ALHAJI UMORU MAIGARI SPEAKS ON NASARAWA STATE UNIVERSAL BASIC EDUCATION BOARD

Alhaji Umaru Maigari Executive Chairman Nasarawa State Universal Basic Education Board

For Alhaji Umoru Mairiga, the education sector is a familiar turf. He has taught in several schools for several years, until 1995 when he became the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education in the old Plateau State. When Nasarawa state was carved out of Plateau state, he became the pioneer Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education for the new state. It was Alhaji Mairiga who established the Nasarawa State Primary Education Management Board in 1997. After serving in several other ministries as Permanent Secretary, he became the Head of Civil Service in the state. When he retired from the service in 2002, he was appointed by former Governor Abdullahi Adamu as Chie of Staff. When Governor Akwe Doma came on board, Maigari was appointed as Special Adviser on education. The Governor saw the unhealthy state of things in SUBEB, he asked Maigari to go there and fix things up. Since then, Umoru Maigari has been working round the clock to get Nasarawa state SUBEB working properly. He spoke to Moses George, Editor-in-Chief in Lafia. Exerpts:

You have a program called school based management committees. Tell us about it?

Yes the school bases management committees are initiatives we introduced that is composed of local people… vulcanizes, mechanics, masons etc. We get these people involved in areas where primaries schools are located. These committees meet from time to time to deliberate on problems confronting schools in their areas. They take a wholistic look at the schools and call upon the school authority if anything is going wrong. That initiative has been a huge success. We have a Directorate of Social Mobilization that is responsible awareness creation. We encourage communities to do projects. Some of them have even built class rooms. We go out to do lots of advocacy that will stimulate parents to enroll their children in schools.

We have all come to accept that one of the major factors militating against development is corruption. What has been your effort in checking corruption in your agency?

First and foremost, we are lucky because we don’t have such cases in Nasarawa State Universal Basic Education Board. When we came on board in 2009, we met a lot of problems between teachers and banks. Education Secretaries, NUT or Headmasters procured facilities from banks for teachers. After securing these loans, monthly deductions… for instance, a teacher whose salary is twenty thousand naira could have seventeen thousand naira deducted from his monthly salaries leaving him with just three thousand naira. Some teachers even obtain loans from two or three places. For such teachers at the end of every month, they are left with almost nothing after deductions are made by the banks. So, this has affected their attitude to work because at the end of each working month, after various deductions by banks, they don’t really have a salary to take home. So as soon as we came in, I directed that a circular should be published that from that moment hence forth, Nasarawa state UBEB will no longer guarantee any loan. If any teacher wants to obtain a loan for whatever reason, such individual should go to the bank and make arrangements for such facility without involving the board. I met the Head of Service… by the way, I was Head of Service before I retired…..and I told him that workers in the Universal Basic Education Board are not part of the civil service….. So we are supposed to negotiate our own loans not in a centralized manner because we know the problems of the members of our staff. Another major problem was that if the worker obtains a loan, say, motor cycle loan of about ninety or a hundred thousand naira, few days later, such beneficiary will dispose it at thirty or fourty thousand naira. So, we had to stop all that because of such abuse. So with regards to the issue of financial improprieties that you mention in your question, let me inform you that here at Nasarawa State UBEB, it is very difficult for any member of staff to execute any kind of fraud. The monies we deal with are in four categories. We have the UBEC/UBE funds, the local government funds, state government funds and ETF funds. The ETF is one hundred percent federal government funds, it is an intervention funds for structures. The fund does not come all at once. It comes in percentage for projects. Right now, we have about three of such projects on ground. The process is really tight. They evaluate your books and inspect your projects, so there are really no loop holes for anyone to exploit for manipulations. Again, we do e-payments and you know that means less cash transactions. The UBEC/UBE fund is a yearly affair and it involves some kind of counterpart arrangement. For instance if UBEC is giving us ten million naira, the state also has to release a counterpart fund of equal amount. We have N1.9 billion from UBEC and another N1.9 billion from the state government. That is from 2008 to 2010 and you cannot use that money anyhow. That is about N800 million for 2008… so you have that money for that year and the project must be about 70 or 80 completed before you can assess the next fund. There must be a programme of action before you can have access to the money. You must give details of what you intend to do with all their money. So they are very thorough in their evaluations before they allow you to start assessing the money. As soon as you commence the project, they’ll send officers to monitor the projects and scrutinize your books to make sure that the money is being put into proper use. The local government fund is only salaries. We get the number of staff from the Education Secretaries, we check the PV’s and send them to local governments across the state. So during joint allocations, money is deducted from each local government in respect of salaries. So what we do here is, we pay them their salaries. Then of course, there is the subvention we receive from the state government for workshops, seminars, salaries and purchases of stationaries and maintenance of vehicles.

