How failed Constituency projects cripple S’East/S’South schools, worsen sanitation challenge (Part 2)
Poor sanitation and lack of access to water affect the health and education of school children in Nigeria, but this problem is yet to gain the full attention of the government at various levels in Nigeria. Olugbenga ADANIKIN visited a number of schools in South-East and South-West where this problem is acute. Here is part two of the report:
BUILT and managed initially by a philanthropist, St. Anthony Secondary School, Azia, Ihiala South, Anambra is not a good learning environment. It lacks basic teaching infrastructures such as classrooms, laboratories and toilets. Not only that, the school is far removed from the community.
Teachers transferred to the school would rather influence their postings to better schools, and visitors are mostly terrified while accessing the school due to its secluded location. The school was later taken over by the Anambra State government to prevent a total collapse, says Esther Ezeasor the School’s Principal.
“This place is not really safe,” she told The ICIR.
“The first time I came, I was marvelled. Anyone can just invade the school because it has no fence and toilets.”
But in 2015, respite came. St. Anthony was captured for rehabilitation through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) projects. Emeka Anohu, former House of Representatives member from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing Ihiala Federal Constituency facilitated the projects.
Anohu who served as the ex-Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Basic Education and Services had facilitated the construction of Science Laboratory and Staff offices comprising of toilet facilities in the school. The entire project was awarded at N35 million. But as of date, it is yet to be completed.
Pranav Contracting Nigeria Limited, the contracted firm abandoned the project.
Anohu, while in office had promised to use his leadership position to promote better education, especially in his constituency but the reality is not the case.
Teachers’ staff room flooring was poorly done. Doors and windows to the laboratories were also left unfixed as of the time The ICIR and PPDC visited. But, the uncompleted classrooms were already painted.
“I have never seen any contractor since I came in 2018,” says Ezeasor. “As you can see, the project is yet to be completed.”
“We appeal to our lawmakers to please help us complete our school projects,” Margaret Onyebuagu, the female school prefect pleads.
The contractor, Pranav Contracting Limited with RC: 708797 was registered on September 13, 2007, and located at 17, Themes Street, Maitama, Abuja. The office later relocated to 20, Amazon Street, Maitama in Abuja.
Breach of Procurement Act
It was difficult finding any information about the company because it lacks an active online presence. Internet search later showed that the firm engages in Information and Communication Technology Services (ICT). This implies that if registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as an IT firm, it should not have bidded for school building rehabilitation contract as it is contrary to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act (PPA).
Besides, a 2018 report listed Pranav Contracting Nigeria Limited among fictitious firms accused of benefitting from a controversial N10 billion contract involving Kemi Adeosun, former Finance Minister. The firm, as of then was fingered as one of those not captured in the database of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).
It is considered unlawful for any contractor, consultants, or service providers not recognised by the BPP to execute federal projects. Aside from being registered with the BPP, contractors are also expected to satisfy other requirements such as PenCom, Industrial Training Fund, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) and remittance of tax to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) before being awarded any contract.
Mohammed Adoke, ex-Attorney General of the Federation on April 28, 2014 announced the compulsory registration as a major requirement for getting government’s contract.
Thus, the Bureau referenced Section 58 of the PPA, 2007 as a sanction against offenders.
“Any natural person not being a public officer who contravenes any provision of this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not less than 5 calendar years but not exceeding 10 calendar years without an option of fine,” the BPP Act states.
Even though Pranav Contracting Nigeria Limited later registered, it failed to comply with the compulsory requirement necessary to win the contract. It defaulted in its tax remittance, no record of its business category and no proof to show it previously executed similar project.
Pranav Contracting Nigeria Limited and Pyramid Energy Limited use same fake address
On August 7, The ICIR attempts to reach out to Pranav Contracting Nigeria Limited. It was earlier discovered that Pyramid Energy Limited got similar contract from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) for a school rehabilitation at a separate location within the state. However, both firms share the same address at 20, Amazon Street, Maitama, Abuja. But the address is fake, it houses a different company identified as SMEC Consulting.
Two private security officers with navy blue uniforms, met at the office entrance denied knowledge of both companies. A Hausa man in a brown local attire, brown cap and black face-mask affirmed the firms never existed at the said address.
This is N0. 20, who do you want to see? The security men queried.
“Not here sir,” the officers responded after providing names of the two firms.
They later directed the reporter to Amazon Close.
There were only five apartments at the Close, and the contractors’ address was none of them.
Yet, 20, Amazon Street was the active address Pranav Energy Limited submitted to the BPP.
Pyramid Energy was entirely missing from the BPP database as of the time of this report.
The fact-finding was further extended to Amaka Okpala, Secretary to the two companies who was appointed in May 2012. Efforts to contact her to respond on behalf of the companies failed. She could not be located at the office address provided in the CAC search. Her phone line also was not captured in the CAC record of the company.
The ICIR investigation later revealed that the location was a residential address.
The security officer manning the entrance to the apartment claimed ignorance of the company secretary. Residents of the apartment also denied knowing Okpala.
“There is nobody like that in this compound,” she said.
The ICIR contacted Chuma Nzeribe of Pranav to verify why the N35m project was stalled but Nzeribe tacitly responded it has been completed and terminated the phone call.
Technical college with no technical tools
The beauty of attending technical school is basically to gain hands-on knowledge. But that is not the case at Community Technical College, Ubahuekwem, Ihiala where students are subjected to visit external workshops to acquire practical skills.
More pathetic is the neglect of two uncompleted and abandoned 2015 constituency projects in the school which include a science laboratory and technical workshops (Fabrication, welding and electrical installation and motor mechanic).
“Actually the project speaks for itself,” a staff in the school told The ICIR, expressing his discomfort. “It is a terrible situation but what can we do?”
The school will often rely on external technical workshops where the principal foots the bill for students to acquire the needed practical skills.
While this approach appeared inevitable, the essence of establishing the technical college was gradually being defeated. Continuous funding of practical knowledge outside of the school premises is also unsustainable.
The ICIR went through the laboratory and workshops which has been under construction since 2015. The uncompleted electrical installation, fabrication and welding workshops have never served the purpose of which they were awarded. In fact, the already painted buildings have started depreciating due to neglect.
“Since 2016, we have not had science and chemistry laboratory….we have not seen anyone from UBEC to see the level of work done,” the source who pleaded anonymity added.
The State government, it was gathered brought technical machines to the school for installation but it was reportedly returned due to uncompleted status of the project as of the period.
“We are still making efforts to see if they can return the equipment,” the source added. The Anambra state government has remained docile intervening on the matter. Efforts made by one of the school heads yielded negative results. According to him, the state officials insisted that the laboratory work is a federal project, thus would be difficult to interfere.
Meanwhile, in 2018, when the case of the abandoned school project was aired, the contractor hurriedly came to fix the doors and windows and disappeared thereafter.
The failed N28.75 million project awarded to Pyramid Energy Limited in 2015 is yet to be completed. Though registered with the CAC on September 16, 2005, with RC: 634769, the firm is not accredited to execute federal contracts, yet got the huge sum from UBEC to execute the projects.
Brief details found on the internet about Pyramid Energy Limited was on Connect Nigeria – a business profiling website. The business profiling platform also lacks detailed information on the firm’s activities.
In 2005, it submitted 110, Awka Road, Onitsha, Anambra as its registered address but the firm still shared the same, false address with Pranav Contracting Nigeria Limited at 20, Amazon Street, Maitama in Abuja.
Few shareholders of both companies also shared the same family name. For instance, Chuma Nzeribe, Nonye Nzeribe and Pascal Nzeribe own N7m, N250, 000 and N250,000 company shares respectively at pyramid energy limited. Umolu Odii, the fourth shareholder owns N500, 000 worth of shares in the firm.
Ironically, Chukwuma Nzeribe and Pascal Ntom Nzeribe share similar names with the above three shareholders. Both Chukwuma and Pascal Nzeribe are currently shareholders in Pranav Contracting Nigeria Limited. They became directors in the company on the same date – on May 4, 2012.
