- …over juicy parastatals
Strong indication has emerged recently that President Muhammadu Buhari’s desired reforms in the Nigerian education system may, after all, remain a dream, following the cold war between the Minister of State, for Education, Professor Antony Anwukah, and the minister, Alhaji Adamu Adamu.
The frosty relationship between the two ministers is said to be greatly hindering the effective implementation of the president’s policy trust in the educational sector.
The crux of the matter is the alleged maladministration, highhandedness, abuse of office and gross incompetence that are being exhibited by the senior minister in handling the affairs of the ministry.
A reliable source within the ministry revealed to Nigerian Pilot that the crisis between the ministers appointed by the president to assist in reviving the ailing education system reached a crescendo, when the minister unilaterally recommended his cronies to the president for appointments as heads of parastatals under the supervision of the ministry.
It was learnt that this singular act was what finally set the two ministers on warpath, after a long frosty relationship that has existed between them.
According to the source, the minister began to show his domineering tendencies and disdain to work with the minister of state who is seen to be knowledgeable on issues affecting the sector; and this was soon after the duo was assigned the education portfolios.
It has been alleged that the minister is running the affairs of the ministry as if it were his personal estate.
The source pointed to the appointment of the minister’s known associate, Dr. Abdullahi Bichi Baffa, as executive secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETfund. As a reward for that, the TETfund boss in return appointed the minister’s in-law as special assistant.
The appointment of Baffa is said to have contravened the act establishing the agency.
The development, according to our dependable source, has created so much confusion and misunderstanding, not only between the duo, but within the entire Nigerian education sector.
Recently, the disagreement and rot in the sector was brought to the public domain when the office of the Minister of State for Education announced an increment in the school fees of federal government colleges (unity colleges), a decision the minister swiftly rejected.
Adamu, who made this known in Abuja on Tuesday in a chat with newsmen at the sidelines of the National Education Quality Assurance Handbook’s launch, said the news of the increment from N20, 000 to N75, 000 was strange to him.
“I am not aware that the unity school fee has been increased. As the minister of education I am not aware but I will try and find out,” he said.
On the feud between him and the Minister of State over the recent appointments of new heads of 17 agencies in the ministry, in which Prof. Anwukah was allegedly sidelined, Adamu claimed ignorance of the development.
He, however, admitted that he mistakenly failed to acknowledge the presence of the minister of state’s representative during the launch of the handbooks.
“I am not also aware that he has been sidelined but you can go and find out from the source that told you,” he added.
Also speaking on the unity school fees controversy, the permanent secretary in the ministry, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan admitted that the federal government had increased the fees.
She said the increment, which was focused on boarding fees, was to meet up with the cost of running the schools.
Nigerian Pilot recalls that Prof. Anwukah had in recent times continued to shun events that attract the presence of Adamu, which a source blamed on the way the latter sidelined him on the recommendation to President Muhammadu Buhari of those to be appointed to head agencies in the Education Ministry.
Some of Adamu aides, friends and in-laws were allegedly appointed as heads of the agencies.
Anwukah had boycotted the inauguration of the newly appointed chief executives, also followed by his conspicuous absence during the flag-off of the 2016 Teachers’ Professional Development in Abuja last week.
One of the sources said: “You know before now the agencies in the ministry were always shared between the senior minister and the minister of state.
“Agencies like NUC, TETFund, NBTE, NCCE among others that fall within the purview of tertiary education are supposed to be handled by the minister while those in basic education like UBEC, NMEC, NECO and others are supposed to be handled by the Minister of State, but Adamu Adamu is now the one running all the agencies .
Meanwhile, a non-governmental organisation, Citizens for Leadership, Education and Development, CFLED, has urged President Buhari to immediately call the ministers to order so as not derail his planned reforms in the sector.
CFLED noted that the securable and mal-administration which the minister was being accused of were capable of truncating the lofty ideals the present administration wanted to achieve in the sector.
In a statement signed by its coordinator, Barr. Sylvester Ugochukwu Ezenwa, and made available to newsmen in Abuja, the NGO also asked the president to release fund to the universities for the implantation of projects captured by the Committee on Needs Assessments of Nigerian Universities, CNANU.
Ezenwa said that it was important for the president to direct the Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefele to release the sum of N760 billion as part of the intervention funds to the universities.
According to the group, the fund was agreed upon between the federal government and Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, since 2003.
“The last time we had an interface with the leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the issue of need assessment money was clearly top of their agenda. Some members were even of the opinion that the ASUU should go on strike. So, the kind of policy somersaults being witnessed in the education ministry may pave way for this, if not immediately handled,” CNANU warned.