INVESTIGATION: Inflated contracts, secrecy, shoddy jobs mar school rehabilitation projects in Kwara State
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IN January, while launching the distribution of exercise books to public schools, the governor of Kwara State, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, expressed dismay that over 100 public schools across the state were in dire conditions and announced plans to reconstruct 31 of the dilapidated schools. Eight months after, accusations of inflated contracts awarded to contractors with no track records as well as shoddy jobs have trailed the projects. DARE AKOGUN visits six of the schools in the three senatorial districts of the state and reports.
From the secrecy of the amount earmarked for each project, through the details of contractors who kept changing their addresses and other information on the project signboards, to implementing projects different from what was advertised, the entire school rehabilitation project of the Kwara state government was poorly implemented, despite the huge amount budgeted for it, a Sobi FM investigation has revealed.
Shortly after the Kwara State Government announced the commencement of renovation exercise for 31 schools across the state, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq came under intense criticism after it was alleged that some contracts in the state school rehabilitation projects had been hyper-inflated. The state government had budgeted N2.1 billion for the 31 projects in the 2020 budget under the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development. However, apart from the total figure earmarked for the reconstruction, no other information was stated nor a breakdown of the amount earmarked for each school.
One of the school contracts, which generated talking points, was the complete renovation of Government High School. Adeta, in Ilorin, the state capital. The school was originally owned by the late elder statesman and legal luminary, Alhaji AGF Abdulrazaq (SAN), the governor’s father and was known as Ilorin College at inception in 1967.
According to documents released by the government under the state Social Audit Policy to an Ilorin based Civil Society group, Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD), the renovation project for Government High School gulped a total of N361,957,438.82 – split into Lot 1 and Lot 2 as part of 33 projects to be executed in the school.
Governor Abdulrazaq had in August, in a virtual meeting with the coordinator of ENetSuD, Dr. Abdullateef Alagbonsi, proposed a social auditing policy which would see civic groups and communities monitoring projects and issuing independent reports that would form the basis of his administration making payments to contractors after the initial mobilization fee.
Six weeks after renovation, fence collapses in Adeta’s school
On September 2, 2020, exactly 46 days after the rehabilitation of Government High School, a part of the fence for which reconstruction N42milion was earmarked collapsed. According to a document released to the CSO, the project is meant for the reconstruction of the whole school fence, leading some residents to raise concerns about the basis for the high amount approved for the fence work in the Bill of Quantity.
On a visit to the school, it was observed that the newly constructed fence collapsed partially on the axis leading to Ipata Oloje Area housing the popular motor spare parts market in the Ilorin metropolis. Although there was no official statement from the state government or the contractor on the cause of the collapsed fence, residents around the area linked it to the downpour of a day earlier.
The status of the project is unknown as at the time our reporter visited during the West African Examination Council, WAEC, examination in August 2020, as ceiling works had not been done and the contractors were not on site.
The contract for the Government High School, according to documents obtained by our reporter, was awarded to CONCEL Engineering, a Lagos-based company owned by Sola Braithwaite, and registered at the CAC with No 1 Abiola Ajayi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos as its address.
Despite having no track record of similar construction, the company got the contract for the highest amount budgeted for the school renovation project. Further checks also revealed that the CAC record of the company shows its status as ‘inactive’ while the last time it filed annual returns was in 2011.
As at the time of last visit to the school in October 2020, part of the school had already been painted even though work was still ongoing, and places where corrections are needed like openings on the wall were not done before the painting work. This calls to question the level of professionalism of the contractor that handled the project.
Visited schools in Kwara north
In Kwara North Senatorial district, our correspondent, who visited Pategi Secondary School, gathered that the contract sum released for the renovation, according to available document released by the Elite Network for Sustainable Development (ENETSUD), is N164, 042, 340. It was gathered that the school is one of the eight other first-generation schools where the state government announced that it would carry out a comprehensive renovation.
The first sign that there was something fishy about the contract was the removal of the project signpost following allegations that it was awarded to a company named NUMBERS Limited with a Lagos address, No 13 Okunola Aina street, Mende Maryland instead of an indigenous company. The address was later changed to No 27 Kotangora Street off Stadium Road Ilorin, Kwara State.
The President Pategi Progressive Minded Youths (PPMY), Usman Baba Mahmud, who told this reporter that his group monitored the entire process when the renovation exercise took place added that the work done falls short of the expectation of the community.
