There are growing concerns in Katsina following the stoppage of work by contractors hired by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to rehabilitate the famous Dikko College Katsina, which has considerably disrupted educational activities at the school.
Dikko College, formerly Government College Katsina, is the school where President Muhammadu Buhari and many other prominent Nigerians graduated from.
Established in 1925 as a middle school and changed to a provincial secondary school in 1956, Government College Katsina was in 1976 renamed Dikko College Katsina.
Prominent personalities such as the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua; late IGP Ibrahim Coomassie, current emir of Katsina, Dr Abdulmumini Kabir Usman, a former Wazirin Katsina, Prof Sani Lugga, as well as the present Wazirin Katsina Senator Ibrahim Ida, amongst many other big names passed through the college.
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Given the status of the school, the apex bank offered to give if a face-lift. In 2020 the bank awarded a contract for the total renovation and upgrading of the school.
The project involves the complete renovation of classrooms, staffroom and the administrative block, laboratories, sports complex, workshops, dining hall, students’ hostels, perimeter fence, main gate and roads within the school.
The project was meant to give the school a modern look and enough infrastructure, teaching and learning facilities as well as a conducive atmosphere for learning befitting its glory.
The contract was awarded to A. G. Ferrero Ltd in September 2020 with a completion period of 20 months. However, the work, which began in earnest with a blistering pace, kept decelerating and passed its appointed completion date of April 2022.
When our reporter visited the college, it was observed that the environment was far from conducive for teaching and learning as almost all classrooms under renovation have not been completed.
The whole school is currently using a one-storey building containing few classrooms and old labs, which structural engineers have, however, warned could collapse at any time.
A final-year student, Ahmed Kabir, said the students were asked to go home following the warning on the integrity of the building but were called back three weeks later as they had to continue with their studies.
“We are grateful to our teachers who work tirelessly to ensure that we learned something ahead of our final exams, but unfortunately most of what we did even during extra lessons was theoretical as we have no functional labs and workshops to do practical,” he said.
Apart from the uncompleted classes, workshops, labs and other educational infrastructure, another source of concern is the access roads and drainage network, which if left in the present condition may likely lead to the school being flooded during the oncoming rainy season.
A teacher in the school, who craved anonymity, told our reporter that even though the work could be at up to 60-70 per cent completion, there were issues of the supply of furniture, laboratory and sports equipment as well as other teaching and learning materials.
He added that “the quality of work done, from its face value, is quite commendable, but with close to a year after the supposed completion date, and with barely few days left for President Buhari to return home, all of us – parents, teachers, students – are really concerned over the future of the project if Buhari, and perhaps the Central Bank governor, leave office after May 29.”
Another senior staff of the college disclosed that even before schools went on vacation, Dikko College was necessitated by the CBN intervention to split the teaching time into two sessions (morning and evening) with a reduced teaching time of at least four hours per day in order to utilise the few classes that could be used, a situation that may likely affect the performance of the students.
“Now that it is the season for SSCE certificate examinations (WAEC, NECO etc), it will be even more difficult, particularly for the final year students as they would definitely need workshops, labs and even classes for their practical and written exams, and there are virtually none.’’
Daily Trust could not establish why work was stopped as both the contractor, A.G. Ferrero Ltd and the CBN were not on hand to speak on the matter.
When contacted, the Katsina Branch Controller of the apex bank, Ahmed Musa Ladan, who spoke with our correspondent, said all inquiries related to the project should be directed to the head office in Abuja.
He said, though, as far as he knew the project was progressing, but could not speak on why the June 2022 deadline could not be met.
Some of the workers met on the site, who said they did not have the authority to speak on the project, told our correspondent that the project manager, who resides in Kaduna, is in a better position to explain the delay.
However, a source that pleaded anonymity, said it was actually the apex bank that was not releasing funds even when the contractors submitted progress reports for reimbursements.
The source added that the contractors had also asked for a contract review as prices of materials have skyrocketed since 2020 but the CBN refused to conduct the review.
Alumni appeal for Buhari’s intervention
Speaking with Daily Trust, some members of the alumni of the college have appealed to President Buhari to prevail on the CBN to ensure the release of adequate funds for the completion of the project.
Alhaji Sulaiman Isah Mai’adua, who is a classmate of Buhari, thanked the president for initiating the repairs and upgrade of the college and appealed to him to ensure that the project was completed for the benefit of the state and the country in general.
“This college is very famous not only in Katsina State but in Nigeria as a whole and expectedly, the CBN said they were undertaking the repairs and the upgrade of the school for which we are very much grateful. They started the work which we were following the progress but unfortunately, it has not been completed at the stipulated time.
“We visited the college about a month ago and discovered that the work had stopped and there was no sign of completing the project. Though there is no written paper, we are sure that it was the president that gave the instruction for the renovation or at least it is done because of him.
“We are, therefore, appealing to the president and the Federal Ministry of Education to prevail on the CBN to complete the project because if the president goes, we don’t know what will happen to the project,” he said.
Another old student of the college, Umar Isyaku Ogunse, also appealed to the president on the matter, saying it was “very unfortunate that such a project could be abandoned.
“I am appealing to the president to look critically at this matter. At the moment, schools have resumed but as you can see, students of this college are yet to resume due to the present condition of the environment.
“Although we are appealing to the parents also to send their children back to school to utilize the available structure, we are really concerned about the present situation of the school. Look at the classrooms, look at the road network, it is really unfortunate,” he said.
Also lending his voice to the appeal, another member of the alumni, Alhaji Aminu Abdulmalik Kofar Bai, said: “Our concern is that we don’t even know who is delaying the project. Everything has been dislocated and with the way things are going, we don’t know how normal studies will return in the school.
“Our prayer and appeal are that Mr President should intervene to ensure the completion of this important project.”