Mr. Chinedu Uroko is among over 2, 000 authors/publishers who submitted books to the Enugu State Education Resource Centre, an arm of the state education ministry, for reviews and possible recommendations for secondary school students in the state in 2021.
The books are reviewed every three years, and secondary schools are supposedly at liberty to choose among the recommended ones for their respective students.
Mrs. Nwanneka Onah, the permanent secretary of the state ministry of education, in a circular in 2021, directed authors/publishers who wanted their books to be reviewed to pay varying charges to the state government’s account.
The breakdown shows that one title costs N15, 000; two titles, N25, 000; three to five titles, N40, 000; six to ten titles, N60, 000; eleven to fifteen titles, N80, 000; sixteen to twenty titles, N100, 000; and twenty-one titles, N120, 000.
According to the circular, ‘six copies of each title will be submitted with an application to the office of the Education Resource Centre, French Centre, Enugu’.
It read, “For individual authors: ‘Submission of the six copies of each titles/textbooks must be accompanied with a bank teller of payment and three clear photocopies of it paid to any commercial bank (microfinance bank not accepted) with the account name: Enugu State IGR Account (on the top of your deposit slip write ‘EDC Book Review Fee)’. No refund of fees or textbooks after payment or submission…”
A book of approved texts published by the state ministry of education, entitled ‘Ministry of Education: Approved Textbooks For Upper Basic, Senior Secondary and Science, Technical & Vocational School Year 2021 – 2024’, contains about 2, 210 titles of books, cutting across all subjects.
Chinedu said when he went to the centre to get a copy of the book containing the approved list, a staff member of the centre told him that a foundation had been looking for him to help him market his books. He was later given a number to call.
He said, “I called the number. The receiver identified himself as a lawyer and that his foundation is licensed by the state post-primary school management board, PPSMB, to market books among the approved list. ‘We have found yours worthy, and that is why we have been looking for your number’,” he told him.
At the end of their discussions, he provided a First Bank account number 308279106, account name Anikem Nnabuenyi, to pay N5,000 to enhance the marketing (transaction receipt attached). “Till today,” Chinedu said, “Nothing has happened. The Barrister keeps saying that the process is ongoing.”
The managing director of Ugo Books, who did not want his name mentioned, told our correspondent that the barrister was fond of extorting funds from unsuspecting authors and publishers in the name of having the backing of the state government.
He said, “He is very controversial. I know the short man. Don’t be a victim, please. The worst is his connivance with the state education stakeholders.”
An author whose book was approved said, “I don’t want to be mentioned because I paid to the barrister last year. I know about three publishers that also paid him. Nothing has happened to me in terms of marketing my books. But I remain optimistic because he keeps promising. He speaks with assurances, but I have never met him. I got his number from one of the workers. He said he works with the state governor, education ministry, and so on. So I remain hopeful.”
The Foundation Confirms Collaborations With State Agencies
Our correspondent got across to the founder of the foundation during an undercover visit. He was told that a certain publishing company based in Makurdi would like his services, and he opened up. He confirmed his name as Barr Abel Nnabuenyi Anikem, and founder of Anikem Reading and Writing Foundation.
“You got my number from PPSMB?” was his first question. Our correspondent said, “No, from Education Resource Centre.”
He told our correspondent that, “I just answered a call from one Doc, a board member of our foundation, Anikem Reading and Writing Foundation. We are having a meeting with the chairman of PPSMB because we waited for the chairman to be appointed by the governor so that the board will be set; which the governor appointed the chairman sometime in June this year.
“The letter for the courtesy visit was sent yesterday to the chairman of the board. Our foundation will pay her a courtesy visit on books partnership. Call me by the end of this month (August) because we are doing it in conjunction with PPSMB. The foundation is partnering with PPSMB. By the end of this month (August), anybody that his or her own will be used, we would send a message to the person. Keep on calling so that I will try my best in getting one or more of your books listed.”
