By Mustapha Usman
MORE than a decade has passed, but a proposed cottage hospital in New Kutunku, Gwagwalada, meant to be completed within a year, has remained an abandoned structure despite significant investment and its supposed health benefits to the community.
BOSEDE Olosa was excited to hear that the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) had begun the construction of a hospital in her community. Her joy, however, began to fade when the project was not completed one year later.
Bosede, who had lived in the community for several years, was unhappy with her experience of traveling several kilometers to access secondary healthcare. After she had thought that her prayers were answered and a new hospital would be built in her community, her hope was not realised more than a decade later.
She explained to Safer-Media Initiative that she has given up hope that the government will complete the hospital soon. She is now concerned for her safety and that of her family, as the uncompleted hospital building sometimes houses ‘smokers’ and ‘criminals’.
She said: “I know, if they build the hospital, it will surely help those who are sick, especially in emergencies. But the government has failed to complete the project after many years. The abandoned building is now a hiding place for smokers and criminals who are causing harm to people staying in this area.”
New Kuntunku is a town tucked away in the Gwagwalada area council in the Federal Capital Territory. For the people in the community, this medical facility was not just a structure. It was a lifeline and an economic booster. However, we observed that the initial excitement that surged through the community when the project kicked off has gradually faded into frustration. They are worried and wonder when the contractor will get back to the site.
Safer-Media Initiative spoke with residents in the community.
Muhammad Jafar, 31, shared his concerns. Jafar would not believe it if anyone had told him that the hospital would remain uncompleted many years after the construction work started. This was because of the swift progress of work by the contractor at the commencement of the project.
He told Safer-Media Initiative that some people were displaced when their houses were demolished by the government at the beginning of the project. But he was not sure if the house owners on the hospital’s land violated the Abuja master plan.
“Some people already built houses in the place where the hospital is now, but they demolished them, so it would be unfortunate and unfair if they, at the end of the day, did not complete the construction,” Jafar said.
Background to the project
In 2010, during the time of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the Federal Government proposed the cottage hospital project. The project was to be spearheaded by the Health and Human Services Secretariat (works unit) of the Federal Capital Development Authority.
This was according to a document published by the Federal Ministry of Information on Issuu, in May 2023. Issuu is a digital publishing platform that allows users to share and upload their publications online.
The project was awarded to The Solid Concrete Nigeria Limited at a contract sum of N677 million (N677,879,466.60) on November 18, 2010, with the scope of the work being the construction of a 60-bed main hospital building.
The hospital project’s details, according to document shared by the federal ministry of information.
The hospital comprised several wards, a theater, a pharmacy, a laboratory, an accident and emergency unit, antenatal, and maternal and residential quarters.
According to the document, the project commenced in February 2011 and was to be completed in 2012.
However, in 2012, when the then minister of the FCT, Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, presented reports on the FCT projects to commemorate National Democracy Day 2012, the project had only reached 15 percent.
The picture embedded in the document showed that the building was still under construction.
Meanwhile, the budget allocations for the hospital project were not in the public space. Checks by Safer-Media Initiative on Budget Office for the budgetary allocation to Federal Capital projects between 2010 and 2015 did not include the details of the cottage hospital project. This was despite some activities on the project site.
Safer-Media Initiative gathered that the contractor was last seen on the site in 2020 during COVID-19. The site has been visibly abandoned, as there was no project office or plant of equipment on the site.
Hospital rots away, turns farmland
At the abandoned Cottage Hospital, situated at the back of the abattoir of the new Kutunku area, there are already five roofed and plastered buildings, consisting of two-story buildings, one-story buildings, and two structures that look like flats.
When Safer-Media Initiative visited the project’s location, some of the buildings had begun to peel away, while tiles in some of the structures were also confirmed to be in a bad state. The roof of one of the two-story buildings was in tatters, depicting total neglect from the authority in charge.
Shockingly, the hospital premises have been turned into farmland and a fishing pond. The land that once served as a beacon of hope for the community is now used for agricultural activities.
