By Ismail Auwal
SAHELIAN TIMES has uncovered another case of fund diversion in the Kano State Ministry of Education.
The diverted money, according to SAHELIAN TIMES’ findings, was meant for schools to buy materials needed to keep students and staffs safe from COVID-19 pandemic.
A source in one of the affected schools revealed that, the fund is for the purchase of hand sanitizers, thermometers, face masks, and other necessary materials for the protection of staff and students.
SAHELIAN TIMES gathered that the sum of over N300,000 was disbursed to 10 schools in Nassarawa Local Government but the Education Secretary of the local government allegedly directed that the money be transferred into the account of a private company.
“We received a call even before the money was sent into the school’s account, that it will be required of us to return the monies but we were asked to keep N25,000 out of the total amount, the source explained.
The Guaranty Trust Bank’s account of KEBAL SE ALLAH Nigeria Ltd was used in receiving the fund, according to our findings.
Further investigation reveals that the company has been engaged to handle projects for the state government, since 2015.
In 2019 a contract of over N80million was awarded to the company by the government.
A source told our reporter that the schools affected have received few thermometers and hand sanitizers.
However, the Education Secretary of Nassarawa Local Government said that, “the instruction was from a superior officer at the Ministry of Education.”
According to him, “the Ministry of Education knows how to spend the money better than the school headmasters and principals.”
“I have nothing to do with the said transaction, you should ask the schools if I personally, as an Executive Secretary, have collected their kobo.”
It could be recalled that, SAHELIAN TIMES reported how funds donated to schools in Kano State by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), an initiative of World Bank and other International development partners, was diverted into an account of a private company.
The donation, N22 million, which was meant to increase access to quality education and support communities that suffer serious neglect in education, found its way into the company’s bank account allegedly on the instruction of state government’s officials.
The World Bank, through the GPE, disbursed the sum of N383,000 to over 50 beneficiary schools last year.
Investigation by SAHELIAN TIMES however, found that many of the schools that benefited from the fund were instructed to return the money into a Zenith Bank’s account of the limited liability company.
A reliable source in one of the schools told SAHELIAN TIMES that, the Education Secretary of their local government called to direct them to transfer the donated money into the private company account.
“The ES insisted that it was an order from Kano State Ministry of Education,” the source revealed.
In a bank transaction sighted by SAHELIAN TIMES, the account number of a company, United Packing Nigeria was used, raising suspicion of fraud.
According to the World Bank’s guidelines, the money must to be paid into the accounts of the beneficiary schools.
The leadership of the schools and School-Based Management Committees (SBMCs) were tasked with the responsibility of designing and implementing projects for the benefits of the schools.
An insider observed that, “We have designed and submitted the work plan, and yet they asked us to return the money, and there is nothing we can do.”
SAHELIAN TIMES learned that, a group of concerned citizens in Dawakin Tofa Local Government had petitioned Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on the matter.
“As a result of the petition and pressure put upon by the group, schools in Dawakin Tofa were spared and the schools’ leaderships were allowed to spend the monies as earlier designed in their respective work plan,” a source told SAHELIAN TIMES.
Kano State Commissioner of Education, Muhammad Sunusi Kiru, however, told our reporter that he was yet to receive any petition on the matter.
He, however, noted that the government has the right to ask the schools to “reimburse” the monies sent to them if at that time the proposals sent by the schools were not the state priority.
“If you have been carefully monitoring, you will realize that we have shared benches and chairs with GPE2020 written on them, that was part of the money,” he pointed out.
SAHELIAN TIMES’ investigations, however, revealed that 16 chairs were distributed to the affected schools.
A source, at one of the affected schools, said, “If you divide N383, 000, that was given to the school, into 16, each chair will cost over N23 thousand.”
What the antigraft laws say about diversion of funds
An official of the Economic and Finance Crime Commission ( EFCC), who spoke on condition of anonymity in an interview with SAHELIAN TIMES, said the act of diverting public funds entrusted with a third party is a criminal breach of trust.
“The World Bank might decide to entrust the fund with state government or State’s Ministry of Education, but it decided to do otherwise,” the official explained.
“If someone will write a petition to any antigraft agency, the owner(s) of the bank account must explain to the court what the funds are doing in their account”, he added.