UBEC Contract Scam: Why Out-Of-School Pupils Increase In Nigeria

20 years after the introduction of the Universal Basic Education Act, the commissions’ failure to implement the Act has pushed the number of out-of- school children from 6.6million to 13.5million. In his trip to Kano; a state noted for high number of out-of-school children, VICTOR EMERUWA, accompanied by a certified quantity surveyor, reports how UBEC funds is fleeced through execution of substandard projects.

Project location: Shayi Primary School, Rano Local Government Area, Kano State, Project type: construction of 2 compartment VIP dry toilet blocks- ESSPIN Type. Those were the specifications contained in the 2015 Universal Basic Education, UBE, Action Plan for Kano State. Project code: PRY/NC/9; this project is expected to cost the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty Eight Naira Only (N960,558.00). The project is to be completed within six weeks from date of contract award and release of mobilisation fee to contractors.

The construction of VIP toilet in Shayi Primary School, Rano is part of the several projects captured in the UBE 2015 Action Plan for Kano with a total approved sum of N1,753,513,513.52 for projects to be executed in 2015. The funds covered three main components: Construction works budget is N1, 438,373,714.62 while Renovation works is at the cost of N57, 615,945.18, Furniture and Equipment: N222, 485,125.00 and N35, 035,728.72 as fee for the mandatory 2% deduction by SUBEB for monitoring and supervision.  As captured on UBEC website, the 2015 projects in Kano was 100% completed.

On the site: Shayi Primary School does not exist in Rano Local Government Area of Kano State. Indigenes of Rano confirmed to this reporter that among many primary schools in the entire Local Government, none is known to be Shayi. Wali Ado Rano, an indigene of Rano who volunteered to take this reporter on a tour of the community, convincingly maintained that Shayi Primary does not exist in the entire communities or wards in Rano Local Government.

“I am an indigene of Rano; I am a son of the soil here; I was born and I grew up here, I have not heard of any community or school called Shayi here in Rano,” Wali maintained. As if to put a final quench to doubt, he offered to arrange a visit to the newly installed Emir.

His Royal Highness, Emir Tafida Abubakar Ila is one of the recently appointed Emirs in Kano State. It was not a good day to visit the Emir, he was bereaved of his son a day earlier, but he was gracious to speak on issues of education because according to Wali, the Emir prioritizes education of his people and will be pursuing that agenda as the Emir of Rano Emirate.

The Emir, surrounded by his Ward Heads and a throng of visitors insisted that there is no such primary school as Shayi Primary School. His words were brief and precise: “I have asked my Ward Heads to inquire about Shayi Primary School. There is no such School in Rano,” the Emir said.

When reached for clarification, the Director of Physical Planning in Kano SUBEB office, Bashir Dahiru informed the reporter that he was not in charge at the time but promised to investigate and get back with his findings but he did not get back before the time of publishing. But Dahiru provides a hint that may give an insight into project execution and contractor relation: “As you know, contractors are in business to make money but as civil servants, we protect the interest of the public and also protect the interest of the contractors,” he said. On the poor quality of work, Dahiru said: “I can’t say that our workmanship is excellent but it is not too bad,” he quips.

Dahiru will not divulge the pay outs demanded from contractors before and after contract awards but a competent insider in Kano State Universal Basic Education revealed that contractors pay huge sums of money to civil servants and that accounts for the poor quality of work delivered. “I can tell you categorically that the contractors pay heavy sums of money which is why the jobs are compromised,” our inside sources who begged to be protected revealed.

Execution of substandard projects, which falls below professional standard or complete insertion of project as the case is with Shayi is synonymous with projects executed under the UBEC/SUBEB. Although contract awards are usually published and offered to ‘qualified’ contractors, there are unwritten terms which make quality execution near impossible.

Accompanied by a certified quantity surveyor, Ibrahim Haruna, (not real names) this reporter uncovered many poorly executed projects, far below acceptable professional standards and in many instances structures almost yielding to collapse for poor construction.

Like Shayi Primary School, the construction of boundary fence captured under project code PRM/NC/23 for Garko Special Primary School was unidentified. The boundary fence has a budget of N8,040,000.00. But Ihya’Us Primary School located at Garko was completed but below professional quality.

The project is construction of four classrooms storey building with Terrazo floor at the contract sum of N16,007,000.00. An independent valuation revealed that; considering the low quality of the construction material used in construction, the quantified value of the project is N5,750,000.00. The building which was delivered in the 3rd quarter of 2016 is already looking old and dilapidated with cracked wall, patched floors and leaking roofs.

The three bedroom classroom blocks at Komau Normadic Primary School in Bichi Local Government is cracking and gradually caving in, the head teacher who refused to make comments, looked perplexed.

He only managed to muster a few words: “Students don’t come to school because of poor facilities,” he remarked. The head teacher is the only teacher in the school population of 284 students which explains why he was agitated by the inquisition; he appeared poorly equipped to teach students and could hardly engage in a long conversation in English language.

Under project code: PRY/NC/030, the school got UBEC approval for construction of the 3 classrooms blocks at the cost of N8.54m but the quality of work cannot pass any quality construction test. Independent valuation of the project gave an actual value to be about N2.8m.