In an interview with this reporter, Aliyu, who identified himself as the on-site engineer, said he and the security men were responsible for turning the hospital vicinity into farmland due to its inactivity.
According to him, the hospital has been laid to waste for over three years now with no activity on the project, stressing that they keep the place secure and cultivate some farm products.
Yahaya Bello, 34, a resident of the community, also explained that the project has been wasting away for years, with no health or economic benefits to the host communities.
Just as SMI observed, he also explained that bushes have taken over the hospital while part of the two-story building has deteriorated.
“As you can see, the building houses bushes and all sorts of farm products. The hospital has since been abandoned and left to waste away for no reason. I do not understand how a project of this status will be abandoned by the government,” Bello explained.
Abandoned project raises security concerns
Some residents in the community have voiced their concerns that the site poses a threat to the community’s safety as unauthorised individuals gain access to the premises, according to residents who spoke to this reporter.
Nuhu Talhanu, a resident of New Kutunku, said: “The government refused to continue with the project. They left this project after Goodluck’s administration. It has been eight years since he left, and the project is still here. We are hoping for the current administration to help us continue the hospital and finish the project. The hospital would help the people here.
“Since it’s uncompleted, we are having security issues when it is nightfall as people enter into the uncompleted building. We are hoping for this current administration to help us with the hospital as everyone would be happy.”
Also, another resident, Hassan Lawal, shared his frustrations, saying: “If actually, it is a project that is meant for the benefit of humanity, it is meant to have been completed since, but unfortunately, I do not know what is hindering its completion.”
He stated that the project would significantly improve the socioeconomic potency of the community if completed and put to use.
“If this project is completed, the socioeconomic potency of this area will improve significantly because a facility like this is supposed to bring people across the country. If you look at the facility, you will understand that it is meant to accommodate more than 300 patients, and you will see patients coming from Niger, Kaduna, Kogi, and Kwara. And it will definitely promote the socio-economic aspect of the community.”
Our women are dying – District Head
Amidst the growing concern over maternal mortality, the District Head of New Kutunku, Mohammed Sabiu, said they have lost many pregnant women during delivery, explaining that it was due to the long distance of the commute and the bad condition of the road to the specialist hospital.
He said that despite their attempts to draw attention to the dire need for a functioning hospital, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears, with the government seemingly unresponsive to their concerns.
“It has affected us very well because sometimes, if our women want to deliver or have malaria or whatever, especially pregnant women, before we get to the hospital, we lose many women. We lost many of them.
“The hospital is far from here; we have to go to a specialist, and it’s about three kilometers away from this place. You know there is a bad road, and before we got to the hospital, some of them died,” the community head said.
He added that the community visited the FCT Minister’s office at the beginning of former President Muhammadu Buhari’s term to complain about the long-abandoned hospital. Despite the promise made during that visit that the project would be completed, the government has failed to live up to its promise.
“At the beginning of Buhari’s tenure, we went to the Minister’s office, and they promised us that. So they later came to check the hospital, and since that time, we haven’t seen them again. The community has been trying their own, but the government is not listening to us.
“At that time, they started the project; they mentioned a few other places they were doing the same project, the one for Kwali, one for Gwagwalada here, one for Abaji, and another for Zuba. They finished Zuba and Abaji but abandoned the one here in Gwagwalada for almost 15 years now.”
Inadequate health facilities, one cause of maternal mortality in Nigeria
On the plausible causes of mortality rate, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), listed inadequate health facilities, shortage of critical human resources, inadequate power or water supply, commodity stock-outs, equipment inadequacy, weak standards/quality, and very low demand for critical services primarily driven by the loss of confidence in the system as the causes.
In its 2023 report, WHO also showed that there were a combined 4.5 million maternal, stillbirths and newborn deaths in 2020.
Also, World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2020, revealed that 788 women and children died per thousand in India, while 540 women and children per thousand died in Nigeria.
Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia are the regions experiencing the largest number of deaths across all regions. India and Nigeria lead with 17 per cent and 12 per cent of global maternal and neonatal deaths and stillbirths, respectively.
