Years of neglect of the lighting-up project of airport road, a long stretch of road with large traction of socioeconomic activities at the heart of Benin City of Edo State, have made residents and businesses vulnerable to criminal attacks.
The Airport Road leads from the NTA station in Benin City, into Adesogbe Road and continues from the Palace of the Oba of Benin; and as you veer to your right, leads to the Airport, Ogba Zoo in Benin City, Edo state. It is one of the most important business centres in Benin City.
But apart from the palace where solar street lights were erected by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in 2020, once it is night, darkness descends on the Airport Road.
Respondents said the road has become a red spot, and a rendezvous for criminals. From the airport towards the zoo, residents and visitors are often mugged, robbed and attacked, people interviewed said. A representative of a leading hotel on that road who does not want his name in print said that there has been a reduction in patronage.
“Our customers are afraid to go out at night. Nobody is interested in coming here at night as well. Those that brave it have been robbed and mugged. Once it is 7:30pm this place gets very deserted.”
When asked how he copes, a resident, Osaro Omogiate (not real name), who runs a furniture workshop asked, “Oga, are you new here? We no dey get light not to talk of street light.”
While some business owners with the capacity have erected their own solar-powered lights, this has not had a far reaching effect.
More tales of attacks in the dark
Prevailing darkness on the road presents other challenges for the teeming commuters of the road.
“Because our vigils usually end by 3 a.m., our members spend the rest of the night in the church, under Police guard,” a senior pastor at the Oasis church on the road, Felix Omokaro, said.
Mr Omokaro recounted how a man was trailed by some assailants one night on the road and was robbed.
“They took away his ATM and phone. By the time they were done with him, even his palm sandals were gone. I had to give him a lift to a safe place and put something in his pocket for him to get home,” Mr Omokaro said.
Alli Sanusi, a transporter who had plied the road for ten years, is a father of three. He noted that under the Adams Oshiomhole administration, there were regular repairs and maintenance of the street lighting system, together with fixing broken light bulbs and monitoring of the traffic lights on the road.
“But as soon as the Obaseki administration assumed office, we noticed that the government removed the two power generating sets and the transformer provided by the Oshiomhole for the street lights on the Airport Road in Benin City. They took away the one on Sapele Road as well. Why?” Mr Sanusi said.
According to documents obtained from the website of Edo State Public Procurement Agency, EDPPA, on February 14, 2020, CERTIFICATE OF COMPLIANCE FEBRUARY,2020 – Edo State Public Procurement Agency, the Godwin Obaseki administration awarded a contract for the “retrofitting and completion works on airport road street lights.”
The documents showed that bidders had been earlier sought in the Vanguard Newspaper of October 28, 2019.
At the end of the bidding process, Atiode Solar Systems Limited, located at 48 Igbesamwan Street, off Akpakpava Road, was published on the EDPPA website as the bid winner or met all the requirements leading to award of the advertised contract. The company was purportedly awarded not one, but two contracts.
The first contract on airport road, with the newly created ministry of energy and electricity as procuring entity, has certificate reference number EDPPA/069/Vol.2/361 with a contract sum of N22.6 million, the document showed.
The second contract was for the “installation of street lights” on Adesogbe-TV road to “five junction in Benin City” with certificate reference number EDPPA/069/Vol.2/361 and contract sum of N21.2 million. Although the contract was awarded in 2020, when the site of the project was visited in March, there was no evidence that the project had commenced.
An FOI request sent to the commissioner of works and the state government in March on the abandoned road project has not been replied. The chief of staff with former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, also declined comments when asked about the alleged N13 billion spent to rehabilitate and provide for street lights on the Airport Road.
Meanwhile, Governor Godwin Obaseki said in a recent virtual town hall meeting to connect residential areas and 70 km street lights to a 55MW CCETC-Ossiomo power plant in Benin City. “Ossiomo power (plant) is on. It is what is being used in government houses. We are trying to create an electricity commission with laws that will allow them to sell to people outside of the state government facilities.” Mr Obaseki was quoted as saying.
Asked in an FOI request if any fund had been released for the project, the contractor did not reply. When reached via the telephone, the CEO of Atiode, Fred Atiomo, said the company “was never awarded the contract.”
The Edo State Public Procurement Agency, EDPPA, also said, in response to an FOI in March, 2021, that it was merely a regulatory body, and that the newly created Ministry of Energy and Electricity was responsible for processing bids.
The purported contract “awarded” to Atiode Solar system appeared to contradict the provisions of the Edo State Public Procurement Act 2012. Section 21 (3) of the Edo State Public Procurement Law 2012 states that ‘in the case of goods, works under nationwide competitive bidding, the invitation for bids shall be advertised on the notice board of the procuring entity, any official website of the procuring entity, the state procurement journal and at least one (1) national newspaper not less than two weeks or more than 4 weeks before the deadline for submission of the bids for the works, goods and services’.
On the EDPPA website, the Agency said that the state government made an advertisement of the airport road project in the Vanguard Newspaper of 28 October, 2019. At the time of this investigation, there was no such advert in the said volume of Vanguard Newspaper when the paper was checked. When reached for comment, the CEO of EDPPA, Henry Idogun, said in a letter dated May 19 2021 that the publication date published on their website was “an inadvertent error”
“The advert was actually made on page 28 of Vanguard newspaper of Monday 7th 2019,” part of the letter read. A spokesperson for the EDPPA denied ever awarding any contract to Atiode.
‘What happened was that Atiode complied with 70% – 90% of the requirements needed for an award, and since we are a regulatory body, we published their name and issued them a certificate of compliance. What should have come next was the contract for approval for the contract, and the approving authority is the governor. If there is going to be any cancellation of the certificate after it has been issued and offered to another contractor, the procuring entity tells us about it, and then we update our records’, the official said.
An official of the Ministry of Energy and Electricity who does not want his name in print because he had no pass to speak to the press added that the purported contract to Atiode was cancelled for ‘technical reasons’ and was re-awarded to another company, Brossette Nigeria limited, on May 4, 2021.
The source said the contract was awarded to Brossette based on the newspaper advert of October 7, 2019 on the Nigerian observer, and with respect to other ‘technical considerations’.
An inquiry sent to Yangzhou Bright solar solutions in china on the pricing of Solar products showed that an ‘All-in-one integrated solar street light model BR-AIO30W’ made from aluminium alloy and with a lifetime of 25 years, battery life of between 8-10 years, a working time of 12 hours per night and a charge time of 6-7 hours costs about $228 per PC (about N70, 000).
For a 6-kilometre road like the airport road, about 334 of those PCs will be needed with installation time just over a two-week period.
According to EnGoPlanet, a solar services provider, SSP, solar street lights can cost anywhere from $1, 850 to $5,000, depending on the needs of the system
The General Manager of Brossette Nigeria Limited, Mr. Mario, said his company was ‘nominated’ by the Edo state government to execute a contract entered into with his company on May 4, 2021. He declined to provide any further details regarding contract sum, or say if his company participated in the bidding process, apparently contravening Section 20(1) (2), (3ii) of the EDPPA 2020. Especially, Section 20(1) states clearly that ‘the procurement of works, goods and services by all procuring entities shall be conducted by open competitive bidding except it is otherwise provided by this law’.
In ‘nominating’ (awarding a contract to) Brossette Nigeria Limited for lighting up the airport road in Benin City in this wise, approving authority, in this case the Edo state government appeared to have breached basic guidelines as stipulated in relevant sections of the EDPPA 2020.
Brossette, the Lagos-based company says it ‘specializes in producing pre-engineered steel homes and structures that can be assembled for accommodation, office building, warehouse, portable cabin, roof trusses’. It also claims to have completed over 1500 projects and has ISO Certification.