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Government wants states to access N41 billion UBEC funds for classroom construction, others


A dilapidated Methodist Public Nursery and Primary School, Papa Ajao, Mushin, Lagos State PHOTO: ENO-ABASI SUNDAY

A dilapidated Methodist Public Nursery and Primary School, Papa Ajao, Mushin, Lagos State PHOTO: ENO-ABASI SUNDAY

Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Gozie Anwukah, has called on governors of the 36 states to, as a matter of urgency, access the N41b Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) fund, in order to provide classrooms for millions of students attending classes under the trees and in sundry locations.

The minister made the call in Abuja recently at a meeting with heads of parastatals under the ministry, where he expressed disappointment that such an amount was left untouched, while children studied under very harsh conditions.

The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Programme, a nine-year basic educational programme, and Nigeria’s strategy for the achievement of Education for All (EFA), and the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), was launched on September 30th, 1999 by the Federal Government. It was basically aimed at eradicating illiteracy, ignorance and poverty as well as stimulates and accelerates national development, political consciousness and national integration.

The implementation process of the programme got underway same year, but progress was hampered by lack of an enabling law to execute certain aspects of it. However, it was such a big relief former President Olusegun Obasanjo, signed the UBE Bill into law on 26th May 2004.

The UBE Act 2004 makes provision for basic education comprising of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), primary and junior secondary education. Notwithstanding the financing of basic education being the responsibility of states and local governments, the Federal Government decided to intervene in the provision of the all-important basic education with two per cent of its Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Provision for the establishment of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to co-ordinate the implementation of the programme at the states and local government through the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) of each state and the Local Government Education Authorities (LGEAs) is made in the Act. Consequently, the UBEC was formally established on October 7th, 2004.

In June last year, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) disclosed that 23 out of the 36 states of the federation, were owing workers, (which includes public school teachers) their salaries. Specifically, states like Kwara, Osun, Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Kogi and Benue states featured prominently on the list of states unable to pay teachers at this level of education, their salaries and sundry wages.

Curiously, the affected states were on the list of 29 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) that had N80. 9b UBEC funds allocated to them lying unclaimed. Most of them, however, attributed their inability to pay teachers’ salaries to reduced allocation from the federation account.

A total of N177.6b was available to all 36 states, and the FCT for the period 2009 to 2014 from UBEC funds. Each state is entitled to N4.8b, and only a few collected their allocations in full.

Anwukah, who implored state governors to make matters of education of utmost importance, and also improve on infrastructure at that level, acknowledged that only Borno State is up to date, in accessing its share of UBEC funds, out of the 36 states. Abia State, which is leading the pack of defaulting states, has its share lying dormant for the past four years.

He maintained that the absolute necessity for states to access this fund cannot be over emphasised, “because doing otherwise is not only depriving the country’s children the conducive learning environment they desire, but is also depriving Nigerians of thousands of employment opportunities that could be generated if N41 billion is injected into the economy through such productive activities.”

Anwukah noted that it is economically wasteful to allow such quantum of money to lay dormant, especially at a time the country is in dire need of improving its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and strengthening its currency.”

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