In this concluding part of the investigation into the Federal Government’s multi-billion naira unity schools’ security infrastructure project, CHINWE AGBEZE, makes more startling revelations

Ebonyi State: Shoddy jobs everywhere

It was 9am on Thursday, May 9, 2019, when this reporter arrived at Federal Government Girls’ College, Ezzamgbo, in Ebonyi State. She spent the next 45 minutes checking out the security gadgets that were installed in the school.

First, the reporter noticed that the school’s perimeter fence and barbed wiring had been done. Close to the gate is a new solar streetlight and opposite the administration block, which was a short walk from the gate, was another solar streetlight.

Moving from the gate towards the ICT centre, kitchen, dining hall, college clinic, staff quarters and dormitories, the reporter counted 10 solar streetlights. But no CCTV camera was seen. Also, there was no project signpost anywhere around the school.

To get more details about the security project, the reporter approached Mrs. Ngozi Onyekwum, the school principal, but, she said she had no idea.

“I don’t know anything about the project,” Onyekwum said. “I was transferred here about two months ago. The principal that should know about the project has retired.”

Immediately, she rang the bursar to find out what he knew about the project, and in a few minutes he was in her office.

According to Mr. Dennis Ede, the bursar, the contractor reported to the school in late December 2018, when the school was on holiday.

Ede said: “By the time we resumed, they had roofed the gate house, installed solar streetlights, and put little barbed wire on the fence because part of our fence had barbed wire. They did the project in a hurry.”

The principal chipped in that she “noticed that one of the streetlights didn’t function last night.”

Then, the bursar volunteered to take the reporter around the school to check the level of work done.

Now on site, Ede said: “The school constructed part of the fence and put barbed wire on it. The contractor only did a little portion. But, I don’t know the exact length they covered. The wires on the fence mounted by the contractor were shabbily done.

“The workers used ordinary sand from the farmland without cement to hang the barbed wire. When the wind blew, the wires fell off,” the bursar said.

He added that “the length of the barbed wire was very small.” “They need to do something about it. But, we don’t have the contractor’s phone number.”

Mrs. Irene Ifejika, retired principal of the school, was contacted to garner more facts.

“The ministry asked us to write all we needed and forward to them through the Ministry of Works. One of the things we requested for was the completion of the fence and barbed wiring, which were done halfway. The fence was old and very low. We needed to raise it because the school was porous,” she explained, continuing: “For two years, perimeter fencing and barbed wiring of the school was awarded in the capital project, but it wasn’t completed. The third year, the fence did not show up in the budget. Then I heard the ministry sent a contractor. But when he came to the school, I was away on a workshop. I never met him.”

Ifejika referred the reporter to Benjamin Dawhare, the project officer of the school for official details.

According to the bill of quantities (BOQ) obtained by this reporter, N41,805,818.78 was awarded to Blue Anchor Agency Limited to provide 10 solar streetlights, complete the fence and barbed wire at FGGC, Ezzamgbo.

A Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) search on Blue Anchor Agency Limited showed that the company, which was incorporated on May 29, 1997, has seven directors: Agupusi Donatus, Agupusi Chioma, Agupusi Chizua, Agupusi Uzochukwu, Agupusi Chinenye, Okpala Nzubechukwu and Okpala Ogechi.

An analysis of the company’s registration details revealed that the company has absolutely no business with building or security.

According to details filed with the CAC, the main objective of the company is “to carry on business of general contractors, importers and exporters of general goods, general merchants, suppliers of general goods, buying agents, clearing and forwarding agents, licensed custom agents, international trade, commission agents, manufacturers’ representatives and merchandise of every description whether consumable items or not.”

Also, no invitation for bids from prospective contractors was published, thereby violating Section 25(2)(ii) of the Public Procurement Act (PPA) 2007.

The law says: “the invitation for bids shall be advertised on the notice board of the procuring entity, any official websites of the procuring entity, at least two national newspapers, and in the procurement journal not less than six weeks before the deadline for submission of the bids for the goods and works.”

