By Hadiza Musa Yusuf
A 2019 Constituency Project in Dawakaji Primary School of Dawakin Kudu community in Kano State has been left to rot away. This is after those in charge of the project failed to consider how its distance would affect the pupils.
JAFARU Wali, 12, is a primary six pupil at the primary section of Dawakiji Primary School in Dawakin Kudu LGA of Kano State. He narrates how they struggle to concentrate in an overcrowded class that makes it difficult for those sitting at the back to view the board. This, according to him, leaves the pupils frustrated as their interest in a subject is often lost.
“This happened particularly during hot weather as some of us will often leave the class so as to get fresh air outside,” he said. Young Jafaru is one of many pupils who bear the brunt of lack of educational facilities in government schools in Kano State.
Like Jafaru, 16-year-old Ibrahim Sani, a student of the secondary section of the school, appeared disheveled when this reporter met him. He said his dirty uniform was a result of the morning rain because the students have to sit on bear floors.
“Whenever it rains, our uniforms get dirty because we sit on the floor. Our lessons are always interrupted during the rainy season, and we cannot concentrate because we are forced to move in different directions to avoid the rainwater,” he said.
It is for this reason that Mrs. Balaraba Dankani, a parent in the schools, said the performance of her two children at the primary section was at the barest minimum, compared to pupils attending less crowded schools within the neighborhood.
Aminu Sani, another parent, popularly known as Dan Takai, said he was planning to withdraw his three children; Amina Sani and Abdullahi Sani from the primary school and Anas Sani from the secondary school.
“The school which had once been a sanctuary for education is now known for its overcrowded classrooms which results in students’ poor performances,” he said.
Mr. Aminu’s children, together with over 3,000 others in the school form part of the sordid statistics of Nigerian children who are forced to contend with poor educational facilities.
No succor despite a N28m Dawakiji contract
In 2019, the Kano State Government awarded the sum of N28,288,770.68 to Khaut Nigeria Limited for the construction of two classroom blocks with offices and stores in Dawakiji Primary and Secondary schools.
The constituency project document specified that the contract, which was billed for completion in 12 months, is for the construction of one block, containing three classrooms with an office and store in the primary school and a similar project for the secondary section of the school. The contract stood at N14,144,385.34, each, giving the total sum of N28,288,770.68 for the two blocks.
However, poor planning and alleged ulterior motives have overshadowed the execution of the project, as four years after its completion, the classrooms in the primary school lay in waste.
An on-the-spot visit to the school showed that the block of classrooms in the primary school had been constructed by the contractor but was closed during school hours while pupils were crowded in other available classes.
This reporter observed that the pupils were congested in a narrow classroom, particularly one located at the right-hand side of the school gate. There were less than eight sitting desks occupied by a few pupils while the rest were seen sitting on dusty floors.
Data from the office of the Headmaster of Dawakiji Primary School, Aminu Sani Mamuda, revealed that the school has a population of over 3,570 with 18 teachers. The head teacher lamented the dearth of teachers and limited classrooms in the school.
Observation revealed that the number of pupils in the school has surpassed student-to-teacher ratio as recommended by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) globally and the Nigerian Education Policy.
A 2022 report by UNESCO, recommends 26 students to a teacher in class, while the Nigerian Education Policy recommends a 35-to-one student ratio for a teacher in class. At the Dawakiji primary school, however, the ratio is 198 pupils to a teacher, leaving a gap of 119 teachers to fill the recommended student-to-teacher ratio.
However, the Dawakiji Secondary Section houses over 1,000 students in a school with only 12 teachers, according to the principal, Abdullahi Jido.
Budget analyst and the Project Manager of Gender and Socially Inclusive, a civil society organization in Kano State, Ibrahim Garba Maryam, explained that having overcrowded classrooms also affects the teachers.
“High pupil-teacher ratios, results in lower quality education. In the late 70s, the number of pupils per classroom was 40-45. However, today we have more than 100 pupils in some classes, resulting in overcrowding. This congestion hinders teachers’ performance,” he said.
He added that this also explains why teachers are not as productive as they should be. “Infrastructure deficiency is the main factor contributing to the poor quality of students, as no student will be focused when they are uncomfortable,” he said.
The Principal, Dawakiji Secondary School, Mal. Abdullahi Jido, told this reporter that the school is in dire need of more classes to make learning and teaching processes more comfortable.
He emphasized the urgent need for furniture and renovations, saying the school currently suffers from myriad of problems; ranging from leaky roofing, to broken windows, making it challenging to provide a conducive learning environment for the students.
Left to rot away
At Dawakaji Primary Section, the completed block, situated about some meters from the main building of the primary school has been left unattended for at least two years. Standing from the headmaster’s office, the completed block cannot be sited because teachers claim it was too far from the main block.
In an interview with this reporter, Mamuda disclosed that the constructed block remains unused by the primary section due to its distant location from the main complex.
“This is because the completed block was constructed far away from the main complex of the primary section,” he said.
“Pupils are children who need to be monitored closely. The block was built far away from the main complex of the primary school, and teachers cannot properly monitor the pupils if they are relocated.” For this reason, he said the block was rendered useless to them.
Recalling an encounter with the contractor, Mamuda told this reporter that in 2019, the school authority had advised the contractor to construct the block at the main complex of the school, but he had ignored their plea.
“I was a classroom teacher at that time, before I was elevated to become the head teacher at the school.”
He said, “at the time the discussion took place, to our dismay, the contractor refused our advice and went ahead to construct the block at a far vicinity.”
“If the projects had been constructed within the easy reach of our teachers and students, there would have been less congestion in classes. Our pupils are sitting on dusty floors to learn and teaching does not go well when one is not comfortable, especially for young children in primary school,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer of Khaut Nigeria Limited, Yahaya Aliyu, was contacted several times by this reporter regarding the reason behind constructing the block at a distant. However, his phone was switched off and he did not respond to SMS messages sent to him.
He had earlier confirmed to this reporter that he had executed the projects he was paid to do and promised to take this reporter to the site, but this did not happen as he failed to respond to various calls and text messages sent to him.
How Kano State Ministry awarded contract to inactive company
The project awarded to Khuat Nig Ltd by the Ministry of Works is currently not being utilized by the primary section as verified by this reporter, thereby violating the provisions of the Federal Public Procurement Act of 2007.
Section 16 (1) e and f of this act provides that “All public procurement should be conducted with the aim of “achieving value for money and fitness for purpose” and in a manner which promotes economy and efficiency.
According to Barrister Abdulrahman Yusuf, a Kano-based private legal practitioner, this implies that the service being offered should be suitable for the public entity that intends to utilise it. Therefore, the project under reference has not obtained value for money because it is not being utilised for its intended purpose.
Contract awarded to inactive company
A public search on the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), for Khaut Nigeria Limited showed that it was incorporated in 2007 and has listed as directors Yahaya Aliyu, Garba Ali, Mukhta Ali and Umar Garba. Its address is given as Plot No 477, Yauri Street, Garki III, Abuja but its status is shown as inactive.
An inactive status could mean many things. It could mean that the CAC has not updated the company’s documentation, even though it had been filing returns. In this case, this would be the agency’s fault. But it could also mean that the company has failed to file its annual returns. This is particularly true for an entity that was incorporated long ago and has not been filing returns.
Chapter 16 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA, 2020) makes it a statutory prerequisite for every company in Nigeria to file annual returns yearly.
The award of contracts to an inactive company would be a direct breach of section 16 (8) (d) of the Public Procurement Act 2007. The Act states that: “A bidder may have its bid or tender excluded if the bidder is in arrears regarding payment of due taxes, charges, pensions or social insurance contributions unless such bidders have obtained a lawful permit in respect to allowance, the difference of such outstanding payments or payment thereof in installments.”
A call was placed to the contractor by this reporter to inquire whether he is aware of his company’s status as inactive on the CAC portal, but he stressed that his company is supposed to be active.
“It is supposed to be active,” he disclosed. “I am unaware of its inactiveness but would verify with the CAC,” he added. Attempts to reach the contractor to find out if he had verified also proved futile as he did not respond to various calls by this reporter.
Ministry of Works and Infrastructure ignored FOI request
A Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, request was sent to the Commissioner of Works and Infrastructure on June 19, 2023. Thereafter, this reporter continued to follow up with the ministry but there was no response.
However, this reporter was later invited to a meeting chaired by the head of Constituency Projects Unit, Usman Usaini, on July 18, 2023. During the meeting, this reporter briefed Usaini on her findings in the school and the information required to balance the story.
Usaini told this reporter that he supervised the contract when he was the Zonal Coordinator of Kano-South constituency project unit. “There are some issues surrounding the contract, but I can’t produce detailed information without the presence of our legal officer,” he stated.
According to him, “there was new directives from the new Commissioner of Works, Eng. Marwan Ahmad Aminu, regarding release of Information. We were directed to liaise with the ministry’s legal unit.”
After some weeks of persistent follow-up, a meeting was arranged with the legal unit. Mustapha Imam, a lawyer in the legal unit, said that the ministry cannot give out any information regarding the contract as the state has not domesticated the Freedom of Information Act.
“The act you quoted, that is the Freedom of Information, 2011, has not been domesticated by the state. Therefore, it does not apply to the state,” he said.
However, in an interview with an advocate for freedom of information act, who is also a lecturer at Bayero University Kano Rukkayya Aliyu Yusuf revealed that the Freedom of Information Act is a federal law that should be adhered to by all states.
“Ideally, it’s a federal law that should be abided by across all states, but people are using the issue of domestication as a cover to deny people access to information.
“They are just hiding under the issue of domestication because they feel threatened, and that has been a stumbling block to its effective implementation,” she added.
She advised mobilising media reports and programms focused on the utilisation and implementation of the Act in Kano. Also, she recommended filing a legal suit to serve as a deterrent to others.
“That will send a very strong signal of seriousness and readiness of practitioners to implement the Act,” she stated.
* This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.”