© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
NEGLIGENCE: With two official websites, UBEC still has scanty online presence
UNLIKE most other government agencies, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) has two websites: ubeconline.com, created in 2008 and ubec.gov.ng. According to information on the latter website, it went live on July 26, 2017. But more than a year after, the promising platform is still deficient.
UBEC is an agency of the federal government established to implement the UBE programme introduced in 1999 to foster quality and accessible basic education. It receives allocations in the billions every year to fund its nationwide activities. With a total cash release of N5.1 billion for capital projects in 2017, it is undeniably the most-funded MDA under the Ministry of Education.
But it is difficult to access UBEC’s records or follow details of its activities. Asides the ‘Who We Are’ page on the commission’s new website, there isn’t much helpful content available on it. Other pages are empty, including: Management Team, Interventions, Careers with UBEC, all ten sub-pages under Departments, and all six sub-pages under Media save News Headlines and Multimedia.
Under News Headlines are two items most editors would hesitate to publish. One posted on July 4 contains an unrelated picture of Certiport Plaza, a US-based computer skill certification company, and news that free feeding has been introduced in UBEC schools.
“We are glad to announce that free feeding has been introduced in all UBEC schools nationwide. Bon apettite,” says the one-line news.
The second report published 22 days later appears to celebrate in arrears the launch of the website. Again with a totally unrelated image, it says in one line: “UBEC website goes live today. We are all glad.” It is doubtful if the sentence still holds true a year and two months after.
Another proof the website has been abandoned after its creation is this third feature image, a screen shot of a website called 41Naija Entertainment. It accompanies a short, as well as stale message urging the “full involvement of all individuals, corporate entities, civil societies and community groups in the drive to achieve Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015”.
Only five projects are listed on the website, including one which says “Testing Structures” and is said to be implemented in Maiha Local Government, Adamawa. Also, the picture accompanying the classroom project, said to be located in Makurdi, Benue, is actually that of a block of classrooms at Corpus Christi College, Ilawe-Ekiti, Ekiti.
Also, instructively, the email address on the new site is still linked to the old website: email@example.com. Not only that, this address is in fact no longer available. A mail sent to it by The ICIR on September 16 failed to deliver and returned a mailer daemon.
Social media is no exception
The social media links on the website are dysfunctional: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. They merely reload the web page a visitor is presently viewing. This is not surprising as UBEC’s Facebook page is seldom updated, with the last statement posted in May, 2018. Also, only 25 posts have been made between January, 2016, and now — 18 of which are short posts celebrating various holidays from Independence, Children’s Day, Workers’ Day, Easter, to New Year.
On one of such posts published in April to wish the 814 followers “a happy Easter from all of us at the board”, Uchechukwu Okolo, a Facebook user, had commented: “You people are not functioning on this board at all.” The page’s administrator, in reaction, said they are trying to put things in order so they can “set the ball rolling”.
UBEC additionally has no channel on YouTube and cannot be reached on Twitter as it has no visible account there. A search for “Universal Basic Education Commission” on the platform returned no relevant account results, and one for “UBEC Nigeria” instead offered results for “Uber Nigeria”.
No provision for website creation in recent budgets
Section 16 of the Public Procurement Act of 2007 provides that: “all public procurement shall be conducted based only on procurement plans supported by prior budgetary appropriations and no procurement proceedings shall be formalized until the procuring entity has ensured that funds are available to meet the obligations.” In other words, procurement cannot be done outside provisions of an MDA’s budget.
However, a check through the Education Ministry budgets from 2014 to 2018 revealed that there has been no provision for the building of new website for UBEC. The closest projects to this are in the latest budget: Design and development of bid procurement purchase platform (N72.2 million) and design and implementation of monitoring and evaluation solution (N35.4 million).
Little difference on old website
Not only is UBEC’s older website (www.ubeconline.com) unattractive by contemporary standards, it is also not very helpful. Numerous links on the site are broken, including the Board Members and Departments pages. Also, information contained in the documents uploaded are often not broken down as to allow for critical analysis or verification.
The last time basic education data was uploaded on the platform was in 2014. Information on other projects too, such as those on al-Majiri, boy-child, girl-child, e-libraries and so on, was last updated in 2014 or 2015.
Financial records on matching grants are not accessible on the website, as the few visible links are broken and of no use. All links on the Downloads page are also broken.
It is still work in progress — web designer
When The ICIR contacted Muhib Olaniyan whose company, Computer and Telecom Services Ltd, designed the new website, he said the project is “still work in progress”. He added that he can confirm that the commission, in an ongoing retreat in Kaduna, is training personnel who are to update the platform.
“Because I’m not part of the system, I cannot answer your question on why they are not using it,” he said. “I can only confirm to you that they are making efforts to make the site functional. They are developing capacity towards using it by themselves.”
Asked for explanations on Monday, Osom Osom, UBEC’s Public Relations Officer, said the commission has basically “been trying to build a much more interactive platform” and directed The ICIR to Garba Kwandi, whom he said is supervising the website project.
He also said it is not entirely true the commission has no Twitter handle. According to him: “The commission does have a Twitter handle that can be accessed through its weekly television programme on NTA: Basic Education Today. It is also on Instagram.”
Upon checking, however, The ICIR found the said Twitter account was abandoned shortly after its creation. It was opened in April, has only eight followers, and only two tweets — one of which is a retweet from NTA News. It also states the official website of the commission as ubec.gov.ng.
A similar trend is observed on Facebook. Also created in April, the Basic Education Today page has 43 likes and only two updates — one is a profile picture update and the other a comment celebrating the completion of the programme’s first edition.
Kwandi, during a telephone interview, said the commission is working to make the platform fully functional soon. Asked how soon the plans will be actualised, he simply repeated “very soon”.
Meanwhile, The ICIR observed that, shortly following the call to Osom, the old UBEC website address (ubeconline.com) began redirecting to the new address (ubec.gov.ng), even though contents on the former have not yet been transferred. This was not the case as at Monday, September 17.
The official address on the new platform has also been edited to now read “firstname.lastname@example.org”, which like the former is also not available for mailing.
This report is under The ICIR’s Unsightly Sites Series. The series profiles websites of various government bodies and agencies, and calls attention to their unpardonable inadequacies, with the aim of triggering improvements in the incorporation of Information and Communication Technology into governance in Nigeria.