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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

N734m Barkin-Ladi irrigation scheme project a scam – Fiscal commission

A project verification team from the Fiscal Responsibility Commission has described the N734 million Barkin-Ladi Irrigation Scheme project in Plateau as “a scam”.

Barkin-Ladi Irrigation Scheme
Site of the Barkin-Ladi Irrigation Scheme

Mr Sampson Eletuo, the Team Leader, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) after inspecting work so far done on the project, declared that project execution was “less than 20 per cent”.

“The Project Engineer, Mr Garba Bello, a staff of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, has said that 95 per cent of the job has been completed.

“He has also told us that the project will be inaugurated in December, which is just next month.

“But, from what is on ground, less than 20 per cent of the job has been executed; there is no way the project can be inaugurated this year because both the irrigation and dam components are not ready,” Eletuo said.

He said that the work appeared to have been abandoned because the handlers were not at the site, while the contractor was not around to answer questions raised by the verification team.

“The information given to us was puzzling; the manager told us that the water for the dam was coming from the ground, which we found rather confounding.

“He also said that work was ongoing, but we did not see any machine, power generating plant or any equipment at the site.

“Our conclusion is that this project is managed by the worst engineers in the world. If I have my way, the engineer should be arrested. The project is a scam and money is being spent unnecessarily,” he said.

Eletuo accused Bello of “shielding” the contractor from the verification team so as to “play pranks”.

Reacting, Bello said that the opinion of the verification team was not a true reflection of work already carried out at the project site.

“I think the team’s assessment is based on the dam component of the project, which is only 20 per cent completed.

“I have taken them round the irrigation component and they have seen that it is more than 90 per cent completed,” he said.

He rejected suggestions that he had shielded the handlers from the team, saying that workers of the construction firm represented the principal handler who had traveled out of the country.

Bello said that “about N440 million” had so far been paid to the contractor, adding, however, that work so far done had exceeded that amount “by far”.

NAN quotes Bello as telling the team, during the inspection, that a 5,000 KVA power generating plant was already at the site, while nozzles to be used to pipe water for dry season farming had been installed.

He further said that three communities – Pomor, Bassa and Heipang – in Barkin-Ladi Local Government, would benefit from the irrigation scheme to be undertaken on 145 hectares of land.

Bello explained that the irrigation scheme would ease dry season farming, boost the production of Irish potatoes and assorted fruits, and also create jobs.

Mr Charles Abana, Deputy Team Leader, who also spoke on the project, said that the commission’s interest was to ensure that no project was abandoned after money had been paid.

“The Fiscal Responsibility Commission’s mandate is to visit project sites and verify work done so as to ensure that government money was not wasted. We want to ensure that monies meant for projects do not disappear into private pockets.

“A laudable project like this one should be pursued to its logical conclusion so that it will touch the lives of those it is expected to benefit,” he said.

Abana said that the team would compare what it had seen with how much had been paid to the handlers, before passing a verdict on the project.

NAN reports that the project was awarded in 2014 by former Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe, who hails from Barkin-Ladi.

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