FCDA flouts FOI Act, hides project details, reason for delaying project completion
The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) boasts of having the responsibility of overseeing “the infrastructural and physical development (planning, design and construction) of the new Federal Capital. It seeks further to ensure conformity to the global standards of new Capital cities around the world, while paying special attention to inclusivity, functionality, design and aesthetics.”
In an attempt to investigate the reason the project has been abandoned and uncompleted thirteen years after it was awarded, we wrote to the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), requesting the project details and the current status of the hospital.
The letter, which was dated March 28, 2023, was written in pursuance of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) and requested information on open and competitive bidding, budget provision, approved threshold, amount paid, and level completion, among others, for the Cottage hospital, situated in New Kutunku, Gwagwalada, that was awarded in 2010 by the FCDA.
However, six months later, the agency, under the FCDA, has failed to respond to the FOI.
In another attempt to get the details of the project, another FOI request was sent to the Ministry, in which FCDA is domiciled, Federal Capital Territory (FCTA), on May 2, 2023, but has gotten no response.
This was despite the FOI act that mandates all ministries, Departments and Agencies to respond to such requests. The FOI act emphasised the right of both individuals and organisations to obtain information from government ministries, agencies, and departments, as outlined in its different sections.
Section 1, subsection (1) of the FOI act, states that “Notwithstanding anything contained in any other Act, law or regulation, the right of any person to access or request information, whether or not contained in any written form, which is in the custody or possession of any Public official, Agency or institution howsoever described, is established.”
Also, section 2, subsection 4, of the same act mandates Public institutions to ensure that information requested by an individual or organisation is widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the Public through various means, including print, electronic and online sources, and at the offices of such Public institutions.
Should there be a valid reason for denying a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the act stipulates that the respective Agency must provide written notification to the requester, clearly stating the denial and referencing the specific section of the FOI act under which the refusal is based.
Beyond the FOI requests sent, this reporter also sent several reminders which stressed the importance of the information and why the Ministry must adhere to the FOI Act.
Safer-Media Initiative through this reporter, also reached out to the chief press secretary (CPS) of the FCTA, Tony Ogunleye, on three different occasions to seek a reaction on why the Ministry and its Agency failed to respond to its FOI requests and why the project was abandoned but he asked that the request be sent via text which was done promptly, but he is yet to respond as at time of this publication.
Contractor evades scrutiny, shifts blame
Solid Concrete Nigeria Limited was subjected to a public search via the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) portal, but the result displayed three companies with similar names.
Even though the company name above was the contractor’s appellation as contained in the on-site signpost, the addresses therein were not of Kaduna but rather of Lagos, Bauchi and Benue states.
It is, however, uncertain if the company was delisted by the CAC or didn’t register in the first place.
Sadly, the contact number provided in the contractor signpost was unreachable, as the service provider indicated it was out of service.
Meanwhile, this reporter reached out to Aliyu (earlier mentioned), but he refused to provide the contractor’s contact details.
After multiple unsuccessful attempts to convince Aliyu to share the contractor’s contact number, he instead asked that the reporter speak to the contractor via his (Aliyu) phone. However, the contractor declined to answer all questions or grant our reporter an interview.
He directed SMI to the FCDA, stating that he didn’t have any information to provide as he hadn’t been mobilised in the past three years.
Also, a source familiar with the project construction said the government is yet to pay the contractor money used to fix tiles and ‘other things’ in 2020.
“Before the previous administration handed over, the contractor asked me to take pictures. They do come and evaluate, and if they don’t owe you money, they won’t come to do that. If they come and evaluate, the contractor will be hoping to hear an alert. They even told him to continue his work and that they would pay him, but he said no; they had to pay him the one they owed him first. They came for an evaluation early this year and even wanted to come for the second time before they asked the contractors to send pictures instead. The fault is not on the contractor,” the source said.
This report, published by Safer-Media Initiative on October 22, 2023, with the support of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development, Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA Project) with funding support from the MacArthur Foundation, is reproduced here under the CMEDIA understanding on amplification of reports.