Girls Junior Secondary School, Faram Kibiya

Girls Junior Secondary School (GJSS), Faram, Kibiya requires a structural reinforcement. A section of the 4 class room storey blocks is completely cracked, showing signs of weakness. The independent quantity survey warned that if nothing is done to reinforce the building, it may give way in no distant time. The project is covered under the UBE Action Plan project code: JSS/NC/05, commissioned at a project sum of 16.07milllion. But the real value of the construction is N8.47m. The actual priority for this school aside the need for quality classroom is the teaching staff. Only six teachers are available for a student population of 365 girls; a poor ratio of one teacher to over 60 students.


Gwammaja Model Primary School, Dala

In Gwammaja Model Primary School, Dala, it is 29 teachers to 1,286 students. The teaching quality is as low as the morale from teachers to students. The obviously crowded classroom population made learning difficult but the construction of UBE/SUBEB 6 classroom office blocks has eased that difficulty.

Like many other construction projects, the construction quality does not pass the professional quality of a habitable structure, the windows are poorly placed, the electrical wiring are not properly fixed. The project, with project code: PRY/NC/1 was awarded at the cost of N25.98m. Based on independent valuation its actual value is N9.17m.

Rimaye Primary School, Ungogo

At Rimaye Primary School, Ungogo, there are two projects approved for the school: construction of two VIP dry toilets to serve the school population of 1,449 pupils and six teachers and construction of four classroom storey blocks with offices. While the VIP toilet is awarded for N960,558.00, the classroom construction is at N16.07m.

Meanwhile, this building requires urgent attention because of signs of imminent collapse. The staircase is shaky, the classroom roof is leaking, the floor is broken and there are massive wall cracks. The two VIP toilets have the project code: SUBEB/UBE/2015/TL/7, while the project code for the classroom construction is: SUBEB/UBE/15/PS/4/CB/STR/5.

The actual cost based on independent quantified value for the two VIP toilets is N194,000 only and the value for the classroom construction is at N6.25m only.

Construction of boundary fence at the contract award sum of N14.34m is not a priority for the 5,100 pupils of Gaida Makada primary school at kumbotso. Only 40 teaching staffers serve the pupils of this school. The classroom condition is not conducive for learning as majority of the pupils are cramped on the broken floor of the classroom. The quantified value of the boundary fence, project code: PRY/NC/24 is N4.7m only.

The four classroom storey block with office at the NYSC Model Primary School at Tundun Wada requires urgent renovation, particularly the roofing and broken staircase. Contract award approved by UBE/SUBEB at the sum of N16.07m, the actual quantified value of the construction with project code: PRY/NC/1/PRY/NC/26 is N7.75m.

The project timeline of six weeks on most of the construction creates reasons for suspicion. For instance the same timeline of six weeks approved for construction of VIP toilets is also same timeline approved for four classroom storey building. The independent project valuation assigned to this reporter observes that it is not practicable to deliver a standard four classroom story building in six weeks.


Hundreds of broken, abandoned furniture at Gwale Model Primary School

The furniture supply of three seater desks at unit cost of N25,000 per pair is also of a very low quality that the desks break down from two weeks of supply. This reporter witnessed hundreds of abandoned desks across the schools. “Most of the desks supplied were substandard,” according to Hassan Yahaya, Head Teacher at Gwale Model Primary School. “The desks supplied only last a few weeks, we have a carpenter who comes to the school to do repairs of the desk because once it breaks, we fear that it may injure the children. We quickly remove the broken ones and pay the carpenter to put additional plank to make them stronger,” said Yahaya.

When asked to call the carpenter, Yahaya motioned to a corner of the school which has literally turned to a carpentry workshop. The carpenter, Mustafa confirmed that the quality of wood and the iron rod used to support the base of the desk is a bad idea because it can injure the users. He boasts to deliver high quality long lasting desks with a fee below N10,000.



Why UBEC failed to deliver its mandate

When the UBEC Act was introduced in 1999, it was in response to the growing number of out-of-school children which was about 6.6million at the time. In 2019, 20 years after the introduction of the Act, the number of out-of-school children, have more than doubled.

According to the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) report of 2018, there are about 13.5million out of school children in Nigeria.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo during his administration designed the UBEC Act to radically transform the educational system through expanding the coverage for compulsory primary and junior secondary education to every nook and cranny of the country.

The UBEC Act which was enacted into law in 2004 has a clear mandate to provide free, compulsory and qualitative education through improved infrastructure and teaching quality. Based on the content of the Act, each state of the federation shall domesticate the Act and make it Law in their various states.

Although the Act is domesticated in all 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), it is not enforced as stipulated in the document.

All 36 states including the FCT are eager about receiving the assigned UBEC funds after showing deposit of a counterpart funding. The aspect of the Act which compels state government to enforce free and compulsory education is not strictly complied.

Most public primary and secondary schools have one form of levy or another imposed on pupils, an action which is viewed under the UBEC Act as an offence.

