The states may do well to access to the idle funds

In a bid to help the Nigerian child access good education, especially at the foundation level, the federal government established an intervention body, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Its mandate is to administer a fund to all the 36 states of the federation as part of measures to standardise primary education. But “the matching grant” has more or less compelled many states to stay away from accessing the grant, explained a frustrated Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, UBEC Executive Secretary.

As things stand, the authorities in many of the states have chosen to imperil the future of our children. They are more or less indifferent to the fund, simply because they have deliberately refused to adhere to the simple rules for accessing the grants that has accumulated to the tune of N71 billion.

According to UBEC, 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.

The UBEC fund is an annual grant by the federal government to help the states upgrade their primary education facilities in order to provide a good education for the nation’s children. To access the fund, state governments are required to match the federal government’s grant. But many the 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 suspect in many cases.

More annoying is the dishonesty of some states that have gone ahead to divert their allocations. UBEC alleged a while ago that five states were involved in illegal withdrawal of counterpart fund after the federal government had released the matching grant to them. This is to say the least criminal.

Indeed, in 2014, the governors made spirited efforts to amend Sections 9 (b) and 11(2) of the UBEC Act that spell out criteria for entitlement to the funds. Specifically, the governors wanted to collect the intervention fund without providing the necessary counterpart funding, which is needed to demonstrate their seriousness. The Goodluck Jonathan administration resisted the amendment because of the poor handling of the funds by most state governments, which reinforced the need for strict monitoring of its disbursement and utilisation.

In these lean times, it is unfortunate that many state governors have not realised the importance of the facility intended to secure a solid foundation for the future of their children. Indeed, records abound of reckless and frivolous expenditures by the states, despite the difficulties in meeting their basic responsibilities, even in the primary education sector.

The states need to have a rethink and show more commitment to primary education by taking urgent concrete steps to access the UBEC fund in the interest of the Nigerian child. As the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, has said, the refusal, and or inability of states to access their share of the UBEC fund is strangulating the development of basic education nationwide. In other words, Nigerian children are bearing the brunt of their inaction.

We, therefore urge the governors to oblige UBEC by paying up their counterpart fund. Basic education is too important to be neglected. We cannot afford to imperil the nation’s future. It is noteworthy that once the foundation is faulty, whatever we build on it would be permanently defective.