Everything sounds perfect That means that you don’t really need to make much effort with regards to ensuring that there is transparency all the way………..

I cannot compromise. I have zero tolerance for any kind of deceitful attitude. After putting in 35 in service, I have held several important positions and retired. I don’t think I need much amount of money. I am contented with what I earn, especially now that I am ageing.
With the coming on board of Almakura as Governor of Nasarawa state, what is going to be different in the state?
Well, I am not Al-makura. but based on his antecedents I expect his administration to usher in good things for the people of Nasarawa state. I think the man will embark on providing basic infrastructures that will provide respite for the people. I also think that he will give the education sector a new lease of life. I expect that the civil service will get a boost and the general level of poverty will be reduced. I know that Governor Al-Makura will certainly perform. I have known him for some time. I came into ABU in 1974, he came in the following year, that is 1975. We were staying in Akenzua hall in Samaru. We were always together. I could remember in those days after we had studied our books throughout the week, I would call him and say let us go to Sabongari on sightseeing. But we always make sure that we have N20 naira in our pockets so as to be able transport ourselves back in a bus. At ABU Tanko Al-Makura, apart from his studies was into article writing for newspapers and magazines. So right from that time I knew that Al- Makura apart from being an great scholar, was someone who had broad perception of life. He has held quite a number of leadership positions which has equipped him for this great responsibility that God has placed on him.

Let us take a look at some of the areas that you have been able to record some achievements since you took over as the head of this agency?

When we came in, the board was not functioning effectively. The system here was disjointed. The staff’s morale was at its ebb, there was no vibrancy at all. So we set our attention on the workforce, because you cannot achieve much with a demoralized staff. So I set out to inject some life into our staff through various initiatives. I went on visits to our offices to be able to interact with the staff and get first hand information on various problems of the board. Such unannounced visits paid off eventually because it gave me some insights that I really needed to push the board forward. We have made some progress in the area of mobility. We have been able to procure some vehicles, a gigantic generator, internet connectivity and so many other things too numerous to mention. We were able to achieve this much because we had money at our disposal when we came in 2009. The money was the 2005 to 2007 counterpart funds of N1.3 billion. It was paid and then the corresponding grant of N1.3 billion was also paid. In line with our action plan, we were able to carry out lots of workshops from 2005 through 2010. We supplied text books to all the primary schools in the state. Before we came on board, for more than 5 years there was no chalks for teachers. Teachers had to buy chalks. So we solved that problem by making bulk purchases of chalks, dusters, continuous assessment books, lesson plan books and registers. We purchased lots books…. supplementary readers, books on English language, mathematics, Intro technology and so on. We have constructed several class room blocks.

You have survived successive administration. What is the secret?

There is really no secret. It is just that in whatever I am doing, I try to be transparent and straightforward. I have always told my staff, especially when changes occur in government, that as civil servants, such changes does not affect you because you are not political appointees. As civil servants you must have allegiance to every government that comes. You must work with that government to make it succeed. While you are doing that, people are watching.

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About newsmailonline
Moses George is a versatile journalist/prolific writer.His career as a journalist dates back to over 10 years. During this period, he has worked for several media organizations across the country. His reports and writings serve as references to credible newspapers, magazines and web sites. His passion for investigative journalism has revealed dark secrets involving high level corruption in both the private and public sectors.He covers high profile events for corporate organizations and individuals. Moses George is the Editor-in Chief of National Mail, a general interest magazine that circulates across Nigeria. He is also the Editor of News Mail, an online publication that features people, events and issues. George can be reached on 234 080 6672 2600 or at nationalmailonline @yahoo.com

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