A human right activist, Femi Falana, has reproached the 36 states in Nigeria for failing to access access the N86.5 billion lying fallow in the in the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Account in the Central Bank as at April 30.
Mr Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, said the unaccessed matching grant was the reason why about 13.2 million children were out of school.
The lawyer stated this in a statement sent to Premium Times titled: “UBE fund: N86 billion not accessed by state governments” on Tuesday.
A Demographic Health survey that was conducted by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Nigerian government had shown that the population of out of school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5million to 13.2 million.
Presently, Nigeria is ranked as having the highest number of out of school children in the world.
The UBEC fund is an annual grant by the federal government to help states upgrade their primary education facilities in order to provide a good education for children across the nation.
To access this fund, state governments are required to match the federal government’s grant. But many states have ignored this facility even as children studied under very deplorable conditions, including having lessons under trees and dilapidated classrooms while the quality of teachers remain suspicious in many cases across the country.
In 2017, UBEC said while many of the northern states were paying the counterpart fund and accessing the facility, the southeast and southwest states have basically indulged in the “act of self-harm.” Particularly notorious, going by UBEC data, are Ondo State which has failed to access matching funds worth N4.6 billion and Enugu State which has N4.2 billion idling away. Oyo, Ogun and Ebonyi States have N3.6 billion each while Abia and Bayelsa States have N2.67 and N2.65 billion lying waste respectively.
Hamid Bobboyi, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, in 2017 appealed to state governments that had not accessed the N76 billion due to them for 2017 projects which represents 20 per cent of the total matching grants of N380 billion released to the commission as at October 31.
Meanwhile some of the challenges facing basic education include huge number of out-of-school children including the Almajiris and children with special needs, low budgetary allocation to basic education at state and local government levels, and inadequate spaces in schools at basic education level.
In his statement, Mr Falana said only Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kebbi, Lagos, Rivers and Federal Capital Territory had accessed the fund up to 2017 out of the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT),
Quoting statistics from UNICEF, Mr Falana, who is also the National President of Peoples’ Alternative Front (PAF), said 60 per cent of the children are in the North.
According to him, majority are girls due to early marriage.
He said it was disturbing that education was not made a priority of any government and hence no state government had accessed the UBE fund up till date.
“Having failed to fund public education, the children of the poor are roaming the streets, hawking goods while the rich are educating their children in private schools at home and abroad,” he said.
“But to the detriment of the society, the abandoned children of the poor are being recruited to criminality by terrorists, kidnappers and other criminal gangs.The irony of the crisis is that a government, which claims that it lacks money to fund education is spending several billions of Naira to fight insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry.”
He said pressure should be mounted on the authorities of the FCT and the 36 state governments to access the N86.5 billion lying fallow in the UBE Account in the Central Bank.
“To arrest the dangerous trend, it is high time the Nigeria Police Force embarked on the arrest and prosecution of parents and guardians, who refuse to allow their children and wards to acquire basic education,” he said.
The activist lawyer said the National Assembly enacted the Child’s Right in 2003 sequel to the ratification of the United Nations’ Child’s Rights Convention by the Federal Government in 2001, “only 25 out of the 36 states have adopted the Child’s Rights Act”
Mr Falana said while 17 states in the South have adopted the Child’s Rights Act, only eight out of the 19 states in the North adopted it.
He said most government officials who opposed the Child’s Rights Law in the North on alleged religious ground are educating their children in private schools at home and abroad.
“In order to fund the basic education programme in the country, the National Assembly enacted the Compulsory, Universal, Free Education Act in 2004.
“To ensure adequate funding of the basic education programme, the Federal Government is required to allocate two per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the UBE Fund while the state governments and the FCT shall contribute counterpart fund to access the UBE Fund.
“It is further provided that parents and guardians, who refuse to allow their children and wards to acquire compulsory basic education are liable to be arrested by the Police and prosecuted”, he said.