By Our Reporter
When Emeka Orji (not real name), now a resident of one of the offices of the Federal Ministry of Housing’s Building Craft School, Yaba, Lagos was ejected from his Ikorodu apartment last year, little did it occur to him that he will be getting a cheaper apartment in a multimillion naira government establishment in the middle of Lagos.
The school, according to information from the defunct SURE-P Infrastructure & Equipment upgrading record, is one of the eight government-owned training centres whose renovation cost the office a sum of N1.78billion in 2013.
When our reporter visited on the second day to speak with the principal, he met one of the residents bathing his child in front of one of the offices of the Building Craft Training school at Yaba. Efforts to speak with the principal of the school were not successful at the time of the report.
Like other tenants in the building, Emeka pay his annual rent of N48, 000 directly to the office of the school Principal, whom he simply named as Mr Bashir.
“I hope you have not forgotten the warning I gave you. No visitor should come here to look for you. The day I see anyone, I will eject you,” the Principal, who made him and others believe he was doing them a favour, would threaten each time he collects the rent.
The Tailoring, Painting and Decorating Sections, as well as Joinery and Furniture and many other sections of the schools have been turned into private money making venture through rent, as some portion of the building were also rented out to private companies.
Amongst the tenants is Doda Décor Limited, an internal decoration firm, which also uses the school workshop to make furniture for commercial purposes.
When our reporter visited in disguise as a potential customer, the secretary to the Chief Executive of the company took us round the workshop built by the Ministry as part of the properties of the company.
However, when challenged about why the company decided to locate its business is in the government premises, she said the location has nothing to do with doing business with the company.
“Is this place what you want to buy? The school is at one side, while we are also at another side. Just wait for my Oga to place your order,” she said.
The Federal Government, during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, through its Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) had collaborated with the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) under its Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) component to actualize its target of training two million youths annually. For this purpose, it decided to rehabilitate eight skills acquisition centres across the country.
The Building Craft School, which is under the management of Ministry of Lands & Housing Training Center, Yaba, Lagos State was one of the SURE-P skilled acquisition centres and contract for its renovation awarded to Messrs J. Faith Construction Company Ltd at the total contract sum of N133.27m in 2013.
STRANDED STUDENTS BLAME FASHOLA
However since the completion of the project, and even after the assumption of office of the Buhari administration, the school has been abandoned – with the few staff that rendered indolent, not doing anything.
According to one of the staff, “students were billed to resume training since 2015, but the new Minister has not been saying anything. I think we are still staff of the ministry, at least we are still being paid and that is more important.”
Yet, intending students and passersby visit the school on a daily basis to make enquiry about the school’s enrolment. One of them, Dunmininu Ojerinde, said: “we were given forms. Called for the interview, yet the school is still not doing anything.”
Some of the intending students blame the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, for the sluggish take-off.
“He is the one that has not allowed the operations of the school to commence about four years after the sales of admission forms,” a student who now work as a cleaner in a nearby company said.
Another, Emeka Ogwu, said: “they will always tell us that they are waiting for the Minister’s directive to know when to start. When they know that they are not ready, why did they sell forms? The Minister has changed and he is no more the same governor that I used to know.”
Investigations reveal that Mr Chukwu Emeka Wogu, who was the then Minister of Labour and Productivity, on 19th June 2014, commissioned the school as a project undertaken as a TVET project of the SURE-P program.
The multimillion Naira project was commissioned with all Lagos State SURE-P participants in attendance and musicians on stage to entertain the guests.
Speaking during the commissioning, Wogu said: “For ease of implementation of the SURE-P TVET skills development and empowerment programme, a strategic plan was conceived to partner with government owned Technical and Vocational Education outfits with special focus on skills development.
“Majority of the government training institutions intended to be used for the skills development of our youths were found to be inadequate both in physical structure and equipment content. The response to these gaps was for TVET to utilize some of the SURE-P funds allocated to it and embark on massive upgrading and expanding of government training centres for long term use and this exercise has yielded the right results”.
The eight Centres that benefited from the improvement are the Federal Ministry of Works Highway Training Centre, Ijora, Lagos State; Ministry of Lands & Housing Training Center, Yaba, Lagos State; National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN) Oji, Enugu State; National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Training Center Aba, Abia State; Federal Ministry of Works, Highway Training Centre Kaduna, Kaduna State; Industrial Training Center, Jos, Plateau State; Federal Ministry of Labour & Productivity Training Center, Bauchi State and Federal Ministry of Works Highway Training Centre, Ugoneki, Edo State.