In this report, CHINWE AGBEZE uncovers massive corruption by education ministry officials in the implementation of the Federal Government’s multi-billion naira project to secure unity schools.
In November, 2018, the Immediate past Education Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu, disclosed that the federal government reserved over N7billion between 2017 and 2018, to provide basic security facilities in 104 unity schools across the country.
According to the Minister, the decision to provide security infrastructure in the schools arose as a result of “insecurity in the north East, occasioned by Boko Haram as well as incidents of kidnapping in parts of the country.”
Adamu explained that the funds were being used “to provide perimeter fences for the schools that have none, CCTV cameras, solar powered streetlights and modern security gates.”
In the 2017 budget, N5billion was proposed for the security gadgets. Also, in the 2018 appropriation bill, N2billion was set aside to provide “perimeter fencing, solar streetlights, solar powered motorised borehole and CCTV in 104 colleges.”
Investigations in nine unity schools in four South East states of the federation, however, reveal that the colleges grossly lack the basic security apparatus listed.
On Monday, May 6, 2019,our reporter arrived at Federal Government Girls College, Lejja, in Nsukka area of Enugu State. The time was around 8.29am. By the school gate was a signboard indicating that the security infrastructure project was awarded to IQ International Services Ltd, and supervised by the controller, Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in Enugu.
Lifting her eyes off the signpost, it rested on the fence. The reporter observed that the walls of the fence were weak, and the blocks were gradually falling off giving room for lizards to play hide-and-seek in the partitioned walls. Sitting on the weak fence were newly installed barbed wires.
“When the contractor arrived, I told him that we are not sure of our fence, and asked what would happen if the fence collapse after the wires were installed,” explains Jude Ezeogwu, vice principal, special duties at the school. “The contractor admitted that the fence is weak, but he said the job is to install wires not to build fence.”
So, the wires were installed, but the coping was poorly done. A touch, and the wires fell off.
“I mentioned that to Daniel, the contractor. I also told him about the opening the villagers created on the wall,” says the project officer at the school, who was addressed simply as Mr. Umahi.
Continuing, he said: “The worker requested for five bags of cement. Daniel promised to send the money for the cement and planks to me, but he hasn’t sent it. The worker is supposed to resume work today, but he hasn’t and I cannot reach Daniel.”
Ezeogwu refused to disclose the contents of the bill or how much was awarded for the project.
“What the contractor executed is almost in line with what he was asked to do. If he was asked to knock down the fence and erect new one before putting the spiral wires, he would have done that,” he says.
He added: “So, I pass the blame back to those who awarded the contract without coming to investigate, to check out the state of the fence first. The contractor has done something, but let them come and see.”
Going round the school, this reporter counted twenty-five solar streetlights. The streetlight by the SS3 classroom block is tilted, probably indicating a weak tightening at the base. Some of the lights, which were installed in March are not functional.
“I went around in the night and spotted nine that were not lighting,” Umahi said. “The streetlight at the gate is not working, but it worked when it was installed. At a point, the light became faint and was not giving out the proper illumination. Then, it stopped lighting.”
Corroborating, Abui Audu, vice principal, administration at the school, said: “The light close to the gate is no longer working. That’s the one I’m sure of.”
Also, four CCTV cameras were installed around the administration block, dining hall, gate and computer room.
“There are still some areas we want the contractor to address, like the fencing. Also, a portion of land outside the gate needs to be fenced, but it’s still under controversy,” said Ezeogwu.
He added: “I called the contractor on Friday (May 3), and he promised to be here this week. We have not seen him, but we are still expecting him.”
Daily Sun reached out to Daniel Asekhamen, the contractor in-charge of the project.
He says: “We finished the work about a month ago. We did all we were supposed to do, and the school can attest to that. We installed 11 cameras, 25 solar streetlights and put barb wires around the fence. That is what we have on the bill.”
When asked how much was awarded for the project and how much had been paid to them, Daniel said he would confirm and get back to the reporter.
“I can’t recall now until I check the account,” he said on May 17. “I can’t really give you the figure now until I get to the office.”
Daniel never got back to the reporter, and he failed to pick frequent calls made to his line.
Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC search on IQ International Limited, showed that the company has no business in building and construction.
