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Ahmed: FG Considering Fiscal Incentives to Boost Private Sector Investment in Education
*Laments increasing attacks on schools, reiterates support for girl-child education
*UNFPA lauds FG’s strides
James Emejo in Abuja
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, has said the federal government is currently working to create fiscal incentives to encourage private sector investment in education.
The minister said the recent increase in attacks on educational institutions had made it imperative that the federal government prepares a holistic national plan, with inputs from states and key relevant sectors to create a safe learning environment in the country.
Speaking over the weekend at the Girl Child Now Summit with the theme: “Nurturing Our Women -Nigeria’s Own Wealth,” which was organised by the Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) and Wilton Park, Ahmed pointed out that it was crucial to secure the education of the children as this remained vital for the economic progress and attainment of the much-needed social development indices in the country.
The minister noted that since President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Safe Schools Declaration in December 2019, her ministry had been proactive in staging stakeholder engagements on financing safe schools and creating safe learning environments.
The minister however stressed that much more needed to be done, adding that with the assurance from stakeholders that they remained collectively committed to ensuring adequate funding for the implementation of the safe schools’ declaration.
“We hope to see improvement,” she added.
Ahmed said for education to support growth, initiatives across agencies, states, NGOs, and donor partners must be harmonised to achieve the maximum desired results.
She noted that the private sector was also committing to playing a key role under the private sector advisory group of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), via the adoption of schools and spending as much as N100 million for the provision of security, a good learning environment, and necessary tools for improved learning.
The minister said despite the financial challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, “I remain steadfast in my commitment to ensuring that our country emerges from this crisis stronger and more resilient than ever before.
“I have had the privilege of serving my country, Nigeria, in navigating the complex financial challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
“But as we work to secure our financial future, we must also ensure that our girls and women have the opportunities to reach their full potential.
“This is why I believe that female leadership is so critical. By seeing women in positions of power and influence, girls are encouraged and inspired to reach for the stars and achieve their dreams.”
The minister told the gathering including development partners that investing in girls and women was not only a moral obligation but also a smart investment.
She added that studies had shown that when girls and women are empowered, they drive economic growth and development, contributing to a better future for all.
Ahmed said she remained committed as a minister, to ensure that the resources are in place to support investments in the education, health, and development of women and girls, pointing out that this required a multifaceted approach that leverages both public and private sector resources, as well as the expertise and engagement of all stakeholders.
She said by fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for women and girls, “we can break down the barriers that prevent them from realising their full potential”.
“I understand the importance of providing female role models and mentors, and I am proud to be in a position where I can aspire and empower other women to pursue leadership positions and make a positive impact on society,” she added.
This came as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)commended the Buhari-led administration, particularly in the area of tackling out-of-school children.
Speaking in an interview with THISDAY on the sidelines of the summit, Resident Representative UNFPA Nigeria, Ms Ulla Mueller, said the federal government had done tremendous work in addressing the hitherto high numbers of children that were out-of-school.
She said the girl-child has become an important partnership for UNFPA, adding that it would continue to support the reproductive health of Nigerian girls and help to end gender-based violence as well as boost access to reproductive commodities in the country.
Mueller said despite the security challenges which had slowed efforts around the girl-child, “I think the political awareness is there, the commitment is there and at UNFPA, we are very happy to see that”.
She further commended the summit organisers whose efforts have given voices to the plights of the girl-child in Nigeria.
The Minister for Women Affairs Minister and Social Development, Pauline Tallen, said leveraging on the positive commitment of the present administration, the country has recorded major successes in the domestication of the Child Rights Act, particularly in the Northeast among other achievements.