A human rights civil society organisation, the Citizens’ Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER), has made good its threat to take the Delta State government to task over the suspension of a school head-teacher.
It has called on the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate, arrest, prosecute and imprison any past or present official of the Delta State Ministry of Education found culpable in the criminal mismanagement of funds meant for the maintenance of public schools in the state.
Meanwhile, the pupil Success story is becoming an industry of sorts with the young lady who filmed her on the video that went viral on social medis getting promissory notes and the pledge of a car because she is “seen as the real hero”.
The principal secretary to the governor of Delta state, Hilary Obi Ibegbulem, has promise her a car.
A comedian, MC Jollof, promised her N500,000, while musician Daddy Showkey promised N100,000..
A Delta government official, who did not want to be named, expressed amazement at the spike in criticism of the government and challenged the media to do a survey on the state of schools all over Nigeria and see how many measured up to Deta.
“Some people forget there are many States where pupils take lessons under the tree, and do not come anywhere near us. Have we forgotten that primary schools are the responsibility of LGAs and our intervention is a helping hand?” he said.
In his own comments, the official spokesman of the governor, Mr. Aniagwu Charles, restated that the resolve of the government to provide quality education remained unshaken. He was speaking in reaction to CASER threats and comments by other groups.
He said In a statement: “In the last forty six months, the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has paid special attention to the improvement of education in Delta state, especially in the upgrade of infrastructure and retraining of Teachers and Instructors.
“Since the last one week when the story of our dear little Success broke and went viral, we have watched and read divergent views on the subject matter.
“While we appreciate those who have genuinely expressed concern on the issue and assure such persons of our determination to further strengthen our efforts in repositioning our school system in Delta, we make bold to say that we will not be distracted by those who wish to take advantage of the situation to advance their personal gains.
“It is important to restate that Delta State Government runs free education at both primary and secondary school levels in all public schools in the state and therefore any staff of government who engage in acts that undermines the good intentions of government can not be spared of appropriate sanctions.
“While we acknowledge that we are yet to fix all the schools, it is pertinent to state that the Okowa led administration since assumption of office has built and reconstructed over 4,000 classroom blocks and provided furniture, learning and instructional materials to public schools in the state with a view to making them conducive and competitive with the private schools.
“The Government has equally trained and retrained teachers in the employ of the State Government with a view to making them adapt to modern teaching techniques hence the establishment of an ultra modern Teachers Training Institute at Owa-Oyibu Ika North East Local Government Area of Delta State.
“In order to fill vacancies created by retirements in recent times, the State Government has equally directed the Post Primary Education Board (PPEB) to advertise for the recruitment of qualified teachers in critical areas such as the sciences”.
In a statement by Frank Tietie, Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER), the group recalled that it issued a notice to the Delta government after the “cosmetic” suspension of the head-teacher of the Okotie Eboh 1 Primary School, Sapele, following the travails of pupil Success, the little Sapele girl, over her inability to pay illegal fees.
Success, in the viral video, opted to be flogged, but remain in school, over her parents’ inability to pay the “illegal” examination fees of N900.
It has since emerged that that the fee and others were being charged “illegally” in all schools in Sapele Local Government Area, and the proceeds allegedly shared among officials.
Success, after the viral video, immediately became an instant success garnering scholarships and funds to foot her education to university level.
Notwithstanding, CASER insists that instead of suspending the head-teacher, allegedly implicated for another viral video that put the government in bad light, a serious government would immediately declare a state of emergency in the education sector after apologising for its negligence.
It adds: “CASER however views the suspension of the head teacher as shameless scapegoatism since there are proofs that heads of schools across the state have been authorised by the government to collect certain fees and levies. Such an application of a face saver in the midst of serious issues of criminal neglect of public school infrastructure is not a commensurably responsible action by any serious state government that wants to change its approach to mismanagement and negligence of its public responsibility.
“The suspension of the said head teacher is a cheap diversion from the irresponsibility of the State Government in its failure to provide free qualitatuve primary and secondary education for its people despite the huge financial resources available to it from the monthly Federal allocations it collects.
“Delta State has an average income of over 20 Billion Naira monthly. Therefore, there shouldn’t be any reason whatsoever, why any public school, even in the remotest part of the state should be in such a decrepit and degraded condition as that of Okotie-Eboh Primary School, which is in the heart of Sapele, one of the three biggest towns in the state. Such neglect and misappropriation of public resources can only considered in criminal dimensions.
“In then Bendel State which comprises the present Edo and Delta States, Professor Ambrose Alli (whose memory will forever remain blessed in our minds and hearts), as governor, with far less resources, yet he ‘recklessly’ built and fully equipped primary and secondary schools in every village of significance in the entire state. As if that was not enough, from 1979 to 1983, every primary and secondary student in Bendel State was given ALL text books and exercise books with learning materials ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE.
“The then Bendel State government equipped secondary schools with science laboratories with state-of the-art facilities. Enrollment fees for WAEC was also free for secondary school students in the state. There was also a partial school feeding programme in all the public schools across the state. Also, Primary and Secondary school teachers were constantly given refresher courses both within Nigeria and in England, with fully paid tuition fees and handsome allowances to encourage the teachers, all at the expense of the state government. The man Alli also proceeded, within that same period to establish and complete a university with campuses in Ekpoma and Abraka which have become the present Ambrose Alli University and Delta State University respectively. Thus, with the abysmal performance of current Nigerian leaders, there is no reason why the Delta State University should not be renamed as ‘The 2nd Ambrose Alli University’.
“Alli, in 4 years with highly limited financial resources, invested massively and established the best of educational standards in two states/provinces ( now Edo and Delta States. Why therefore, on earth, with far more resources in only one of the states of the former Bendel State, has educational infrastructure become indescribably worse than ever? Why?
“Now poorly trained and ill-motivated teachers and education administrators have now become collectors of illegal fees/ levies and children in Delta State prefer to be flogged in order to attend classes but are rather chased away for their parents’ inability to pay such fees. What kind of malignant fate and more portent curse can befall a people that they will fall from such high standards to the present degree of degradation?
“The suspension of the head teacher of the Okotie-Eboh primary school is a poor response of the Delta State government to the scandalous opportunity that has brought to the forefront, the failures of past and present officials of the Delta State Ministry of Education.
“Delta State comes from the Bendel culture of quality education compared to none in Africa at a time. The people of the state from that culture and tradition of quality education, for a long time did not care about the vast oil resources in their lands but believed in exporting knowledge rather than crude oil from acquired from bunkering. The neglect of educational development of the people has indeed been quite costly in unquantifiable socioeconomic terms which for want of space cannot be described.
“Where the Delta State government has chosen to be sensational in its response to the scandalous revelations on the infrastructural decadence in its public schools, the choice of the head teacher as the fall guy is a mockery and an insult on the sensibilities of members of the Nigerian public.
“CASER is of the view that the appropriate persons to be suspended in such a cosmetic response would have been the Honourable Commissioner of Education, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and other Directors directly related to the management of public schools.
“Governor Ifeanyi Okowa by allowing the suspension of the head teacher as a cover up for the embarrassing state of the school, cannot be trusted to effect a proper probe into the infrastructural decay and presumed criminal misappropriation of the resources of the state meant for maintenance of public schools. By choosing to allow a weak and defenceless person as the head teacher as a means of diverting attention from the failure of government and ensuring protection for senior officials in the Ministry of Education shows that the Governor is not prepared to hold the real culprits accountable. The Governor is therefore trying to sheild corruption and corrupt officials hence the EFCC must immediately intervene to discharge its statutory functions.
“Whereas the EFCC by law did not require any further proof before deciding to launch a thorough investigation into the statutory financial appropriations for education in Delta state and how such resources have been spent, CASER shall in the space of 24 hours from the release of this press statement, submit a petition, in the form of a dossier to the EFCC, tasking it to immediately cause an investigation into finances of the Delta State Ministry of Education with a view to arrest, prosecute and imprison any official of the state that is found wanting and has contributed to terrible state of educational infrastructure in the state.
“Such decadence of infrastructure in the midst of abundant amounts to a detraction from the Nigerian children’s right to quality education under the International Covenant to Economic Social & Cultural Rights of 1966 to which Nigeria is a signatory.
“The EFCC must not attempt to be politically correct by refusing to investigate the state of financial expenditure of the Delta State Ministry of Education.
“Where the EFCC refuses to investigate the presumed misappropriation of the huge budgetary allocations for the development of education in the Delta, it will succeed in creating the impression that it is enemy of Nigerian children.
“CASER shall approach the court for an Order of Mandamus compelling it to carry the investigation.
“EFCC by embarking on the investigation of the officials of the Delta State Ministry of Education, will send a strong signal of other notorious state government vthat have also misappropriated funds meant for the educational development of Nigerians
“In carrying out the investigation, the EFCC will show that it indeed has the interest of Nigerian children and their education because the state of affairs in Delta State appears to be the same in many other states in Nigeria. The case of Delta State is only more worrisome because of the relatively huge revenues it gets as monthly income from federal allocations yet there can exist such a scandalous condition of any of its primary Bor secondary schools.
“CASER stands up for the human rights of ALL persons including the rich, the poor and especially the oppressed.
“CASER specifically advocates for the specie of human rights which directly impact on improving the living standards of all citizens of Nigeria. In this case, it is the right to education.
“CASER has called for this investigation to promote the right of Nigerian children to quality education since there are available resources to guarantee such”.