Kwara Protest1

How Kwara govt renovated Squash Court, others with diverted funds

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Stella Adeniyi

In 2017, Hammed Abdullahi, a skilled sports enthusiast, was playing with his colleagues on the squash court of the Kwara State Stadium Complex when he got badly injured. Mr Abdullahi had been playing on this squash court since 2011. Like his colleagues, he’s used to the deteriorated state of the court, a subsection of the stadium built in the 1970s.

Mr Abdullahi and his colleagues had learnt over time to cope with the worn-out and slippery floors. “We were managing it like that, and we were training inside the hall like that,” he said.

But one day in 2017, luck frowned at Abdullahi as he tried to throw a shot while playing on the court. His legs slipped on the old floor, causing an injury that was later diagnosed as a ligament tear.

“We were just training on the court, so I went to carry one shot from the back, my legs just split and I got injured on my knee,” he recalled.

The injury stopped Mr Abdullahi from fully participating in sporting activities for up to two years, during which he missed out on tournaments that could have boosted his career. But fortunately for him and his colleagues, the Kwara State Government renovated the age-long squash court in 2021, providing them with a conducive working environment.

“It was last year, around March, that they repaired everything, the wall, the glass, the floor, the toiletries (Wash facilities), the tiles, and even the seaters (spectators’ area),” he told UDEME, noting that the renovation has not only improved the playing conditions of the players, but also the chances of the state to host large tournaments.

“Now that the court is already renovated, everything is going fine, they all know all over Nigeria that the court has been renovated, so any tournament (hosted) here, people will like to come there,” he added.

Rofiat Abdulazeez, another squash player in Kwara, applauded the renovation, stating that it has given the state’s team a better experience when compared with their counterparts in other states.

“Using this court has benefited mostly all of us,” he said. “The court now sounds like other courts (like those in other states with better courts).”

UDEME confirmed that the Olympic size swimming pool, basketball court, and volleyball court in the Kwara State Stadium Complex were rehabilitated alongside the Squash Court in 2021.

However, contrary to the government’s claim of renovating the facilities to standard, it was observed that the renovations at the volleyball court and basketball court were minor.

Some sportsmen at the courts told UDEME that although the courts were repainted and the net fencing was also changed, the court still lacked basic facilities that would have aided their sports.

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The renovated volleyball court

According to Praise Akinwale, who plays volleyball, “there’s no shed for us to stay in, we are always staying inside the sun, and when it rains, you need to see this court, it’s nothing to write home about.”

Facilities were renovated with diverted fund

However, this reporter observed that the funds spent on rehabilitating these facilities were initially meant for the Indoor Sports Hall, an edifice that hosts a number of sports in the Stadium Complex.

In 2021, the Kwara State Government released the sum of N72,485,773.22 for the rehabilitation of the State Indoor Sports Hall. But an online newspaper, The Informant247, reported in August that no rehabilitation work was done at the hall, a situation that was confirmed when UDEME visited the facility.

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UDEME observed that the facility was in a deplorable condition; some parts of its roofing and ceilings were damaged, causing leakages during rainy seasons. The wooden floor had also deteriorated, with some parts of it broken and posing dangers to users. Also, many of the chairs in the spectators’ area were broken, and one could hardly sit on them without getting injured, while damaged air conditioners were seen in different corners of the indoor hall.

Praise Akinwale, a volleyball player, decried the state of the hall and complained about how the damaged pieces of equipment injured the users. “There are some times that you just want to sit down somewhere and you have to injure yourself or your clothes will get torn,” Miss Akinwale said. “There are some holes where you put poles, some of these holes don’t have cover again, so if you are not careful, you can slip your legs inside and injure yourself.”

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Indoor Sports Hall

Tennis Francis, a volleyball player, also complained about the terrible state of the Indoor Sports Hall. “Even though it’s indoors when it rains, we find it very difficult to train because the roofs are leaking,” he said. “The light is poor; the sitting arrangements are damaged. So should I call it survival for now?”

John Oyeniyi, a Para Tabletennis and Longtennis player, told UDEME that the space in the Indoor Hall needs to be enlarged to accommodate all the sports practicing there. “We have like 3 games or 4 games practicing here; they have to wait for each other to finish,” he said.

Mr Oyeniyi said that people with disabilities (PWDs) sometimes do not have the chance to train in the indoor hall because they have to share the time allotted for people without disabilities who play the same game as them.

Kwara State Sports Commission’s reaction

When The Informant247 reported the state of the Indoor Hall in August, the Kwara State Sports Commission reacted to the report through a rejoinder signed by its Executive Chairman, Bola Mogaji, stating that the expenditure line, which provided for the renovation of the Indoor Sports Hall, as shown in the Kwara 2021 Financial Statement, was an omnibus expenditure line.

“A careful perusal of the screenshot of the 2021 Financial Statement that Informant247 attached to its story would reveal that the budget line shown in the document is tagged ‘Rehabilitation/Repairs of Sporting Facilities – indoor sports hall at the Stadium Complex’,” the statement read in part.

“This omnibus title is as recorded in the revised 2021 budget. Anyone with appreciable knowledge of the budget language would instantly know that this is an ‘omnibus’ expenditure line that refers to many sporting facilities. This complies with the standard of the National Charts of Accounts, which Kwara had since adopted.”

An omnibus expenditure line combines the provision of several subjects or projects into a single bill.

But then, the Kwara commission also claimed that the funds were spent on the facilities which UDEME confirmed were indeed rehabilitated.

Experts react

Reacting to the report, the Executive Director of Policy Alert, a non-governmental organisation focused on Economic Governance (Budget Analysis), Environmental Justice and Agrarian Livelihood, Tijah Bolton-Akpan, described the commission’s response as a means to mislead the public.

“I think it’s an exercise in trying to mislead the public to say that that was an omnibus budget. It was very clear what the expenditure item was meant for,” he said. “If the general description of the budget line has been given and then beside it, you are giving a specific one, there’s nothing really omnibus about it.”

Mr Bolton-Akpan further condemned the use of the “omnibus budget” line stating that it encourages corrupt practices among state actors, adding that “one of the things that lack of clarity in budget line does is that it creates a shadow within which unscrupulous persons in government can manipulate the budget and pull resources away from public projects.”

He encouraged specific descriptions of projects in budget lines so as to foster citizens’ involvement in the accountability process.

On his part, Uadamen Ilevbaoje, Head of Tracka, BudgIT’s community engagement and service delivery promotion arm, explained that a lot of government officials usually divert funds from specified projects to increase their chances of fund embezzlement.

“They might do it because they want to take a shortcut and make profits,” he said. “That fund might construct that same budget provision and they might not make profits on it, but the ones that they decided to do, they will make more profit on that.”

This story was supported by the UDEME project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID)

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