“The objects of which the Company is established are to carry on the business as assemblers, manufacturers, importers, exporters, suppliers and dealers in automobile vehicles, whether classified as cars, lorries, buses, vans, motor cycles, or otherwise, to import and export cars of all descriptions,” the report reads in part.
Snakes, scorpions on prowl
Leaving Lejja, this reporter shifted her attention to Federal Government College, Enugu.
But, arriving this school, the reporter observed that no security facility was provided. There was neither a project signpost nor workers on the site.
There are quite a number of solar streetlights in this school, but none is functional.
“When I was admitted to this school in JSS1, the lights close to the gate were the only ones working,” said Godwin Okeke (not real name), a JSS3 student at the school. “Before the end of my JSS1, it stopped working. Now, the school is dark at nights.”
The perpetual darkness in this school is putting the lives of the students in danger.
“We suffer from snakes and scorpion bites, especially at nights,” he said.
According to Okeke, two students almost lost their lives recently to snake bites.
“Senior students usually wake junior students up to run errands or punish them at nights. So, we stay outside the hostel until the seniors go to bed. One night, we did not see the snake coming because it was dark and the birds were chirping,” he narrates.
Continuing, Okeke says: “Two students were bitten, and immediately rushed to the school clinic where they were given first-aid. The next day, their parents were called to pick them up and give them proper treatment.”
The school was fumigated and students were mandated to move around with torchlights.
“Torchlight is compulsory and any student not seen with one is thoroughly punished,” Okeke added.
Apart from the faulty streetlights, the fence is another major source of concern. Right at the back of the staff quarters, and on the wall of the fence, is a huge opening, big enough for a chubby adult to comfortably pass through.
“Students sneak out at night through the hole,” said Chijioke Nwankwo (not real name), an SS1 student. “When students are late for school, they enter the school through the hole to avoid punishment.”
This is not the only avenue to gain access inside the school unnoticed. The fence close the kitchen is another route.
“Some time ago, fight broke out between our school and Command Secondary School. The students tried to come in through the gate, but when they were denied access, they jumped in through the fence and attacked us,” Nwankwo said.
This reporter spotted CCTV cameras on the administration block, which the students said were installed over three years ago. But, the cameras are broken.
“It’s no longer working,” says Okeke, when he found the reporter looking at the cameras. “From my JS1, our principal kept telling us they would install CCTV cameras round the school, and rebuild the fence to prevent students from going out. He said that until he left our school.”
The school principal was not in his office when Daily Sun stopped by.
“The principal is busy somewhere around the school. You know we just resumed today,” said a staff of the school, who this reporter met around the principal’s office.
After a long wait, this reporter took her leave, but returned to the school around 8.45pm to ascertain if indeed all the streetlights were faulty as claimed.
On getting to the school, the entire premises was enveloped in darkness. There were two poorly lit bulbs in front of the gate. The light notwithstanding, one could not make out the faces of people walking briskly in and out of the school. Some had torchlights, but many didn’t.
“They are used to the environment,” said Jude, the security guard at the school. “The streetlights have been bad in more than two years.”
Inside the school was covered in darkness. Not a single streetlight was functional.
“If not for the chemical the school often applies to drive away snakes, you would have seen snakes,” Jude said.
He added: “Snake bit my colleague one night, and we rushed him to ParkLane Hospital. After that, snake bit a student. If the streetlights were working, that wouldn’t have happened.”
Supervisor reacts, defends contractor
To obtain more information about the security projects investigated, Daily Sun contacted the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in Enugu.
In a meeting with the controller of Housing, Godwin Emesue, he said: “The contractor came here with a contract document that directed the school authority to liaise with us for supervision. We deployed our men to supervise.
“The project was supervised to the satisfaction of the school. When they finished, the school authority confirmed that the jobs had been done and the school signed the document.”
He, however, said one item on the bill was not done.
“The contractor wanted to fence a building, but, the community said the land belongs to them. We said, instead of waiting, cut that one off,” Emesue said.
“I’m sure the contractor has not been paid because before payment is done, they will send audit supervisors to the site to check everything using the contract document. But, if they have paid him, I’m not aware,” he said.
About FGC Enugu, he said, “We don’t work there. If we receive any information that there is a contract, and that a job has been awarded in FGC Enugu, and that we should come and supervise, we will go and supervise.”
On Thursday, May 9, 2019, this reporter journeyed to Anambra State. The plan was to check out the security infrastructure projects in three Unity Schools — Federal Science and Technical College, Awka; Federal Government College, Nise; and Federal Government Girls’ College, Onitsha.
Director of finance implicated
Competent sources said Nwokoye Edwin, the Director of Finance and Accounts at the Federal Ministry of Education has been supervising the Federal Science and Technical College, Awka project.
According to insiders, the director had made frequent visits to Awka in connection with the job.
On arriving Federal Science and Technical College, Awka in Anambra State on May 10, 2019, at 7.32am, this reporter noticed that some security work had commenced.
At the site, the perimeter fencing was abandoned midway, creating an avenue for people to walk in and out of the school unchecked. But, no worker or signpost was seen on site.
This reporter learnt that the workers resumed work on the fence in January, 2019 and disappeared only to reappear briefly on April 14.
“The principal kept calling them to come and finish the fence they abandoned since January. The workers resumed work in April 14, the day we went on holiday. When we resumed on May 6, we met the fence in similar state,” said Sharon, a staff of the school.
Speaking about the fence, Mrs. Nyah Margaret, the school principal said: “The school had fence before, but it was weak and falling off. So, the workers are fixing the parts that fell off. Nevertheless, they are not fast. Since we resumed school, they have not come to work.”
Daily Sun gathered that N59 million was awarded for 1,000 square meters perimeter fencing, 25 solar streetlights and 10 CCTV cameras in the school.
Touring the school, the reporter counted on the total 25 solar streetlights, which were mounted in February, and the school confirmed that the lights were working perfectly.
The cameras were installed at the gate, administration block and hostel. But, the principal is not pleased with the work done.
“The cameras are concentrated in the administration block. Apart from the two cameras at gate, the other locations are not useful to us. I complained to the man that installed the cameras, but he said the money does not cover cables,” said Mrs. Nyah.
“I need the camera installed at the fence so I can see when the students are breaking bounds, and another in the dinning. Now, they captured the conference room and bursary. What am I doing in the bursary? They are paying to TSA or are they going to steal money?” she queried.
In his defence, Kelechi Ibe, who installed the CCTV cameras, when contacted said: “We were instructed to meet the bursar for locations to fix the cameras. It was the bursar that picked the locations, not me.”
Daily Sun obtained the phone number of Frank Ezeh, the engineer in-charge of the project, and he was contacted to get the name of the company that secured the contract and also find out why the fence was abandoned halfway.
“We have done the main fencing. We are plastering now. By the end of May, we will be through with the painting, and in June, we will finish the fence,” said Ezeh on May 20. “The name of the company is AE & E Nigeria Limited.”
Shortly after, Ezeh hung up, Christian Chinweuba called and introduced himself as the general manager of AE&E Nigeria Limited. He said: “We are handling the fencing now. What is remaining is plastering and the barbwire. In two days, we will complete the fence.”
When asked the name of the company that obtained the contract, Chinweuba, said: “AE & E Nigeria Limited.”
When the school was contacted on May 27, 2019, this reporter was told that the workers were yet to resume work since they were last seen on April 14, 2019.
A CAC search on AE & E Nigeria Limited shows that the company is not registered.
Director denies involvement
Daily Sun reached out to Nwokoye Edwin Ementa, Director of Finance and Accounts at the Federal Ministry of Education, via telephone to know why the security project at Federal Science and Technical College, Awka has not been completed.
“You said you are calling from The Sun?” Nwokoye said after a pause, and this reporter replied in the affirmative.
Then he blurted out, “What do you mean? Am I the contractor? Who told you I’m the contractor? Abi I’m the one who is facilitating it?”
“Your engineer,” this reporter responds, and asks again, “Why has the project not been completed?”
“Who is my engineer?” he asked, but got no reply. “My friend, I’m the Director of Finance, Federal Ministry of Education. I’m not the contractor. So, why are you saying ‘why have I not completed the project?’
Nwokoye continues: “I’m facilitating it, because that project is around my side. I want to make sure that they do it. So, I’m forcing them to do it, and they are doing it. They will complete it,” he pauses and says, “according to their promise.”
Unsure if he has convinced the reporter, he says persuasively: “They will complete it. The guy said he is on ground there; he will complete it. So, please I’m not the contractor. Maybe the person gave you my number as the person who has been making sure that, that project is completed. Okay?”
“Alright, Sir,” the reporter replied.
The director adds: “Maybe when you come next, you can check and you will discover that they must have completed it.”
Two minutes after the telephone conversation, Christian Chinweuba, the general manager, rang this reporter.
“Please, somebody gave me your number. Are you Chinwe?” he asks.
In response, this reporter requested to know who he was referring to.
Rather than give the name, he said: “Eh? Someone you called and you were asking him eh…if he is the engineer handling the project at FSTC Awka.”
In reply, the reporter said: “Someone I called? I’ve called a lot of people. Who are you talking about?”
“Eh? Okay,” Chinweuba said. Hesitantly, he stammers: “You called em em, Nwokoye, and addressed him as the contractor handling the project at Awka. He told you that he is not the one, and he called me. He asked me if I’m the one that gave you his number, and I said, no. I am the engineer handling the project”
“Who is the contractor?” the reporter queried, and he replied: “I am the one.”
“You won the contract?” the reporter asked. In response he said: “Yes”
Without being asked, Chinweuba went ahead to explain why the project is yet to be completed.
He said: “I started work in February because I had em em a health challenge. You know, yes, I have heart problem. I had to stop my project in Bayelsa, and other places because of my health challenge. The project is going on. We are just completing the fence. Just about five or two per cent near completion.”
On how much has been released out of the N59million allotted for the project, he said: “They have never released any money. We have been using our money to do the project.”
Procurement laws violated
The Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) Act specifies that every contracting firm must be registered with and must have been in existence and paying tax for the last three years before being offered a job by the Federal Government.
However, AE&E Nigeria Limited, obtained the contract at Federal Science and Technical College, Awka, and it is not registered, according to our findings.
Also, section 25(2)(ii) of the Public Procurement Act (2007) demands that requests for bids must be advertised in at least two widely circulated national newspapers, official websites of the procuring entity and the Bureau as well as the Tenders Journal.
The law states: “the invitation for bids shall be advertised on the notice board of the procuring entity, any official web sites of the procuring entity, at least two national newspapers, and in the procurement journal not less than six weeks before the deadline for submission of the bids for the goods and works.”
This was flouted as no invitation for bids was advertisement for the unity schools.
To uphold the principles of honesty, accountability, transparency, fairness and equity in procurement processes, sections 57 and 58 of the Public Procurement Act prohibits public officers from partaking in contracts.
According to Section 57(9), “Every public officer involved directly or indirectly in matters of public procurement and disposal of assets shall not engage or participate in any commercial transaction involving the federal government, its ministries, extra-ministerial departments, corporations where his capacity as public officer is likely to confer any unfair advantage – pecuniary or otherwise on him or any person directly related to him.”
No security project
Still in Anambra State, on Friday May 10, 2019, this reporter made a stopover at Federal Government College, Nise. It was observed that no security project was in place. The school fence is in dire need of attention.
According to Comrade Onyekwere, vice principal, special duties, the Federal Ministry of Education proposed to repair the fence, but the school is yet to see the contractor.
He says: “The Ministry sent a quantity surveyor over a month ago to measure our fence. He came and went back to prepare the BOQ (bill of quantity), but we have not seen the contractor. We have fallen fences that have exposed the school to security dangers.”
From the gate to the dormitories and round the school, no CCTV cameras or newly installed solar streetlights was sighted.
“Nothing has been done here,” said Mrs. Ijeoma Ekumankama, the school principal.
The story is the same at Federal Government Girls’ College, Onitsha. A tour round the premises showed that the school is yet to benefit from the security infrastructure project.
Like previous school visited, the fence here is weak and begging for attention.
“The fence has been falling down. Before we went on holiday in April, rain fell part of the fence. I fixed it, and yesterday (May 9), it fell again. Now, the fence near the hostel is down too,” Aghedo Osamudiame, the school principal, told this reporter on May 10.
The old solar streetlights are not working perfectly well.
“Everywhere is dark, the electrician just left here now. I told him that when I was coming from church, everywhere was so dark,” the principal said. “Some of the lights are working, but I just told him to get some bulbs. Everywhere from the gate is just dark.”
Aghedo said she notified the procurement director at the Federal Ministry of Education of the security challenges, but there has been no response.
She adds: “I even called the procurement director that there is no intervention here, and I sent my bursar to him. I wrote a letter saying they are not doing anything here. There is no security work here.”
[To be continued]
This investigation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.