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Signpost of the project

22.05.2023 investigations How Former Lawmaker Akintayo Amere ‘Sold’ Constituency Project After Leaving Office

Published 22nd May, 2023

By Sodeeq Atanda

The debate on the usefulness of constituency projects seems to intensify as it becomes clear that public funds allocated to the programme yearly are being mismanaged. The idea is to trickle down effective governance to the grassroots. At some point, President Muhammadu Buhari called for an end to the programme, but lawmakers insisted on the continuous allocation of funds to a scheme that is largely hampered by sharp practices. In this report, SODEEQ ATANDA investigates how Akintayo Gafar Amere, a former Federal House of Representatives member for Ayedire/Iwo/Ola-Oluwa Federal Constituency in Osun State, sold a constituency project he facilitated to his constituency.


Nureni Kamaldeen and Adeleke Roqeeb are both apprentices at the same workshop learning the same vocation: welding. The two are residents of different villages divided by a road. Kamaldeen is a native of Igege, while Roqeeb is from Tooto village. The old Osogbo road is the borderline between the two rural settlements.

These youngins said formal education was their desire but their parents couldn’t afford it. They decided to apprentice for a vocational skill at a welding workshop in their community. Although they are aware of a federal government-financed skill acquisition centre built in their locality in 2017, but they cannot explain how were been robbed of its benefits.

Adeleke Roqeeb lying on a bench and Nureni Kamaldeen sitting down on May 5
Adeleke Roqeeb lying on a bench and Nureni Kamaldeen sitting down on May 5. Credit: Sodeeq Atanda/FIJ

A SKILL ACQUISITION CENTRE TO BRIDGE SKILL GAP

The meaning of constituency projects varies across places, with the same goal of ensuring even allocation of state resources to all electoral districts. Senator Stella Oduah sponsored a bill in 2016 to mandate the federal government to set some funds apart for projects to be executed in each constituency annually. According to the bill, such projects could help accelerate infrastructure development, wealth creation and help fight against poverty at the community level.

Notwithstanding the fact that lobbying for allocation of constituency projects are done by lawmakers, paperwork and execution are within the purview of relevant ministries. As a member of the Federal House of Representatives representing Ayedire/Iwo/Ola-oluwa federal constituency from 2011 to 2019, Akintayo Gafar Amere facilitated a number of constituency projects to his area of representation.

Among those projects was a multimillion naira skill acquisition centre sited in Igege, Ola-Oluwa Local Government Area of Osun State with 76,227 residents, according to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics quoting the 2006 population census.

FIJ found that the federal ministry of works and housing included the construction of the centre, alongside 22 other skill acquisition centres across the country, in the 2016 budget. The joint projects, marked collectively as FMWPH015021456, were expected to gulp N739,816,141 from the budget.

The skill centre marked red in the 2016 budget
The skill centre marked red in the 2016 budget
Amere wearing a black cap, with his team members at the project site when it was at the foundation level
Amere wearing a black cap, with his team members at the project site when it was at the foundation level
Contractor signpost
Contractor signpost

AMARCHY Pen Projects Ltd. handled the construction of the building. According to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the company was incorporated on October 22, 2002.

During a visit to the village, FIJ observed that the skill acquisition centre shares boundaries with Ogbaagba road to the front, a farmland at the back, residential buildings to the left and a footpath to the right. The palace of the king is about 600 metres away from the building.

Residents of the village who spoke with FIJ said they received the news of the choice of their community as the location for the facility, the first of its type in the whole constituency. They were told the presence of the facility would have a ripple effect on their wellbeing, and they could not wait to harness it.

In one social media post, the lawmaker said that “when completed, the centre will train Iwo youths (the federal constituency collectively) in particular and Osun in general in various vocations”. In the same vein, Oba Adio reportedly “assured that the community would give maximum support to the project to ensure early completion”.

FIJ spoke with a source in the community, who asked not to be named, and she said the construction was carried out almost non-stop. Upon completion, she said, it was furnished with vocational equipment such as sewing machines, office stationeries, air conditioners and a borehole sunk to serve the facility.

“We were happy when the man brought the project to our community. We were enlightened on the kind of public services we could obtain there after commissioning. Evidently, they completed it and never put it to use. A lot of tools, equipment they installed are nowhere to be found now,” the source explained.

Front view of the building project while under construction
Front view of the building while under construction
Calendar showing Amere's projects
Front view of the facility after completion of the project
Front view of the facility after completion
Some of the computer sets installed in the building after completion of the project
Some of the computer sets installed in the building after completion

HOPES DASHED AS GAFAR SELLS THE FACILITY

Our investigation shows that the construction was completed in 2017 and a variety of occupational tools were acquired to commence activities at the centre. The timely completion of the building raised the people’s collective hope that the facility was truly going to raise the bar of their socio-economic wellbeing.

