Feb. 8, 2014
by M.U Ndagi
When President Goodluck Jonathan launched the Almajiri Education Programme in Sokoto in 2011, some Nigerians had misgivings about government’s sincerity of purpose. Today, it has become clearer that the Almajiri initiative is just another sink hole through which funds appropriated in the budget for the programme can be pilfered, or in other words, misappropriated.
It sounds scandalous that the Federal Ministry of Education has planned in its 2014 budget to spend N950 million on the construction of a single block of three classrooms. This is contained in the 2014 Appropriation Bill submitted to the National Assembly by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on behalf of President Jonathan.
More amazing in the proposed spending (or rather theft) is that the budget did not specify where this single block of three classrooms would be sited. The construction project coded in the budget proposal as EDUMM010008897 is among the 310 others planned for 2014. The budget proposal also shows that President Jonathan wants the National Assembly to approve N600 million for the National Programme on Almajiri Education in collaboration with the Universal Basic education Commission (UBEC).
What appears more opprobrious in the 2014 budget than the proposed embezzlement of N950 million through the building of a block of three classrooms is the irony by which the Federal Ministry of Education gets a total allocation of N12.923 billion while UBEC (a parastatal under the federal ministry of education) is allocated N74,410 billion. It seems ridiculous that an agency is allocated a sum that is higher than what is proposed for its mother-ministry. If anything, this reveals the corrupt tendencies among government officials who craftily budget and allocate colossal sums to specific agencies or ministerial departments with the ulterior motive of stealing such funds when the appropriation (if approved as proposed) is signed into law.
If the Jonathan-led administration budgeted N5 billion in 2012 to build 102 Almajiri boarding schools across 18 northern states and Auchi in Edo State of Nigeria, how comes two years after (in 2014) the same government is budgeting for much fewer schools with outrageous variations? Although I am not good in the subject of Mathematics, my knowledge of basic Arithmetic suggests that the construction of a block of three classrooms in 2014 at N950 million is calamitously exorbitant.
To find the cost of building of the 102 Almajiri boarding schools as proposed in the 2012 budget, you just divide N5 billion by 102 schools and that gives you about N49 million. This amount was meant to provide fifteen blocks of classrooms, dormitories, a clinic, workshops, a dining hall and teachers’ quarters in each of the 102 Almajiri boarding schools. No excuse amount including high cost of building materials and labour can actually justify the scandalous estimates provided in the 2014 budget for building three classrooms at nearly N1 billion; which is 20% of what was estimated in 2012 for building 102 of such schools. Haba! Why must corrupt government officials steal in the name of the poor almajiris? Appropriating huge sums of money for the purpose of misappropriating same which are meant for the use of the Almajirn Education Programme is not just a criminal act but equally an infringement upon one of the fundamental right of the Nigeria child.
If leaders as public officers and their private sector collaborators think that they are so kleptomaniac that they cannot do without stealing public funds, it is better they think of other options or sources from which they could actualize their defiant and rebellious desire of ‘living to filch’. But to attempt to do that through the Almajiri progamme is to seek Allah’s anger. Why have they turned their eyes away from the over-bloated feeding budget of the Presidential Villa? Or the extremely inflated fuelling money budgeted for Aso Rock Generators? The body-language of President Jonathan, as once observed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwwal, is one that is out to empower corruption.
Members of the National Assembly must, as a matter of responsibility, ensure that fraudulent aspects of the budget proposal as presented by the executive are expunged. That, however, should not translate in to a window for the legislators to replace such sham appropriations with similar or even worse but premeditated corrupt deals. May Allah (SWT) cleanse the heart of Nigerians who see the misappropriation of state resources or public funds as a ‘fundamental human right’.
Dealing with outrageous heretical remarks:
A court in Zaria, Kaduna state, recently sentenced a young man to 3 years imprisonment without an option of fine in addition to 20 strokes of cane. The accused was said to have composed a Hausa song in which he said ‘Sheikh Ibrahim Dan Aljannah ne’ meaning ‘Sheikh Ibrahim is a dweller of Paradise’; Sheikh Ibrahim Dan Wuta ne’ meaning ‘Sheikh Ibrahim is a dweller of Hell fire’. While he was still being interrogated on this, he added other outrageous heretical remarks that sought to jeopardize his faith as a Muslim when he said: ‘Sheikh Ibrahim Allah ne’ meaning ‘Sheikh Ibrahim is Allah’; ‘Sheikh Ibrahim yafi Allah’ meaning ‘Sheikh Ibrahim is above Allah’. Some concerned Muslims including Professor Abdullahi Okene of the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria took up the matter, which eventually led to the prosecution and conviction of the accused. May Allah (SWT) safeguard our faith against the evil machinations of the shaytan, amin.