Moreso, the day, May 10, 2012 Pranav contracting limited changed its registered office to 20, Amazon Street, Maitama was the same day Pyramid Energy limited resolved to change its address to the same address in Abuja. These imply a shared interest among owners of the two firms.
Three years after unifying the address of both firms, Chief Nzeribe and Pascal Nzeribe of Pranav resigned as directors of the firm. They left alongside two other foreigners – ING. Dott. Fillipo Terranova and Navin Kumar Bhandarada.
Constituency projects, an annual ritual
The Federal Government has approved in recent years billions for constituency projects in the 36 states. It is an annual ritual allocated through the yearly budgets. Aside, the idea behind these projects is to drive development at the various constituents represented by Senators and House of Representative members.
Reports have shown that the process of awarding these contracts is laced with corruption, thus opaque. While some projects are left uncompleted, others are completed but not done to standard.
There are cases where fake companies are awarded contracts for similar constituency projects, still, nothing physical was found at project sites. These illegalities, however, prompted advocacies on strict adherence to the procurement law (PPA) at government agencies and parastatals.
It is believed that complying with the PPA would promote transparency in project award and delivery.
In 2019, after several investigative reports, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), affirmed the federal lawmakers have been conniving with implementing agencies to steal billions of money meant for rural development through constituency projects.
The commission in the report produced by the Constituency Project Tracking Group (CPTG), tracked 424 projects between 2015 and 2018 in 12 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where the massive fraud was perpetrated.
New perimeter fence built on cracked one yet left uncompleted
In 1983, Community Secondary School, Umunnachi, Dunukofia LGA, Anambra was built as a boarding school until when it suffered insecurity challenges. Shortly after, perimeter fence was built around the school. Over the years, the fences became weak and were falling off.
The school became porous to external forces such that Mrs Obum James, the immediate past school principal was said to have abandoned the principal’s lodge situated within the school. The teachers repeatedly complained about students’ safety. The reoccurring situation forced the school to transit to a day class rather than boarding system.
“There was a time thieves invaded our computer laboratory and took all the computers but we were able to recover them since then not all are functional because they were mishandled,” Mrs. Ada Okwuneso, the School’s Vice Principal Academics told The ICIR.
“There was also a rape case,” another official who pleaded anonymity said while taking the reporter around. “You cannot keep students where there is no fence. This used to be their hostel, the kitchen and see the cafeteria,” she adds.
Eventually, two local guards supported by the vigilantes were hired. The unused hostel structures were converted to a library, staff room and offices.
In 2018, Victor Umeh, a former Senator representing Anambra Central had facilitated N9.7 million constituency project in the school. They include re-roofing of the refectory and a perimeter fence but the project remained uncompleted as of the time The ICIR visited.
The projects were awarded to Dilicon Limited located at 53, Western Avenue, Ojuelegba in Surulere, Lagos State. In the same year, the contractor visited to take pictures and later commenced work, the teachers disclosed.
Okwuneso said the school was filled with excitement until the project suddenly came to a halt.
Though, accredited by the BPP among federal contractors, roofing of the school cafeteria awarded for repair was partly done when The ICIR visited. The student canteen had no ceiling sheets, except for the main roof, thus not fully put to use.
Section of the new perimeter fencing was built on the old, despite the cracked and weak state of the existing fence. The project also came to halt at a bamboo shrub, some metres to the school gate.
Apparently, the contractor would require uprooting the thick bamboos to complete the project but that was not the case.
“You get hold of your students if the school is fenced,” Mrs. Okonkwo Chinwe, the VP Admin said while advocating for the project completion. “…as long as it is half-fenced, they can penetrate through anywhere, so it is still a serious challenge.”
“You see these bamboos? can you see that the walls will soon fall?” Chinwe asserted, pointing at the cracked fence. “So they need to uproot them.” As long as the bamboos are around the fence, in two years, the fence might start cracking, she said.
Beyond the uncompleted projects, Chinwe urged the authorities to provide better security and potable water for student use.
UBEC did not ask us to complete school projects – Contractor
A background check on Dilicon limited showed the firm has no company secretary. It has only three directors – Ofodile Ifeanyi Anieto, Joy Nebechi Anieto and Ifesinachi Chukwudum Anieto with N800, 000, N100, 000, and N100, 000 shareholdings respectively.
There was no evidence of annual return filed to the CAC since the firm was established in the year 2000. Data from the BPP also revealed the firm defaulted in its tax payment.
Ofodile Anieto, Dilicon Managing Director was contacted by The ICIR to seek reaction to why the projects were uncompleted. He initially claimed they have been completed until the reporter told him of the flaws in the project execution.
At that point, he accused UBEC of cutting down the approved sum for the project, but he could not provide the actual amount released for the project.
He said there was no way he could complete the project since he was not fully paid.
“What they told us is they had a budget and somewhere along the line they cut the budget to 50 percent. Initially, when we quoted for that project it was about N20 million, along the line they cut it to about 9 million.” The ICIR could not get the budget breakdown of UBEC because it is among agencies of government that gets statutory transfers.
Anieto said only four windows were approved for repair at the refectory but his firm repaired over 20 windows. The ceiling and noggin, he noted were also excluded from the project scope.
On the perimeter fencing, he admitted to the collapsed bricks and the fact that they built a new fence on an existing cracked wall. But, he attributed the flaw to the paucity of funds. A larger part of the approved sum, he said was spent on the refectory while the remaining undisclosed amount was expended on the fence. The bamboo tree, he noted was not an obstacle in the first place.
“The fence is not intended to go round the school,” Aniteo said. “They told us they will come back for the second phase but they never came back.” He suggested a physical meeting among The ICIR, UBEC and his firm to reaffirm his argument. The reporter told him he will meet with the UBEC officials in Abuja.
Anieto denied the allegation of tax evasion. “I remitted over N200, 000 as tax recently,” he said, but this was not the case because the BPP record did not capture his tax remittance.
Civil society seeks probe, want a database of all abandoned projects for easy monitoring
Joshua Olufemi, Executive Director of Dataphyte in his reaction, highlights the crucial role of government in monitoring the trend of abandoned projects nationwide.
He called for an overhaul of the entire financing process from the project planning stage to implementation in order to guarantee steady funding of awarded projects. Agencies of government, he noted, would often instruct contractors to suspend work due to poor capital releases.
“You don’t set a budget when you are not sure of where to get revenue,” Olufemi added, emphasising the government’s role. “If you only rely on oil and the price of oil falls, then every one of your plans will be affected.”
He also advised the executive arm of government to develop a database of abandoned projects and poorly executed projects across the MDAs. The identified projects, he suggested, should be continued rather than awarding new projects on yearly basis.
He also called for a multi-stakeholder engagement and grassroots participation for proper monitoring and successful implementation of the constituency projects.
In his remarks, Debo Adeniran, Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) attributed the project neglects to corrupt practices.
Adeniran said, though legislatures are meant to make laws, they have also failed to follow up some of the constituency projects in their constituents.
“Sometimes contractors compromise standards and quality. That is why many of the constituency projects even when they seemed to have been completed, they don’t stand the test of time,” he argued.
“We really need to do more. We are not doing enough to ensure those who ought to benefit from these projects are carried along. Relevant authorities need to know about the project especially if the specifications are not met.”
The Transparency and Accountability Unit in the Ministries and Departments and Agencies, he suggested, should be involved in the entire procurement process until project delivery.
Blossom Ossom, UBEC spokesperson did not respond to questions about many failed projects. He referred The ICIR to the office of the Director of Physical Planning through the Executive Secretary of the Commission.
“If your enquiry has to do with constituency project execution, the person to respond will be the Director of physical planning in UBEC,” he said asking The ICIR to send an official enquiry. A letter was sent to the office in August. The letter was acknowledged but as of date, no official response was provided by the commission. Other efforts to reach UBEC for reactions were ignored.
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