By: Manasseh Mbachii
Residents of Adikpo in Benue State are worried one of the key election promises made by politicians to their community may be blown away.
In 2018, a bill for an act to establish the Federal Polytechnic Adikpo, Benue State to provide full-time courses in technology, applied science management and other fields of studies was passed into law.
The bill was initiated by Barnabas Gemade, who at that time served as a senator representing Benue North-East senatorial district (Zone A) of Benue State.
In December 2020, the Nigerian government, through the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, paid N41 million for the project, and in June 2021, it paid another N41 million for the same project totalling N82 million.
The two payments were to construct a security gate at the polytechnic.
The payment was published by a budget spending and monitoring platform, BudgIt. The contract was awarded to M/S Nartdana Investment Limited.
In January 2021, the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, approved the establishment of another polytechnic in Benue, Federal Polytechnic Wannune with a take-off grant of N2 billion from the funding resources of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
Wannune is located in Terka Local Government Area of Benue South Senatorial District, 97.6 kilometres away from Adikpo.
Tarka shared borders with Makurdi, Gboko and Guma Local Government Areas.
Wannune is home to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume.
Letter of approval for the establishment of Wannune Polytechnic made available by the Special Advisor to the Honourable Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Aondona Mkor, revealed that the polytechnic was approved in January 2021 on the instance of Mr Akume, who was at the time Minister, Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs.
According to the National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institution (Amendment Decree No. 9 of 1993), an institution of Higher Education may be sponsored by a lawmaker and, or by the president’s directive based on the recommendation by the National Board for Technical Education with laid-down plans by the Federal Ministry of Education.
In the letter with Ref. No. DHE/POLY/39/C1/1/75, the Education Minister, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari approved the establishment of Wannune Polytechnic effective from 2021.
In a related document dated 17th January 2020, the Education Minister made similar approval for the establishment of the Federal Polytechnic at Adikpo for implementation in the 2021 cycle in furtherance of the impetus in Technical, Vocational and Entrepreneurial Training (TVET).
In a letter addressed to Senator Barnabas Gemade, the Director, Tertiary Education for Education Minister, Joel Ojo, acknowledged he received a letter from Senator Gemade dated 3rd of January, 2020 requesting the siting of the proposed Federal College of Education in his senatorial zone.
The minister, however, granted the approval of a federal polytechnic based on the ministry’s development plan for the establishment of tertiary institutions.
Visit to Adikpo Polytechnic
When this reporter visited the site of the proposed Adikpo Polytechnic, it was observed that the supposed citadel of research and learning has turned into farmland for residents, with administrative blocks housing reptiles and webs spun by spiders.
Inside the polytechnic premises, there are four administrative blocks of buildings located far away from each other.
This reporter observed that weeds had overtaken the buildings. Some parts of the compound are being used as farmland by residents.
50-year-old Hembadoon Tsegeri, a resident of the community, said she bought a plot of land for business in the community and was willing to return to the classroom when she heard about the establishment of Federal Polytechnic Adikpo.
“Something is not right. If there was approval for a polytechnic in Benue state, I think Adikpo Polytechnic would have been the first to attended to.
There are already structures on ground. Unfortunately, the inability of Gemade to return to the national assembly created a vacuum.
There was no one to follow up to ensure the completion of the project.
George Akume was a governor before he was elected into the national assembly. His position as a minister at that time has influenced the relocation of the polytechnic,” she said.
Similarly, a motorcyclist Orshi Akpenkaan said the school would have turned around the economic fortune of the host communities.
“I was happy when I heard about the establishment of the Federal Polytechnic Adikpo. I appealed to the federal government of Nigeria to reconsider establishing another school in the local government for sustainable development.”.
Another resident, Mnena Gbaa, said Adikpo Polytechnic would have cut the cost of spending on the part of parents considering the proximity of the school.
“I was excited about the establishment of the school. I even bought a plot of land to establish a business in the area. Now that the school has been abandoned, the money I invested in buying a plot of land is a waste of resources,” Mrs Gbaa said.
At the Federal Polytechnic Wannune in Tarka Local Government Area, the reporter observed that there is an ongoing construction of administrative and academic blocks of building at the permanent site of the school.
The school also resumed the 2022/2023 academic session for remedial studies at the temporary site of the school in Mbakor Community Secondary School, opposite Tarka Local Government Secretariat Wannune.
A resident, Mr. Terver Tyav who is impressed with the polytechnic thank President Muhammadu Buhari and Senator George Akume for the approval of Wannune Polytechnic in his home town, adding that the school will attract many more development in the community.
“It is a legacy that generations will forever remain grateful to Senator Dr. George Akume. This will bring tertiary education closer to our people; create direct and indirect jobs; stimulate the economy of our council and people; and attract many more development projects and investments home among others,” he said.
Reporter contacted Senator Gemade
When the this reporter contacted Senator Barnabas Gemade through his Personal Assistant in Media and Publicity, Solo Dzuah. Mr Dzuah said Mr Gemade is not available for the interview.
“He is not disposed to any interview at the moment,” he said, ending the call.
Several messages sent to the Personal Assistant were left unattended. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume, did not reply to an email from this reporter.
Mr. Simon Abua a close ally of Mr Akume said his principal has a busy schedule, adding that he is not able to have an interview at that moment.
Government fails to react
When reached out to the Federal Ministry of Education via the office of the Director, Federal Education and Quality Assurance Service, at the federal Secretariat Makurdi, for updates on the project. The Office of Quality Assurance Service declined comments and instead requested a letter be submitted.
A letter of enquiry submitted to the ministry was not responded to.
This report was produced under the UDEME project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID).