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School scam? – The Nation

By The Citizen

The recent allegation by Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State that the N500 million set aside for the rebuilding of Government Secondary School (GSS) in Chibok, where some 230 girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents, is a tragic reminder of the way in which greed has overwhelmed the country's more humane instincts.

In March 2015, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then finance minister and coordinating minister for the economy, visited Chibok as the official representative of President Goodluck Jonathan. She announced that GSS Chibok was to be comprehensively rehabilitated as part of a N3.2 billion Safe Schools Initiative, a World Economic Forum programme aimed at boosting education in Nigeria. Stating that Jonathan was personally interested in the project, Okonjo-Iweala declared that the engineering designs were ready and that work would soon commence on it.

Nearly two years later, Shettima is claiming that little has been done, and wants the disbursement of funds for the reconstruction project to be thoroughly investigated.

It is truly distressing that so many aspects of the rehabilitation of those displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency have apparently succumbed to the evil of corruption. Funds meant to be spent on meeting the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been allegedly misappropriated; contracts for relief works in IDP camps have been grossly over-inflated; female IDPs have been victims of serial sexual assaults by those meant to protect and succour them.

The seeming failure to reconstruct GSS Chibok is particularly galling, given the widespread realisation that it represented a literal and symbolic victory over an insurgency which had been defined by its rejection of Western education and its relegation of females to second-class status. Alongside the continuing search for the remaining abducted girls, the re-emergence of the school was meant to be a triumphant assertion of the fact that no terrorist group could kill a people's determination to better its lot in life.

The Chibok project was also supposed to spearhead the Safe Schools Initiative. Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states were targeted as the first beneficiaries of the initiative due to the devastation the educational sector in those states had suffered because of the insurgency. If GSS Chibok has not undergone reconstruction, it is unlikely that the other, far less visible schools within the north-east have been able to benefit from the initiative. Indeed, it appears that attention has now focused on educating the children of IDPs within the camps rather than reconstructing schools.

The negative repercussions of these failures cannot be underestimated. The educational rehabilitation of north-eastern Nigeria is crucial to the overall reconstruction of the region in the impending post-insurgency era. Military victories will count for little if the region's children are unable to obtain a sound education, and the hordes of ignorant and resentful youths so created will pose formidable challenges in the near future.

The Buhari administration should take up Shettima's call to investigate the way in which the N500 million budgeted for the reconstruction of GSS Chibok was spent. Which agency disbursed the money? Who were the contractors? What were the terms of the contract? What was the delivery date?

Investigations should be widened to incorporate the Safe Schools Initiative itself, with a view to finding out exactly how many of the envisaged 500 schools in northern Nigeria have so far benefitted from it, and in what ways. An estimated U.S. $10 million was to be pledged by a coalition of Nigerian business leaders with the support of several multilateral agencies. What happened to those funds, if indeed they were raised?

No nation can afford to let the corruption of a few injure the hopes and dreams of its most vulnerable citizens. The restruction of Government Secondary School, Chibok, must begin without delay.