On financial obligations to get books enlisted for recommendations by his foundation, Anikem said, “Individual authors register with our foundation with N5, 000 each, but publishers register with N10, 000 each. That is how we did it early this year and last year. Once you register with the foundation, it is not even if the books are okay (sic), we start the marketing of the books to schools. Your books must definitely appear there.
“How we are doing it is that the ones we use this term are not the ones we use next term. Assuming that your book is one of my books, and we get it used this first term, you must print more than 15, 000 or 20, 000 copies in order to go round the whole private and public schools in Enugu State. Then by next term, another of your book other than that one will now come in. In the third term, another one will now come for final exams.
“After the final exam, we organize a thank-you visit to the governor and the chairman of the board, PPMSB. We also give scholarships up to the university level to deserving students who did extra-ordinarily well in the compulsory promotion exam.”
School Principal Confirms PPSMB Influence
Our reporter, appearing as an author, approached a principal at a secondary school in Udi Local Government Area of the state to market one of the approved books in his school. He replied, “You have to get clearance from the PPSMB. Whether the ministry approves your book or not, it is immaterial. PPSMB gets the books they want, and directs principals to market them. You need to go there to negotiate with them. I know they get their commissions, and we the principals get our own.”
The State Education Authorities Deny Knowledge of Gratifications
The state commissioner for education, Prof Uchenna Eze, frowned at the act when our correspondent interviewed him. He said the ministry does not market books for authors and publishers, and that it has not licensed any foundation to do so.
Prof. Eze said, “It is not true. The policy of the ministry is that we review books every three years. If you enter JSSI, you use those books for three years. The person then transits to senior secondary.
“We don’t review books for senior secondary. WAEC recommends its books. When it is the time, we call for reviews, then the books are assessed. The ones that are curriculum-based are approved. Our jobs end by listing in a book form all the books that are recommended.
“The ministry does not sell books for anybody. The ministry does not force anybody to buy books. That a book is recommended means that it is useful for the child and the child can buy it. A and B must not have the same book.
“Anybody that comes to tell you that you pay and they will market for you is a private business. But when a staff member of the ministry gets involved, that is where I sense trouble because they don’t have the right to do that. The only thing that the Education Resource Centre does is for Igbo and English literature, which will be used for the exam.
“Among the texts, they can now say that these ones are for the basic exams. They cannot recommend any other books except Igbo and English literature. It has to be based on the ones that are recommended generally.”
Mrs Favour Ugwuanyi, chairman, Enugu State Post-Primary School Management Board, while reacting on the board’s synergy with Barr Anikem, said, “I don’t know him oooo!”
THE WHISTLER reports that Mrs Ugwuanyi is the immediate past permanent secretary of the board, a position she held for some years before her current elevation to the board chairman.
An author, Gibson Ugwu, accused the centre of bias. In his words, “After paying and submitting books for review, some multinational publishers and authors always go back to bribe the officers.
“Apart from this, when books are approved by ERC, it is unethical to make another book submission and review at ERC. Even if that should happen, the review should not be a yearly affair. But they made it an annual affair, thereby giving rooms for junks to be selected and read in JSS3 Classes because they are looking for money.
“Most times, authors and publishers are even compelled to supply the books to ERC office, so that the workers will be selling the books to principals. If we really want to get things right, it is very simple – a budget should be made public with the staff of the ministry and publishers together with the authors. Then, share the money exact amount among the suppliers of books to be reviewed. At a pre-book review meeting, it shall be established that nobody, be you author or publisher, shall not be seen in the ERC premises or make any transactions with the staff until after the review and printing of the approved booklets.
“By doing so, everybody—both the poor and the rich—in this industry will be treated equally; reviewers will have enough concentration to do their works and fix books to the age brackets they are meant to be. No compromise.
“Books approved shall be made to be sold in the markets or at bookshops inside school premises. A non-tutorial staff should be in charge of the bookshops. Teachers’ duty shall be only to check if the books are approved and make recommendations. This is because if you allow teachers to handle the book sales in schools, there shall be a mind or curriculum deviation as their attention will be to award marks to only students that have the books to enable them to get their commissions without teaching in detail what they are supposed to.”
– This report was published with support from Civic Media Lab.