28 February 2013

Nigeria: Respite for Akwanga School Children

Lafia — A transformed block of classrooms and an office for the head teacher now stands within the premises of the six-block Central Pilot Primary School, Akwanga, Nasarawa state.

Construction work on the structure has reached completion level. The roof, wall plaster, and flooring had been completed when this reporter visited the school last week.

Four months ago the classrooms were in an appalling state. The roofs were all rusty indicating several years of non-maintenance. The walls had peeled off, exposing blocks used in building the structures and on the floor there were craters large and deep enough to bury the pupils who studied there.

Yet this school located along Wamba Road about 300 metres from the roundabout has been a choice political campaign venue for top political office holders in power for several years.

This block of classroom stirred up controversy in the state last October, after Daily Trust published a picture of the structure in total disrepair. The governor who was in the United States on a 10-day visit to Washington, DC at the time had to direct the then commissioner for education, Comrade Hussaini Abubakar to issue a statement in which the government accused some unnamed persons of sponsoring the publication.

The state government in that statement said a contract of more than N9m had already been awarded to Tamarald Nig Ltd for the rehabilitation of the school and "in the next two to three months, it should become history."

Going by the statement, the project ought to have been completed by end of December.

But two months after, construction is still ongoing and pupils and their teachers are compelled to share classrooms.

No teacher accepted to grant an interview. Some of them said they nearly lost their jobs when the disrepair of the school was reported in October.

Daily Trust sought the comments of Jafaru Loko, state focal person in charge of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on the cause of the delay in executing the project.

He first raised issues with the government statement as he asked: "Did he (former commissioner) award the contract? Did he find out from us before he issued the statement? It was not his duty to make statements on the completion period of the project without consulting with us.

"As far as we are concerned, all contracts on local governments track are to be terminated by March this year; that is some weeks from now. We are in contact with the contractors, and if they don't complete the job at that time, we will take actions against them."

Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura's media aide, Iliyasu Ali Yakubu said, "The most important thing is that the job is about to be completed for our children and teachers to move into their brand new classes, that is what will gladden our heart."

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