Okorocha Not Sincere About FG’s Projects In Imo, Says Onwuliri
Prof Viola Onwuliri, Minister of State for Education, is a thorough-bred professional who has carved a niche for herself as a leading light in President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet. In this interview with Emmanuel Nwagboniwe, she spoke on the Federal government’s achievements in the educational sector and how these feats have impacted on the states. She also faulted Governor Rochas Okorocha’s penchant for claiming credit for Federal Government executed projects in Imo all in the name of politics.
ON her experience as Minister of State 1 for Foreign Affairs, before moving to the Education Ministry
It was very exciting and one learnt a lot about international politics, and the world of diplomacy. One was also happy that I was able to talk for my country and represent her in different fora internationally and nationally in different multilateral settings and bilateral; we linked up many countries and signed pacts with them. And that is why in all organizations we belonged to, we vied for elections and won as board members and governing council members as the case may be. The key to that was our re-election to the United Nations Security Council for the fifth time. That election was significant because it marked the end of our exit from the UN Security Council. We got 186 out of 191 votes.
It was an affirmation of the efforts of President Goodluck Jonathan and the reaffirmation that Nigeria has come of age. While in Ministry of Foreign Affairs, l was able to make more Ambassadors in- situ with the kind approval of the President, I made 32 of them in one day. We also won election into the Committee of World Democracy Nations. I was able to sign two bilateral agreements; between Nigeria and Israel, as well as between Nigeria and Turkey. Turkey was the last assignment l had; with that, Turkey Airways can now fly into Abuja and Enugu while increasing the frequencies into Lagos and Kano. I also made our first Albino Ambassador, Uche Ajulu Okeke who was made Consul General to Johannesburg through the generous endorsement of the President who operates a non discriminatory policy in the running of the country. We were applauded for this unique and the Albino Foundation Worldwide gave me an award as an Albinism Ambassador for the elevation of one of their own. It was also interesting and tasking assignment , as you were travelling with the President as he met with other world leaders. We also met with His Holiness Pope Francis, and he prayed for us. In all, l can say that Foreign Affairs was very good and we did our best.
On significant differences in Education Ministry compared to former ministry
Well, in education, you are working within and with different categories of staff, teachers, students. There is a lot to do at home, and that is what education tells us. In terms of ensuring quality of teaching, ensuring that school materials get to the students. In my new assignment, we have continued to battle them as we are working towards training and retraining of teachers and repairing destroyed structures. In the Education Ministry, we have these various projects under Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and TETFUND in addition to other agencies; National Mass Literacy, Nomadic Education etc. There is no community in the country which UBEC has not touched, building classrooms of various types and categories.
How does the Education Ministry partner with State Governments to ensure that this transformation in the education sector gets to the grassroots?
We work with state governments closely in this area. The UBEC has built classroom blocks across the country, and I can confidently say again that there is hardly any community in Nigeria where UBEC has not built a block of classroom, water borehole in schools. You know basic education is actually the responsibility of state governments; we have only come to intervene and help them make it work, because these are Nigerian students as well.
On the recent disagreement with the Imo State government over Federal Government projects in the State
There was not supposed to be any disagreement of the many federal government executed projects in Imo State, but Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha appears very mischievous over the issue . The Universal Basic Education (UBE) through its intervention projects built up some projects in the state but the governor claims he executed them.
For instance, the Imo State government has accessed from 2010 to 2014, through the UBE Matching Grant Disbursement, N3.4billion, as at November 30, 2014. Sadly, Governor Okorocha has deliberately and erroneously claimed before that projects executed through this grant was exclusively done by his administration.
Maybe Governor Okorocha may claim not to know of the completed prototype hostels; 174 rooms with 696 bed spaces in Federal University of Technology (FUTO) Owerri. This is in addition to e-library at the Federal Government College Okigwe, and Federal Government Girls College Owerri.
Again, a 1000-seater Lecture Theatre, Optometry Department building, Engineering block and a hostel building in FUTO have been completed. Also, the Federal Government has built and completed a 600 self- contained hostel in Lake Nwabere.
Moreover, the Federal Government has constructed a Vocational School at Mgbee village in Orlu Local Government Area, procured 737,602 Instructional materials for all the primary schools in Imo State, and procured 60,750 library materials for all Junior Secondary Schools in the State.