letters and that in most cases, there was no evidence of actual items delivered and who signed for them.

Per Second News gathered that the NPA boss and accountants have been perpetrating a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud, deliberately cooking the books to mislead the government and drive the NPA’s budgets ever higher, regardless of port necessity.

The NPA has literally been making up numbers in its annual financial reports to the National Assembly—representing billions of dollars’ worth of seemingly nonexistent transactions—knowing that the National Assembly would rely on those misleading reports when deciding how much money to give the Authority.

The fraud works like this, for instance while a contract with Ref. HQ/GM/PROC/CON/C.11/PBT/16/322 dated 16/10/17 was awarded in favour of Messrs Ecomaxx Engineering Projects Ltd for the supply of items to the old people’s Home Yaba, Lagos to the tune of N19,760,460.00 which was paid vide invoice no HQ/CS/0711 dated 01/06/17 there was no documentary evidence that the items were indeed delivered to the Home.

In the same vein, the contract for supply of items to Yaba children’s orphanage followed the same pattern.

For instance, whilst a contract awarded in favour of Trans-secure Ltd was N19,467,000.00 the survey conducted by the audit team found out that N6,520,500.00 was the actual market price. This NPA expenditure fraud is déjà vu all over again for Spinney, prompting the office of the AGuF to demand an explanation from Hadiza Bala Usman reasons for the sharp excessive increase in the Authority’s expenditure profile between 2016 and 2018. “It was observed that total expenditure by the Authority increased astronomically by 128% from N87.47 billion in 2016 to N198.98 billion in 2017. Of particular concern was the administrative expenses which increased by 72% from N26.126 billion in 2016 to N44.93 billion in 2017.

Among the laundering tactics uncovered by the Audit Query revealed that whereas in 2016 N22.16 billion was expended on revenue monitoring, the amount rose to a whopping N1.06 billion in 2017, an increase of over 4,689%. Similarly, overseas training rose from N20.48 million in 2016 to N470 million, an increase of over 2194%.

Also, whereas N15.31 million was spent on vessels / craft in 2016, the amount rose to N117.4 million in 2017, an increase of 666%.

The excessive expenditure of pollution control also attracted the scrutiny of the auditors who insisted that Hadiza Bala Usman must tell Nigerians why and how N4.2 billion was spent in 2017 as against N29 million in 2016, an increase of 14,310 %. Other over bloated increase in expenditure include local and foreign medical expenses, legal fees, Corporate souvenirs and expenditure on other government agencies which rose from N50.29 million in 2016 to N338.59 million in 2017, a 573 per cent rise.

The Audit also raised its yellow flag on an alleged “diversion of N369.71 million through the Nigerian Ports Today” the official in-house magazine of the NPA. “Payments to Nigerian Ports Today were reviewed to confirm whether they were properly initiated, authorised processed, documented and paid in line with the Public procurement Act 2007,”the report said.

However “findings revealed the sum of N369,718,130.82 was paid to Nigerian Ports Today, a Limited liability company that is fully owned and controlled by NPA during the period under review. There was no evidence of contractual relationship in the form of award of contract to the company nor was there anything to show the company rendered services to the Authority to justify these payments and concludes that the Authority paid the company without a contract and thereby contravening the Public procurement Act 2007, and that this was viewed as a means to divert public funds,” the report alleged.

The Audit query also took serious exceptions to various expenditure incurred by the NPA on behalf of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi for which a whopping $604,598.95 was paid without supporting documents .

Hadiza Bala Usman was asked to refund the said sum into government treasury. Usually dependable source at the office of the Audit General of the Federation told Shipping World that the Audit queries cuts across all units and departments of the agency and that massive over invoicing and flagrant disregard for due process were uncovered. In all, at least a mind-boggling N20 billion of NPA’s financial transactions between 2016 and 2018 could not be traced, documented, or explained.

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INVESTIGATION

Delta Gov. Okowa’s commissioner in alleged multi-million naira fraud scandal

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Barely two weeks to the expiration of the first term and inauguration of the second term of Delta state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, the information commissioner, Patrick Ukah has been enmeshed in series of frauds and corrupt practices running into several millions of naira belonging to his ministry.

Our correspondent reliably gathered that the embattled information commissioner, used the state owned Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba and Warri as well as the state owned Newspapers, The Pointer to loot millions of naira from the coffers of the ministry through frivolous contracts he was said to have awarded to some of his cronies without any traceable addresses of such contractors.

HardReporters crime correspondent in Lagos, who just returned from Delta state capital, Asaba, Monday, on a fact finding mission to the state owned media houses, gathered that the state information commissioner, had lied in some official documents in his hand over note presented to the state transition committee.

In the documents, according to an impeccable source close to the transition committee, Ukah, lied that he purchased eight cameras at the cost of N18,721,738.00 for Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba and Warri, purchased some equipment for Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba and Warri at the cost of N9,654,750.00, repaired the FM coxial feeder line at Delta Broadcasting Service, Warri at the cost of N16,620,000.00, purchased some equipment for Delta Broadcasting Service at N11,553,750.00.

In the documents, Ukah, also lied to have carried out the repairs of the back-up transmitters at Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba, Ubulu-Uku and Warri at the cost of N43,000,000.00, Mast tensioning, painting and repairs of Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba at the cost of N11,150,000.00, installation of antenna and repairs of TV transmitters at the cost of N57,240,000.00, brief to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on the 2017 flood disaster in Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba and restoration of the station back to air at the cost of N17,000,000.00, repairs of faulty back up transmitters at Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba, Ubulu-Uku and Warri at the cost of N68,380,000.00.

According to reliable sources at the state ministry of information, the documents which is full of discrepancies and fraudulent are currently generating controversy as there are nothing is on ground to show that actually such huge amount running into several millions of naira was expended on the state owned media houses as been claimed by the information commissioner.

A senior director at the Ministry of Information who pleaded for anonymity confided in our correspondent that the information commissioner is currently been investigated by the transition committee.

“As we talk the Delta state transition committee has commenced investigation of the state information commissioner, Patrick Ukah, over his bogus claims made. The documents show that a huge fraud, corruption and sharp practices was carried out by the information commissioner. How can you purchase eight camera for N18.7 million.?

“Our check revealed that each camera, Sony Digital HXR-NX 100 camera, the commissioner claimed to have bought at over N2 million is actually sold for less that N600,000.00. How can you say you repaired FM coxial feeder line at N16,620,000.00, back-up transmitters at N43,000,000.00, mast tensioning, painting and repairs at N11,150,000.00.

“How can you say provision and installation of antenna and repairs of TV transmitters cost you N57,240,000.00, to brief governor Ifeanyi Okowa alone on the 2017 flood disaster in Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba and restoration of the station back to air cost you N17,000,000.00, repairs of faulty back up transmitters cost you N68,380,000.00.

“The question is how much will it cost to purchase a new transmitter that Ukah has used all these millions of naira to carry out only repairs on these transmitters. The stations can not boast of Outside Broadcast Vans, the staff are not working in a conducive environment, no good equipment and tools to work with, yet Ukah, was lavishing all this millions of naira on frivolous things that have no positive impact on the stations.”, the director said.

Some of the staff of the two state owned media houses in Asaba and Warri who spoke with our correspondent under the condition of anonymity, lamented the current state of the two stations, which they described as a state of “comatose” saying that four years have gone, yet no succour for the near moribund Delta Broadcasting Service (DBS), Asaba, (DRTV), Warri and the Pointer Newspapers, Asaba.

“It is a big shame to an oil rich state like Delta that has always topped the lists of highest receipt of federal monthly allocations running into hundreds of billions of naira with nothing to show.
Times without number we have demands for a more better working environment and equipment, but the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa and the state commissioner for information, Patrick Ukah, have vehemently refused to pay attention to our demands.

“The way and manner governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the information commissioner, Patrick Ukah have neglected and abandoned the state owned media houses is so worrisome and you will be shocked how the governor and the commissioner waste millions of naira on private owned media houses for live coverage of events while leaving the two state owned media houses to go into extinction.

“The two stations can not boast of Outside Broadcast Vans (O.B Vans) used for live events, but rather will spend millions to hire private owned media houses for live coverage of events in the state. After four years, the government media houses are still in comatose, still in shambles, still in slumber and horrible working condition, you see us staff complaining here and there, suffering from bad working environment, what a big shame and disgrace to an oil rich state like Delta.

“Is this not shocking to hear that a whole DBS, Asaba and Warri still go out to hire cameras to carry out their official duties. In the News department, a full broadcasting outfit like DBS, Asaba, and Warri, there are no vehicles, studios in a very terrible and disarray state where cut and nail jobs are carried out and the governor and the commissioner are not bothered. The state government can not beat its chest and tell Deltans that actually they really mean well for these media houses.” one of the staff lamented.

Another senior staff of the station in Warri who does not want her name mentioned stated that “The equipment been used in DRTV in Warri are now obsolete compared to the current modern standard of broadcasting. A visit to AIT, Channels, and Silver Bird Television Stations in Lagos , you will agree with me that Deltans deserve more than a befitting media houses looking at the monthly federal allocation accruing to the oil rich Delta state. The Pointer Newspapers, DBS Asaba and DRTV Warri are gradually going into extinction.

“It is a big shame that for a state like Delta blessed with enormous human and material resources, cut and nail works are still been carried out in its TV and Radio stations even the Pointer Newspapers and the workers work in a very terrible environment, what about the several days the radio station will go off the air and upon all of these, Okowa and Ukah feel unconcerned.

“It beats ones imagination if actually the Okowa government really knows all what dissemination of information is all about or the vital roles of government owned media. On August 27, 2018, Delta state clocked 27 years and in this digital and computer age, the state cannot boast of standard media houses to showcase its activities, what a big shame and disgrace.

“What a disgrace and big shame to Ukah, when Deltans were expecting that his appointment would at least bring succour and face lift to the state owned media houses, after four years in office the state of the POINTER Newspapers, DBS, Asaba and DRTV Warri have become worst. Every year millions of naira is budgeted for the three media houses, yet the failed and inexperienced commissioner, Ukah, cannot give the stations a life line.”

When our correspondent visited the state information commissioner, Patrick Ukah, in his office along Summit road, Asaba before departure to Lagos, Ukah, was not on seat as he was said to have traveled to Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital for an AGM meeting and when calls and test messages were sent to the information commissioner, there was response as at press time.

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