By Uche Ndeke
Anambra State government in 2018 awarded contracts for the construction of 600-bed capacity hostel blocks and fencing of some secondary schools.
The government said it was to guarantee the security of teachers and students as well as provide conducive environment for teaching and learning.
The World Bank project is under the supervision of the State Education Programme Investment Project (SEPIP) and had a one-year completion period.
However, two years after, most of the contracts are yet to be completed despite a huge amount of money released; and the delay is causing many of the schools to limit admission intake due to inadequate hostel.
For every 1 naira spent on contract, 60 Kobo was lost
A World Bank’s Country Procurement Assessment Report 1999, shows that out of every ₦1 spent by the Nigerian Government, 60 Kobo was lost to underhand practices.
According to the report, an average of $10 billion was lost annually to irregular practices in the award and execution of public contracts through inflation of contract costs, lack of procurement plans, poor budgeting processes, poor project prioritisation, lack of competition, and other kinds of manipulations of the procurement and contract award processes.
In response to this, the Nigerian government initiated a series of public financial management reforms between 2003 and 2007, which led to the enactment of the Public Procurement Act (PPA), in 2007.
The Act provides for the harmonisation of existing government policies and practices on public procurement, and ensuring probity, accountability and transparency in procurement process; the attainment of competitiveness, professionalism in public sector procurement system by ensuring the application of fair, competitive, transparent, value for money, standard practices for procurement and disposal of public assets.
In 2007, state governors in Nigeria resolved to enact State Fiscal Responsibility Act while donor agencies in 2010 supported them in the quest to identify factors militating against the enactment of the procurement laws.
Though the Anambra State government was among states that passed the Public procurement bill, the non-existence of a board to drive it has hampered the implementation.
Radio Nigeria’s Correspondent Uche Ndeke visited some schools in Anambra state including; Government Technical College Nkpor Government Technical College Onitsha, Government Technical College Ihiala, Abbot Girls Secondary School, Community Secondary School Omor, Arch Bishop Herey Memorial Technical College Ogidi, Community Secondary School Ifite Ogwari, St. John Technical College Alor, Government Technical College Utuh, Nigeria Science and Technical College Nnewi, Government Technical College Umunze and Government Technical College Umuchu.
According to official records, some of the projects have reached 80 per cent completion while others range as low as between 40 to 50 percent completion.
This claim is however contrary to what the reporter met on ground in some schools where the hostel projects were still at DPC level and fencing not done at all, despite the fact that most of them had 2018 as their completion timeline.
Contracts awards and released funds
The contract for prototype hostel in GTC Nkpor, St. John Technical College, Alor and Arch Bishop Hereey Memorial Technical College, Ogidi, was awarded at the sum of ₦992,099,934.00 on October 10, 2018, to be completed in April 2020 to Teetag Nigeria Ltd. An initial sum of ₦297,629,980.20 was released to the contractor and another ₦48,588,662.53 was released in 2020.
A contract for the construction of a prototype hostel was also awarded to Roadlight International Limited in 2018 for three schools-GTC, Utuh, GTC,Ihiala and Nigeria Science and Technical College, Nnewi to the tune of ₦992,099,934.00 and ₦458,869.540.50 also with the delivery date of April 2020.
The fencing contract of GTC Nkpor was awarded at ₦31,940,500.00 in February 2018 with ₦5,524,364.00 released and a completion date of December 2018.
The contract for the fencing of Community Secondary School Ifite Ogwari, was awarded at ₦77,111,297.5 while records show that ₦40,721,750.09 had been released to the contractor, completion date of 2018 December.
The fencing of Community Secondary School, Omor, was also approved at ₦17,060,455.00 with ₦24,079.894.00 released and with a December 2018 delivery date, while the fencing of Abbott Girls Secondary School, was awarded at the sum of ₦25,765,000 and ₦3,225,043.96 released, with a deadline of December 2018.
Community Secondary School Nnobi, got a fencing project at a cost of ₦34,250.000 and records show that ₦7,459,482.18 was released as mobilisation while another ₦4,567,221 was released in 2020 with a completion time of December 2018.
It was found that most of the school authorities and management were not aware of the details of the contract, including amounts, and this made it difficult to monitor progress and quality of work.
This reporter found that though the contracts were awarded to firms with different names, some of these firms had shared the same contact address and phone numbers, putting a question mark on the credibility of the contract and approval process.
At St. John’s Technical College Alor, and Arch Bishop Hereey Memorial College Ogidi, our reporter saw roofed hostel blocks but uncompleted works despite the sums of ₦297,629,980 released in 2018 and ₦48,588,662.53 released to the contractor in 2020.
At Government Technical College Nkpor where contract was awarded for hostel block and fencing project, the hostel block remained on the foundation level, and there was no sight of any fence.
Mr. Ifeanyi Afuluukwe, a teacher in GTC Nkpor complained that land grabbers have started encroaching into the school portion due to the non-completion of the fencing project.
“The project has not been completed. It seems it has been abandoned. There was a time they worked on the hostel to the foundational level, since that time, they have not worked on it. That of the fence has been abandoned also. They came and worked on it for some time and left. Due to the fact that the school is not fenced, people have unhindered access to the school,” he said.
General Secretary of Arch Bishop Hereey Memorial College, Mr. Emmanuel Chukwuzubelu, and the manager, St. John’s Technical College Alor, Reverend Father Frances Unegbu, expressed satisfaction with the level and quality of work done so far, saying that the hostel blocks when completed would ease accommodation challenges, which had forced them to reject some applicants.
He disclosed that the college rejected 922 students who sought admission because of limited space.
“It touched me seeing parents and their kids rolling on the floor to be admitted here, reporting us everywhere that we don’t want to take them. But, little did they know that it was because of logistics. Once the hostel is completed, we can be sure to absorb people like that.”
The contract for hostel blocks in GTC Ihiala, Nigeria Science and Technical College and GTC Utuh, was awarded to a firm that has received over ₦458 million out of the ₦992 million for the three projects. Investigation shows that the three hostel blocks were still at the foundation level, a situation that residents described as very unfortunate.
Pastor Mrs. Onyenesi Nwachukwu of the Nigeria Science and Technical College Nnewi, narrated how enthusiastic they were when the contractor began to clear land for the construction of the hostels but expressed regret that work has stopped.
“They started and we were very happy that soon, we will have a magnificent building as hostels that will accommodate many students. We need it earnestly. But unfortunately, after some time, the work just stopped. Since then, we’ve not seen the contractor or his representative. We need it desperately for the welfare of the students,” she stated.
Nwachukwu gave an indication why work might have stopped on the project.
She said: “I don’t know why the delay. But I remember the man coming here to mold blocks was complaining that he was being owed. He even threatened to carry the molded blocks away because he was not paid. Along the line, we started dragging with him that he would not carry anything away from the school compound without the knowledge of the people concerned.
Vice Principal Academics, GTC Ihiala, Mrs. Victoria Ezeokoli, said the importance of technical education could not be over emphasised hence the need for government to prevail on the firm to deliver the hostel project.
“It is at foundation level and nothing more. It is painful that when they came with a claim to execute the project, they made the teachers who farmed here to harvest their crops. They were in a hurry. They started the work and after the foundation, they left. The hostel project if completed would have been a very wonderful one.”
A teacher, Mrs. Ify Ukatu, recalled how they were made to harvest their farm crops prematurely when the contractor claimed that work would be completed in record time.
“I am not happy that they made us to lose our crops and did not complete the project. We also learnt that some teachers would have been living in the hostel with the students. I was hoping that one day, I would be among the beneficiaries, that my house rent would have been taken care of.”
Though fencing was done in some portions of Community Secondary School, Ifite Ogwari, the people said it was fenced with sub-standard materials causing the already done areas to collapse as confirmed by the Vice Principal, Mr. Benjamin Nnalue.
“I am not happy about the quality of work being done here. Well, we are just waiting for the contractor to say that he has finished the work before the school can raise an alarm. If you raise alarm now the contractor will say that you are too forward. The Principal had already alerted the contractor with regard to the dilapidated gate,” Nnalue said.
Community Secondary School Omor, had a large expanse of land with the fencing contract of ₦17 million of which ₦13,079,894.00 had been paid to the contractor.
However, according to the Principal, Mrs. Christiana Obiora, the job was poorly done leading to almost a total collapse of the fence. She narrated how she confronted the contractor and also wrote to the State Ministry of Basic Education over the quality of work done and noted that the security of students and teachers is not guaranteed as motorcyclists now use the centre of the school as access road.
“The fencing project is not complete. It was in 2018 that the contractor came and told us that the contract was awarded to him. And they were given deadline to complete the project by December. So, he started and went half way in 2019. In 2020, he completed it. After three days of the completion, there was a heavy downpour in the night. That was when those places you saw fell. The report I made in 2018 when he started was first, there was poor quality of blocks and, second, that the foundation was not up to two feet.
“I called him and told him, he didn’t listen to me. That was when I made that report to the ministry. The ministry sent four persons who came and they condemned the trips of sand he heaped, insisting that the specification was white sand, by the end of 2019, he continued with the same sand. That fence fell in April and since then, he has not been around,” she said.
Abbott Girls Secondary School Ihiala, is said to be one of the oldest schools in the state but its structures and environment beg for urgent attention.
Apart from the leaking roofs in the examination hall and some classes, the girls live in dilapidated hostels and are said to be at high risk of sexual abuse as narrated by the principal, Mrs. Savena Chukwunedum who was also once a student of the revered college in the ‘60s.
Nothing is happening here in terms of fencing, she said, adding that when he resumed two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic, the fencing was barely 5% done; “I called him and he told me that I did not give him the job, that I should not disturb him.”
“There was a day some boys from outside jumped into the hostel to prey on female students. Thank God that our security and corps members were alert. I have been begging this man (Contractor) please, even if it is only a gate at the entrance so that we will know that the fencing project is going on”.
Cries fall on deaf ears
Mrs. Chukwunedum appealed to the government to always carry school management along when awarding contract for projects in their institutions.
While the hostel project at the GTC Onitsha, had been roofed, the fencing contract at Community Secondary School Nnobi remained unfinished as at the time our reporter visited.
Some teachers who did not agree to speak on tape said the terrain and erosion prone nature of the area may have discouraged continuation of work.
Fencing project stopped half way at Community Secondary School, Nnobi. Photo: Uche Ndeke
The principal of GTC, Mr. Mathias Emesi was excited at the level of work and the impact it would have on the learning and teaching of the students, especially during the COVID-19 period when social distancing has become necessary.
A legal practitioner at Ayamelum Local Government Area, Mr. Joseph Aghanti, while reacting to the delay in completion and shoddy jobs done by some contractors said that it was very difficult for government to monitor projects particularly if agencies responsible connive with contractors.
“Sometimes you see connivance between contractors and the monitoring agencies of government and that is why when somebody fails to carry out a contract in accordance to specifications, government will not be bold enough to question the individual. And most times the benefiting communities don’t even know the amount and contract agreements to enable the leadership of the town monitor quality and pace of work. The local Governments should also have a committee that should monitor projects awarded by the state government in their areas”.
A member of the Anambra State Committee on Public Procurement Bureau, Prince Chris Azor, said the state before now had a public procurement law enacted in addition to a fiscal responsibility law but said it was not implemented.
According to him, between 2011 and 2020, the state was operating on ad-hoc basis setting up tenders board and committees that were awarding contracts, trying to do things on the basis of good intention but not actually making the procurement law operational.
“The public procurement law generally is a sunshine law. It beams its searchlight on the operations, on the people that are mandated to make it work and on the process. But it’s in the public procurement process where you have the highest level of corruption in terms of government business. If you get it right at the level of public procurement, you are almost coasting home to victory in terms of governance.”
Speaking on the school projects, Chairman, Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Economic Planning, Sustainable Development Goals and Donor Agencies, Mr. Ebere Ejiofor, wondered why the supervising ministry and agencies would approve payments for contractors who had not put much work on ground.
Ejiofor who visited some projects on oversight function, said the legislature would not relent in making sure that money meant for public projects was properly utilised and work done according to laid down specifications.
“Look at the gate, it is falling off… Almost all the fence at the back is falling off. There is no strong base, the foundation is faulty, it is just like they brought block and put it on top of the sand and went their way. It seems that nobody is supervising this work. This is a poorly done job, very shoddy”.
“We have to write the commissioner for education, some of the contractors who is handling the poor projects for them to appear before the house committee on SDGs to explain to us why they allow this to happen, wasting the good intention of our Governor. I can’t understand how a government can spend millions of Naira on a project and nothing tangible was done”.
Commissioner for Basic Education in Anambra State, Professor Kate Omenugha, in an interview, said the projects were solely funded by the state government but that the government had an agreement with the World Bank to be reimbursed for work done.
She explained that World Bank under Disbursement Led Indicators reimbursed the state for money used for accreditation of some schools after confirmation. The reimbursement from World Bank was under a different project arrangement called Disbursement Led Indicators. So the state government decided to use it to embark on construction of hostel blocks and fencing of some schools.
She said after the reimbursement was made, the state decided to use the fund to build hostel blocks in technical colleges and fence some schools.
While agreeing that land grabbing was a challenge in some schools, Omenugha said the government decided to step down some projects in order to concentrate and finish others.
“The projects are not abandoned. I agree that some places like GTC Nkpor had a very bad road condition and materials could not be sent there, so the works are continuing now that the dry season has set in. There are some that were also stepped down but not abandoned so we can concentrate and finish others. The contractors did not collect money and run away, no”.
The commissioner said the government had set aside funds for the projects as work has reached completion stages in Umunze, Umuchu, Umueri, Aguleri, while Governor Obiano looks forward to commissioning them soon.
On the poor quality of the projects done in some of the schools, Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Mike Okonkwor, said though his ministry and its education counterpart were responsible for the supervision of projects, he would make effort to personally visit the said schools with a view to ascertaining what was on ground. Mr. Okonkwor however, stated emphatically that the government would not tolerate a situation where any contractor would collect money and go ahead to do a shoddy job.
Was due process followed in the award of the contracts?
Chairman, Governing Board for Public Procurement, Mr. Melie Njepu, said that the contract awards followed the public procurement law in the state and that if they did not, the council would not have approved them. He noted that when the contracts were bided for, they were sent to the procurement council for approval.
Njepu said the state government was never reckless even before the establishment of the Procurement Law as there was a tenders board in charge of contracts.
Response from contractors
The resident engineer to the contracting firm handling the fencing of Community Secondary School Omor, Mr. Onyeka Ibe said the topography of the area played out on the project and not the quality of work put in place.
“Initially, we used a pipe to do the gate, they complained and we pulled it down and use dangle iron to reconstruct it. We used pipe but the recommendation was angle so we later used it.”
On the quality of work done on the fence, Mr. Ibe said, the soil texture was clay which is used in rice cultivation, and it is waterlogged
“That place is supposed to be a Bond wall; that is retaining wall but the specification they gave us was normal blinding and block wall. That was the problem we had there, it was supposed to be retaining wall, the entire place was too sloppy and water-logged.
We did retaining wall in some of the places that fell. Now we are trying to rectify the situation as work is ongoing,” the contractor explained.
When contacted by telephone, the contractor handling the fencing of Abbott Girls Secondary School Ihiala, Mr. Enon Horsh blamed the delay on lack of funding.
“We started work even before we were mobilised. We have submitted a bill since and they are yet to pay us. Once we are paid we will commence putting pillars and finish the work. This work is ‘pay as you go,” said Horsh.
Government may have had good intentions when it awarded these contracts in 2018 to provide a conducive atmosphere for teaching and learning.
However good intentions alone are not enough but following up on contracts, awarded with huge sums of money, to the point of completion.
This investigative report was supported by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).