According to him: “The people of this community still have reservations in terms of the ‘comprehensive renovation’ as used by the government in the advertisement, because there are many areas that were left out of the renovation and we believe if this was done, the investment in the renovation won’t amount to waste.
“The dilapidated school hostels were not touched at all, and 75 percent of students who came from neighboring villages had to resort to renting houses in the community, thereby denying the teachers opportunity to give close supervision to the students and also exposes the students to all form’s vices,” he lamented.
Mahmud also expressed worry that there was no form of security provided for the facilities in the classrooms and the principal office where vital documents of past and present students are kept.
“Both classes and quarters have no burglary proof, how do you intend to secure these installations that anyone can just remove the Louvre glasses and access these classes and cart away anything unchallenged, even perimeter fencing was not also done, what you have is the fence in the frontage of the school just for decorations purposes, security is not a thing anyone can toy with,” he said.
From the grand summary of the description of work sited by our reporter, the renovation project is to cover SS 1B AND C (Home Economics Lab), Multipurpose Lab, Intro-tech workshop, SS3 and Library block, Administrative block (JSS & SS), Examination Hall with an Office, SS2 block, Computer room and the Physics lab. Others are Staff quarters, Supply of furniture to laboratory and computer rooms (Chemistry, Physics and Biology), toilets and external works comprising of construction of fence wall, paving of assembly ground amongst others.
Further breakdown of the project revealed that for the completion of the science laboratory block N14, 284, 668 was released, while anotherN8, 656, 934 was released for the renovation of the physics laboratory. The amount released for the supply of furniture for the three laboratories is N3, 800, 000.
It was however gathered that no work was done at the physics lab because it was renovated by an old student Engineer Professor Muhammed Yisa Gana a member of the 1976 set of the school.
Gana who was a former commissioner for Agriculture in Kwara state carried out the renovation when he was the Nigerian Ambassador to Japan in 2018. The renovation comprises of a total renovation of the Physics lab building and supply of furniture (stood) for the laboratory.
The Principal’s Lodge, which is also in very bad shape and uninhabitable, was not touched at all in contrast to other schools like the Government High School where a similar project was carried out.
At the time our reporter visited the school, some of the renovated classes were already leaking, while the roofs of some classes HAD been eaten by termites.
Also, during the renovation, it was observed by our reporter that, to a large extent, most of the wood used in roofing the over 50-year-old school were re-used by the contractor who only just fixed some and covered it with the roofing sheets procured. This was confirmed by the school principal, who said that this might be the cause of the termites’ attack on the woods.
Speaking in Ilorin, however, on behalf of the contractor who was said to be out of the country, one of the supervising architects, Mr. James Sunday Afolayan, said the renovation carried out was in the scope of the contract as awarded by the government.
Talking about the re-used woods for the roof of the admin block, he confirmed that the wood used previously were still very good and strong compared to what was obtained in the market today and the contractor converted the cost to build a block of classrooms originally not included in the scope of work after seeking approval from the ministry.
Speaking on the early deterioration of the renovated project, a Civil Engineer and lecturer with the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Ilorin, Dr. Adeola Adedeji, stated that it should take 50 years before a building starts to deteriorate., the period being the stipulated life span of the building given by engineers.
“It cannot be accurate to say a building will begin deteriorating in a particular given year. The deteriorating is a two-way thing. If the material is substandard, the building might deteriorate faster or depend on the type of workers that handle the building,” Adedeji said.
“Generally, many things are involved before a building starts deteriorating. The people that work on it, the design of the building or the materials used will also determine the life span,” he added.
Few of the staff quarters were renovated and the teachers are making use of the dilapidated quarters as make-shift because the renovated ones are yet to be handed over to the school when our reporter visited in October.
Renovating the abandoned hostels and staff quarters would have an impact on the academic performance of the students, in addition to affording the teachers the opportunity to give closer supervision to the students, since the main purpose of the renovation is to improve education and learning, teaching and learning will not be achieved without facilities.
At the Government Unity School Kaiama, in Kaiama local government area, which is one of the schools earmarked for comprehensive renovation/construction by the state government, the contract handled by two contractors comprises of the renovation of the administrative blocks, assembly hall, boys’ and girls’ hostels and staff quarters.
Although the contract details and scope were not made available by the ministry, which fails to reply an FOI request from our reporter. When our reporter visited the school October, the project was yet to be completed although at an advanced stage, but the contractor had left the site. The people who spoke with our reporter, could not give any concrete reason for that.
Alhaji Mohammed Abu Kakagida, a community leader, said the people of the town appreciated the work done by the contractor as most of the buildings in the school were touched.
