It was going to be the happiest day of her life. A moment she always believed would be defining and memorable.
Everyday, Hanti Livingnus, 36, a farmer in Atabula Community, Obi LGA, Nassarawa State,imagined how everything would turn out. In her dream, she saw torrents of happy faces trooping into the wedding venue to celebrate a beautiful love story.
Hanty Livingnus sitting in her late husband’s house.
There was food aplenty. There was fast-drumming migili music to keep the audience excited. She was wearing the same local outfit with her husband and a white gele designed with colorful flowers.
“I had always thought about my wedding and how perfect it would be but when it was just a week to my wedding in 2019. Looking at how everything was going as planned, I was very happy. Everyday, I counted the remaining days,” she said.
It was three days to her wedding on September 19, 2019, Livingnus said. Her husband, Livingnus Josiah, was a sports lover. They had a conversation that morning and he told her that there would be a match.
As a fan of the local Atabula youth team, Josiah had reached out to them to play a friendly match with another local team, Metwe, from Bogidi community in Obi LGA.
The area where the players had an accident and lost five members
That evening, after 4pm, the small field had already been overpacked with excited spectators and the Atabula team was warming up, waiting for their opponent when the news came.
There had been a tragic accident on Ashupe road. It claimed the lives of five members of the team. The whole crowd was in a frenzy, plunged in despair.
The remaining three days were filled with dark thoughts and regrets. The wedding came and went but it only lasted for one and a half years. Josiah was coming from the farm on April 14, 2021, when he had an accident. He spent three days at the hospital before he eventually passed away.
Signboards of the primary health care centre where Livingnus eventually died
DEATH-TRAP: AGWADE-ASHUPE-ATABULA ROAD HAS LEFT MANY HOMES BROKEN AND POORER
James Elesha, 32, the youth chairman of Ome, a small community inside Atabula, said he grew up hearing stories of accidents on the road. He said the precarious situation of the road had existed for a long time.
“The condition of the road is very bad. During the rainy season, people cannot go to Obi or Ashupe markets. We won’t be able to go to the farm. On the worst of days, we would stay at home for a complete week due to the rain and slippery roads,” he said.
James Elesha sits on a long mat as he describes the nature of the road
Elesha said that the road had not only led to the death of many people but it had also led to dislocated legs and incapacitated hands rendering farmers incapable of fending for their families.
“Yesterday, two people still had an accident. They broke their legs. We have bandits and thieves lurking in these thick bushes. No one’s safety is guaranteed in this place whenever you pass through these roads. The head chief has informed farmers and marketers to return home by 4 pm,” the youth chairman said.
Bandits use the bad roads to their advantage, Elesha also said. They maim and steal from innocent people. There are many people whose hands and legs have been severed by thieves.
“I know four people whose hands and legs have been cut off this year. One of them is my friend, Gambo Mai Gonna Kiffi,” he said.
Gambo Mai Gonna Kiffi posing for a shot. He said he wanted the road to be contructed.
He said some villagers believe that there is an evil spirit on the road that eats humans and renews its powers with hands and legs.
But Elesha, a Christian and member of Living Faith Church in Ashupe, believes government is solely to blame.
Living Faith Church, Ashupe, where Elesha is a member
“Everyone promises us good roads in exchange for our votes, but eventually, they betray us,” he said.
AUDIO CONSTRUCTION: THE WORLD OF SHADY CONTRACTORS
When Abdullahi Sule became Nasarawa State Governor in 2019, he approved N1.8 billion for the construction of roads in the following local government areas: Obi, Keana, Keffi and Nasarawa Eggon.
In his first hundred days in office, he stated in his speech that the construction of Agwade-Ashupe-Atabula-Ome road was already ongoing and at various stages of completion.
“It is imperative to state that this administration remains resolute in its commitment to open our rural areas for enhanced economic activities. In this regard, we have embarked on the construction of Agwade-Shupe-Atabula-Ome-Obi, Shabu-Doka-Arugba-Lakio, Kanje-Abuni and Kagbu A-Atsoko-Wana roads. I am happy to state that these roads are at various stages of completion,” the speech reads in part.
Two years after Governor Sule stated that the construction was ongoing, he announced again on Independence Day in October that the roads had been completed, according to Independent Newspaper.
RAINY SEASON: DARK TIMES FOR THE COMMUNITIES
Zaki Michael Mammah, the head chief of Ome community said he was sad when Governor A. A. Sule announced that the road had been completed.
The head chief of Ome in a black shirt, sitting next to the youth chairman
“We were surprised when we heard that the government announced that they had constructed this road. The road is still in its roughest and deadliest state at this time and much worse in the rainy season, which is when we experience the most accidents,” he said.
He said there were sloppy areas that could not be crossed with bikes or cars when it rained. Some days, water will cover the bridge to the point that only the head will be visible whenever anyone crosses it, he said.
“I had an accident three weeks ago. It happened at the local bridge we constructed with sticks. I had a brake failure and I tumbled over with my bike,” he said.
This reporter learnt that N330 million naira had been reportedly spent on the road. Further investigation revealed that only 100 meters of the 22 km road was constructed. The construction started and ended in Agwade, one of the communities for the project.
One of the bridges constructed by the people of Ashupe community
A reliable source, who pleaded anonymity to prevent witch-hunting, said the project was awarded to Triacta Engineering and Construction Company.
