2 February 2013

Nigeria: Benue Politicians Abandon School Projects After Collecting N640 Million Contract Sum - Commissioner

Top government officials in Benue State and prominent indigenes of the state collected over N640 million from the state government for construction and provision of facilities in schools. They then abandoned the projects.

This was disclosed by the Commissioner for Science and Technology in the State, Godwin Adah, while briefing journalists in Makurdi, the state capital, during an inspection of projects in Anyiin, Garaboghol and Otukpa Science and Technical Schools.

Mr. Adah explained that contracts worth over N800 million were given to the prominent citizens for science and technical school projects in Anyiin and Otukpa areas of the state. He said over 80 per cent of the contract sum had been paid to the contractors before they abandoned the projects.

"The government has paid all the contractors in this ministry, so it is the fault of the contractors who are already playing politics with the contracts," he said.

The commissioner said all the contractors handling the projects were people in government or of high profile status in the state.

The controversial projects involve renovation and conversion of three old Government Secondary Schools in the state to science and technical schools. All the contracts, according to the commissioner, were awarded to indigenous contractors within the location of the schools.

"Since last year, I reported the contractors to the House Standing Committee on Science on the contractors' lackadaisical approach on the projects," the commissioner said. "The committee had earlier in November 2012 ordered them to mobilise back to site, but they have not done so up till now,"

Mr. Adah said that one of the contractors has already been ordered by the committee to refund N11 million to government due to the poor materials used.

He said the state government had also approved contract for the supply of three water tankers to the three schools under review.

Students suffer from the malfeasance

In an interview, the Principal of Government Science Technical School, Otukpa, Christopher Orokpo, appealed to the contractors handling the projects to complete them on time.

Mr. Orokpo said that the school had problems of water supply, insecurity because of the lack of a fence; electricity, sport facilities, clinic, staff accommodation and equipment for science and technical practical classes. These were some of the infrastructure and materials the contractors were paid for.

All the students in the three science and technical schools were sleeping on the floor as the government is yet to approve contract for the provision of school bed.

The students also sleep alone in the night in all the schools as the staff quarters as well as the matron houses are still under construction.

The students were also seen eating under mango trees at Otukpa as the dining halls suffered the same fate as other projects.

Benue's history of corruption

Benue State, like many other states in Nigeria has a history of public officials corruptly enriching themselves at the detriment of the citizens. The current Government in the state is of the Peoples Democratic Party; but the corruption in the state is not limited to the party.

A former Governor of the State, George Akume, is being prosecuted for stealing billions of Naira of the state's funds while he was governor. Mr. Akume is currently a Senator and Minority Leader in the Nigerian Senate on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria.

An aide to President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, was also accused of collecting hundreds of millions of Naira from Benue for a project he failed to execute.

Though Mr. Okupe has denied any wrongdoing in the contract deal, Nigeria's second largest party, the ACN, insisted that he be investigated and eventually prosecuted for the alleged crime.

Additional reports by NAN

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