According to him “As you can see this is a massive project and the first of its kind in this area, although there are few things that need to be done but I believe when the contractor comes back to site all the remaining things will be done,” he said.
However, like it was done at the Government High School, Ilorin, it was observed that part of the renovated school was already painted even though work was still ongoing.
In the course of this investigation, our reporter visited three schools in Kwara South Senatorial District to ascertain the status of the renovated schools. At the Offa Grammar School in Offa Local Government Area, it was observed that no single renovation work had taken place by government contractors despite being one of the schools advertised for renovation.
An anonymous source who spoke with this reporter said the school has a vibrant Alumni Association which has been in charge of maintaining its infrastructures. It was gathered that when the name of the school popped up among the schools penciled down for renovation by the state government, the alumni association advised the officials of the Ministry of Education to, instead, direct its attention to another school within Offa Township for renovation. Attempts to speak with the Principal or official of the school proved abortive. The principal was said not to be around the two times when our reporter visited. No other member of staff was willing to offer any information as our reporter was directed to meet with the officials at the ministry.
Similar situation in Omu Aran
During a visit to Government Secondary School, Omu Aran, this reporter encountered a somewhat similar situation with Offa Grammar School as only a block of three classrooms under construction was taken over by the government and completed.
The school, located in Irepodun Local Government Area is one of those advertised by the state government to benefit from the comprehensive renovation. However, findings show that the students’ Alumni Association had already carried out a comprehensive renovation of the school during its 50th year anniversary in November 2017 when about 300 million naira was spent.
The National President of the Old Boys Association, Olusegun Adeniyi, listed the projects executed to include the construction of a kilometer road that leads to the main entrance of the school and building of a 1,000 capacity ultra-modern auditorium.
He added that other projects include administrative block, library block, laboratory blocks of classrooms, computer and Internet facilities, modern toilet facilities and a Toyota Hiace bus procured for the school.
A worker in the school who pleaded anonymity said the completed block of three classrooms in the school by the government was renovated by the 1975 set of the old boy’s association and 75 percent of the work have been done before the government took over and completed it.
“This job done by the government was surprising to everyone in the school because the old boys are already working on the project and it is not that work has stopped. But suddenly we heard that the government has taken over the project and will complete it,” the worker said.
“We don’t know if it was a member of the 1975 set that influenced government intervention. We even later thought the government would do other projects since we heard that our school was earmarked for a comprehensive renovation.
“There are other structures like the old hostels and some classrooms that need attention but nothing was done,” he said.
It was gathered that officials from the ministry visited the school on a Sunday to select the projects to be renovated, despite the fact that there were numerous projects begging for attention in the school like the abandoned hostel, a more convenient one was chosen.
At the Osi Secondary School in Ekiti Local Government Area of the state, the contract was for the construction of a block of three classrooms with two offices, according to the description in the government advertisement about the project.
When our reporter visited the school, the project had been completed but details of the contract and the contractor was not made available to ascertain the compliance with the bill of quantity. All efforts to speak with officials of the school were turned down, as they directed our reporter to the Ministry of Education for any information concerning the renovation carried out in the school.
Ministry keeps mum about identity of contractors
The Kwara State Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, Hajia Fatimoh Ahmed while speaking with our reporter earlier in September said the state opted to do open bidding for the school projects in line with the administration’s policy on transparency.
When asked about the identity and details of the contractors handling the projects, she only said they were indigenous contractors with a track record of executing such projects. She was, however, silent on the amount earmarked for each school project and how the decision for allocation to the schools was reached.
However, in stark contrast to what the commissioner said, the President, Kwara State Indigenous Contractors and Suppliers, Moshood Bolakale Aigoro, said the association was given only two contracts in the first phase of the state’s school renovation project.
Aigoro said the two contracts awarded to the association are the Esie-Iludun Oro Technical School and the Edidi Comprehensive High School, both in Irepodun Local Government Area.
“I can’t argue the fact the school renovations were not given to the local contractors in the state, but the indigenous contractors under me as President, with a population of 25,250 members across the 16 local government areas of the state were awarded only two contracts”, he said.
Our correspondent had asked the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development to provide information on the contractors and the funds released for the various project renovations but it has failed to do so. A Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, request sent to the ministry dated October 2, 2020, did not elicit any response despite several follow-ups. Efforts to once again speak with the Commissioner of Education and Human Capital Development were unsuccessful as she was said to be busy during each visit.
This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting