SPECIAL REPORT: UBEC projects executed by lawmaker, others cripple education in Sokoto
In this investigation,ABDULWAHEED SOFIULLAHI discovers that poorly executed UBEC projects are crippling students’ access to safe learning in schools in Sokoto State.
Achida model primary school billboard/ credit: Abdulwaheed Sofiullahi
Umaru Adamu, 17, and his mates are in their final year at Achida Model Primary School at Wurno Local Government Area, LGA, of Sokoto State. They were seen directing other pupils to their classrooms at 8:30am in early November, after a hasty morning assembly, when this reporter visited the school. Inside the classrooms, pupils sat on filthy floors, under decayed roofs with parts of the ceilings caving in. The embankments were damp and adorned with what appeared to be mature algae.
After directing other pupils to their classes, Adamu and another Primary 6 pupils swiveled on the edge of a window because there were no chairs or desks, and soon after, the teacher began dictating the day’s lesson as she baked a damaged blackboard.
Students seated on the floor at Achida Model Primary School.
“As the head boy of the school, poor classrooms and no chairs certainly affects me and other students. During the rainy season, most of the roofs leak. Because of this, some students would rather not come to school. With the roofs damaged, learning is equally uncomfortable when the weather is hot,” Adamu said, describing the predicament of both students and teachers.
In an effort to ease learning challenges at Achida Model Primary School, Arch Ibrahim Almustapha, the lawmaker representing Wurno/Rabah federal constituency, nominated the construction of a block of two classrooms at the school under the 2020 Universal Basic Education Commission project. As captured in the year’s appropriation and contained in the north west geopolitical zone mapping of capital projects by the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO), the sum of N10.4 million was released for the project execution and allocated to Power Hill Construction Ltd.
Abdullahi Umaru (Not real name), a teacher at Achida Model Primary School, Illela, stressed that the newly constructed two classes were abandoned last year due to lack of chairs. He said the project does not meet the school’s needs.
“Learning is so hard for students here because of the lack of chairs for them. The newly built classes have just been wasting there since last year because it’s not actually what the school needs and there’s not enough chairs to use them,” he said.
Newly built but abandoned classrooms at Achida Model Primary School, Wurno LGA.
However, a site engineer with Ultimate Construction Nigeria Limited, Mr. Ibrahim Yahuza, who inspected the newly constructed but abandoned classrooms at Achida Model Primary School said they do not meet the Federal Government classroom standard.
This reporter observed the engineer as the length and width of the classrooms were measured. The width measured at 4.7 meters rather than 6.8 meters, while the length was found to be 6.5 meters rather than 8.4 meters.
He added: “If classrooms are created without following the norm, they won’t last and may collapse at any point. The federal government building structure requirements can keep buildings stronger for a long time.”
The Federal Government mandates that each classroom have a minimum measurement of 2.4 meters in height, 8.4 meters in length, and 6.8 meters in breadth (width). The government requirement states that while a typical classroom should offer an average of 1.2 square meters (or one square meter) of floor space per student, it gives room for a pro-rata floor area to be used if there are fewer or more students in a class.
Checks on the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, revealed that Power Hill Construction Ltd, which executed the one block of two classrooms at Achida Model Primary School, has its address at No 10, New Dawaki road, off Sultan road, Kaduna. It was registered in November 2007. The company is, however, inactive. While contacting the company with the verified contact found online, the calls were not answered and a text was not replied. A visit to the company’s registered address revealed that the company had moved.
This reporter could not locate the new address but a staff of the company, Sani Zubairu, told this reporter via mobile phone conversation that he could not say anything about the project executed by the company. He declined linking the reporter to a management staff of the company.
This reporter also made efforts to contact Ibrahim Almustapha, the lawmaker who nominated the construction of the one block of two classrooms but the lawmaker did not answer several calls, and messages sent to him were not replied.
About 89 kilometers from Achida community, students at Kalmalo Primary School in Illela LGA, are facing a different challenge. Among the six available classrooms in the school, the students had vacated two because their roofs had been completely detached by a heavy windstorm. Other classes are slightly manageable because the roofs only leak during the rainy season.
