COVID-19: Niger, private schools set for showdown over N15,000 charge for fumigation

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By Tina George,  Minna

There is an imminent showdown over alleged directives by Niger state government for private schools across the state, to pay N15,000 to fumigate school premises.

The state government, in a letter obtained by Newsdiaryonline, had made a subtle threat that schools that fail to comply with the directives, would not be allowed to operate after due coronavirus pandemic subsidizes. 

Recall that the state government had directed that it would begin fumigation of markets, religious, public, educational institutions and some major streets across the state. 

However, the private school owners posit that fumigation is government’s responsibility to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as done in other states and wondered why they would be made to pay for the services. 

The state government in the letter titled, “Emergency Compulsory Fumigation Before Resumption”, stated: “Sequel to our recent dialogue with NISEPA mandating all schools to be fumigated before resumption, you are hereby informed that as a matter of urgency that Local government chairmen should categorize their member schools intogroups A, B, and C (N5,000, N10,000, N15,000).

“Group A = N15,000, Group B = N10,000Group C = N5,000. Niger state government will flag it up in Minna bytomorrow Wednesday, 1st April together with our State President and NAPPS members will get it cheaper by going along with the exercise commencingtomorrow across all 25 L.G in the state.

“The state schedule by NISEPA will be published later for all the LG to be visited. It is compulsory to fumigateour schools, as well as the certificate, will be issued to every school been fumigated, and no school will open on the date of resumption without been fumigated, according to the Ministry of health and state government directives due to the pandemic outbreak of COVIC-19 because it is a general fumigation exercise.

“Therefore, any school that’s not a member of NAPPS cannot be part of this relief. Please, note schools withlarger space and boarding will pay additional fees which is negotiable.

“All local government Chairmen should contact the state president for further clarifications as they prepare their members to list categorized and money,” the letter read. 

One of the Proprietors in Bida, Jonah Gana also took to his Facebook page to call on the state government to carry out the fumigation free of charge.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Niger State Government in her attempt to fumigate markets, churches, mosques, schools and other public areas in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID- 19. It is highly commendable to be socially responsive.

“But we are disturbed to hear that private schools will pay up to N15,000 before their schools can be fumigated. I hope it is not true. If it is, I want to appeal to the government to rescind the decision. 

“Not in this period of school closure and lock-down. In the spirit of the moment, let all public areas, public or private, be fumigated free of charge. Let us not add injury to hunger. May God bring healing to the world in such a time like this,” Gana posted. 

The directive is opposed by the proprietors of private schools across the state, arguing that as public schools, private ones should also be fumigated without being charged. 

The Chairman of Niger State Chapter of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Mr. Femi Alalade explained that there had been calls, before the coronavirus pandemic, for private schools to fumigate their environment and fees was allocated for it. 

He, however, stated that the fumigation was done annually yearly, adding that his members were still unsure as to where this fumigation falls under.

Alalade said that his members are against this new directive because COVID-19 fumigation should be the responsibility of the government as it is for the good of everyone. 

“My members are complaining. Before this closure of schools, a lot of the members did not collect school fees, some have not even paid staff salaries, how do you now expect them to pay this amount when they are at home and the schools are closed? 

“I can tell you that before the closure of schools, there was a demand notice of all private schools to fumigate their schools but we feel that since it is regarding the COVID-19 and public schools are selected, then private schools should not be exempted,” he said. 

When asked about NAPPS stand, the state Chairman said, “if it is on coronavirus, it is a global pandemic and we should not be made to pay for it. It should be for the benefit of everyone. If public schools are being fumigated, then private schools should be included without charge. 

“So as NAPPS, we are saying that we are not supposed to pay for the COVID-19 fumigation exercise because it affects everyone and all organizations and institutions.”

Efforts by Newsdiaryonline to contact the General Manager of the state Environment Protection Agency (NISEPA) and the Commissioner of Environment, by telephone were not successful because they were unavailable. 

When our reporter contacted the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Lucky Barau for his response, he said that he was at a meeting but as at the time of filing this report, he is yet to call. 

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