Provisions of the UBEC Act

In section 3 sub-section (2), UBEC Act states that: “A person who receives or obtains any fee contrary to the provisions of the sub-section (1) of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N10,000 or imprisonment for a term of three months or both.

Sub-section (1) of the Act states that: “Every government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education of primary and junior secondary school age.

It also states that: “Every parent shall ensure his child or ward attends and completes primary school education and junior secondary school education.” And that “Stakeholders in education in a Local Government Area shall ensure that every parent or person who has the care and custody of a child performs the duty imposed on him under section (2) of the Act.

Section four of the Act stipulates thus: “A parent who contravenes section 2 (2) of this Act commits an offence and is liable to (A) be reprimanded; (B) on second conviction While failure to enforce section (2) of the Act is a punishable offence”, This Act is flouted by schools visited by this reporter in Kano and arguably so in many public primary and junior secondary schools across the country. The number of out-of-school children alone renders the Act non- performing.

A visit to Bompai Police station in Kano to inquire if any parent or caregiver has been arrested for non-compliance to the law, the Police Public Relation Officer, Abdulahi Haruna appeared startled at the inquisition. “What does the police have to do with it?” He queried.

Haruna said he needed permission to be able to make official statement but categorically said there are no such records. “The police here in Kano do not make such arrest,” he said.

While the law is clear about penalties for non compliance, it failed to envisage the enormity of facilities required to educate every child of school age in all states of the federation.

Ahmed Hassan, 75, the Parents Teachers Association ( PTA), Chairman of Gwale Model School points at the hole in the UBEC Act. He said: “If all the 13million out-of-school children are to get back to school, where is the facility to cater for them?

“You cannot make arrest when you have not thoroughly done what you are supposed to do. The UBE policy is wrong!” he quips, adding that, “If you want to punish, you must first provide at least the working tools. No chalk, no provision of basic learning materials, the school environment itself is disincentive because of poor class environment and the dilapidated buildings,” Haruna complained.

Heap of broken furniture

Hassan knows better, as PTA chairman for more than five years. He is faced with the reality on ground: “We contribute money to repair broken desk and chairs, we contribute money to buy uniform for children whose parents cannot afford,” he explained.

The PTA Chairman argued further that the basic learning tools are not available in the schools around Gwale environs.

Ado Chiroma is the Head Teacher of Gwale Special School. He corroborated with Hassan’s position: “We have to task the teachers to pay N100 each for use to buy chalks,” said Chiroma.

“You can see the poor quality of the school building, the poor learning and class environment, demotivates students from attending classes,” he said, pointing to a cracked wall within the primary 2 class, where half of the students take their space on a broken dusty floor.


Gwale Special School

In Gwale Special School, an average teaching staff earns N35,000 and each of the 36 teaching staff contributes the sum of N100 monthly to buy chalk. The pupils are asked to come to school with broom which the Head Teacher said is however not compulsory. Meanwhile, the UBEC Act covers an all expenses paid education for the period of six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary education. Findings indicate however that some forms of indirect levies are paid by the pupils’ guardians or parents associations.

Pupils at Gwale
Pupils at Gwale Special School

The School Based Management Committee (SBMC), is one system introduced by organised non-profit organisations in Kano State to address issues of out-of-school children through community advocacy and performance evaluation of school standards.

The coordinator of the SBMC in Kano State, Tijani Haladu adds his experience in the educational system in Kano to the quest for a more radical approach to ending the poor access and qualitative education in Nigeria.

Haladu said the major problem is “lack of political will.” He thinks the government is too far away from the realities. “If the governor of a state goes to the field himself to see the realities, surely things will change but appointing people who do not tell them the way things are, contribute to the problem of urgency,” he said.

With more than N200bn so far disbursed to UBEC, still, there is gross shortage of quality facilities, dilapidated and uninhabitable class rooms and poor quality teaching staff across the country’s primary and junior secondary schools. This questions the effectiveness of the Act in addressing the challenges of access to quality education in Nigeria.

UBEC is backed with the necessary financial commitment by dedicating 2% of the nation’s Consolidated Revenue Fund. From the more than N200bn committed to the programme, only N140bn has been accessed by the states. Haladu says the value in terms of quality classrooms, learning environment and furniture is very poor.

“The leadership needs to have a real conversation if the problem of education in Nigeria must be addressed. What is happening now is beyond the capacity of UBE programme to handle” he said. The truth is that the Act has been unable to tackle the very essence of its establishment.

In realisation of the systemic corruption within UBEC, the commission has signed a technical partnership with the Mac Arthur Foundation which is intended at tackling incidences of corruption through activation of a process known as Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS).

Massive cracks on classroom wall
Massive cracks on classroom wall

Aside being entangled in the mesh of questionable act of corruption, UBEC is a test of Nigeria’s law enforcement and regulation system, like the Child Right Act of 2003; the laws do not pass the enforcement mark.

It appears in many instances that the purposes for which such laws were enacted become unsolved or gets the situation even worse compared to when the laws were passed. The UBEC Act which should cut the number of out-of-school children has achieved the reverse; doubling the number of-out-of school children by more than 100 percent within 20 years of the introduction of the legislation.

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