The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

At this point, one should never be surprised at the level of corruption impacting the everyday lives of Nigerians.

The air was thick with tension as I navigated the overgrown path leading to what should have been a state-of-the-art atmospheric laboratory. My mission started as a simple inspection of a library under construction at Adekunle Ajasin University in Ondo State. But that mission was abruptly truncated when I crossed paths with a brown snake, which seemed to stake its claim on this forgotten plot of academic promise.

This convoluted tale began three years ago, with the ambitious proposition to construct a physics laboratory at the university. Once a symbol of potential, the building is now a cautionary tale, its budget ballooned and its foundations decaying.

In the fiscal year 2020, the project had a budget allocation of $64,505. By 2021, the cost had surged to $77,406, according to documents secured by UDEME, a citizen accountability group. These documents indicate that the funding for this zonal intervention project, championed by then-Senator Robert Ajayi Boroffice and overseen by the Center for Atmospheric Research (CAR-NASRDA) and the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, was indeed released in full.

When UDEME investigators visited the site in June, what they found was an architectural ghost—its skeleton veiled by dense flora, a building with neither purpose nor utility. Painted and roofed, yes, but barren of electrical fittings and crucial equipment.

Adeniyi Taiwo, the student body president of the Physics Department, lamented that the supposed lab, designed for students studying atmospheric physics, remains a mystery to the very scholars it was intended to benefit. Many of us aren’t even aware of its existence, he admitted.

Adekunle Ajasin University
Provided by the author.

Abdulazeez Muhammed, a senior majoring in Physics and Electronics, echoed Taiwo’s ignorance of the lab’s status but acknowledged the setback its absence imposes. The most significant impact lies in the students’ unable to put their theoretical knowledge into practice, rendering the educational experience incomplete, he ruefully noted.

This narrative of educational deficiency doesn’t stop with Abdulazeez. Another student, Muizah Muhammad, detailed how the perennial lack of proper laboratories impedes their scientific pursuits. She eloquently described the myriad experiments and observations that could advance our understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere—experiments they simply can’t conduct without this lab.

In an interview, former Senator Boroffice, who had once championed the project, lauded its potential to enhance scientific education. When pressed about the project’s delay, he conveniently passed the buck to the contractors, all the while assuring that the project would be operational by August. It’s now October, and the lab remains dormant.

When reached for comment, neither the university administration nor the Ministry of Science and Technology offered any clarifications. Even Dr. Mojeed Yusuf of the CAR-NASRDA, a supervisory agency for the project, claimed to lack direct knowledge of its progress.

Baldoff Facilities Consulting Limited, the contracted builder, also cloaked themselves in a fog of evasion. The individual responsible for this project is currently out of the country, and thus unavailable for comments, was the nebulous response given.

In the labyrinthine corridors of bureaucracy and missed opportunities, the atmospheric lab stands as an emblem of wasted resources and shattered academic dreams. And as the weeds continue to grow around its derelict structure, one is left to wonder: Who will clear the path and unlock the potential entombed within these walls?

This article was produced under the Udeme Project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID).

Fatimah Idera is a serial volunteer and freelance journalist passionate about fighting misinformation and reporting on stories that matter. Currently, Fatimah tracks accountability reports for UDEME.