Paul Obi in Abuja
The Federal Ministry of Education has reported 28 states which did not access the N64.8billion UBE funds in the country to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for possible sanction.
This was because of the states’ inability to access the Universal Basic Education (UBE) fund.
UBE Executive Secretary, Dr. Hameed Bobboyi, stated this wednesday evening in Abuja, during a meeting with th state chairmen of State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
THISDAY gathered that only nine out of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were able to access the funds in 2015.
According to a report, “28 states could not access the funds either because they failed to provide the matching grants or because they could not afford to pay counterpart funds required to access the money.”
The Executive Secretary expressed concern over the inability of some states to take basic education seriously even before the present economic challenges affecting the country.
Bobboyi explained that government was worried about the numbers of out-of-school children in the country and the poor quality of teachers in the basic education sector, which has continued to hamper the country in education ranking.
Bobboyi said: “The Federal Ministry of Education and the relevant agencies have been doing quite a lot to ensure that the funds that are not accessed are accessed by the states. This case is before ministry of education which is taking up the issue with the FEC and I think when FEC makes its decision, these things will be available for each and everywhere person to know just where we stand on this issue.
“There are two parties involved here and I think we should understand that the major reason for instituting the matching grant of the UBE Act is to ensure that you build sufficient resources for the basic education sector where whatever the federal government brings the state governments will also match those funds and that is how the funding formula was developed.
“The idea is for us to push and ensure that people understand the initial impact of having the matching grants but subsequently also to see what could be done to see policy changes which could come from government because it involves change in UBEC Act that will facilitate or institute a lower percentage of matching grants to enable a large number of states which may be in some difficulties to access the funds.”
Bobboyi said some states for failing to take basic education seriously even before the present economic challenges affecting the country.
He said: “But unfortunately because of certain factors, even before the economic crisis that people are talking about, there are some states, perhaps who have not taken basic education very seriously. UBE has a road map for the development of basic education in this country. Any Executive secretary who comes will look at this and see what the priorities of government at any moment are.
“This government from the discussions and mandate that was given to us when we were inaugurated is to look at such key areas and ensure those concerned areas are addressed.
“The worrying areas of out of school children, issues of teachers’ development are crucial to sustaining the quality of basic education in Nigeria because if we don’t develop the teacher it becomes very difficult for us to realize the quality we are looking for.
“You know the key area that concerns this government is that area of accountability and transparency in the use of funds. And I think UBEC is going to improve its monitoring processes to ensure that whatever funds that come from UBEC are utilised in a transparent and accountable manner so that we can realise the core mandate of the organisation that has been put in charge.”
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, had earlier stated that the ministry was working on modalities to reduce or discard requirements for matching grants by states in order for them to have access to the funds.
“We at the ministry, we are doing our best to reduce or do away with the requirements for matching grants so that states can just apply to UBEC and get what is their share,” Adamu stated then.
The Executive Chairman/Dean of SUBEBs, Prince Stephen Alao, confirmed that some states have been able to access 78 per cent of the funds due to dwindling funds at their disposal.
Alao said: “Most states as I speak today have been able to access 78% of the fund for major infrastructural development across the nation and it is a continuous process.
“Most of the governors take basic education as a priority and the money that they have to pay for them to access is quite a lot of money and I am very happy, for example we have been able to access and we are working,” he observed
Meanwhile, following the flagrant abuse of counterpart funding by respective states, the federal government, yesterday in Abuja handed a note of warning to states to desist from diversion and misappropriation of the UBEC funds, as such menace would no longer be tolerated.
The warning was given during an interactive session with the Chairmen of States Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) to sensitise the states on the imperative of quality and efficient education programmes.
Speaking at the session, UBEC Executive Secretary, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, cautioned against states’ perennial misappropriation of UBEC funds, which he said, has continued to impede government’s desire to standardise basic education in the country.
According to him, “there is need for us to think as a team for improved service delivery in the basic education sub-sector as it is the foundation of development of all other sectors.
“For us to achieve the expected improvement, we need to deliberate seriously on the issues of sourcing, utilisation and accountability of funds, as it has been a major challenge in the implementation of UBE programme,” Bobboyi said.
The Executive Secretary informed the states that “UBEC places high premium on quality of basic education and will continue to do so for improved effectiveness and efficiency in line with global best practices aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
Bobboyi explained that the session was geared towards providing “the opportunity to interact freely and share opinions on our collective goals and achievements as well as issues militating against the implementation of UBE programmes.”
Meanwhile, Kebbi State Governor, Senator Atiku Bagudu, said government must expedite action in the area of quality teachers for Nigeria to address the challenges in the educational sector.
Bagudu stated this when he visited UBEC headquarters in Abuja, stressing that both the federal and state governments must make the issue of best practice paramount in the pursuit of quality education.
On his part, UBEC Executive Secretary commended the efforts of the state government in his ability to access the fund up to 2015.