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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Inside Amosun’s N27 billion abandoned school project in Ogun

On May 29, 2012, at an event marking the first anniversary of his administration, the immediate past governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, reeled out his achievements.

As is the practice with politicians, Mr Amosun went on and made several promises to the people of the state. Among the promises he made was a plan to build 26 “world-class” model secondary schools across the 20 local governments in the state.

Mr Amosun said the foundations of the schools were already being laid adding that when the model schools were completed, they were going to raise the education standard in the state as they would provide first-class tutelage.

“Just last week, we laid foundations of 26 model schools that we believe will define the new Ogun standard in the provision of education at the secondary level. It is an ambitious educational programme, which will touch all of the 20 local government areas of the state. These schools will provide unparalleled facilities in science, technical education, agriculture, humanities, enterprise, and sports, with full boarding facilities, to serve the entire state. It is envisaged that these model schools will produce students who can compete with their peers anywhere in the world,” he boasted.

As it is usually the case with the development of new projects, ordinary people and communities would be expected to make sacrifices such as the demolition of their properties and the loss of their land (sometimes without compensation). For instance, Musafau Adebisi, a retired civil servant and the Baale (village head) of Oke Odo community in Ago Iwoye, Ijebu North Local Government Area, got to his farm one morning in 2012 but discovered his crops had been destroyed. When he approached the king, he was told that a model school was coming to the Oke Odo community and that his farm and those of others had to be sacrificed.

“I felt terrible. I was using about one acre of the land to farm. There were other farmers too, some of them were widows. Our crops were destroyed.” Mr. Adebisi said.

He said though they (farmers) were never consulted nor compensated before their crop were destroyed, they were pleased the land was going to be used for a good course.

This newspaper tried to get the exact amount officially budgeted and spent on the project but was rebuffed by officials of the current administration in the state. Ade Akinsanya, Ogun State’s commissioner for works, declined to say the amount spent on the project. He also refused to reveal the name of the contractors who built the schools. Mr Akinsaya said the project was not handled by his ministry.

“You know the right channel to get that information,” he said over the phone and hung up.

Requests for information about the project sent to the state’s Ministries of Finance and Budget yielded no response.

However, the May 2012 edition of a monthly magazine published by the state’s Ministry of Information, Ogun Update, claimed that it cost the government N750 million to build each of the schools.

The then Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Segun Odubela, who made the claim added that additional N300 million was earmarked for equipment and furniture in each school.

“Each school comes to a total of N1.05 billion. The 26 schools would be a total of N27.3 billion,” Mr Odubela said.

Also, while boasting of his achievement over his predecessors, a few days before leaving office, Mr Amosun disclosed that each model school constructed cost N750 million. “They talked about our model school, the cost of one is N750 million.” He said this on the sidelines of the inauguration of a housing scheme in Isheri,

Ifo Local Government Area in May 2019.

Misplaced priority
Despite Mr Amosun’s self-adulation, some stakeholders in the state were not impressed by his decision to build the model secondary schools. Critics of the project argued that it was a waste of public funds and misplacement of educational priority.

Titilope Adebanjo, the state’s chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, described the project as “unnecessary”. He told this newspaper that the union was not consulted before the Amosun administration decided to build the model school. He wondered the rationale of spending billions of naira to build a few schools when most of the schools in the state were in bad conditions.

“You cannot begin to work on model schools when the existing ones are crying for help and assistance. So, from the beginning, we saw it as a misplaced priority,” he said.

Similarly, The Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS) chastised the governor for failing to renovate existing public schools.

“The existing schools should be taken care of in terms of structures, teachers, as well as the environment. Most of the existing schools in Ogun are over-populated. Many structures are in a sorry state, some buildings have leaking roofs, no furniture for the students, and no replacement for retired teachers,” said Akeem Lasisi, the chairman of the association.

Abandoned, disused, and plundered
A PREMIUM TIMES investigation has revealed that despite billions of taxpayers’ funds spent on the project and the huge cost incurred by individuals that forfeited their properties to the government without compensation, most of the schools are in ruins and uninhabited.

In October 2012, Mr Amosun claimed that 15 of 26 model schools would be ready in 2013.

“We saw the longtime neglect of the schools and so we decided to construct model secondary schools and they will be ready by early next year. By early next year, 15 of these 26 model schools would be ready,” Mr Amosun said.

Disappointingly, this promise was not fulfilled until February 2016 when the former governor and President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned some of the model schools among other projects in the state.

After the commissioning, the schools did not accept pupils until after six months. Even at that they only opened partially. For instance, at Akin Ogunpola Model College in Ewekoro Local Government Area, 250 pupils were admitted for summer camp in August 2016.

During the flag-off of the summer camp, Mr Amosun’s deputy, Yetunde Onanuga, said the schools were going to start operations fully in a month when the academic session resumed. She said the schools were going to be subsidised and would be open to exceptional pupils.

“We have so many brilliant students in our public schools that don’t have the opportunity to go to private schools. But with these model schools, once you are brilliant and you are doing well, you can come. It’s a subsidised form of school for the less privileged,” she said.

However, PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation revealed that till this day, only the Akin Ogunpola College remains the only one of the proposed model schools used for academic activities. After the summer camp, the school admitted pupils for the 2017 and 2018 academic sessions. But in 2019, due to dwindling enrolment, the new government of the state shut down the school. And like the other model schools, it quickly progressed into disrepair.

Akin Ogunpola Model School

Akin Ogunpola model school

In fact, some of the schools were never completed. Others which were completed couldn’t attract students, were never inhabited and have since been abandoned.

The completed schools have been taken over by thick bushes, reptiles and birds. At the model school in Kemita in Abeokuta South Local Government Area, bushes and thorny weeds have almost covered up the entire building; the scaffoldings have collapsed, and the building looks greenish due to weeds and algae growing on its walls. Residents of the area now use it as a preferred spot for open defecation and unpleasant smell pervades the area.

Akin Ogunpola Model School

Akin Ogunpola model school

In Ipokia, the model school is already collapsing while bushes have covered up the ground floor of the building

The regent of Ipokia, Isiaka Abolurin, said what has happened to the school was “unfortunate”.

“It has been about eight years since the school was abandoned at that level,” he told this reporter.

“What the people of Ipokia and the whole of Yewa wants is a recommencement of the project,” he added.

Akin Ogunpola Model School

Akin Ogunpola model school

The completed school were in equally deplorable states. Though named after prominent persons in the state, they remained abandoned. Furniture and equipment have been left to rot away while the buildings struggle for sunlight with thick bushes and trees encroaching into it and threatening to overtake it.

Inside the Sanya Onabamiro Model College, a fully furnished three-storey building and two separate buildings expected to serve as hostels, the doors were broken, the paint on the wall peeling off and the windows have become rusty.

One of the security men, watching over the building project who identified himself as Saliu Jimoh, could not hide his disappointment at the state of the building and hope the government will revive it soon.

Mr Jimoh, a retired policeman, said he has taken on the duty of making sure that the trees encroaching into the building do not completely cover up the building.

Front view of Sanya Onabamiro College Ago Iwoye, Ijebu North

Akin Ogunpola model school

“I cannot just watch the bushes and trees take over the building. What if it were my property? It is the way you take care of your property that you will take care of someone else’s. If I had not been weeding and cutting the bushes, we would not be able to enter. I intend to cut those ones around the hostels when I am on duty on Wednesday,” he said.

There were unused building materials used by the workers, including cement, paints, shovels in the building.

While Mr Jimoh and his colleagues ensured that the multi-million naira facilities in the Onabamiro college did not completely rot away, the Adeoye Lambo college in Onijoganjogan in Abeokuta North Local Government Area was not lucky. The school’s perimeter fence was uncompleted. Residents have seized the opportunity to create a broad thoroughfare across the premises used by pedestrians and vehicles.

Residents alleged that scavengers and miscreants had broken into the hostel and have stolen all the fittings there.

The wanderer

“It is those scavengers that pick rubbish. They always enter inside; I don’t know what they are looking for. We can’t stop them from entering. Come and look at that other building (pointing to the hostel building), they have broken part of the door to gain entrance. May God save us,” said one resident who identified himself as Abdullahi


Damaged Door

Abdullahi disclosed that there used to be security men in the school premises but they had stopped coming, an action he claimed was responsible for the trespassing.