Dawhare told Daily Sun: “The contractor hurriedly did the whole project in December 2018. Where we have an issue is in the number of solar streetlights. We complained about the number of streetlights, but the contractor said ours was 10.”

According to him, “we had an existing fence. The contractor raised 60 per cent of the fence and completed the barbed wire. He did the coping, but it fell off. I complained to him two months ago, and he said he would come.”

This reporter reached out to Michael Aikpitanyi, the contractor for the project, to know when he plans to fix the coping.

“I did my job according to the scope I was given. I finished the job over four months ago, and I have been paid,” he told this reporter on May 27. “There is a retention of 5 per cent and in a month or two from now, it will be due. When retention comes, we will fix it before anyone will issue me a letter to clear my retention.”

He also hinted that: “The deputy director in charge of procurement at the Federal Ministry of Education is my friend, my personal friend. I will be at the ministry later today or tomorrow.”

Federal Government College, Okposi

A stroll around the premises showed that the school was yet to benefit from the security infrastructure project. The fence was low and had no barbed wires. Also, there were no CCTV cameras anywhere in the school.

Solar streetlights were also nowhere in sight. All the school had was an LED lamp fastened to an electric pole.

The principal was not around when this reporter visited the school.

“We only have lights inside the hostels, and around the dining hall,” said a teacher who identified herself simply as Mrs. Obi. “We heard the ministry gave some schools lights and cameras. Maybe they are doing it batch by batch. I believe they’ll get to our school soon.”

Another teacher said: “The problem is from the headquarters. After bidding, they will stay in Abuja and award the contract to another person. All the contracts are indirectly awarded to the directors and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

Federal Ministry of Education, Abakaliki

Leaving FGC Okposi, this reporter headed to Federal Ministry of Education in Abakaliki for more details on the school security project.

On getting to the derelict building that served as the ministry, the reporter was told that the “madam” was in Nasarawa for a seminar.

When Mrs. Patricia Okpalanze, the person in charge, was contacted on phone, she could not hide her irritation.

She said: “Any information you want to get about that project, you’ll get it from our office in Abuja or you go to the schools. I don’t think there is any need to come here and start asking me such questions.”

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According to one of the staff, Okpalanze was furious because the “ministry neglected us and does not involve us in their activities.”

“You can see the kind of building they kept us in. We don’t know if they have released money to crush this building down,” the staff said.

Imo State: Same old story

On Monday, May 13, 2019, this reporter made a stopover at Federal Government Girls’ College, Owerri, Imo State. Like other schools, the fence there also needed to be fortified. In a walk round the school, the reporter counted about 20 solar streetlights, and spotted seven CCTV cameras. But no project signpost or worker was anywhere in sight.

The principal, Mrs. Stella Azike, said 25 streetlights and 10 CCTV cameras were mounted. But Azike was not satisfied with the project.

She said: “One of the cameras was focused on the road. I told them to remove it because it was of no use there. They removed another one, and put it in the classroom.”

“We told them to change the position of this camera,” Azike said, pointing at one of the cameras on the monitor in her officer. “And we showed them where to install it, but they ran away.”

The vice principal, special duties, who introduced herself as Mrs. Ogueri, offered to take the reporter around the school to inspect the projects.

“They have just finished the installation of 25 solar streetlights,” said Ogueri, during the tour. “But we noticed that the light has one bulb per pole. We thought it would be two bulbs per pole so it could illuminate more areas.”

Documents seen by this reporter showed that 50 units of 12W, 12V polycrystalline solar panel modules with supporting frame (two numbers per pole) were billed at N4.5 million, 50 numbers 12V 300Ah deep life cycle batteries at N7.5m, and 50 pieces of lockable battery cubicle (two numbers per pole) at N4.75m.

“The lights are all working, but centred on one area. The illumination does not go beyond the place it is installed,” the vice principal said, with a worried look on her face.

Ten cameras were installed with the control room in three places — the principal’s office, matron’s office and the gatehouse.

