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INVESTIGATION: Multimillion Naira e-learning centres abandoned, decay amidst shortage of facilities in Kano

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Gwarzo e-learning centre

Nasiru Yusuf

Despite a multimillion-naira contract awarded for the construction of e-learning centres in five local government areas of Kano North Senatorial District, the facilities do not exist and students still travel far distances to prepare and take the University and Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

What are more, investigations show that the major contract was unlawfully awarded to a serving senator, Barau Jibrin, who initiated the constituency project.

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), an agency under the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, in 2015 awarded the contract for the construction of e-learning centres at Gwarzo, Tofa, Bichi, Kabo and Dambatta local governments at the cost of N193, 270,850 as part of the constituency projects in Kano State.

KANO FOCUS reports that the e-learning centres were supposed to provide basic information and communication technology (ICT) services to beneficiaries, especially indigent students who have no access to the internet for their online application, registration and computer-based examinations. Years later, students are still left stranded and have to incur additional travel costs whenever they take online examinations.

Senator sponsors unlawfully get the contract for constituency project

Investigations showed that the NITDA secured approval from the bureau of public procurement for the contract to be awarded through selective bidding and the building job was awarded to Sinti Nigeria Limited, which is owned by Senator Barau Jibrin who facilitated the project. The senator’s children – Shawal Jibrin, Khalil Jibrin and Zainab Jibrin – are listed as directors while he is listed as a shareholder.

Research conducted by the reporter using an online business registration tool, NG-check.com, showed that the company was registered on December 21, 2000, and is located at Plot No. 170, zone A7 M-TEL Street, Wuse ll, Abuja. Its current registration status is unknown, meaning that it has not been filing returns with the CAC.

By using a company in which he has interests or owns to execute a government contract, Senator Jibrin breached Section 5 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, which deals with the conflict of interest. The section says: “A public official shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.”

The senator also breached S 2(b) 5th Schedule Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended which precluded public officials from engaging in or managing private businesses.

The project description

The main contract comprises the construction of five buildings to serve as e-learning centres in five local government secretariats namely Gwarzo, Tofa, Bichi, Kabo and Dambatta. Although there were no details of the selective tendering process, the award was made to Sinti Nigeria Limited, a 2019 report by Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) seen by this reporter revealed.

The ICPC report queried a number of irregularities in the execution of the project. For instance, the report noted that buildings were not equipped with computers, internet facilities, printers, photocopiers, fans, air-conditioning sets as required. There was no proper project documentation, especially from NITDA. The Bills of Quantities (BOQ) that should specify the quantities and specifications of items supplied was unavailable.

The report also noted that from the records, 100% payment was made to the contractors at the commencement of the project and no explanation was given for this action.

The report concluded that the e-learning centres were not constructed at the appropriate locations where communities would have direct access to them.

Interestingly, two years later when this reporter visited the sites, the centres are yet to be opened for public use. Instead, the buildings have been converted into study centres of the National Open University on Nigeria (NOUN).

When contacted the spokesperson of NOUN Ibrahim Sheme explained that the study centre was handed over to the university by senator representing Kano North Mr Jibrin.

According to him “the NOUN guidelines prescribe that for any Community Study Centre to be established, the host community should provide all the necessary facilities and a substantial number of staff and hand them over to the University. That’s what happened in Kano and several other states. Before your inquiry, I did not even know that the Study Centres in question were initially e-learning centres.”

Bichi

Bichi is one of the oldest local governments in Kano State and it is the most developed local government in term of infrastructure in Kano North senatorial zone.

The Bichi e-learning centre constructed under the 2015 constituency project and later converted to study centre under the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) only has one computer laboratory with old desktop computers that appear not to be in use, a server room, few offices with one generator set.  It is located opposite local government secretariat in Bichi.

Bichi e-learning centre

There are only two accredited UTME centres in the local government. One at Federal College of Education (Technical) and another private one and findings revealed that they are not enough as students travel to Kano metropolis and other neighbouring states to write JAMB computer based examination.

Some UTME candidates interviewed by this reporter said they have to travel to as far as Jigawa and Bauchi states to sit for the examinations, due to non-availability of UTME accredited centres in their respective local government areas.

One of the UTME candidates from Bichi, Abubakar Ibrahim, said he travelled to Bauchi State to write the exams due to lack of space in the centre in Bichi.

Abubakar Ibrahim

“I left Bichi at 12.00 pm a day to the examination date to Misau in Bauchi state. I arrived Misau at 6:30 in the evening. After finding the centre, I then started looking for accommodation. Because I don’t know anyone, I approached a mosque, presented myself to the Imam and ask his permission to pass the night in the mosque, and he obliged.

“Ths examination marked my first contact with computer. Prior to this, I have never operated a computer in my life. My appeal to authorities is they should make more UTME centres available in each local government area to address the plight of travelling to far places,” Ibrahim said

Another candidate who wrote his UTME at Hussaini Adamu Federal polytechnic, Kazaure, Jigawa State in 2020, Mubarak Bashir, told this reporter that he had to pass a night at Kazaure to avoid missing the examination.

Mubarak Bashir

He recalled that he was able to get accommodation at the residence of a lecturer of the institution courtesy of a relative who is a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member in the school.

“The journey was quiet challenging. My boarding school experience made me cope with the challenges encountered. If we have enough centres it would address the challenge of travelling to far distance places,” Bashir said.

Gwarzo

Unlike Bichi, Gwarzo Local Government Area does not have any UTME centre and applicants have to travel to Kano metropolis or neighbouring states to write JAMB examination.

A visit to the supposed e-learning centre constructed to serve the community, showed that the building has been taken over by livestock. A sheep was seen having a nap in front of the main entrance. However, there was a signboard indicating it was converted to study centre of National Open University (NOUN). No equipment was found in the building.

Gwarzo e-learning centre

A resident of the area, Aliyu Muhammad Usman, who sat for 2020 UTME at Hussaini Adamu Federal Polytechnic Kazaure, Jigawa State, said he travelled to Kazaure at 4.00 am on the day of the examination, because he did not have anywhere to sleep.

Aliyu Muhammad Usman

Usman wondered why government could not construct a designated test centre in Gwarzo to reduce the burden of travelling to other places.

For Mustapha Muhammad, a resident of Gwarzo local government who sat FOR his 2020 UTME examination at Kano University of Science and Technology (KUST) Wudil, the journey was a nasty experience.

Mustapha Muhammad

Muhammad recalled that on the day of the examination he slept at Mariri quarters in Kano metropolis, before proceeding to Wudil early in the morning.

A young lady, Khadija Sani Usman, told this reporter that she nearly missed her UTME at Gandun Albasa quarters, Kano because she arrived the centre late.

Khadija Sani Usman

“I pray we get a centre in our local government, so that students do not have to travel for writing UTME or even miss the exam for arriving late,” she prayed.

Another lady, Rafiat Mansur Sani, said she wrote her UTME at Kabuga quarters in Kano metropolis due to lack of designated centres in Gwarzo LGA. She lamented how some candidates from distant places arrived examination centres late and this affected their performance.

Rafiat Mansur Sani

Kabo

Findings showed that the e-learning project was facilitated by senator representing Kano North, Barau Jibrin, as a constituency project.  In spite of this, his local government area, Kabo, does not have a functional accredited UTME centre. The e-learning centre constructed there was converted to NOUN study centre.

Kabo e-learning centre

A resident of Kabo, Abubakar Hashim, who wrote his Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination at Jigawa State College of Legal and Islamic Studies, Ringim, narrated how armed robbers attacked him on his way back to Kano.

He recalled that he initially was scheduled to take his examination at Federal University Dutse, Jigawa state capital on Friday.

“I left Kabo on Thursday to Dutse. Upon my arrival, I went straight to the centre where I met some candidates protesting. After asking, I was told that, while students were writing their exams the previous day, the generator broke down and the management of the centre failed to fix it until the system shut down many candidates.

“While I was wandering, anti-riot mobile policemen arrived and dispersed the protestors. After escaping the scene, I met a student who offered to provide me with accommodation.

“When I arrived at the centre the next day to take my exams, I found out that JAMB had postponed my exams to Saturday and also changed the venue to Jigawa state College of Legal and Islamic Studies, Ringim.

“From there, I packed my luggage and moved to Ringim. After the exams, I have to sell my phone to pay transport fare back home. Sadly, on our way back to Kano, armed robbers stopped our vehicle and robbed us our belongings on broad daylight,” Hashim recounted

Tofa

The story is also the same at Tofa Local Government Area. The e-learning facility has been converted to NOUN study centre. Upon inquiry, one of the workers said the centre has fifty desktop computers in its e-learning facility where students write their semester examinations.

He, however, told this reporter that the e-learning facility is no longer functioning, because the generator, which supplied the centre with power, has been stolen.

Dambatta e-learning centre

Due to this, students now take their examinations elsewhere pending the supply of another generator.

A resident of the area, Nazir Isa Sani, informed this newspaper that he wrote his 2020 UTME in Bauchi State. He said he was among many candidates who were supported by the Kano state government during the exams.

“I had a better experience because the state government provided a luxurious bus that conveyed us to Bauchi. Upon our arrival, we were lodged in a hotel where we slept. In the morning, they took us to our respective centres where we wrote our exams,” Sani recalled.

 Civil Society Organization reacts

The chairman of the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA), Dr Auwalu Halilu, noted that access to education is key to the development of any society, community or nation.

Dr Auwalu Halilu

He, therefore, expressed concern about the shortage of UTME examination centres, especially in rural local governments.

“The concern is most of these students from rural LGAs need to come to Kano metropolis where there are CBT centres or moved to other states to access these services.

“There are computer centres in these LGAs but they are not functioning. That is why we are advocating for simpler ways for the community members to access these types of services,” Halilu said.

On the conversion of e-learning centres, Halilu said, “it is the responsibility of community members and civil society members like us to make sure these centres are properly utilised for the purpose they are being built for. For example, if there is a constituency project executed by the federal government to construct an e-learning centre in particular LGA, and the e-learning is being converted to something else, then it is not the fault of the government per se. What are members of the community and CSOs doing to draw the government’s attention that the e-learning centres have been converted?

“However, the government should see it as part of its responsibility to do the right thing. Part of doing the right thing is that, when you construct an e-learning centre, there should be a monitoring system that will ensure that citizens are really utilizing these centres. For example, when you go to some of the centres, you see air conditions and computers being kept in a store, and not utilised. These are types of materials when stayed for a longer period without use; it will become useless and obsolete.”

Community Leaders speak

A retired headmaster at Bichi, Muhammad Shu’aibu, said the local government needs an e-learning centre to meet ICT to the demands of its residents.

Malam Muhammad Shu’aibu

He recalled that his son had to travel to Daura, Katsina State to write his UTME amidst security challenges bedevilling the area due to the shortage of computer-based test centres in Bichi Local Government Area.

Also commenting, Chairman, Gwarzo Local Government Awareness and Development Network, Aminu Rabi’u Na’abba, said prior to the introduction of the Computer Based Test, there were five centres for writing JAMB examination.

Comrade Aminu Rabi’u Na’abba

On the conversion of the e-learning centre to NOUN study centre, Na’abba said although having Open University in Gwarzo is a welcome development, it would have been better to host it in a separate structure. This according to him will grant the community access to e-learning facilities and distance learning.

Na’abba said the conversion is unnecessary, as there is enough landmass in the area to construct NOUN study centre.

An Activist from Tofa local government and Kano state chairman of Kungiyar Muryar Talaka (Voice of the Voiceless Network) Balarabe Yusuf Babale Gajida expressed disappointment on the lack of IT infrastructure in Tofa and neighboring Dawakin Tofa and Rimingado LGAs, adding that the situation is subjecting students wishing to write computer based examinations to unnecessary hardship.

He hoped that the e-learning facility converted to NOUN study centre in Tofa will be open to communities who need IT services, as access to distant learning is equally an important intervention.

The chairman of Kabo Development Forum, Isma’il Hussain Kanye, expressed optimism that if judiciously utilised, the e-learning centre in his LGA can provide IT services to communities as well as serve distance-learning purposes.

