Transforming education sector in Borno State – The Zulum example

By Chidi Omeje

Recently, the administration of Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State came under media scrutiny following an orchestrated campaign of calumny by detractors aimed at smearing his good image and distract his resolve to reinvigorate the lame-duck education sector he inherited in the state.

What caught the attention of the Citizens Initiative for Safety Awareness (CISA) is what turned out to be a spurious allegations that some teachers in the state are being paid N7,000 monthly salaries in spite of the economic crunch in the country.

The architects of this misinformation and those who spread them did not care to investigate and verify such claims before going public with them. If they did, would have avoided distorting the facts on ground which are the remarkable feats achieved in the education sector in the last five years of Zulum’s administration in Borno state.

After intensive investigations, the Citizens’ Initiative for Security Awareness (CISA), an Abuja-based civi society organization, has uncovered the underlying motives of those intent on destabilizing the system.

To begin with, as a civil society organization with in interest in the quality of security, governance and dividends of democracy in Nigeria, CISA, got interested in the worrisome stories concerning the education sector in Borno State, and decided to dig deep in order to find out the truth.


The findings revealed that certain policies implemented by the Borno State Governor aimed at overhauling the troubled education sector have been obstructed by individuals who have benefited from the ongoing disarray for many years.

A team of CISA fact checkers deployed to Borno for the independent investigation, discovered that allegation is outrightly misleading. The fact on ground is that, based on Gov Zulum’s intervention, the majority of teachers who have been verified, retrained and newly recruited are now placed on minimum wage of N30,000 or more.

Even more curious is the fact that the campaign of calumny was targeted at an astute academic and seasoned public administrator who exhibited great passion and concern for teachers’ welfare as well as demonstrated high political acumen to elevate the teaching profession to enable them perform maximally towards meeting the educational needs of the modern society.

Arguably, the problem bedeviling the education sector ranging from teacher recruitment, retention, remuneration and decayed infrastructure pre-dated the Zulum administration owing to the political negligence and flagrant abuse of national policy which allowed Local Education Authorities (LEAs), to fill employment gaps without recourse to best practices resulting to quantum of unqualified teachers and ghost workers in the state.

CISA has also found out that Education stands as a key pillar in the Borno State’s 25 -Year Development Plan; the 10 -Year Strategic Transformation Initiative, and the Infrastructure Development Master Plan, to which governor Zulum believes that a sound educational system driven by an adequately-paid and a highly-motivated staff, is necessary to drive the Borno Restoration Project (BRP).

To reposition the education sector and achieve the administration’s goals of sustainable social and economic development of the state, Zulum initiated viable reform programmes and restructure public institutions to herald Borno as one of the best educationally advance state in Nigeria.

CISA found out that in 2020, Governor Zulum ordered the Ministry of Education to clean-up the mess of local education authorities.

The Ministry through its verification exercise and discovered that 15,823 out of the 18,451 teachers presented for verification are fit to teach, and 2,628 others were unqualified based of the requirements inline with national and global best practices.

Gov Zulum also established a Review Committee to appraise cases of candidates who did not appear in the previous verification exercise. The committee reaffirmed the findings of the earlier committee, and recommended 144 candidates to be relocated into the payroll based on merit.

The results of the competency test conducted by the Lawan Wakilbe committee revealed that 5,257 teachers passed, while 6,227 were found trainable and 4,339 failed. The governor out of compassion, therefore decided not to throw out those who failed the test, and directed that they should be placed on a monthly stipend pending their transfer to other sectors.

On new recruitment, the Wakilbe Committee also recommended engagement of 3,000 out of the 19,313 candidates who applied as teachers, on N30,000 minimum wage.

To enhance teacher development, the Zulum administration in collaboration with the National Teachers Institute (NTI), implemented the Emergency Teachers Upgrade Programme (ETUP), to scale up the competence and pedagogy of trainable teachers for 3,524 candidates. At the end of the exercise, some 2,396 teachers passed, and 1,468 had been recommended for immediate engagement and retention on the minimum wage.