The monitor inside the principal’s office covered six locations, the matron’s focused on two places — the road leading inside the dormitory and in front of her office; and the monitor at the gatehouse captured the road immediately inside the gate and the road outside the gate.

“Someone from the procurement department in Abuja came here with one Kehinde to tell us they had a project to do,” Mrs. Ogueri added.

When Daily Sun contacted Kehinde, the engineer in charge of the project, he said they had concluded the work.

“We finished the work on April 5, and the school is satisfied with the work done,” said Kehinde. “We have done what is on the paper.”

He then referred the reporter to Adeola Amodu, the manager, for more information.

“We installed 24 CCTV cameras, according to what we have in the bill, 25 poles of solar streetlight, 3KVA inverter and one 1.5KVA. What you see in the BOQ is what we have done,” Amodu said. “The school is satisfied with the work because it’s the principal that gave our workers where they fixed the lights and cameras.”

According to the BOQ obtained by this reporter, the sum of N39,662,437.50 was awarded for the provision of 25 solar streetlights, 24 CCTV cameras, 3.5KVA inverters, complete with six batteries, and 1.5KVA inverter, with four batteries.

When asked the name of the company that secured the contract, Amodu said: “Dips XL Plus Limited.”

Again, a CAC search on Dips XL Plus Limited showed that the company had nothing to do with building and construction.

Its registration details revealed the objectives for which the company was established were “to carry out all catering services and event management, including but not limited to supply at event centres, corporate organisation that includes hotels, NGOs, hospitals, public offices and clubs.”

The company, which was incorporated on August 6, 2018, has Maude Nafiu, Sabo Hamisu Yunusa, Ahmed Aliyu Hamza, Garba Saifullahi Dawaki, and Bala Jibrin Sani as its directors.

Also, no invitation to tender was advertised for the projects, and this flouts Section 25(2)(ii) of the Public Procurement Act of 2007.

“They went to the Ministry of Works and told them to certify the project. I told them that they were wasting their time because I have not accepted. They said I should sign, I said, I won’t,” said Mrs. Azike. “I have not certified them o! As we are here now, they said they have finished and they have gone, but I have not certified. We are waiting for them to come back.”

The bursar chipped in: “One morning, some people from the Ministry of Works came here. They told us they were here for certification so that our previous principal could sign. The principal said she won’t sign because the work, according to her, hadn’t been completed.”

When asked how much out of the N39,662,437.50 awarded for the project had been paid, he said he would get the information from the contractor.

The reporter requested for the contractor’s contact details but Amodu refused to give it.

“I handle this project and other education projects he has in Lagos and Ibadan. So, I’ll answer on his behalf,” Amodu said. “His name is Alhaji. That’s what we call him. I’ll ask him if he has received money and call you back.”

Amodu never called back as promised and he refused to pick calls when contacted again.

No security project in FGC, Okigwe

At the Federal Government College, Okigwe, Daily Sun realised that the security infrastructure train was yet to arrive at the school. The principal, Anastasia Opara, was not around when this reporter visited.

After waiting for over an hour, the reporter opted to see the vice principal, special duties, who identified herself as Mrs. Ajoku.

“The ministry said we should give them quotation of the security infrastructure that we wanted government to do for us and submit to them before April 30, 2019,” she explained. “The ministry told us to get in touch with the Ministry of Works so they’ll give us the cost and drawing, if need be. We did all that and submitted before the deadline. But, nothing has been done.”

According to Mrs. Ajoku, the principal and ex-students have been responsible for the facelifts in the school.

“The principal has been renovating everywhere in the school. During our inter-house sports, she painted the school just to make the event colourful,” she said. “The solar streetlights were done by ex-students who graduated in 2014. Our principal also installed floodlights around the classrooms, and the lights shine bright at night.”

She stated further that: “Before we came to this school, no capital project was going on here. It was when the principal was transferred last year that these projects started.”

Pointing at renovated green roofs, which were surrounded by rusty roofs, she said: “Look at the roofs and see the difference. All the renovated roofs were done in 2018. From 2017 backwards, nothing was done in this school.”

•This investigation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting