The ratio of schools to the population of pupils in Niger State is totally contrasting and as a result children of school age in the state are condemned to a low standard of education compared to their contemporaries in the other parts of the country.
The hope for some parents in the state for a major turnaround in the quality of education available to their wards remains fruitless as officials at the helm continue to deny them this fundamental right.
Lawmakers in Niger State continue to divert funds meant for the development of the education sector and the citizens at the receiving end of these misappropriations can only hope for a swift change of fortune that can only come through pro-people representatives at the parliament.
One of the reasons for their cry for help is the non-completion of the renovation and provision of classroom furniture at central primary school Lapai, a project by lawmaker, Mohammed Abdulkadir Mahmud, who represents Agaie/Lapai Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives. The sum of N6m was earmarked for the 2018 project and as the line item states, the project was to renovate and provide classroom furniture but the lawmaker only renovated but failed to provide furniture in the classrooms despite the budgetary allocation. As observed by this reporter, the renovated classrooms have been under lock and key since June 2019 leaving the pupils to make use of other classrooms for learning.
Headmaster of the school said the lawmaker through the contractor, Shaasun Pyramid Limited, wanted to change the project to only renovation but was opposed by the community. He added that the contractor claimed that the project was completed despite the non-provision of furniture for the renovated classrooms. Contractor erected signpost with different project title “The aim of the project has not yet been accomplished because it was to accommodate as many pupils as possible.
“Pupils have been in the dilapidated classrooms with little or no furniture, hoping that the completion of the said project will ease the burden on the school. I refused to accept the key after the said completion of the project when I found out the budgetary allocation and the line budget statement but furniture wasn’t supplied.
“I approached the contractor and told him about the budget for the furniture, he frowned at it and said no furniture was attached and since I refused to accept the project and key, he left with the key. This was around May or June 2019,” the headmaster explained.
He further stated that since the contractor left angrily, the classrooms had remained locked and has since made himself unreachable. Again, Honourable Mahmud refused to respond to all forms of communications employed to reach him. Multiple calls, messages and emails sent to him were left unanswered.
Missing N50m project in Niger State
A new tactic being adopted by lawmakers to divert and embezzle funds is giving tiny details of where a project will be carried out. The reason is to ensure that the monitoring and tracking of such projects was extremely difficult.
One of such is a project by Senator David Umar, which is the renovation of eight blocks of three classrooms in Shiroro, Paikoro, Chanchaga, Gurara, Suleja, Munya and Tafa local government areas, in Niger-East Senatorial District. A total sum of N50m was allocated for the 2018 project with project number 2018ZIP2173.
During a visit to some schools in four of the seven local government areas listed, no project related to the one sponsored by Senator Umar could be found. The project was traced to Gurara, Suleja, Tafa and Chanchanga local government areas by this reporter but the project could not be identified.
No project was seen dated the 2018 zonal interventional project in more than four schools visited in each of the local governments.
An official of Chanchanga LGA, who does not want to be named because she is not in position to speak, said the local government was not aware of any renovation project to be carried out by Senator Umar.
“We usually get to know about constituency projects being carried out in this local government.
“But in 2018, there was no renovation of school that was done by our Senator.
“We have looked at our books and we can say no project of such is done in the local government,” she said.
I carried out all my educational projects –Senator Umar
Senator Umar stated that he duly implemented and executed all of his educational projects in his constituency when he was a member of the National Assembly. He confirmed sponsoring and receiving funds for the implementation of the renovation of projects in eight local governments. He, however, said he doesn’t have the exact schools the projects were carried out and referred this reporter to Mr Ayenaje Bawa, a constituency officer in Niger East Senatorial District.
Bawa on his part said some schools were renovated by the lawmaker while providing a list of schools where projects were carried out.
He said, “This is the list of schools renovated by the senator: Nikangbe Primary School in Nikangbe community in Kpakungu area of Minna-Chanchaga Local Government; Junior Secondary School (JSS) Kwaki village in Kwaki/Chukuba ward of Shiroro LGA; Central Primary School Gwada in Gwada town; Shiroro LGA; Central Primary School Kadna in Kadna village, Chanchaga ward of Bosso LGA; Central Primary School Gini in Gini Town of Munya LGA; Central Primary School Kata-Seni, Kata village in Ijah Gbagyi ward of Tafa LGA; Central Primary School Numbwa in Maje ward of Suleja LGA; Central Primary School Kafinkoro in Kafinkoro ward of Paikoro LGA; Central Primary School Kagara in Kagara town of Rafi LGA; Central Primary School Gawu in Gawu-Babangida town of Gurara LGA.
“Some were done in 2017, some in 2018 and he used his personal funds to renovate some of these schools.”
When asked to highlight the schools renovated with the budget lines, he said “I cannot not point to the exact projects done in 2018 but all of them were done by the senator. Some in 2017 and some in 2018 when he was still the senator,” he said.
The people, however, countered the claims by the former lawmaker, saying they could not point to a school he renovated in 2018.
A resident of Chanchaga, who simply introduced himself as Musa, said there had not been a renovation of schools in the community by Senator Umar.
“Our politicians blow their trumpets whenever they do any project. There is no way he (Senator Umar) would have renovated a school here and he won’t launch it and people will know if that was done.
“So, I can say that Senator Umar did not renovate any school here under the 2018 budget line,” Musa said.
Government must push for compulsory implementation, completion of projects –Head, Tracka
Ilevbaoje Uadamen, Head of Tracka, a civil society organisation that enables citizens to collaborate, track and give feedback on public projects in their community, has called on relevant government agencies to ensure the completion of intervention projects embarked upon by lawmakers.
Uadamen said the non-implementation of these projects caused more harm to the people, who were to benefit from it. He stated that large numbers of intervention projects in the country were not completed and have been abandoned by lawmakers.
“Based on our field reports on project tracking across our focus states, findings revealed that large numbers of projects remained unexecuted.
“Over the years, there has been a low level of citizen participation in the budgeting process causing the diversion of public funds by government officials. As a result of lack of citizen awareness, many citizens have no knowledge of the projects in their communities, much less how these projects are funded.
“We note that some of these projects were signed off and contractors were paid, with little or no follow-up by government agencies.
“Abandoned projects form a massive leak to public resources; the government must strive for full implementation in each state before embarking on new capital projects,” he added.
The Head, Tracka, however, urged the people to always engage their political representatives in ensuring they embark on and complete intervention projects nominated and paid for by the government.
“We encouraged citizens to engage their elected representatives in the budget-making process to ensure their needs are captured in the annual fiscal plan in a timely fashion.
“The fundamental purpose of constituency projects is to ensure that rural communities feel the impact of the federal government; therefore, their priorities should be reflected in the budget,” Uadamen stated.
This report was done with the support of the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resources Centre).