The Chairman of Nasarawa State Universal Basic Education Board, Mohammed Dan’azumi, in this interview with Igbawase Ukumba, confirmed that the board has accessed N5 billion matching grant from the Universal Basic Education Commission. He said the funds will have a positive impact on all local government areas, just as he highlighted his achievements so far. Excerpts:
Recently, Governor Abdullahi Sule at a public function disclosed that the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) has accessed N5 billion from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Can you confirm that?
Confirmed; we have received N5 billion as matching grant for the last quarter of 2016. Because in the last administration, we received a matching grant that had been outstanding for 2012 to the third quarter of 2016. So following the directive of the president, as you are all aware, all states with outstanding matching grants, the president directed that monies should be deducted from the Paris Club and matched to the money available at UBEC to the states that do not pay for these monies.
In my state, as directed by the president, we can confirm to you that we are in receipt of that fund. As of now, we are in process because the utilisation has to be in accordance with the Public Procurement Act 2007. Any moment from now, we will advertise, calling for tenders and we finalise the process and do the award.
How would you react to rumours making the rounds that your office has been on the watch of the EFCC for some time now on allegations of inflating contracts?
Well, I think we can see that as a mere allegation or people trying to smear the administration because the way we do our contracts, we go by the guidelines by UBEC. And if you access any fund, before you access it you must at least do your needs assessment to provide an action plan which will be approved by UBEC. And for you to go by it religiously, you must sign an agreement. So the money for each contract is contained in the action plan. There is no way you will inflate it or reduce it. So for anyone to come and say we inflated money for contract or short changed somebody, I think it is a blunted lie.
Since I came to this office, anti-graft organisations come here on their routine assignment just as UBEC comes to check our books to see whether we do things in compliance with the guidelines, that’s all. For anybody to say something outside what I am saying, I think that is their own issue. But I think if EFCC is in the state, I don’t know. I have not seen anyone.
Have you embarked on transformation of schools since your assumption of office? If yes, what are the cost implications?
Before this administration, the last administration intervened may be two times by matching the available force and then accessed so that we take on infrastructures in our various schools. The first was in 2011. We couldn’t access founds in 2010, but the then governor came and released some grants that we were able to match. And the second was in 2012, as I said earlier. Put together, we have close to about N11 billion.
And I think a number of new classroom constructions, including storey buildings; for the first time we are having storey buildings in primary schools in our state. We have four-classroom blocks, three-classroom blocks, two-classroom blocks with offices. Also there were renovations of all structures that were highly dilapidated. Boreholes were also constructed and toilets. These are across the state totalling over 500 or there about. I know the people of Nasarawa State really appreciated the ex-governor for what he has done to this state and these things are evenly distributed. There was no kind of discrimination in the spread of the projects. If you go to every nooks and crannies, you will see new buildings courtesy the past administration.
I think the present administration is in line with what the then governor did and I think it is going to be continuity. Even this intervention that we have just received N5 billion, it is going to be in every local government area. There is going to be new constructions, renovations, toilet provisions and boreholes under this intervention that we are going to embark on very soon. So there are a lot of transformations. It is just like innovation that has come to the state.
It is in the public domain that Nasarawa SUBEB trained 1,000 teachers with N45 million in one week. Therefore, is it true that the training took place and such amount of money was expended on the training?
This training is not sponsored by the state, it is sponsored by UBEC. It is something that is done annually. We were only given the money, but before the money is released to you, you must have an action plan because you make those things according to standard; World Bank standard. They don’t just release money to you. You must prepare an action plan; the number of people to attend the training; how the training will be conducted; feeding throughout the training, who are the vendors. You are going to spell out everything and give them for approval. And then during the training, they come down to supervise for themselves and then report back.
So any state that defaults what is there in the action plan stands to lose those for training. So I think since the state has been benefiting from this year in year out, I don’t think the state defaulted in that respect. There are different types of trainings based on teacher development training; it is not a single training. It is across the state; every local government area you go, you will see teachers having different types of training. Well, you cannot just say one week, the training is more than one week.
Talking about standard, there were reports that the storey building built for schools across the state were substandard as they were built without contract specifications. What is your take on that?
That is an allegation, but for every building, we have a plan of the building and everything. After all, consultants are engaged in all the buildings we do. They are consultants to the state not only SUBEB. We have a consultant who has been a lecturer in the polytechnic. If you go we show you every plan about every building and you will see what is provided there. I want to tell you that I do go out for supervision myself. There can never be any storey building without pillars and it stands.
When you say some contractors did substandard job, it is different from a building with no pillar. The unfortunate thing is that this thing happened when I was not here. And we came, we got the report, we directed for every test of all the buildings. Some failed the test, and these are the ones you are talking about now. So by that time, every money meant for the contractors was paid. So you have nothing to do about it than to just take rehabilitation. And that was what we did so that we can maintain the buildings for our children to use.
Governor Abdullahi has repeatedly announced his intention to withdraw the Almajiris from the streets of the state. What role would SUBEB play to actualise the governor’s plan considering the availability of a bilingual programme in the state which could serve as an important avenue for that purpose?
Even before the coming of bilingual programme, there has been this Almajiri programme in UBEC vis-à-vis SUBEB with particular reference to northern Nigeria. With this, schools were built such that Almajiris will be taken off the streets. Here in Nasarawa State, a clear example is that of Rinze where the Command Secondary School is now.
When that school was built, I think I was not here then, but the then chairman made a clear statement in taking statistics of Almajiris within those areas; the Akwanga areas and they were transferred to that school. Unfortunately and for reasons best known to mallams (instructors) after the children were taken to those schools; they were being fed so that they can be receiving their Koranic education in line with the western education. But along the line, the children just disappeared one by one, the place was left empty.
And the unfortunate thing is that most of these children are not children from Nasarawa State, so control over them sometimes used to be very difficult. I used to have meetings with them. Sometimes if I go out to observe my prayers, I sit down with them, discuss with them. You will see that the children want to enrol in our conventional schools, but it appears the instructors would not allow them because they are used as source of revenue which is very pathetic. But I am happy the government is taking very serious measures to see that these children are taken off the streets.
At least plans are in the pipeline here in Nasarawa, I think it is right from the federal government; we are in discussion even though things are not concluded, but serious measures are been taken in addition to what the bilingual programme would be doing for the nation to see that these children are no longer on our streets.