A civil society group under the aegis of Empowerment for Unemployed Youth Initiative (EUYI) has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), against Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki over the alleged diversion of a World Bank loan and other funds meant to improve the education system in the state.
The group accused Governor Obaseki, Edo State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Joan Oviawe and the Chairperson of Edo State Universal Basic Education Board, Mrs. Ozavize Salam, of diverting the sum of $75 million World Bank loan and another N129.12 billion approved for the education sector in the state.
In the petition addressed to the Chairman of the EFCC and signed by its National Coordinator, Danesi Momoh Prince and the Director of Research, Documentation and Programmes, Igwe Ude-Umanta, EUYI said that the state of public education in the state, in spite of the billions of Naira budgeted in the past seven years, is a social menace in waiting.
The group stated that on October 23, a disheartening and tearful video of public primary and secondary schools in the state “where students learn or unlearn and write their tests and examinations sitting on concrete bare floors hit the internet, attracting global opprobrium”.
It said, “It is the story of a totally failed public education system in the entire State. This led to reconfirmation, assessment and further investigation of the state of affairs by our team. Our findings compel this petition which is a matter of patriotism, service to humanity and fear of God.”
According to EUYI, “The Edo State Government under Mr. Godwin Obaseki, obtained a $75 Million Dollars loan from the World Bank to uplift Education under the pilot scheme of Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST)”.
It continued, “Also, a breakdown of the Education Budget in Edo State since 2016 shows that a total budget of N129.12 billion has been spent without any verifiable infrastructure in the schools to justify this huge amount.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the following is a breakdown of the budget performance: 2016 – N10.06 billion; 2017 – N4.75 billion; 2018 – N5.70 billion; 2019 – N5.28 billion; 2020 – N17.04 billion; 2021 – N21.03 billion; 2022 – N31.04 billion; 2023 – 33.02 billion.
“In Edo State Universal Basic Education Board in particular, the approved Capital Budget is as follows: 2018 – N4.67 billion; 2019 – N4.62 billion; 2020 – N8.03 billion; 2021 – N6.42 billion; 2022 – N6.27 billion; 2023 – N7.23 billion.”
The group further said the question it wants the EFCC “to ask these officers involved (we understand that Mr. Obaseki still enjoys immunity) is, where are these monies since there are no verifiable projects on ground?”
“Experts suggest that less than N10 million or about N15 million in Nigeria’s usually inflated contract sums can renovate and furnish 1 Block of 6 Classrooms with staff offices and toilets.
It said, “This means that the State Universal Education Board (SUBEB) alone could have done 2,482 blocks of 6 classrooms with its N37.24 billion Capital Expenditure Estimates between 2018 to 2023 if the above budget of SUBEB was not diverted or stolen.
“We appeal to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under your able leadership to carry out a thorough investigation on where the education expenditures of Edo State were channeled to under the Godwin Obaseki Administration.
“One thing we are certain about is that this investigation will prove that these monies were either diverted to private pockets or other phantom programmes other than what they were meant for. And it is our fervent prayer and hope that this will be investigated and the culprits prosecuted appropriately.
“There are allegations that over N5 billion has been frittered away on what the State Government called Education Consultancy. One of such consultancies is the hiring of one Mrs. Chinelo Adaobi to conduct the Primary School Leaving Certificate Examination.
“It failed woefully. Parents had to provide materials, tables and chairs for their wards to write the examination. It was a scandalous failure. And these are the kind of guises Edo State Education System funds are squandered on.”
EUYI said the EFCC “must also note that once public officers start to lie willfully on the state of affairs, there is an attempt to cover up corruption. In April 2021, Mrs. Joan Oviawe who was then SUBEB Chairperson deceived the public that she had spent over N6 billion renovating and equipping public schools in Edo State.
“In fact, she said that over 400 Blocks of Classrooms were done and that only 186 Primary schools were yet to be linked to the EdoBEST. She further told the public that they have hired 11,000 teachers and were targeting another 3000 graduates.
“This cannot be true as the list of schools in just Edo Central and North without any presence of Government and teachers are more than 186. That is, even if no other Block of Classrooms had been added since April 2021, even now, that statement shows that monies have been diverted and the public is being deceived.”
The group stressed that the EdoBEST in itself “appears to be a deliberate organized fraud,” as “most public schools in Edo State that have some semblance of life are the ones sustained by community efforts and Old School Associations”.
“Most schools in Edo do not have up to five (5) staff in Government Payroll. Some classrooms are used for defecation and smoking by touts and hoodlums. That is the true state of affairs in a state that has spent over N37 billion on capital expenditure on Basic Education alone.
“We urge you to ensure justice for those kids who are subjected to dehumanization in the course of acquiring education by a system that lies that all is well after the diversion of development funds.
“It is also justice for the society who will suffer the outcome of children who were unlearned in the name of learning,” it said.
Efforts to reach the Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media Projects, Crusoe Osagie, failed as he did not answer his calls. He also did not reply to text messages sent to him, seeking his reaction to the allegations against the governor. [Credit: SaharaReporters, except rejigged headline]