This school project in Maiduguri was fully funded but no single block was provided 4yrs after

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BY NEWS EDITOR, DECEMBER 19, 2023 | 01:50 AM


Introduction:

This report investigates the alleged misappropriation of public funds allocated for the construction of three classroom blocks at Salam Integrated School in Maiduguri, Borno State. The project, awarded in 2019 to Mainstream Contractors Nigeria Limited for N11.3 million, remains uncompleted to this day.

Background:

In 2019, the Shagari Lowcost community, lacking a public school for their children, built Salam Integrated School through communal effort and philanthropy.

The community, which was built as a part of federal government’s housing program, is more than four decades ago and has a population of about 200 households. It is located outskirts of the state capital.

Shagari Low Cost has however become a den for prostitutes, where young boys and girls, barely educated, engage in commercial sex activities. This has continued to worry parents who are raising their children within the axis.

Halima Abdul, a resident said ‘we suffered years of torment and misery but with what we are seeing today, normalcy is setting,’ after the place was raided by security operatives. Solomon Joseph also described the raid as one of the best things that happened to the community.

This, among other things, has made parents keen on getting quality education for their children as a way to prevent them from taking the path of commercial sex and other social vices. However, they lack public schools, which persuaded them to set up commercial and private schools. Salam Integrated School is one of them, built in 2009 as a community school by concerned parents, philanthropist and other members of the community. Today it has a student population of 158 students even though that is small comparative to the size of the community.

But the school could not do beyond that, given its financial status and infrastructure deficiencies.

'Our school bus here is too small, too old; it cannot go far or carry many people. We are just managing it.

'We are not printing our examination question papers in our school because we don't have the printing equipment, which is also a big problem for us. 'Many people want to enroll their children in our school, but our school bus cannot go far and cannot carry many people. Even though they are children, it is also a big problem for us,' Malam Mala Bukar, the school’s chairman explained.

The N6, 000 school fee paid per term cannot meet all the school’s needs.

In 2019, Nigerian House of Representatives member, Abdulkadir Rahis attempted to wade into the matter by securing a constituency project for the construction of a block of three classrooms.

The contract was awarded to Mainstream Contractors Nigeria Limited and placed under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Works.

The project would have addressed a major infrastructure problem in the school and accommodate more students.

Evidence of Unfulfilled Project:

However, our reporter visited the school and found no any construction activity. Neither the classrooms nor the contractor were present on-site four years after award of contract.

The reporter also discovered through the Open Treasury Portal that the entire contract sum had been paid to the contractor.

An interaction with the school officials and community members revealed that they were completely unaware of the project.

They are unaware of the nature of the contract, the contract sum and everything related to it, emphasizing that it would have been a huge relief to them if it was carried out.

Potential Public Procurement Violations:

The contractor's failure to mobilize to site after four years of contract award and release of full payment raises suspicion of potential contract mismanagement.

In Nigeria, public procurement laws prohibit the full release of funds before completion of contract.

Full payment is subject to completion of the work and issuance of certificate of completion by the supervising ministry.

However, the ministry could not offer any explanation as to how it happened.

An FOI request served to the ministry has not been responded to after several weeks.

The absence of communication from the responsible ministry and the contractor further intensifies concerns about transparency and accountability.

The payment of the full contract sum despite no progress on the project suggests a possible misappropriation of public funds.

Unfulfilled Promise and Impact on Community:

The unbuilt classrooms not only deprive the community of much-needed educational facilities but also betray the trust placed in government officials and public procurement processes. Additionally, the financial burden of self-construction further disadvantages the community.

Attempts to Seek Information:

The reporter's FOI request to the responsible ministry went unanswered for over two months, further raising concerns about transparency and accountability.

Attempts to visit and/or contact the contractor proved unsuccessful. The registered address was found to be inaccessible, and no functional phone number or email address was available. An email address (mainstreamcontractors@yahoo.com) obtained online is similarly inaccurate as mails sent failed to deliver.

Similarly, when our reporter and editor contacted the lawmaker, he did not offer any explanation. He told the reporter to call his other line and put off the call.

Absolute contravention of PPL 2007

Public Procurement Law, PPL 2007, the law guiding all public procurement in Nigeria is very clear about contract execution.

Section 35 (2) of the PPL 2007 states:' once a mobilization fee has been paid to any supplier or contractor, no further payment shall be made to the supplier or contractor without an interim performance certificate issued in accordance with the contract agreement.'

And section 58 (4) of the Public Procurement, 2007, said all persons in whose hands public funds may be entrusted for whatever purpose should bear in mind that its utilization should be judicious.

Conclusion:

The unfulfilled classroom project raises serious concerns about violations of public procurement regulations. The lack of progress, combined with the absence of communication and the unclear whereabouts of the contractor, points towards mismanagement and possible misappropriation of funds. Further investigation is necessary to ensure accountability and address the legitimate educational needs of the Shagari Lowcost community.

Section 58 (6) of PPL 2007 said Any legal person that contravenes any provision of this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a cumulative penalty of debarment from all public procurements for a period not less than 5 calendar.

While Section 58 (5) of the PPL 2007 said any person who while carrying out his duties as an officer of the Bureau, or any procuring entity who contravenes any provision of this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a cumulative punishment of:

(a) a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 calendar years without any option of fine ; and (b) summary dismissal from government services.


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