In an interview with Pulse, Andrew Obeya, an experienced communications specialist with demonstrated history of working in the non-profit organization industry, explains why he conceived the idea to pull resources for the renovation of the dilapidated Otukpo Library. Obeya, who holds a masters in masters in Leadership and Strategic Studies, believes that education is the live-wire of any society and a veritable tool to ending youth restiveness and social vices in the country.
When was the Otukpo Library established?
The Otukpo Library began as a reading room in the late 1950s, but the current library was commissioned in 1978. The project began under Benue – Plateau province. You will find similar library structures in states like Taraba, Benue, Plateau and other states that are either under the former province or its neighbours.
Why did you decide to fix it?
Otukpo Library was one of the most important institutions that encouraged readership in Idomaland. It had books that were readily available for the public to utilise. Members of the public and students engaged in healthy intellectual discussions, read together, analysed and resolved challenging academic questions during their discussions. That library was a hub of intellectuals at that time. But over the years, there have been a growing concern about literacy in the land. The yearnings to have conducive learning environment with relevant books and materials became a thing of concern to young people, especially students and professionals like the lawyers, doctors, engineers and others who once made use of this facility in its glorious days triggered the need to revive and also restore the old legacy of this facility.
When did the renovation begin?
The renovation commenced around May 2018. We are hoping that we raise enough resources to complete the renovation, provide tables and chairs, restock with relevant books that would serve the community and its environs.
How much has gone into fixing the Otukpo Library?
So far, over seven million naira has been spent on the renovation project. We may be requiring about six million naira come to complete the entire renovation. Furnishing the facility with reading tables, chairs and relevant books and materials is our major concern at the moment. This is why we are also asking spirited Nigerians to also support or lend their support towards these areas of concern if they are interested in contributing to this project.
What's the level of work done?
What we are doing is to completely overhaul the entire building. We pulled down the old roof that was already bad, elevated the building from the edges and re-roofed with modern long span. We had to rewire the entire building, using the conduit piping method, changed all the doors and replaced them with the sliding and transparent doors, tiled all the floor and also fix the entire rest room. We used the POP on the ceiling against the plywood that was used on that building when it was first built. A lot of work went into the building, hence the reason why it's looking like a brand new structure.
How were you able to raise funds for this project?
Raising the funds for a project of this magnitude at a time like this is a herculean task but the sacrifice that took the project to this point has been the source of consolation to us. We relied on donations to make this project a reality. We utilised the social media platform largely to raise most of the resources that was invested in this project. Some people we reached out to before the commencement of the renovation also donated generously to the project. While the project is still ongoing, we continue to appeal to organisations and individuals to support the completion of this project.
How have you ensured judicious use of funds received for the project?
Accountability is a very important factor one must consider when embarking on such a project. The people who have made donations trust us enough to make sure we judiciously utilise their resources for the projects they donated it for and as such, we are duty bound to show stewardship and be accountable even to the last penny. One of the few checks we put in place to ensure that funds for this project are judiciously utilised was to open a project account where all donations are paid into by donors. All donations were directly paid into accounts by donors and cash donations were discouraged. We didn't received any cash donations, except cheques that were deposited in project account.
No key member of the project team is a signatory to this account. We can only view transactions and only approved funds are usually disbursed to vendors and workers through bank transfers in most of our dealings. Our job is to plan, solicit for donations and ensure funds are transparently invested in the project after thorough negotiations with vendors and artisans. We are focused on the execution of the project which is really dear to our heart because of its importance to the development of our youths. After the first phase of the project, we publicised line details of how the monies received have been spent. After the second phase, we will release the details as well. If Nigerian leaders are accountable to the people the way we are doing, the country would be better for it. It's a painstaking process but it's worth it.
What were some the challenges encountered during this project?
While we were building, vandals came in to steal electrical cables and some fittings. Paucity of funds was also a major challenge. That made us go back to some donors who had made donations before and also the fact that corporate donors couldn't reply our mails or see this as a project that requires attention.
When completed, what next?
Our plan is to complete the project, work out a community - government relationship that would enhance the sustainability of this library in such a manner that this facility will not deteriorate in few years after handing over. It would be useless if government and community do not come together to preserve such legacy that would serve the children from the community.
Do you think the government is doing enough, with regards to education, both at the state and federal level?
The educational sector needs a total overhaul. Any administration that wants to diversify must review the quality of education she is offering her citizens and guests. We are quite far from achieving so much in the educational sector because the budgetary provisions are very little and this is largely responsible for the under - funding of our educational sector. Corruption remains a major issue which also affects the investment in that sector. The need to declare a state of emergency in our educational sector is now. Not until education is given a priority in our country, any other effort is an exercise in futility.
Benue and other states would need to do more in ensuring education is improved, especially at their level. Despite the various interventions to support education at the primary level, issues that bother on enrollment of students remain a big issue, especially in situations where the existing facilities are non - existent but resources earmarked for educational purposes have been released but they end in the hands of those who have no interest in improving the sector. Government at all levels must step up to act.
Any final words?
We continue to thank spirited Nigerians who found this project worthy to support, we have gone a long way and we continue to solicit financial and material support to enable us complete this project in good time. This will encourage readership, discourage our youths from the life of criminality and social vices, as well as develop their intellectual capacity.