Further investigation revealed that there was no signboard placed at the location of the construction nor were the details of the contract available on Nasarawa Open Contracting Portal.
This reporter reached out to Triacta Company for comments and confirmation via phone call and email, but no response had been received as of press time.
This reporter also contacted the Nasarawa State Government via email for details of the contract and comments. An official who identified herself as Opeyemi Oriola responded that the reporter’s request had “been exalted” and details would be sent soon. As of press time, the details of the contract had not been sent.
NASARAWA OPEN CONTRACTING PORTAL: INVALID DATA AND GHOST ADDRESS
Nasarawa State is among those that have adopted the open contracting process for better accountability and transparency. This reporter observed that in the state’s official website, there is a section that redirects one to the Nasarawa Open Contracting Portal.
After meticulously perusing the section showing all contracts awarded by the administration, this reporter found that there was no details of who was awarded the construction of Agwade-Ashupe-Atabula-Ome road.
This reporter also found out that the contact details of the portal are invalid. Both the phone number and email address are invalid.
A visit to the physical address and questioning of the officials met in the building showed that no one knew the unit or knew what open contracting entails.
NASARAWA STATE GOVERNMENT’S REACTION TO THE DETAILS OF THIS REPORT
Mustapha Yahuza Musa, the Director General of Rural Development Board, said that the agency was not in charge of the road project in Agwade-Ashupe-Atabula-Ome.
He said that the road was assigned to a special task force established shortly after Governor A. A. Sule was sworn in to tackle rural roads.
“We are revising all the work done by the task force, which have no longer been in effect since our agency was established. We have realised that some roads were not done or well done and we are doing them one step at a time. Based on this report, as well as other information available to us, we will include Agwade-Ashupe-Atabula among the phase II of the roads that will be constructed starting from January,” he said.
The DG said that the projects were handled directly by the task force and he understood that in some cases, they were outsourced to contractors. He said he did not know which contractors were assigned some works because the task force was no longer in place when he came in.
“This is probably the reason the project was not available at the open contracting portal. It was directly handled by the task force. In some cases, they outsourced some projects, but they were the ones in charge. All these happened before we came in,” the DG said.
Signboard of Bureau for Rural Development in Nasarawa State
The Bureau for Rural development Board was established in 2020 and began its operations in August 2021. One of the board’s main functions, according to the DG, is constructing rural roads. He stated that the board had constructed several rural roads.
According to The Nation newspaper, the DG said in July that over 1000 km of road had been constructed by the A.A Sule-led administration within three years and also listed Agwade-Ashupe-Atabula road among them.
This reporter could not meet with Governor A. A. Sule due to his “tight schedule” but was eventually directed to Ibrahim Addra, the chief press secretary to the governor, who is also his spokesperson.
The chief press secretary said that the governor considered this investigation important and helpful to the state, which was constantly striving to be “transparent and accountable to its people”.
“Project implementation is always a challenge in government. We love that people are helping us track procurements to ensure that the Nasarawa people, whom we serve, get value for their money,” he said.
After making a series of phone calls, he said that Governor Sule was pleased with the report and would act on it.
This reporter queried the governor’s assertion that the project had been completed when it was obvious that was not the case based on the ample evidence available.
“There are several ministries handling road construction and they give reports to their principal on the status of various projects. It must be one of those projects that might have been reported to have been completed,” the chief press secretary said.
When probed about the invalid data in the contact section of the Nasarawa Open Contracting Portal, he appeared shocked. He confirmed the information on the website and then immediately placed a call to Dominic Bako, Director General of Public Procurement Bureau, which he said was in charge of the website.
“I want to assure you that this will be solved in a few days. The bureau has said that it is working on harmonising the website with the procurement website. You will be informed once these changes have been made, which will happen soon. I will definitely be on their neck daily,” he said.
NO WEEK WITHOUT ACCIDENT
Atabula Community in Obi LGA
There is Selina Peter, 29, who lost her leg on her way from Agwade market. There is Bawa Akka, 52, whose bike somersaulted on a steep slippery curve that leads to Ome community. There is Danladi Tanko, 44, who had a dislocation in his left leg. Danladi said he still felt sharp pains every night whenever he was unable to afford a pain reliever.
Selina Peter, whose leg twisted as a result of a tragic accident in Ashupe community
Bawa Akka, who can no longer go to farm because he can no longer walk with his legs
“I can give you up to 100 names of those who had accidents on this road and that will not be the entire list,” the head chief said.
Tiptoeing with his stick to return back to his palace, the head chief made a parting plea.
“Everyday, I see hardworking men and women lose their hands and legs. They can’t farm or do anything to feed themselves. This should not be happening. The contractor has not just taken our rights from us but also our loved ones. We are more sad that the government has allowed them to get away with it,” he said.
It was 5 pm. The blistering of the sun had subsided. A fog of dust enveloped the air. The town crier, after a high-pitched shout while hitting the gong, announced that there would be free immunisation at the primary health centre the following day.
There was feverish excitement after his announcement, and then, a few minutes later, a mother rushed his convulsing child out of a hut. She quickly sat behind a bike, pointing at the uneven road to a destination that would most likely lead to a hospital.
This story was supported by the Udeme project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID)
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