The federal government’s anti-corruption war has fully landed in the country’s universities, with the searchlight beamed on key projects, which are alleged to be shoddily executed by the institutions’ top management.
Those who are likely to fall victims of the crusade are vice chancellors and other heads of tertiary education institutions who have been accused of hiring incompetent contractors to execute critical projects in their schools.
The indication that there is no more hiding place for corrupt university administrators came at the weekend from the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Sonny Echono, during his investiture as the new president of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA).
Echono warned the tertiary education heads that henceforth any construction of shoddy structures in their schools shall attract the full weight of the law in line with the federal government’s anti-corruption crusade.
The permanent secretary lamented that some buildings on the campuses were below standards, adding that such structures and the school heads responsible for them had caused embarrassment to the government and the construction sector.
Although, Echono said that there had been tremendous improvement in the quality of buildings in public tertiary institutions of learning since he assumed office, the standard must be sustained by the schools’ administrators to avoid running foul of the law.
He pledged to galvanise efforts towards tackling the problem of incessant building collapse in Nigeria.
Echono said: “Indeed, in my first meeting with vice chancellors, provosts and rectors of our universities, polytechnics and colleges of education as well as their governing councils, just a few months I got into the Federal Ministry of Education, I made the point that the mere fact that I am here, and I am a trained architect, presupposes that going forward any structure we are going to put in any of our institutions must reflect the leadership, something I can relate with, something I can be proud of.
“We sent the message out and we have been working with primary agencies involved in the provision of the infrastructure, the National Universities Commission (NUC), the funding agencies, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) that the quality of our buildings must improve.
“We have also ensured that the procurement processes are such that will deliver competent contractors, who have track records of performance and who have the capacity to execute those projects. I can confirm that there has been very significant improvement in the quality of these buildings in the recent past.
“The ones we inherited, some of them I actually feel ashamed to associate myself with them,“ he said.
The permanent secretary noted that it was tremendous privilege to lead the body of architects in Nigeria for two years, saying he would focus on projecting the important role architects play in the society.
He said that the NIA under his leadership would start from the basis, especially the rural communities, stressing that “if you look at the quality of buildings around the country today, the average life-span is 20 to 30 years and no country can afford that kind of waste.
“A building is supposed to last at least for 100 years and if it is properly designed and constructed using good materials, it will last a minimum of 500 years. We cannot continue to be replacing the buildings every 30 years,” Echono said.
He said that most of the cases of collapsed buildings were due to clients neglecting to hire professionals and engaging quacks in an attempt to cut corners or “they use poor contractors who carry on jobs they cannot handle.“
He lamented that the practice had led to the collapse of many buildings in various parts of the country, with the attendant loss of lives and waste of resources.
Echono promised that all the stakeholders in the building industry would close ranks in order to address the problem.
According to him, efforts would be made to ensuring that the services of architects are available in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria, particularly rural communities.
“These are some of the areas that we feel that professional associations such as NIA should make their services available,hold their members to a very high standard of performance and to eliminate all forms unsavoury practices, ruthless competition and undercutting of one another within the profession,“he said.
IPPIS, Introduction Of Advanced Corruption – ASUU
Meanwhile, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has described the disputed Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as the introduction of advanced corrupt practices in the country.
The union cautioned the federal government not to truncate the autonomy of the university system or reduce universities to local communities or arms of federal ministries.
In a statement issued yesterday by the chairman of the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) branch of ASUU, Dr. Olayinka Awopetu, he urged the government to jettison its current stand on IPPIS in the university system.
The union argued that a distributed system is more suitable than a centralised one.
Awopetu expressed ASUU’s disdain for corruption and declared that the union supports transparency and accountability in government.
The group reminded the government on the need to consider the alternative offer from the university lecturers known as Nigerian Universities Transparency and Accountability System (NUTAS).
Awopetu said that the alternative would adequately take care of the interest of the government on lPPlS, the university autonomy laws as well as the peculiarities of the Ivory Towers’ environment.
He premised the stand of the FUTA branch of the union on some factors, saying that “the IPPIS as at present structured is centralised. This is inappropriate for any university system. In this case, ASUU FUTA believes that a distributed system is more suitable than a centralised system.
“A distributed system whereby each university manages its database, and the mirror is available to the federal government, ensures a peer review as well as checks and balances.
“This will ensure that the autonomy of the university system is sustained while making the outcome available as a minor to the employer for planning as claimed by the federal government.
“Information technology, upon which the IPPIS is built, has rated distributed systems above centralised systems because distributed systems are more fault tolerant, secure, transparent (because of peer review) and easily take care of scalability while making resource sharing easier and more effective.
“A centralised system is prone to more corruption than a distributed system. This is further reinforced by corruption cases already discovered within a short time of test-running of IPPIS, like the report of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation claiming that OAGF was unable to provide records covering about N23 billion in the IPPIS operation transaction accounts,“ he said.
Awopetu added that „ in June 2017, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned three persons on multiple count charges, led by a staff of Soft Alliance (Onukaogu Onyinyechi Esther) who added her name and those of her two siblings (Joshua and Jennifer) into the IPPIS database as staff of the Federal Ministry of Education and Federal Ministry of Works respectively.
“The amount paid on them was N9.7million. To ask pertinent questions, why is government hell bent on coercing ASUU into joining the IPPIS? Can government provide a list of the MDAs that have not even joined IPPIS?” he asked.
PMB Launches Transportation Varsity in Katsina Today
And in Daura, Katsina State, the country home of President Muhammadu Buhari, all is now set for today’s launch of the University of Transportation by the Nigerian leader.
This was revealed yesterday in Katsina when Governor Aminu Bello Masari inspected the venue of the ground breaking ceremony to ensure that it will hold without hitches.
The university to be constructed by China Civil Company (CCC) will be located adjacent to the Air Force Base along Daura-Kano Road.
During the inspection of the on-going rehabilitation of Dannakola-Rijiyar Tsamiya-Fago Road, Masari said that arrangements had been concluded for the presidential commissioning of the 28km Randa-Doguru-Gallu-Kwanar Gwanti-Shargalle Road, among others.
Masari was accompanied on the visit by the deputy governor, Mannir Yakubu, the secretary to the state government (SSG), Mustapha Inuwa, and the commissioner for Works, Mr Tasiu Dahiru Dandagoro.