How shortage of IT infrastructure affects rural communities

A lecturer with Department of Information Technology, Bayero University, Kano, Dr. Ibrahim Sa’id Ahmad Babura argued that the introduction of computer-based examination was done in haste without provision of required IT infrastructure.

According to him many rural local governments in Nigeria lack IT penetration, thereby denying students the opportunity to explore their full potentials.

“Most people in rural areas are poor and, it is very difficult for people from rural communities to proceed with higher education if they don’t have computer centres to take the exams. The major implication is the restriction of rural communities to quality higher education.

“Many students in rural communities are quite intelligent, quite capable, but they are not familiar with how to use computers. They don’t have them in their schools. So many of them will end up failing the exams, not because they don’t have the capacity to pass the exams, but they don’t have the knowledge of how to use computers,” he said

On the conversion of e-learning centres to NOUN study centres, Babura noted that it is not a bad idea as long as it is open to rural communities to learn basic computer skills.

He also opined: “It may not be totally wrong for the centres to be used by NOUN, especially if they are under utilised. However, it may be an opportunity for NOUN to continue giving training on computer education to rural communities.

The academic advised that government should provide state of the art computer laboratory in secondary schools that will be used as JAMB CBT examinations.

“The e-learning centres constructed as constituency projects should continue to be used as CBT centres and there should be more. Actually, we should have at least two secondary schools attached to one CBT centre. Students don’t have to travel long distance, or come to the city or local government headquarters to write JAMB. It should be as close to them as it is in urban communities. Just because you are in rural area, it should not be difficult for you to sit for this examination.

“Considering the present insecurity, it will not be ideal for students to be travelling all over just because they want to write JAMB examination. E-learning centres should be built closer to these communities,” Dr. Babura advised.

Legislators own constituency projects and not the agency – NITDA

Curiously, when confronted with our findings, the Director General, National Information Technology Development (NITDA), Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, said that constituency projects domiciled in the agency are within the purview of the sponsoring legislator and not the executing agency.

“MDAs have no control over it (constituency project) apart from execution, according to the way it was put in the budget. It is not an NITDA project, it is a constituency project executed by NITDA and handed over to the sponsor,” he said.

On the reason behind obtaining selective tender, Abdullahi referred this reporter to the agency’s head of corporate communication and external relations, Hadiza Umar.

When contacted, Mrs. Umar said the reason for the tender is due to the fact that there was a lack of professional contractors who were competent in ICT projects at the time.

“In this case, considering the complexity of the projects and lack of many professional contractors who are competent in ICT projects at the time, NITDA requested the Bureau’s ‘no objection’ to adopt restricted tendering in inviting selected competent contractors to execute the e-learning centres,”Mrs Umar argued.

Asked for procurement details, including the contact of the contractor, Umar said the search for the document containing the details of selected contractors invited for restricted tendering might take longer time.

“We will have to go search where we keep old documents, because the project was executed in 2015,” she said.

Other contractors also failed to deliver

 

While the senator cornered the main contract for himself, the supply and installation of computer systems, Internet facilities, photocopier, printers, scanners, solar system, generating set, air-conditioning set and other accessories was awarded to Telfonica Blizzard Company and Advanced Data Services Limited.

 

While Telfonica Blizzard Company supplied the items at Gwarzo, Kabo and Bichi for the contract sum of N55.15 million, Advanced Data Services Limited supplied those at Dambatta and Tofa at a contract sum of N38.65 million.

Telfonica Blizzard Company limited is located at No. 2 Ikeja close, off Oyo Street, Garki Area 2, Abuja and was registered on December 5, 2014. The company’s status is not known and its directors are listed as Yakubu Orisankoko, Aretta Anah and Debare Egbede.

Advance Data service, which was incorporated in Abuja on October 28, 2014, is located at No. 6 Ijebu Ode Close, Area 2, Garki Abuja. Its current status is unknown. Its listed directors are Adebayo Anjorin and Bola Rilau Bello.

 

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

 

 

 

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Group asks Govt to ban political programmes on radio stations

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Nasiru Yusuf

A group of concerned citizens Kano Frontage in collaboration with Kano concern, Kano Democratic Mandate Group have called for banning daily political programmes in all the radio stations in Kano state.