Cracked one block of two classrooms renovated by the UBEC project at Kalmalo Primary School, Illela.
Mujaheed Lukman (not real name), a teacher at Kalmalo Model Primary School said its condition was unfavorable and the last renovation of classrooms executed in 2020 was showing signs of damage.
Read also:SPECIAL REPORT: Illegal miners degrade Ekiti community, engage in child labour
“Learning in this school is not conducive for students because most of the available classes are not in good condition which forces many to drop out. Some classes are useless during the rainy season and we only have limited classes,” he said.
Inside of the renovated one block of classrooms at Kalmalo Primary school, Illela.
The teacher explained that the last renovation of two classes was poorly executed adding that, “after some months, the walls of those classes began to crack, the roofs are leaking and ceilings are buckling down.”
A visit to the school confirmed that the project was executed in 2020.
The 2019 daily payment report on the Nigeria Open Treasury Account revealed that the Federal Government released the sum of N6.3 million for the renovation of one block of two classrooms at Kalmalo Primary School in Illela LGA under the supervision of the UBE. This project, allocated to Dogon Marke Investment Limited Company, is said to have been completed in 2020. The reporter, however, discovered that the two renovated classes showed signs of damage after some months.
Mr. Ibrahim Yahuza, a site engineer inspected the renovated classrooms at Kalmalo Primary School and said the damage was due to the use of minimal cement and blocks that are not strong.
“Though the cracks on the wall might be because of the weakness of the existing building before renovation. But as you can see, using plywood instead of ceilings is not standard, that’s why the classes are deteriorating.”
Lawmaker is also the contractor
This investigation found that the renovation of one block of two classrooms at Kalmalo Primary School, Illela LGA was poorly done as the building showed signs of damage including cracks a few months after. The contract was awarded by the UBEC to Dogon Marke Investment Limited with address at No. 4, Salami town Gwadabawa, Sokoto State, registration number RC842485 and was registered in 2019.
The CAC database showed Salame Abdullahi Balarabe as the director of the company. Curiously, he is also the constituency lawmaker that nominated the project for the UBEC. Other directors are confirmed to be his sons and family members: including Salame Abdullahi Ibrahim, Salame Aliyu Sani, Salame Jamilu Ibrahim, and Musa Buhari Salame.
When contacted, Salame Balarabe threatened the reporter via telephone and tried to blackmail him using religion. When pushed further, the lawmaker directed the reporter to UBEC to find out why it awarded the projects he nominated to his company.
On the 11th of November, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was submitted to the Universal Basic Education Head office in Abuja. The FOI contained the request for the contractor’s details and why the commission acted against Section 57 (9) of the Public Procurement Act 2017 which states that every “public officer involved directly or indirectly in the matters of public procurement and disposal of assets shall divest himself of any interest or relationship, which are potentially inimical or detrimental to the best interest of the government.”
By awarding the project contract to a lawmaker who nominated it, the UBE has breached the law which provides a penalty for offense in Section 58 (5) which states that: “A person who by carrying out his duty as an officer of the bureau or any procuring entity contravenes any provision of this act, commits an offense liable on conviction to the cumulative punishment of a term of imprisonment of not less than five years without the option of fine.”
More executed projects, no impact for residents
In 2019, the Federal Government released the sum of N6.7 million for the supply of educational equipment at Darusa Yamma Primary School in Tangaza/Gudu federal constituency. According to the 2019 daily payment report on the Nigeria Open Treasury Account, the payment was made to Sunstar Integrated Services Limited for the project nominated by Yusuf Issa, the representative for Tangaza/Gudu federal constituency.
A school official, who pleaded anonymity, said that the educational equipment were delivered to the school in early 2020. He, however, said it was not the pressing need of the school as the classrooms where such educational materials would be used have been damaged. He said the large sum of money spent in acquiring learning materials should have gone to the construction or renovation of damaged classrooms at the school.
“Our classes are not in good condition. We thought the funds that were released for instructional materials would have been used to renovate classes for us so that learning can be improved,” he said. The source also claimed the learning materials delivered by the contractor could not have been worth N6.7 million as only 100 copies of textbooks, 200 placards, five dozens of pens and markers were allegedly delivered to the school. This claim could however not be verified.
Another school teacher who also pleaded for anonymity revealed that most of the instructional materials delivered were not useful and that some had been carted away by thieves because the school was not fenced.
“We urge the government to reach out to us before they make provisions for projects so that our needs will be considered and our desires will be met,” he added.
Yusuf Isah, the legislator who nominated the project for Darusa Yamma Primary School did not answer several calls to his phone and a text message sent to him via his verified mobile contact was ignored.
However, checks on the CAC website revealed the address of Sunstar Integrated Services Limited at Commissioner Road, NNG Dungdo Sakawo, plot glogb Okor, Kaduna. This reporter,however, could only locate Commissioner Road at Unguwan Dosa in Kaduna. There was however no link to NNG Dungdo Sakawo or the plot glogb Okor in the area. The company was registered on 25th July, 2017. The findings from the CAC website confirmed that the company was inactive and several searches online indicated that the company has no website or any contact for communication.
While speaking on the phone with this reporter, the spokesperson for UBEC , David Apeh, said that he cannot react to questions about the projects except if the Executive Secretary directs him to do so.
Asked about the status of an FOI sent to UBEC, he said: “I can’t speak with you on the projects you are asking about except if the Executive Secretary forwards the FOI request you submitted to me and orders me to speak.”
In a similar instance, Mani Masiko, the member representing Binji/Silame federal constituency nominated a project for the supply of classroom furniture at Danjawo Model Primary School under the 2020’s UBEC/ZIP projects at the sum of N14.4million.
Billboard of Danjawo Primary School, Binji.
The school’s headmaster, Muhammadu Sani, confirmed that they received over 300 plastic tables and chairs for the project which was awarded to Umaru Sale World Ltd.
He said that the school’s major problem was the lack of classrooms. “We are running grades 1-6 in two classrooms. The pupils of each class usually shift when it’s lesson time, or they stay outside. For instance, if Primary 1 has a teaching period with the teacher, pupils in Primary 4 who are occupying the class would move out,” he said.
Abandoned plastic table and chairs UBEC project supplied to Danjawo Primary School, Binji, in 2021.
He pointed to the abandoned plastic tables and chairs, and added, “where are we going to be using those chairs? These are the remaining furniture from the UBEC project which was supplied to our school last year. We have only two available classes in the school which can’t accommodate them. What we need is new construction of classes and since the remaining plastic chairs and tables are useless; they are kept inside an office.”
This reporter reached out to Masiko, the lawmaker representing Binji/Silame federal constituency via phone, but he said the project was not nominated by him and blocked the reporter’s mobile contact.
“I don’t know anything about the project you’re talking about. It doesn’t belong to me because I didn’t nominate such a project. It belongs to the Senator,” he said.
While contacting the said senator, whom Hon. Masiko alleged nominated the project, Senator Aliyu Wamako, he did not answer his calls and messages sent to him were not replied.
However, checking through the details of the contractor, Umar Sale World Ltd, on the CAC website revealed an inactive status even though registered on 21st February, 2018 with registration number as RC1473024. The address of the company is: NTA, Nasarawa road, Taraba State.
Another UBEC project rots
In 2020, Ibrahim Aliyu, the same lawmaker who nominated the projects at Achida Model Primary School nominated the construction of a one block of two classrooms at Danbaso Primary School, Kyal-Kyal, in Wurno LGA under the year’s Universal Basic Education Projects. The sum of N16.5 million was released to Bentico Global Services for the execution of the project.
One block of two classrooms as part of the UBEC project was wasted in the bush at Kyal-Kyal Community, Wurno.
It took about 39 kilometers away from Wurno town for this reporter to track down the project’s location because many residents had earlier claimed not to have heard of Danbaso Primary, as indicated in the UBEC/ZIP 2020 projects document. However, when this reporter eventually tracked the location, it was discovered that the two classes were built in 2021, though the location, at Kyal-Kyal community appeared bushy. It was learnt from residents that the school has not been approved and the two classes showed signs of cracks.
