IT is a major symptom of the rot in the quality of leadership in the country that many states have failed to provide the counterpart funds required to collect their shares of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) funds.
It has been established that out of the N35.2 billion set aside by the Federal Government to fund basic education in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), only 19 states and the FCT have claimed their N19 billion share, leaving N16.2 billion unclaimed by the rest 17 states. Listed among the erring states are: Zamfara, Taraba, Gombe, Plateau, Nasarawa, Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Kogi, Kwara, Kebbi, Imo, Anambra, Benue and Enugu States.
The states fell behind due to their failure to provide their counterpart funds, which is the condition tied to the collection of the grant. In fact, some states like Ekiti and Edo have failed to meet this condition for some years due to the alleged mismanagement of funds meant for that purpose by successive regimes.
The matching grants were imposed on the states to increase the amount available annually for investment into the basic education of the Nigerian child. Unfortunately, due to corruption and poor prioritisation of education by many states, UBEC funds for many states have remained unclaimed.
In 2014, state governors made strident efforts to have the counterpart fund clause removed from the UBEC enabling law, but this was resisted by the former President Goodluck Jonathan regime. A similar effort has also been blocked by the President Muhammadu Buhari government.
It is sad that, with the woes facing the education sector, funds meant to alleviate critical shortfalls are left to rot. All over the country, school infrastructure are in decay. The teaching profession has been degraded to the point where many teachers are worse than illiterate due to corruption and lack of training to upgrade their knowledge. Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
We call on President Buhari, the State and National Assemblies, the various teachers’ unions and all well-meaning Nigerians to rise to the challenge of forcing governors to take education much more seriously. Any state seeking foreign loans must first clear their unclaimed UBEC fund. All former governors who diverted their states’ UBEC funds should be brought to account once they complete their tenures and exit their immunity mode. It should not matter what position they may now occupy since they are no longer under immunity.
Inability to access the UBEC fund set aside to boost education in the states puts the future of millions of our youth in danger, and any governor involved in any act of omission or commission in this regard should be tried for crimes against humanity.