• NUT calls for sanction by N’Assembly
• Expert mulls Public Private Partnership solution
Failure by some state governors to access the Universal Basic Education Commission’s (UBEC) intervention fund is threatening the future of millions of Nigerian school children.
The Guardian found that, of the N35.2b earmarked for the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, this year, 17 states have not picked their share of N16.2b.
The states are Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Kogi, Edo, Kwara, Kebbi, Imo, Anambra, Benue, Enugu, Plateau, Gombe, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.
UBEC had earmarked N953.7m to each of the states as grant for the year 2017. Data seen by The Guardian showed that other states, including the FCT had accessed N26.5b including outstanding intervention funds for previous years.
An official of the commission, on condition of anonymity, disclosed that the matching grant stipulated as prerequisite might have compelled the affected states to stay away.
In 2014, the governors unsuccessfully made spirited efforts to amend Sections 9 (b) and 11 (2) of the UBEC Act that spelt out criteria for the fund. The governors had hoped to collect the money without counterpart funding needed to demonstrate their seriousness, a move that was resisted by the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The Guardian learnt that the governors had again begun moves surreptitiously to prevail on the commission to relax its conditions.
The Minister of State for Education, Anthony Anwukah, regretted that failure of states to utilise their share was strangulating the development of basic education nationwide.
“The states need to have a rethink and show more commitment to primary education by taking concrete steps to access the UBEC fund in the interest of the Nigerian child. Basic education is too important to be neglected. We cannot afford to imperil the nation’s future. It is noteworthy that once a foundation is faulty, whatever we build on it would be permanently defective,” he warned.
Some of the states blamed their inability to get the fund on dwindling financial fortune. The Oyo State government said it was taking its time, blaming its long list of obligations and priorities.
The Ekiti State government mouthed legal encumbrances, while Edo said it was striving to clear a backlog of accumulated intervention funds by its past administrations.
Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Toye Arulogun, said: “UBEC funds are not free. They have conditions, one of which is counterpart funding. Accessing UBEC intervention is not the only way to fund the sector. Government has inaugurated a trust fund council, chaired by Chief Onikepo Akande, with a mandate to source money to revamp the sector.”
Ekiti has accumulated up to N5 billion in non-payment of counterpart funds. Governor Ayodele Fayose has repeatedly blamed his predecessor, Kayode Fayemi, alleging his (Fayemi) administration diverted N852 million of the 2012 State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) counterpart funds.
The Fayemi government was said to have obtained a N852 million bank loan to access the 2012 fund from UBEC. It was however learnt that the facility was received without agreement on interest rate, terms of payment and without Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO), causing the bank to withdraw the money.
“Ekiti has up to N5 billon hanging in Abuja now. This has brought untold hardship to SUBEB and primary school education. As the chairman of Ekiti SUBEB, I am sad. Other states are leaving Ekiti behind due to lack of fund,” said Senator Bode Ola.
In Edo State, SUBEB acting chairman, Mallam Alli Sule, said failure to take advantage of the grant was due to a backlog of funds not accessed by administrations that preceded that of former Governor Adams Oshiomole.
He cited the case of Uhunmwode Local Government, saying its dilapidated schools would have been repaired had the fund been accessed.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has called on the National Assembly to sanction the states for failing to access the fund.
Deputy chairman, Lagos State chapter, Adedoyin Adesina, blamed the situation on poor vision and non-prioritisation of education by the leadership of the affected states.
He said: “I will suggest that the National Assembly enact a law that any state that refuses to pay the counterpart fund should be sanctioned. Something has to be done because some of the leaders of these states are not sincere.
They are looking at the counterpart fund they have to provide, without considering the inherent benefit to the Nigerian child and the nation at large. They are bothered by the money that would come out of their purse; they are not being fair to the Nigerian child as far as basic education is concerned.”
He added: “Not accessing the fund will affect teaching and learning. It will hurt the training of personnel and infrastructural development. No learning can take place if teachers are not properly equipped. So, the ripple effect of states’ inability to access the UBEC fund and put it to good use is dire.”
The director, Policy and Partnership, Africa, Bridge International College, Adesuwa Ifedi, said the scenario called for a rethink. “Those states should look for innovative ways of accessing the fund because it is very important that they get it and plough it back into the basic education system, to ensure quality teaching and learning,” she said. “There is need for regular training and retraining of teachers, modern learning facilities and environment conducive for learning.
“UBEC fund remains irrelevant if states are unable to access it. The policy of providing matching grants before it could be accessed is ideal as it shows commitment and seriousness on the part of beneficiary states. However, any state that cannot access it should think Public Private Partnership (PPP) and see how they can innovatively access the fund.”