Muhammadu Sani, a resident of the community said the community had no primary school although when the classes were built at the location, a volunteer teacher had used the classes for a short period. “Our children don’t go to school because there is none. There is no existing primary school but when these classes were constructed, the volunteer teacher directed all the students to occupy the two classes and he taught them. They later abandoned the classes when it started cracking,” he said. Another resident, Abdullahi Muhammadu said the school has not been approved for the community and so the government hasn’t deployed anyone to work as a teacher.
Billboard of the classes wasted in the non-existence school at Kyal-Kyal Community, Wurno LGA.
However, the lawmaker, Ibrahim Aliyu, did not answer his calls and failed to reply to a message sent to his verified mobile contact. This reporter tried to contact the company, Bentico Global Services Nigeria Limited but discovered that there was no official website of the company online and no contact information and email address on the CAC and Nigeria24 websites. The company was, however, inactive with the address at No 19, Bataiya Plaza Anner II Garki and the RC number is 1327237 — registered on April, 7th, 2016.
After several calls and texts, more efforts were made to get the reaction of those lawmakers who nominated the projects for UBEC. The reporter tried to trace them on social media, but their real names did not show up across the media platforms. Also, questions were sent to their official emails, but no response was received.
More efforts to get contractors’ reaction
Searches on the CAC portal for Sunstar Integrated Services Ltd and other contractors that executed the projects showed that Shehu Umar Dan-Umma and Tijjani Ahmed are the company’s directors. Several searches online revealed their social media handles, and messages sent to them via LinkedIn and their social media handles were not responded to. Also, Bentico Global Services Nigeria Ltd., Tersegha Igbadio Benedict, Sesuga Igbadio Vincent, and Fanen Igbadio Henry, who were confirmed as the company’s directors, refused to respond to messages sent to them via their social media platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
However, PowerHill Construction Limited, where Iliya Aminu, Fred Ogii, Usman Liman, Ridwan Abdullahi Alhassan, Tukur Musa Bamalli, and Aminu Iliya were confirmed as the directors, did not respond to several messages sent to them via LinkedIn and their social media handles. For Umaru Sale World Wide, the CAC also listed Umaru Mari Sale, Hauwa Mari Sale, and Shamsudeen Mari Sale as the company’s directors, and several attempts to get their reaction on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook were abortive, including messages sent to their social media handles that weren’t answered.
By Abdulwaheed Sofiullahi
This report is supported by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).
Join the conversation
Support Ripples Nigeria, hold up solutions journalism
Balanced, fearless journalism driven by data comes at huge financial costs.
As a media platform, we hold leadership accountable and will not trade the right to press freedom and free speech for a piece of cake.
If you like what we do, and are ready to uphold solutions journalism, kindly donate to the Ripples Nigeria cause.
Your support would help to ensure that citizens and institutions continue to have free access to credible and reliable information for societal development.
INVESTIGATION: 4 yrs after completion, Kwara PHC facility inactive, rural dwellers in pains
In the middle of the night sometime in September 2019, Fatimah Ballah struggled with severe pains as she tries to...
INVESTIGATION: How Oyo State, contractors spent N1.1bn on water projects, but communities don’t have a drop
Multimillion naira water projects largely initiated by the late Abiola Ajimobi-led state government in Oyo State to benefit over 40...
INVESTIGATION: In Cross River, civil servants retire into poverty as govt looks away, squanders funds on frivolities
Thousands of civil servants in Cross River State struggle to stay alive as they are denied their gratuities and monthly...
Students suffer as contractors abandon Kano school projects after receiving over N70m
In 2019, to improve the condition of public schools in Kano State, the Federal Government disbursed millions of naira to...
SPECIAL REPORT: World Bank road projects go bad in Enugu, as state govt fails to fulfill promise
Counterpart funded road projects between the world Bank and Enugu State government have started to fail, as the state government...