KANO FOCUS reports that the group made the call on Tuesday in a statement signed by its secretary Comrade Balarabe Hamza Kumbotso.

The group cited example with Kowanne Gauta, Siyasar Kano Sai Kano, Harshenka Alkalinka, Iya Ruwa, Hangen Dala, Ga-da-ga, Ido ba mudu ba, Dandalin Dimokuradiyya and Siyasa ba da gaba ba as some of the political programmes aired on radio stations.

According to the group “most of the participants are using this opportunity to diminish ones character or mischief. We cannot count the number of participants jailed for using this opportunity to people personality in these radio programmes.”

They appealed to authorities concerned to respond to popular demand and stop radio stations from airing the programmes.

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Girls Education: UNICEF commends FCDO for spending $100m in Northern Nigeria

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Nasiru Yusuf 

The United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) has commended the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), for their financial investment of $108,493,125, 871 in girls education programme in Northern Nigeria.

KANO FOCUS reports that Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Kano Field Office, Mr Rahama Farah, gave the commendation at the official closing of the 10-year intervention project GEP3 in Kano on Monday.

He said that the 10-year project had invested heavily in teacher development which improved the learning of teachers in Integrated Qur’anic and Islamic schools.

Farah said that the trained teachers demonstrated the minimum teaching competencies to about 30 per cent against the 2 per cent baseline impacting on learning outcomes.

According to him, “in spite of achievements of the project, there is still need for more investment in education and girls education in Nigeria and Kano, to ensure that all children had equal opportunity in education.

“Kano has the highest transition rate to junior secondary schools of only 28 per cent, which means that we need to work hard to remove the bottlenecks that prevented positive transition,” Farah said.

The Chief also pledged continous partnership with Kano state government in providing educational support for all.

In his remarks, the Kano state Commissioner for Education, Abdullahi Yan Shana, has commended the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) for their intervention project on Girls education project (GEP3) in Kano.

He said that the project had indeed improved the capacity of teachers to deliver effective learning and improved governance to strengthen girls education.

According to him, “The 20172018 annual schools census of the primary school pupils stood at 3,807,588 with 1,9778, 884 as girls.

“But in 20192020, the Annual School Census indicates 3,933,572 in which 2,050,309 were girls.

This signifies that there was 96.5 per cent increase of girls enrolment and retention in the state.

Yan Shana specifically commended some component of the intervention such as community engagement of mothers association.

He explained that the intervention had indeed gingered and sensitised rural women to the benefits of girls education.

KANO FOCUS reports that the Girls Education Project (GEP3) is a 10 years intervention supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The project was implemented in partnership with the Federal and state ministries of education and other educational agencies in Kano and was funded by the UK government through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

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Ganduje Inaugurates Committee on inter-religious conference

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Nasiru Yusuf

 

 

 

Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has inaugurated a very powerful committee on inter-religious conference, aimed at organising a befitting national conference towards a more tolerant Nigeria. 

KANO FOCUS reports that the event took place at Africa House, Government House, Kano, Monday.

The event was attended by some popular clergymen from Islam and Christianity as 23-member committee was inaugurated.

The occasion, according to him, is being “Considered very well for the development of the state, the nation and humanity in general.

“The management of diversity in Nigeria has become an issue. A very important issue. There must always be respect of one religion on other religions.”

Governor Ganduje argued that, Kano, being an oldest civilisation, that is highly cosmopolitan, “…for the state to continue coexist with other nationalities, we need programmes like this. We are trying to consolidate on that.”

Sheikh Muhammad Bin Uthman, Chief Imam of Sahaba Juma’at Mosque, is the Chairman of the Committee. While Arch. Bishop Peter Ogunmuyiwa (PhD) is the Co-Chair of the Committee. State Commissioner for Information Muhammad Garba serves as the Committee Secretary.

Governor Ganduje said “The membership of the committee looks at the diversity of this nation, the utterances you people are making, your behaviours towards diversity management and your commitment to nation building.

“You are to organise a befitting inter-religious Conference, you choose the appropriate theme, select appropriate date, day and venue for the proposed Conference. Part of your terms of reference, is to also provide adequate publicity, before during and after the conference.”

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