Residents told FIJ that everything that happened at the centre was an opposite of development: it became a place for vultures and members of the animal world to recreate.

“As much as I am aware, nobody received any training at the place. The place could have been beneficial to me, but it was never allowed to function. I woke up one day to see that the building had been repainted. I heard that honourable Amere had sold it to Alhaji Ismail Ibraheem, who has now converted it to a block-making factory,” Kamaldeen told FIJ.

Current view of the facility after Amere sold it to Alhaji Ismail Ibraheem Olowe, owner of Summer Global Multiconcept Biz
Current view of the facility after Amere sold it to Alhaji Ismail Ibraheem Olowe, owner of Summer Global Multiconcept Biz
Ibraheem's company banner at Igege.
Ibraheem’s company banner at Igege. Photo Credit: Sodeeq Atanda/FIJ

“Selling the property is a disservice to the community, and the silence of elders who should have challenged the event is discomforting. But I believe everyone is writing their history. History may not be kind to anyone who enables a wrong act,” he said.

A man who identified himself as Olowe told FIJ that he was the manager controlling the business operations on behalf of Alhaji Ismail Ibraheem. When asked if it was Amere that sold the building to his boss, he said “it is very likely”. When our conversation moved from business enquiries to their occupation of the facility, he became unsettled and asked FIJ to contact his boss or the lawmaker who sold it to them.

Another man called ‘Baba Igege’, who works at the place as a manual block maker, told FIJ that his boss was the new owner of the property. He refused to entertain further questions, saying he recently joined the company.

Alhaji Ismail Ibraheem                                            Olowe.
Alhaji Ismail Ibraheem Olowe. Credit: Sodeeq Atanda/FIJ

A block maker in the community also told FIJ that Amere had sold the building to Ibraheem.

A video recording showing the ongoing activities at the facility

This reporter witnessed a conversation initiated by a source with one Lukman on May 8, who confirmed that Ibraheem acquired the property from Amere.

Away from the residents’ testimonies, FIJ observed clearly that the property was given a new look to conceal its previous aesthetic appearance. The parties to this diversion of public property and personal enrichment have also removed every iota of identity that could easily tell a stranger that the property is government-owned, this newspaper found.

Summer Global Multiconcept Biz was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in June 27, 2021, with its address as ‘Ori-Eeru, along Iwo-Ogbaagba road, Iwo, Osun State’. Interestingly, FIJ found that this address is the same place where the skill acquisition centre is situated.

Other commercial facilities linked to Alhaji Ismail Ibraheem Olowe
Other commercial facilities linked to Alhaji Ismail Ibraheem Olowe. Credit: Sodeeq Atanda/FIJ

Investigation further reveals that Ibraheem have businesses in other locations within the federal constituency. Therefore, FIJ tracked those offices to probe the kind of connection they share with the new management of the illegally acquired government property.

One office building is located along the same Iwo-Ogbaagba road, some 7 minutes’ drive from the centre illegally acquired by Ibraheem. The second office was found along Iwo-Osogbo road, Ile-Ogbo junction, Amuludun area, Ayedire Local Government Area of Osun State.

Ibraheem declined FIJ’s request to meet with him. He flatly rejected the request, saying “Direct whatever question you have to Honourable Amere. Don’t bother going to my office because my workers will tell you I am not on seat.”

CRISIS OVER THE LAND

FIJ found that there is an ongoing legal contestation over the land allocated for the construction of the skill acquisition centre. The plaintiffs were said to be dissatisfied with the process of acquiring the land by the government.

Adegbola Yakubu claimed that his family is the owner of the land and his family’s consent was not sought before the community’s traditional ruler gave it out for the construction of the building.

“We have informed that man (Ibraheem) that we are still litigating over the land, which is about an acre in size. Indeed, we are the rightful owner of the land, and not the person who donated it in the first place. Thinking all we want is money, he has asked us to name our price,” Yakubu explained.

Details of the project could not be found on the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal, a dedicated open data platform to track government-funded infrastructure in Nigeria.

It was gathered that the former legislator touted the construction of the facility as one of his accomplishments, demonstrating his efforts to bridge the skill gap observable among his constituents.

AMERE SAYS ‘THEY ARE TEMPORARY USERS’

This newspaper presented the report of its findings to the lawmaker on Monday. On Tuesday, he responded via WhatsApp, promising he would “do the needful to rectify the situation”.

“Thank you for your call. They are all temporary users. The facilities remain the property of the federal government,” Amere said.

“I have a name to protect. Rest assured that I will do the needful to rectify the situation.”

Editor’s Note: Adegbola Yakubu is a fictitious name to protect the original source’s name.

This is the first of a two-part article. Read the part two here.

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Published 22nd May, 2023

By Sodeeq Atanda

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