Cross River Education Projects Undermined By Contract Frauds – Stakeholders Raise Alarm

Cross River State Government and the Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) have been urged to probe procurement violations, abandoned and poorly executed projects littered across the state between 2016 – 2023.

The state basic education board had said it completed 616 infrastructural projects to improve the quality of education of pupils and students. On the contrary, an investigation by THE INVESTIGATOR disclosed that some of the projects are fraught with corruption and different forms of irregularities.

Investigative journalist Jeremiah Archibong gave the explanation during the anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by PRIMORG, on Wednesday, 6 March 2024, in Abuja.

Archibong, whose findings were said to have identified over 20 incidents of fraudulent contract awards, admonished Governor Bassey Otu and the Cross River SUBEB to look into the infractions committed between 2016 and 2023, which continue to affect teaching and learning of pupils and students in the state. It also charged the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to act if the state government fails to show interest.

Archibong stated that the investigation uncovered poor quality infrastructures, millions of naira worth of contracts awarded to companies violating procurement law, no proper need assessment and politicians using their companies to execute projects.

His words: “Out of the 616 projects by SUBEB, I discovered that over 20 contracts were awarded to companies violating procurement law. Some firms were not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Some did not have the professional qualifications to do those jobs, but they were awarded these contracts. You also find a situation where the contract has been completed, but the school has not received it, so it’s locked up.

“For example, At the Police Primary School in Ogoja LGA, from the Head Teacher’s office through other offices to the classrooms, the walls are cracked. The foundation of the building is in trouble as erosion is fast washing it away, and some classrooms are profusely leaking.

“Likewise, at Government Secondary School Ijiman Ugep, Yakurr LGA, the staff rooms, laboratory, and two other classrooms are leaking badly.

“The main staff room has received considerable emergency remediation to hold the building together.

“The Government Primary School Ogbojia, Ogoja LGA operates from dilapidated buildings; when it rains, the classrooms are quickly soaked.

“The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria (PCN) Primary School Mkpani, Yakurr LGA is another school not spared by roof leakages.

“Ngboko & Sons Enterprise was the contractor contracted to rehabilitate four classrooms at Government Secondary School Ijiman Ugep, Yakurr LGA for N14.3 million.

The contract was done but with inferior materials. The contractor only changed the zinc, used the previous wood, and painted the wall after light plastering.

This is to mention a few,” Archibong stressed.

He emphasized that politicians are part of the problem of the educational sector in Cross River, noting that one of the companies that delivered poor-quality projects at one of the schools is currently a serving lawmaker at the Federal House of Representatives.

On his part, a global education advisor, Roland Bassey Igboke, while expressing worry at the rate of corruption ravaging the education sector, called on President Bola Tinubu to declare a state of emergency on primary education in the country.

“We want to see the governor (Bassey Otu) take action. Where will he start first? We leave that to the governor and his advisors to look into and see what they can do.

“President Tinubu can also go ahead and declare a state of emergency in the education sector, especially basic education, because that’s where it starts.”

Igboke noted that contract fraud and irregularities in the education sector exposed in Cross River schools are pervasive nationwide. He opined that the over 10 million out-of-school children in Nigeria today are worsening as a result of insecurity and corruption.

He maintained that the Cross River State government should launch an inquiry into the investigation while urging civil servants to save the system from a lot of malpractices and for citizens to be interested and demand accountability from leaders.

“I want to see improvement from the government, and as well, the government can also create an enabling environment to encourage private sector participation, so they can come in and help in tackling corruption issues,” Igboke stated.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program PRIMORG uses to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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