Paul Obi in Abuja
Following the deplorable state of infrastructure in the educational sector in the country, the federal government wednesday warned the 36 state governments against their refusal to access the N41 billion Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) fund earmarked for education programmes across the states.
At a meeting with 21 Chief Executives Officers of agencies in the Federal Ministry of Education, Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, who expressed great concern over the deplorable conditions under which some Nigerian children attend classes under the trees for lack of classrooms, urged states to fast track the process of accessing the funds for judicious use.
According to Anwukah, the need for state governments to access the over N41billion made available to them by the federal government through the UBEC to improve on education infrastructure at that level remains critical given the imperative of basic education to the nation.
The minister said: “The refusal, and or inability of states to access their share of the UBEC fund is strangulating the development of basic education nationwide.
“The absolute necessity for states to access this fund cannot be over emphasised, maintaining that 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: “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.
He held that only Borno State was up to date in accessing its share of UBEC funds-out of the 36 states of the federation, revealing that Abia State is leading the pack of defaulting states with its share lying dormant for the past four years.
Some of the reasons given by the minister for the current rate of default by states are; “the inability of beneficiary states to account for previous allocations, inability to pay 50 per cent of their counterpart funding and in some cases, outright lack of commitment to the course of basic education.”
Anwukah ruled out the possibility of altering the ratio of contribution between the federal and state governments (50:50), adding that the federal government “will continue to exert the necessary pressure on states to access their fund as and when due in the interest of the Nigerian child.”
The minister noted that some of the primary schools where some children attend classes under tree shelter are sometimes used as voting centres where politicians garner their votes, only to turn their backs on these children, forgetting that the same children will make up tomorrow’s voters.
He acknowledged the current economic realities in the country, adding that accessing UBEC funds by states is a matter of political will.
The minister further called on state governors to make Universal Basic Education (UBE) a matter of top priority.