THE Federal Government has tackled state governors over failure to access the over N41 billion made available to them for the implementation of Universal Basic Education (UBE) in the country.
The fund disbursed by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to the states, is the 2 per cent derivable from the Consolidated Revenue Account meant for improvement of infrastructure, teaching and learning at the basic education level.
Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Gozie Anwukah, was apparently disturbed by the deplorable conditions under which some Nigerian children attend classes, in some cases under the trees for lack of classrooms in some of the states of the federation.
He wondered why a huge some of money is lying idle in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while many of those states which are not able to access the fund allow school children to learn under decrepit condition.
Speaking at a consultative meeting with 21 Chief Executives of agencies under the Federal Ministry of Education, the Minister said there was the urgent need for the defaulting to pay their counterpart funds in order to access their allocations.
He noted the refusal or inability of States to access their share of the UBEC fund was strangulating the development of basic education nationwide.
Anwukah, said the states which have failed to access their allocation already accumulated over time, added that such states were not only depriving the country’s children, the conducive learning environment but are also depriving Nigerians of thousands of employment opportunities that could be generated if N41 billion is injected into the economy through such productive activities.
Deputy Director, Press, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Ben Bem Goong on Wednesday in quoted Anwukah as saying that it was economically wasteful to allow such quantum of money to be dormant, especially at a time the country is in dire need of improving its gross domestic product (GDP) and strengthening its currency.
While acknowledging that only Borno State is up to date in accessing its share of UBEC funds-out of the 36 State of the Federation, the Minister revealed that Abia State is leading the pack of defaulting States with its share lying dormant for the past 4 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.
He, however, ruled out the possibility of altering the ratio of contribution between the Federal and state governments, which is 50:50, saying he would 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 tomorrows voters.
Acknowledging the current economic realities in the country, Prof. Anwukah noted that accessement of UBEC funds by States is a matter of political will.
The Minister called on State Governors to make Universal Basic Education (UBE) a matter of top priority.