Furthermore, the Zulum administration successfully restructured the Teaching Service Board (TSB); the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), established the Senior Secondary Education Board (SSEB) and Arabic and Sangaya Education Board, all in a bid to repositioned the education sector on a solid pedestal.

In the like manner, Gov Zulum has recently approved and released the sum of N1 billion for the training of 1,949 teachers found trainable following the competency test which revealed that out of the 15,823 teachers who sat for the test, only 5,257 passed; 6,227 performed below the required pass mark, but were considered trainable; while 4,339 others were found to be untrainable

In this regards, the governor approved the training of 1,949 teachers under the first phase of the programme at the College of Education, Waka Biu; Umar Ibn Ibrahim Elkanemi College of Education, Science and Technology, Bama, while 2,730 others were billed to benefit under the second phase of the exercise.

The state government also organised a three-month sandwich programme for 1,884 beneficiaries, while 846 others who do not have tertiary qualification will undergo a full-time NCE programme, to build their capacities towards enhancing the standard of education.

This is in addition to the N1.3 billion scholarship for 997 nursing and midwifery students as well as N201 million bursary awards to over 2,000 indigent students of higher institutions of learning across the country.

Apart from viable teacher development and welfare programmes, CISA has also found out, with evidential facts, that Zulum has spent millions of naira in the execution of school infrastructure, construction of classrooms, establishment of new mega schools, provision of furniture and instructional materials to basic and post basic schools all geared towards enhancing delivery of free quality education for all.

Governor Zulum’s strong commitment to educational advancement has led to the enhancement of all state-owned tertiary institutions to meet world-class standards. This was made possible through the provision of infrastructure, state-of-the-art equipment, teacher development programs, scholarships, and bursaries for both educators and students, all aimed at fostering academic excellence. Additionally, thanks to Zulum’s efforts, the Borno State University (BOSU) successfully obtained accreditation for its programs from the National Universities Commission (NUC).

To attest to these feats, the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Borno State chapter commended the efforts of governor Zulum in transforming the education sector.

The NUT Chairman, Comrade Zali Audu Garba said: “Your Excellency, it is my candid belief that the education sector is undergoing a tremendous transformation, ranging from human and infrastructural development”.

Our team of investigators also interviewed Comrade Bulama Abiso, a former NLC chairman, who provided insight into the education sector crisis, particularly concerning primary school teachers who fall under the authority of the local government council. He explained that the Governor, like his predecessors, inherited a longstanding issue that dates back many years.

He attributed the problems to the local government education secretaries who neglected their responsibilities when they should have been upholding them. According to him, these secretaries engaged in unethical practices such as appointing the children of deceased senior staff members to positions within the Local Education Authorities (LEAs) illegally. These individuals, hired as staff, received a fraction of their late parent’s salary.

For instance, if a senior head teacher previously earned N100,000, four individuals would be employed as junior staff to divide the salary among them. This resulted in the enrollment of numerous unqualified individuals as teachers, compromising the quality of education provided.

Interestingly, in recognition of Zulum’s commitment and giant strides in education development, the governor has been invited to deliver a speech at the 2024 Edition UN Dialogue on Education Transformation in Africa Series (ADS 2024), held at the United Nations headquarters in New York, from May 6 to 24.

According to a publication by the UN on its website, the programme titled: “Africa Month” is to mobilise actions by leveraging science, technology and innovation to transform education in Africa. Governor Zulum, H.E. Mr. Dennis Francis, President of the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly, Ms. Cristina Duarte, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Special Adviser on Africa, and many other stakeholders will be attending the dialogue.

This year’s dialogue series has the theme: “Education through Science, Technology and Innovation toward the Africa We Want.” It will focus on obtaining a concerted Africa-centred policy shift needed to fast-track the transformation of the educational landscape on the continent.

These invitations serve as a testament to Zulum’s significant contributions to educational development in both the state and Nigeria as a whole. This underscores the importance for well-meaning citizens of Borno State to come together in support of the administration’s efforts to realize its objectives of establishing a new, peaceful, and prosperous state.

*Chidi is the National Coordinator of CISA, and he writes from Abuja.