By Elijah Ojonicko AKOJI
THREE years ago, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) released the sum of N97 million to three companies for the construction and rehabilitation of classrooms in schools in the federal constituency in Bauchi State represented by Yakubu Dogara, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Wikkitimes has reported.
The money is part of a N1 billion constituency projects sponsored by the former Speaker, who still represents the area at the National Assembly.
Quickfix Property Limited, Delta Force limited and Maridiq Nigeria Limited received the money for the construction and rehabilitation of schools in the area, according to Budeshi, an open contracting platform.
At the Government Day Technical College in Tafawa-Balewa, no single project has been executed despite the school being listed as one of the beneficiaries of the intervention project.
Mr Jatau Daniel, principal of the college, told WikkiTimes that the school had been neglected for years, adding that he was not aware that it was billed to receive such intervention.
But it is not only the Government Day Technical College in Tafawa-Balewa whose classroom renovation and construction are up in the air despite money being released by UBEC. Investigations by WikkiTimes show that other schools that were listed as beneficiaries either got shoddy construction or none.
Built in 1978, the college in Tafawa-Balewa is the only technical school in Dogara’s constituency, but it has deteriorated, leaving more than 1,400 students in a poor learning environment without basic amenities.
The principal said the last building in the school was constructed about 20 years ago and renovation has been done only through the contributions of the Parents Teachers’ Association (PTA).
“I have had the privilege of meeting with Hon. Yakubu Dogara last year,” Mr Daniel said.
“I tabled all the challenges faced in the school and how the school is on the verge of total collapse. After receiving my proposal, we have not gotten any response from him till date after telling me he would get back to us.”
Inside the school, are cracked walls, inviting reptiles and insects into the classrooms.
“See how bad the school looks,” said exasperated Mr Emmanuel Barau, head of sciences laboratory in the school.
Students suffer the neglect. At Samuel Alheri’s classroom, the ceiling is about to cave in. The windows and floor of the classrooms are all broken. The students sit four per chair with some sitting on each others’ legs. “The chairs are not enough to accommodate all of us,” Alheri said.
“Throughout the last term, we could not have Physics class because we don’t have a Physics teacher,” Alheri told WikkiTimes.
“I am in the Computer Science Department. I only go to the lab with other students where we just sit for a while and then return back to our classes,” said Idi Miyaki, Alheri’s classmate.
“We don’t have a Computer Science teacher,” Miyaki continued. “No light or generator to even power the few computers, I don’t know anything about computers. I am just here wasting my time. As soon as we close, I just rush to the farm where I can make meaningful use of my time.”
Another school in the area, Central Primary School, was listed as a beneficiary in the zonal intervention project by UBEC, but like the technical school, no construction was ever carried out, despite money being released to the contractor.
In 2018, a contract for the construction of a block of three classrooms was awarded to Maridiq Nigeria Ltd, the same company that also got a contract for that of the technical college. It was awarded at N19 million.
The most recent block of two classrooms in the school was built in 2016 under the Sustainable Development Goals’ Intervention Project.
“Look at all the roofs falling apart with so many classrooms, not in use,” Mary Maikomo, a native of Tafawa Balewa town, pointed out. “They are so dilapidated and not habitable for learning”, she added.
Mr Emmanuel Iliya, youth leader of Zaar Youth Development Association, ZAYODA, told WikkiTimes that children in the area deserve a better school and quality learning to secure their future.
“You can see the pitiable state of the school,” Iliya said. “It’s at the mercy of God. This is a school that has graduated a lot of prominent people in this country, and the school in its bad look has lost its entire legacy.”
However, at Nahuta Primary School in Tafawa-Balewa, another beneficiary of the zonal intervention project, the contract was executed but was incomplete. A block of three classrooms was constructed but the supply of teaching materials and furniture was left out.
The block was built within three months, according to Mr Amos Bature, the headteacher at the school. It was hastily and poorly done with the doors and windows looking out of shape.
The contract was awarded to Quickfix Property Limited for N19 million but the contractor failed to supply classroom furniture and teaching materials as contained in the contract.
“I just wish Hon. Yakubu Dogara will come and see for himself and then tell the public how proud he is of the school,” Mr Bature said.
“Primary schools are supposed to give a foundation to children especially these ones in rural communities. These children have to suffer what their counterparts in urban cities enjoy.”
Shoddy And Incomplete Projects
At Government Junior Secondary School located a few metres from Bogoro town, a three-classroom block was built by Quickfix Property Limited but without teaching aids and furniture as spelt out in the contract.
“Being in a rural community, we sometimes use the money paid by the student as PTA levy to buy attendance booklets and even some of the textbooks we use in the school,” said Mrs. Bilhatu Daniel, principal of the school.
“We were only given 80 pieces of 40 leaves exercise books in a school of 398 students,” Mrs Daniel continued. “My pain is not just as a teacher or the principal of the school, but as a mother, seeing children with brighter future in such a mess with little or no hope of getting the best basic education they need at this age and time.”
QuickFix Property Limited also constructed a three-classroom block at Upper Basic Primary School in Shall Gwartar, the only benefiting school in Dass Local Government Area.
But the building which was constructed last year is already falling apart with its foundation exposed and the walls already tearing into different parts, just as the floor in the classes already broken, leaving the newly erected classes in a wretched state.
The structure was erected in the first quarter of 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 lockdown. It was awarded at N19 million.
Ya’u Yusuf, the PTA Chairman of Upper Basic Secondary School, Shall Gwartar, and Yusuf Gambo, a volunteer guard, told our reporter that the construction was done in two months and it started collapsing immediately after it was finished.
“The contractor was using substandard materials. We saw it for ourselves,” they said.
“I personally stopped them and they went to tell the Honorable himself,” Yusuf said. “After some days, they returned back to continue their work with the same materials and at this point, I had to allow them.”
Yusuf described the building as a death trap to students, adding that they feared that the building would finally collapse at any time.
“There has never been a time when leaders are so greedy and selfish as now,” Yusuf said. “They can eat up everything allocated to a rural community without any fear or conscience.”
Haruna Danladi, village head of Shall Gwantar, could not hide his disappointment when describing how students sit on bare floor to learn.
“We have no option,” he said. “We only accept what they give to us no matter how bad or good it looks. The award of a contract by the government is usually for their own profit not for the benefit of the community. If not, quality and durable materials would have been used in a school.
“When they come to carry out the project, they never seek our advice. They just begin work and so we just sit aloof and watch them.”
The principal of the school, Mr. Sulaiman Yunusa, who shared his experience with WikkiTimes explained how teachers struggle to maintain the school with zero support despite huge allocations that come with the intervention project.
“We never received any book or teaching materials from anyone,” he said.
Gwarangah, Dogara’s Home Town also neglected
Outsiders would assume that the hometown of a former Speaker, who has been in the House for over 17 years, would have basic amenities like good roads, constant power supply, pipe-born water, and standard schools as well as primary healthcare facilities.
But it situation there is the opposite. The racketeering in the execution of the school projects in other communities did not also spare Gwarangah, his village. In comparison to other schools in Bogoro, Dass, and Tafawa-Balewa, where the 2018 projects were either not carried out or poorly executed, a block of three classrooms was constructed there by Delta Force Ltd.
“I am Dogara’s Uncle and the principal of this school, as well as the NUT chairman of the local government,” said Mr Gideon Gambo, who observed that the new building belongs to the primary school which share premises with the secondary.
“Here in Gwarangah Junior Secondary School, as the principal, I have to buy chalk which we use because from SUBEB they only give us one carton of chalk for the whole term. How do you expect us to use just one carton in a term? So, we resort to taking money from the PTA levy which the students pay terminally to buy chalk which we use in our classes.
“Imagine students preparing for junior WAEC and other exams, no library and no textbooks. At what point is the government supposed to come in and help these children. In the whole of this community, no single ICT centre and this is the community which produced the number four citizen in this country.”
The purported ICT Centre in the community has been converted to an All Progressive Congress, APC, warehouse used by Dogara. The building which has an APC logo, the political party Dogara belongs to, is behind his house.
A peep into Dogara’s house shows several undistributed stashed tricycles. Members of the community told WikkiTimes that the books meant to be distributed to the schools in the area had been stashed inside Dogara’s house as well.
Contractors Operate in the Shadow
The contractors that executed the N1 billion Dogara Models Schools project mostly operate in the shadow as there was no trace of their offices in either Bauchi, the seat of government or in Dogara’s constituency.
Searches conducted by WikkiTimes on Corporate Affairs Commission’s website shows that the three companies that were awarded the contracts – Quickfix Property Limited, Delta Force Engineering Limited and Maridiq Nigeria Limited were all incorporated. Further efforts to confirm the companies’ profiles and other necessary information through the paid service, was not successful as the companies only have physical addresses in Abuja. But there are no emails or phone numbers. The companies do not have functional websites nor active social media accounts for public engagement.
Expert Faults Project, Claim Amount is Inflated
An expert in quantity surveying and lecturer at the Department of Quantity Survey who doubles as the Current Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU Chairman, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, (ATBU) argued that the pictures shown to him by WikkiTimes purportedly built at N19 million were highly inflated.
“With these pictures, you have just shown me, considering the cheap labour and already available land to carry out the project, the amount said to be spent on this project is shoddy and questionable,” Dr Inuwa Ibrahim.
“N19 million only is a lot of money, and for a structure said to be erected in 2018 of such standards, such amount is enough to give us around three to four of such blocks of three classrooms of which there was no fencing and other sophisticated equipment needed,” he said.
A proprietor of one of the biggest secondary schools in Bauchi, who doesn’t want her name mentioned, corroborates Dr Inuwa regarding the inflated cost of the Dogara’s model schools.
She said N19 million will enable her to build another private school.
“If given N19 million I can comfortably open another branch and erect like six to seven classrooms of a good standard because I already have the land.
“I may not be so particular to tell you the actual cost of my school and the maintenance, but it is my pleasure to let you know that N19 million will give me a new section and some change (additional money) to pay salaries of my staff for some months.”
She said N19 million “is a lot of money which can be used to build a standard school with ultra-modern science equipment that can be compared to some schools in some bigger schools.”
Dogara, UBEC, Ignore Interview, FOI Request
A freedom of information request sent to the official email address of the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC by WikkiTimes requesting the commission’s response on its findings was not responded to days after it was sent. WikkiTimes also contacted the spokesperson of the commission David Apeh requesting an official response regarding the commission’s shoddy execution of Dogara’s projects. Mr Apeh requested the reporter to send an official email requesting comments, but days after the reporter sent the email, but there was no response. Also, repeated calls to remind him about the earlier correspondences was equally ignored.
Several calls and text messages to Yakubu Dogara and his spokesman Turaki Hassan were not replied.
Dr Aliyu Tilde, a former Bauchi Education commissioner who was contacted before he was sacked by his principal, Governor Bala Mohammed also declined to answer questions about the projects. Instead, he referred WikkiTimes to State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB).
“I do not handle education projects in LGAs. Please contact the State Universal Basic Education for any clarifications,” said Tilde in a text message.
Then SUBEB directed WikkiTimes to speak with its director of planning, Dr. Aliyu Abdulrashed who said UBEC would be most appropriate in answering the questions relating to the projects.
“We are only the beneficiary,” he said. “We are not the supervising body or the awardees of the contract, and so if you need any information about the project, you should reach out to the Universal Basic Education Commission.”
This story was produced in partnership with Civic Media Lab under its Grassroots News Project with support from the National Endowment for Democracy.