Ogun State govt abandons 30,000 books at Lagos port
Mr. Benjamin Osibodu, a Nigerian based in the United States of America, has accused the Ogun State government and Ikenne local government of abandoning 30,000 books donated by World Bank.
Osibodu disclosed that he approached the World Bank at their Washington headquarters in 2017 to facilitate distribution of books to Ikenne in an attempt to aid the development of students in the local government but the plans hit a snag after the state government failed to clear the books at the Lagos port.
The 30,000 books are reported to have reached Nigeria since June 2018 but the government are yet to take actions and clear the papers with the Nigerian Customs.
“I made the move hoping that officials of both the state and local government would be excited at the prospect of having such books contributing to the development of education in the state as well as lifting the burden of buying textbooks off indigent parents,” Osibodu told the Punch.
“When I met the officials, they told me what the process was and that they would need all the schools that would benefit from it. When I came to Nigeria, I met the chairman of Ikenne Local Government, Mr. Rotimi Akinsanya, and I requested for a list of all the schools in the local government.
“When I went back to the United States, I passed the list to the World Bank. The officials told me that the World Bank donate books to a lot of countries and that it’s based on rotation, so ours might take a while. But they said they would let me know when they were ready.
“About one year after, specifically, March 2018, they called me that the container was ready. And about that time, I needed to come to Nigeria, so I was able to meet with the chairman and tell him that the container would soon be in the country, and he said there was no problem. So, I later went back to the US.”
According to Osibodu, the ship berthed in Nigeria in June 2018 and he said he immediately informed the chairman so they could clear the container through customs but no action was taken.
“But for some time, I didn’t hear from him again, and the next time I visited Nigeria, I found that the chairman hadn’t done anything significant to clear the container through customs, which had been lying idle at the port,” he continued.
“So, I asked him what we needed to do to clear the container and he said he would notify the office of the vice-president. He said he was in touch with an aide to the vice-president, and I asked myself what the container had to do with the vice-president, perhaps because he’s from that local government. I felt it wasn’t necessary, but it was his suggestion.
“When I saw that nothing was being done, I spoke with the person and volunteered to visit him in Abuja to facilitate how the container would be clear through customs but he said I shouldn’t bother and that he would take care of it. But nothing came out of it.
“After waiting for about three weeks, I went to see the Commissioner for Education and I explained everything to him. The commissioner said the state government should have been informed about it earlier, but I don’t think that was for me to do. And I told him to forget about what the chairman didn’t do so that we could focus on what to do. He said he had to take it to the governor, who would give a directive on what to be done about it.”
Undeterred by the reluctance of the officials to intervene in a project they should embrace swiftly, Osibodu said he went to the Secretary to the State Government.
“Don’t forget that it’s not easy to see these people, but thank God for the little connections here and there. When I met the SSG, he was perplexed that the chairman didn’t inform the state government about it. So, I told him to let us put that aside and get this container cleared through customs,” he added.
“At the end of the day, I was thoroughly embarrassed by the way these people acted, because as of now, that container is still at the port. In fact, at a point, the local government chairman stopped communicating with me. I would call him and he wouldn’t answer the call. If I sent him messages, he wouldn’t respond.
“Having met with the commissioner of education and the SSG with none of them seeming to be personally concerned enough to do something, I’m appealing to Ogun State government to ensure that the books are released for the use of pupils in Ogun State.
“Ogun State should be a shining light to other states in Nigeria. For a state that produced icons like Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was from that local government, it is quite shocking that those present at the helm of affairs are unconcerned about the importance of books.
“I’m appealing for the intervention of the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who is from the same Ikenne Local Government Area. For the sake of the future of Ogun State, the pupils need to read and access the world of opportunity to learn and grow, and so I’m calling on people who can to help.
“The Commander for Lagos was happy with the initiative, but he said he didn’t have the power to release it, without clearance from Abuja.
“It’s as if we were going back and forth, whereas the World Bank was putting pressure on me as regards the books. They still sent me a mail recently and I have not been able to respond, because I’m terribly embarrassed. The saving grace is that they got their office in Nigeria involved all along.
“These people (World Bank Group) spent a lot of money to send that container to Nigeria and it seems like Nigeria doesn’t care. Imagine having 30,000 books lying there at the port, doing nothing, when there are pupils who need them.”