LEFT to the governors of the 36 states, the counterpart funding arrangement for drawdown of the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, fund should be scrapped.
This much was evident in the call by the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State when a delegation of the House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education led by Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, visited him in Ado-Ekiti recently.
Going by Fayemi’s utterances, it would appear that the governors have almost won over President Muhammadu Buhari to their side to convert the UBEC fund into another federal freebie. In fact, in 2014, the governors made fruitless efforts to have the counterpart funding scrapped from the UBEC enabling law.
The state helmsmen have formed the unhealthy habit of neglecting their counterpart obligation in recent years.
For instance, between 2015 and 2018, over N84bn UBEC funds had not been accessed. Between 2015 and 2016, N18,803,166,787.17 was not claimed. Also, in 2017 the amount was N29,585,893,221.65, while for 2018 it rose further to N36,354,543,514.81.
The situation has remained the same till date. Some of the governors claim that they find it difficult to shoulder the cost of borrowing from banks to access the funds, a point which holds no water.
Before talking about tampering with the funding structure, we must be reminded why it was established. The UBE scheme was instituted by the Olusegun Obasanjo regime as part of Nigeria’s response to the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, of which education is the second item.
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The UBEC fund was a partnership between the federal and state governments to fund free and compulsory education up to the basic level of Junior Secondary School, JSS 3.
Section 2, Part III of the UBE Act, 2004 states: “For any state to qualify for the Federal Government’s block grant pursuant to Subsection 1(1) of this Section, such state shall contribute not less than 50 per cent of the total cost of projects as its commitment in the execution of the projects”.
In order to help correct the abysmal educational infrastructure situation across Nigeria and meet the set universal goals, the Federal Government opted to partner with the states but due to misplaced priorities, the state governments have failed to live up to their own obligations.
As a result, our out-of-school children have topped 13 million, the worst in the world. Our children study under trees and dilapidated school buildings.
Meanwhile, billions of naira meant to tackle these problems lie unclaimed because governors disregard the importance of education.
This is unacceptable. The governors must provide the counterpart funds and bring back quality in the public school system. Denying the children of the poor access to good quality education is a major source of our current social insecurity and instability.
Vanguard News Nigeria
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