Bauchi: Huge infrastructure deficit and citizens’ call for urgency

Out-of-school child

Two outstanding events that took place in Bauchi State recently were the taking of a new wife by the state governor, Alhaji Mohammed Bala, and the death of four students of College of Education, Waka-Biu in Biu local government council of the state.

Both incidents happened in mocking contrast to each other. While the governor appeared to have added a fresh wife to congratulate himself for winning a hard fought gubernatorial election, the tragic end of the young students took place to underscore the infrastructure deficits in the very state that produced Nigeria’s first prime minister.

Regrettably, at a time when the governor was settling down to reward himself with a new wife, the state of social amenities, including educational facilities, primary healthcare and infrastructure in the state is begging for urgent attention.

Some stakeholders in the state saw the infrastructure deficit as a source of worry, especially the impact on the women, youth and other vulnerable groups. Immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Yakubu Dogara, reportedly fell out with the immediate past governor, Mohammed Abubakar, for allegedly neglecting critical infrastructure in the state.

When therefore the Bauchi electorate rejected Abubakar at the polls and elected Governor Bala, expectations were high that at last the people could settle down to witness a reversal in the ugly state of things in the state.

The death of the four students as well as hospitalization of 12 others after complaining of abdominal pains with attendant vomiting of blood pointed to yellow fever attack.

Governor Bala had disclosed that the state would need six million doses of vaccines to prevent the spread of the yellow fever outbreak, even as he disclosed that his government has requested the vaccines from the World Health Organisation.

Although the governor blamed the outbreak on the large population of monkeys around the Yankari Game Reserve, a visit to some primary healthcare centres in the state belies any preparedness for disease surveillance.

However the governor had announced that some development partners provided a grant of N6b to support the state in the fight against the yellow fever outbreak.

He said his administration has also set the necessary machinery in motion to ensure that every month, a health facility would be considered for rehabilitation and equipped until every health facility in the state begins to function effectively.

But it is not only in the health sector that dilapidation of infrastructure is evident. When placed side by side other states, the education benchmark in Bauchi lags behind.

Many schools have their roofs blown off, while others remain threadbare without desks and chairs. The governor himself was amazed when he witnessed pupils taking classes under trees.

For instance, in Bayara/Liman Katagum Government Day Junior School, pupils bring stones from their homes to sit on, just as others choose to sit on bare floor during classes.

The situation seems to be worse in the rural areas, because teachers, who could not succeed in their quest for redeployment to urban areas where social amenities are accessible, shun classes.

While the challenge of understaffed schools at the rural communities remains unsolved, some urban schools are overstaffed, such that many teachers abandon schoolwork. There is morning and evening sessions such that primary teachers are for morning session while senior class teachers resume at 12:pm in some schools.

Within the first month of the governor in office, he declared a state of emergency in education, saying: “We attended public schools and we can compete with anyone across the world, today the narrative has changed, the public education system is dead, because successive administrations and institutions have not done anything, including the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).

“Without basic infrastructure and training of teachers we might not achieve more, also the problem of ghost teachers I can tell you that we have up to about 20 per cent of ghost workers on our payroll. You can imagine the position that could have been occupied by trained teachers and we are paying them. My administration will declare war on them because we are not going to condone the act.

“There is rot in educational system. Also, we must fight educational corruption; nobody will do that for us. We must fight the war. All our primary schools are blown off and our teachers are not there, even in town.

“When I was coming in I heard they were able to access N1.4b and said nobody should release such fund, because the former chairman of SUBEB is so cancerous, he dared me, he dared the government of Bauchi. I have decided to access the money in Abuja myself, because he wanted to use the fund the way they used to. He served the political interests of some people and he wanted to get the money to do nothing.”

The governor confirmed that the state has about 1.3million out-of-school children, explaining that although the government gets global interventions every year, the classrooms are in disrepair and without books.

He observed that teachers in the state require training, adding, “we have liaised with partners from Kaduna to help us in adding value to our teachers to have good output.

“Our cut-off mark for transition from primary school to secondary is the lowest in the country, because of the poor quality of teaching. Will need laboratories in the primary and secondary schools, we need infrastructure and accommodation, because our pupils sit under trees, this is unacceptable, we are declaring emergency on education.

“I’m not fighting anybody but the responsibilities we have at hand must be delivered. I’m ashamed that Bauchi State has the highest out-of-school children. We are committed to model system to conquer the ratio of teacher to pupils, ratio of pupils to toilet, ratio of students’ classroom, all these things we must correct. I have done it in Abuja and I have to do it in Bauchi,” Bala stated.

Some stakeholders said the governor is still believes he is still campaigning for election, adding that his promise to employ 1, 000 teachers trained by UNICEF to correct the infrastructure deficit remains a mere statement of intention three months after coming into office.

In the area of primary healthcare, the children and mothers continue to “suffer avoidable and preventable deaths,” even as people in Shira and Zaki are said to be going to neighbouring Jigawa State to access medical care, a local observed.

What remains is for the governor to match word with action, because the challenge of malnutrition, which has claimed the lives of many children remain acute due to grinding poverty.

It is in the midst of these grinding challenges that Governor Bala displayed ostentation in the manner his recent wedding was exhibited. That sparked off mixed reactions in the state. While some people wonder whether the change of baton on May 29, 2019 was a move from frying pan to fire, others argue that it was too early to dismiss the governor entirely.

The Bauchi State Publicity Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Yayanuwa Zainbari, said the governor has shown signs of excellent performance.

Zainbari stated that the governor wasted no time, but swung into action with a view to justifying the confidence reposed in him by the electorate, adding that within the first 100 days in office, he flagged off the construction of roads in areas that hitherto lacked access roads and renovated the existing ones.

“The first ones he flagged off in the state capital were the construction and rehabilitation of four roads worth about N5b, which include Ibrahim Bako to Maiduguri road Bye-Pass, Sabon Kaura to Jos road, while those of Muda Lawal Market and Yakubun Bauchi Quarters are for rehabilitation, he added.

Zainabari noted that in contrast, instead of merely awarding contracts like was done in the past, Governor Bala paid up to 50 per cent of the total project cost to enable immediate commencement and expeditious work.

Most observers have expressed the view that while 100 days in office gives an idea of how far an administration could go in delivering on its mandate, especially through policies and programmes, the next three months would define whether Governor Mohammed Bala sees his election into office as opportunity to serve the people of Bauchi or to please himself.

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