Missing Sockets

The school at Obafemi Owode Local Government Area has been converted into a tech hub while the HID Awolowo Model College in Ikenne is now being used as a COVID-19 isolation centre.

Missing Bulbs

Unaffordable school fees
The Amosun administration claimed the model schools would reduce the number of out-of-school children and encourage parents to enrol their wards in public schools.

The Special Adviser to the former Governor on Education, Tunji Abimbola, said in 2012 that the model schools would be established in line with the free education policy

of the government and that children of both rich and poor would be able to attend.

However, this investigation found out that the schools were never meant for the children of the poor. An admission letter to the Akin Ogunpola Model School in Ewekoro, obtained from a Facebook user, Akanni Balogun, showed that the boarding fee in 2017 was N400, 000 per term and N1.2 million yearly. In comparison, the minimum wage in Ogun State at the time was N216,000 per year.

Our reporter put a call through to the admission officer, disguising as a parent who wanted to enrol his child. A woman picked the call and later passed it to a man, who claimed to be in charge of admissions. He claimed that the admission form for a new session was available for N5,000. Upon enquiry, he stated that the tuition plus accommodation fee for the new session is N100,000.

The special adviser to the governor on primary and secondary education to the incumbent governor, Ronke Soyombo, neither answered, returned nor replied four calls and two text messages sent to her mobile phone.

When our reporter visited the school, a security man, Suraju Afuwape, said he had been ordered not to allow anyone into the premises of the school, except someone authorised by the Ministry of Education.

NUT, community leader want model schools converted to vocational centres
Meanwhile, the state chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, Titilope Adebanjo, said the government should convert the abandoned schools to vocational training centres.

“We have advised the present administration in many ways to convert many of them to vocational centres. We cannot say we want to finish a product that we have not seen the usefulness, so we had advised earlier before now that government should see how best they can make use of those places,” he advised.

Also, the traditional chief of Oke Odo community in Ago Iwoye, Musafau Adebisi, advised that the Sanya Onabamiro College be converted to a technical college where children can learn skills like tailoring, mechanical engineering, among others.

“I do not know the use of model school; what we need in Nigeria and in this area is technical college. Many children go to model school. In technical college, you can learn tailoring, mechanic, and so many things like that. When the child finishes Senior Secondary School 3, he can work for himself; he could then help himself to university. I have four children who are graduates, they still had to go learn (a skill) and there is money in this Nigeria. The amount of money I hear on the radio – billions, trillions.”

Dapo Abiodun to demolish, convert model schools
The incumbent governor, Dapo Abiodun, has told anyone who cares to listen that he is not interested in going ahead with the model school project of his predecessor. He has vowed to demolish some while some would be converted for different purposes.

While addressing residents of Ogun West Senatorial District at a town hall meeting on the 2020 budget, he said the model school at Ilaro was “structurally defective” and promised to demolish it and replace it with a vocational training centre.

Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun [PHOTO CREDIT: @dabiodunMFR]

Remy Hazzan, a media aide to Mr Abiodun told this newspaper that the model school project was “ill-conceived”.

“You have classrooms that are no longer habitable for teachers and students, and they left all of those ones unattended to and began to build new schools. It means that maintenance culture was expunged from the books,” he said.

Mr Hazzan said the government was planning to put the schools to better use. For instance, he said the government is thinking of converting the model school at Ikenne, which is currently being used as an isolation centre to treat patients of COVID-19 into a specialist hospital.

“One of them is already being used as the base of the Bureau of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – that is the one we call the TECH HUB. Some of them, we are already programming to use as vocational centres because even if you use them for the secondary schools they were originally programmed for, how do you determine whose sons and daughter will go there without creating a class problem,” he said.

Former Governor Amosun claims there are armouries in most Governor Lodges in Nigeria

He said the Mr Amosun administration did not hand over the financial and contractual documents of the model school project to the incumbent administration but promised that a project review committee is looking at the project and will soon reveal its findings.

Mr Amosun did not return several calls and a SMS sent to his mobile number seeking for comment.

Oluwatobi Odeyinka

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