Ijesa Water Project: A Call To Revisit the Scheme

THE new Ilesa Water Supply Scheme was the original idea of Bola Ige’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) of old Oyo State. This became inevitable when the old Ilesa Water Supply Scheme, commissioned in 1952, which used to supply 2,700 cubic meters per day completely shut down in the mid-eighties, making access to portable water for ever increasing Ilesa population impossible.

Aside old age of the facility, by the mid-eighties, as a result of road expansion works on Efon-Alaye roads, the 22km Efon-Alaye raw water Asbestos Cement Transmission became deplorable and unserviceable as the intake, now in Ekiti State, was frequently filled with silt as every effort to de-silt proved futile.

In 1983, having sought Federal Government guarantee, Oyo State Government under Chief Bola Ige awarded this new water scheme to Messrs Johnson Brothers International (Nig.) Ltd at $65m sourced from a $70m loan obtained from Exim Bank in the United States.

Some materials and equipment like generators, pump-sets, electrical items, large diameter pipes, among others were procured from this loan and stored at Asejire Waterworks; and works began in August 1983, having paid a sum of N7.2m and $11.6m, based on the contract agreement, to Messrs Johnson Brothers International (Nig.) by the government.

On 31st December of same year – 1983 -the military struck and took over power! Along the line, there were some complications which stalled the project activities by the contractors and their foreign partners which led to eventual termination of the contract by Oyo State military government in July 1985 with the hope of re-awarding the contract to Nigeria Water Resources and Development Ltd and Messrs Taylor Woodrow in the United Kingdom.

By February 1987, a memo from General Staff Headquarters in Dodan Barracks through a letter number GHQ/CGS/322 directed the Oyo State Government to revert to Messrs Johnson Brothers International (Nig.) to continue with the project based on huge sum already committed to it, but the contractor could not access the Exim Bank loan to execute the project as the Federal military government could not guarantee the loan. With the creation of Osun State in 1991, the project was naturally inherited by the state; and the first Military Administrator of the state was Col. Leo Segun Ajiborisa who ruled from August 1991 to January 1992 when he handed over to democratically elected governor Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke who governed from 1992 to November 1993. It was governor Isiaka Adeleke that disengaged Messrs Johnson Brothers International (Nig.) and what became of $70m contract sum could not be traced as military struck once again to take power while diameter pipes, water pumps and other accessories procured disappeared from the site.

Because military government is shrouded with secrecy, there is no visible record of any effort on the project to any of the administrators – Col. Anthony Udofia (December 1993 – August 1996), Col. Anthony Obi (August 1996 – August 1998) and Col. Theophilus Bamgboye (August 1998 –May 1999).

On return to civil rule in 1999 and perhaps because of frosty relationship between the progressives and conservatives, Vice President Atiku Abubakar accused governor Abdulkareem Adebisi Akande of refusal to send relevant papers of the water projects to Abuja when he was asked question in relations to the project.

Although there was FG project for construction of weir on Osun river and intake in Kajola between 2006 and 2009 during Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola PDP government that succeeded Akande, it was abandoned and incomplete with no transmission and distribution networks to deliver a single drop of water to Ijesa people.

As Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola reclaimed his mandate on 27th November 2010 to become the Osun governor, it was a great relieve for Ijesa people. On the 2012 Iwude Ijesa Day, His Imperial Majesty, Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijesaland, Dr. Adekunle Aromolaran, publicly lamented the cries and agonies of Ijesa people of their inability to access portable water for 30years. He asked governor Aregbesola to revive the water project towards permanent resolution to the water problem.

Having assessed the abandoned work and what was to be done, Aregbesola wrote the Federal Government to assist him deal with the challenges of funding the water treatment plants, transmission and distribution networks to deliver water to the consumers in the six local government areas of the state. But over $100m will be required to get this done. This was huge; it was about half of the state annual income. To source external loan for this project, Federal Government must guarantee it but it was a People Democratic Party led FG.

First thing first. Aregbesola, with his team, ran to World Bank only to meet a brick wall but he didn’t give up. He ran to Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah which granted $65m loan for the project and wrote the Federal Government on 7th February, 2018 for $41.9m support to complete the project which President Muhammadu Buhari approved on 30th April, the biggest grant the state ever attracted from FG since its creation, totalling $106.9m.

Aregbesola officially flagged off the project on December 18, 2017, less than one year to complete his maximum second term in office. The project, which was to deliver 60m litres of water to consumers every day, was designed to be completed in 24 months. Aregbesola had hoped that his successor, Mr Adegboyega Oyetola would conveniently complete it within one year in office.

When the Senior Consultant, Mrs. Tawakalitu Williams, couldn’t deliver in 2019, explaining that logistics challenges had been responsible, but promised to deliver by 2020, she alleged that the House of Assembly Committee on Water had requested a $5million bribe from her. This has however been refuted. As Aregbesola’s successor – Oyetola sacked contractor handling the water treatment for alleged false documentations amongst others, the incumbent Governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke, has also sacked overall consultant based on interim reports of the Assets Recovery Committee he set up which revealed mismanagement of loan procured for the project.

Since 1983 that Chief Bola Ige conceived the project (40 years) and all efforts made by subsequent successors, especially Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, coupled with unending 40 years suffering of lack of safe drinking water by Ijesa people, the incumbent governor Ademola Adeleke should not play politics with Ijesa people’s suffering but take appropriate bold steps to make Ijesa people tap run 60m litres of portable water everyday in no distance time. If he could deliver this, Osun founding fathers; dead and alive, and ordinary people will surely be happy with him.

Piece by ADEMOLA YAYA, A Public Affairs Analyst from Osogbo.

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not represent the opinions or views of IjesaNews

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