By Patrick Obia
In Cross River State’s 2019 budget, over N145 million was earmarked for new classrooms at PCN Primary School Ikot Ishie in Calabar Municipality while more than 7 million was budgeted for a motorised borehole in the school under the model school project of the State.
The contracts were eventually awarded through the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to Johnny’s New Arrival Nig Ltd and Kantong Kataneh Nig Ltd.
But three years later, the building is nowhere to be found in the school and the motorised borehole backed up at its first use, leaving pupils to continue to learn in unconducive facilities with leaky roofs.
Here, pupils and staff come to the school with their own water to maintain basic hygiene as the borehole didn’t see the light of the day. But still, the toilets are dirty and smelly.
“I wish you were here when it’s raining, the children are sitting on the floor even at the annexe,” said Mrs. Edem Inyang, the Head Teacher of the school. “These children are not comfortably seated. They are sitting on the floor, even teachers have no seats,” she added.
However, the contractor, Johnny’s New Arrival Nig ltd, handling the model school project claimed that the school project was relocated and completed in another community, Ikot Ansa because the Ikot Ishie community did not have space.
Asked why he relocated the contract without the involvement of the community and other stakeholders, the CEO of Johnny’s New Arrival Nig Ltd who only gave his name as Johnny, said he had no business with the host community.
“The Clan Head or the community did not give me any job,” he said angrily. “I know that job was sited in a community, it was on my own goodwill that I feel that the building should not be disturbed because it was already completed.
“So I wrote a letter back to SUBEB, in which some of the people were begging me to break it down. The community was not even aware of it. Ask the board, it was their advice that I followed.” he insisted.
But documents obtained by CrossRiverWatch contradicted his claims as there was no amendment in the contract regarding the relocation of the project to a different place.
Moreso, the second contractor, Kantong Kataneh Nig. Ltd, who is supposed to construct the borehole in the school, refused to reveal his identity and denied knowledge of the contract.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said when contacted on the phone.
The Director of Planning, Research and Statistics in SUBEB, Mr. Nkanu Egbula affirmed that the contract was awarded and diverted.
Egbula said he was handicapped to access relevant documents in his office due to the Organized Labor industrial action which lingered for weeks. He asked the reporter to visit his office when the industrial action was over.
CrossRivrWatch contacted Mr. Egbula immediately after the strike was suspended, but he refused to keep his word. Instead, he referred our reporter to the Chairman of the Board.
“Book appointment with the Chairman, I’m a Civil Servant I’m not supposed to be talking to you without hearing from the Chairman; once he gives me the go-ahead I will mobilize you,” Mr. Egbula said.
Asked why the Board never contacted the Ishie community or the Clan Head, he replied angrily; “Are we awarding the contract to the community or the school? The school is a different entity from the community; the school is situated in a community but that’s the government’s premises,” and claimed that, “there is no space even in the annexe.”
When CrossRiverWatch inquired about the borehole, Mr. Egbula accused this paper of practising “one-sided journalism.”
“You know, what you’re doing I will say in my usual way, go ahead and publish what you want to publish. They will come to me and by the time I reply, you will say this man is not kind to me. I am telling you because you are living by what they told you.”
He claimed that he did not know the actual amount released for the projects, referring CrossRiverWatch to the board accountant.
Pupils, Teachers Wallow In Pains Over Project Diversion
Pupils and teachers of PCN Primary School Ikot Ishie continue to wallow in hardships as their hope of getting new buildings fritters away.
The Head Teacher of the school Mrs. Edem Inyang said, “there is no new structure here. For the water pump, they said I should buy a meter and other things before we can use it.”
She said both teachers and students of the school have lost hope of getting a better learning environment.
A teacher who wouldn’t want name on print said, “learning ends as soon as it begins to rain.” Adding that, “the newest structure is the block with just four classrooms, the worst class leaking is the second classroom. Have you seen the PVCs pulling off? It’s leaking seriously, there is no day we come here we don’t mop. On one of those days during the holidays, I came to pick something, the class was River Niger.
“They only came and painted the walls, used PVCs to cover the ceiling and bought some pieces of zinc to patch, changed the doors and windows because it was wood and that is the end of it. The only new things in this block are the windows and doors; the whole thing is a mess”, the teacher angrily said.
The Clan Head of Ishie Town and leader of Ishie Council, HRH, Ntufam Effiom Okon expressed shock that projects of such were awarded to his community without his knowledge.
He said neither the contractors nor government officials contacted him or any of his subordinates for the project.
Ntufam Effiom Okon said he was stunned by the development, saying it was the first time he was hearing such, even as the leader of the community.
“I have been ruling this clan for about 10 years now. This is my first time hearing about a major development in my clan which I’m not aware of, I believe I should have been first informed; I would have known the contractors and whoever has given the plan to the contractors to construct model school and borehole.
“The government came to me about three weeks ago and asked about Ikot Ishie getting a secondary school and I have written to them to see how they can give us a secondary school at the primary school annexe at Otu street, we have enough space to start something.”
Furthermore, he said, “I don’t know how people are behaving here; a contract can be awarded to my own clan which I’m the Clan Head and I’m not aware of? Everything in Nigeria is upside-down.
“I’m capable of doing anything, the government knows the type of Clan Head I am and what I can do. Maybe that’s why they are afraid to let me know these things,” he blew hot.
At an emergency meeting convened by the Ishie Council on Saturday, 30 October 2021, the Council unanimously affirmed that the project was hijacked from their community for self-aggrandizement.
They have initiated moves to meet SUBEB and the contractors over the diverted projects.
This report was produced with support from Civic Media Lab under its Grassroots News Project.