23 February 2018

Nigeria: Despite Millions of Naira Budgetary Provision, Oyo School Remains in Ruins

Photo: Premium Times
Dilapitated Oyo school.

The buildings are dilapidated and dirty. The roofs decayed and some caving in, and the walls damp and ornamented by matured algae. This description is that of a secondary school in Nigeria's self-styled Pacesetter State. And the year is 2018.

Interestingly, the House of Representatives in 2016 allocated fund for the construction of a block of two classrooms in the school, Methodist Secondary School, Fiditi. It was part of the constituency projects of the representative of Oyo Federal Constituency, Hakeem Adeyemi, a member of the All Progressives Congress who is also a son of the foremost traditional ruler in the state, the Alaafin of Oyo.

Located on the old Oyo-Ibadan expressway in a community of about 12,000 residents in Afijio Local Government Area of Oyo State, South-west Nigeria, the school in Fiditi has no fence. Though the school was on holiday during a visit, PREMIUM TIMES gained access to the school but found no one to talk to. An inspection of the premises revealed no new block of classrooms or even foundation for one.

The newspaper had earlier inspected the outcome of a similar constituency project at Alaafin High School in neighbouring Oyo and hometown of Mr. Adeyemi. There, the classrooms were constructed and furnished. So what is holding back the other part of the project at Methodist Secondary School, Fiditi?

N15 MILLION CONSTITUENCY PROJECT

In the 2016 federal government budget, N15 million was approved as constituency project for new classrooms in Alaafin High School, Oyo, and Methodist Secondary School, Fiditi.

Constituency projects are inserted by lawmakers in the federal budget to ensure that all constituencies across Nigeria have government presence with tangible projects. They have been controversial and are sometimes characterised by corruption especially as the lawmaker for each constituency works with the relevant government agency to execute the project including nominating the contractor for it.

The two school projects in Oyo and Fiditi are part of Mr. Adeyemi's constituency projects and are reflected in the 2016 approved budget.

PREMIUM TIMES set out for the two sites in January 2018 to track the implementation status. The inspection confirmed that a block of two classrooms had been duly constructed at Alaafin High School, Oyo and commissioned in May 2017. But the case at the other site of the project is different. No new classrooms were constructed in the dilapidated Fiditi school despite the budgetary provision.

RESIDENTS RAISE CONCERN

A man in his early 40s, Victor Oyelayo, was the first respondent the reporter found close to the school. He made no attempt to conceal his anger over the failure to execute a project in his town for which fund was allocated. He felt cheated, he said.

"I am aware there was provision for this project but I don't know why we have not seen the evidence of such project. I heard that of Alaafin (the Oyo school) and I have been to Alaafin to see for myself what was done. Why the project in our town was not implemented is a question for which we have not been able to find answers all these days," Mr. Oyelayo said.

PREMIUM TIMES next spoke with some young persons at a location about one kilometre from the school in Fiditi. They all said they were aware of the project and referred the reporter to officials of Fiditi Progressive Union, a group in the town.

"We are aware of the projects," the President of Fiditi Progressive Union, Olajide Olanipekun, said after introductions.

"It is in two phases; in Alaafin High School and Methodist. In the 2016 budget, the two projects were tied together at a cost of N15 million. We discovered that the other project at Alaafin school has been completed, while the one here has not been done.

"We have contacted the representative. In fact, we had a meeting with Honourable Adeyemi Akeem while we were celebrating the town's day in November 2017. What he told us was that there was no money to carry out the project. Though it was approved, (he said) no fund was disbursed.

"We know there was provision for the project, the lawmaker said fund was released only for one out of two, (the) reason why fund was released for one and not for (the other) remains a confusion for us here," the union official said in anguish.

STAFF, PARENT LAMENT

"The whole community relies on the school, and if not for the intervention of the school's governing board who recently renovated a building and several other interventions from residents community leaders, the school would be in ruins," a staff of the school told Premium Times.

"Only one block of classrooms remains now. It requires the efforts of parents here to keep this last block of classrooms standing. The roofs of the buildings fell off. The children have moved because only this block remains. Look at the other buildings, they have fallen into decrepit conditions," the staff lamented, asking not to be named because she was not authorised to speak to journalists.

A woman, who said her child attends the school, bemoaned its condition.

"There are many challenges that we face. Education is the first thing. The school buildings are nothing to write home about. There at Methodist Secondary School, only one block of classrooms is standing. The rest have been destroyed by wind. Floodwaters enter this classroom and if nothing is done in about a year, these classrooms will be all gone."

The parent also begged government to provide roads, electricity, a higher institution of learning and jobs in the community.

INSUFFICIENT FUNDS RELEASED

However, despite the budgetary provision, evidence suggests there might have been no corruption involved as not all the budgeted sum was released, a general problem that characterised the implementation of the 2016 budget.

"Go to UBEC and ask them how much they released for the project," the lawmaker representing the constituency, Mr. Adeyemi, said when interviewed.

"The Ministry of Finance didn't release fund for full implementation. Since the Federal Government did not release 100 per cent of the fund for the project, there's no way we could have constructed the classrooms in the two schools. I really wished we did implement the two projects, but 'Ara n bada, owo ni o je (What wonder can you perform without money?). The money released was not sufficient to construct the classrooms in the two schools, So, UBEC advised that we expend the funds released to construct the classroom at Alaafin High School, Oyo."

A separate enquiry to UBEC confirmed Mr. Adeyemi's stance.

UBEC's response was to a Freedom of Information request by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, PTCIJ. UBEC is the implementing agency for the construction of the new classrooms allocated to the two schools.

Responding to the request, UBEC revealed that N11.6 million (N11,580,000) was released for the project, but all was spent on the construction of the two classrooms at Alaafin High School, Oyo. The project was awarded to Heavens Global Concepts LTD.

The agency said it did not award any contract for the project in Methodist Secondary School, Fiditi under the 2016 constituency projects.

"The commission wishes to acknowledge your effort in following up on executed developmental projects carried out by government," a reply to PTCIJ by UBEC stated.

"Please find the details of funds released for the construction of two classrooms at Alaafin High School, Oyo under the 2016 Constituency projects. Similarly, UBEC did not award any contract for the construction of classrooms in Methodist Secondary School, Fiditi under 2016 constituency project".

However, while there might have been no wrongdoing or misappropriation of funds, parents of the Fiditi school continue to lament the situation there.

"We are fed up on the issue of this project. Why is our case different?" Mr. Olanipekun said.

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