IN spite of government’s dwindling revenue and poor funding of basic education by many states of the federation, a whopping sum of N64.8billion intervention fund by the Federal Government for implementation of the Universal Basic Education has not been accessed by states.
Investigation by Saturday Tribune revealed that many state governors have refused to pay the requisite counterpart fund in order to access their allocation from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).
This huge fund lies idle with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) while several states of the federation have been unable to pay salaries of their teachers with pupils in many schools still learning under trees and dilapidated infrastructure in some states.
A document obtained by Saturday Tribune from UBEC headquarters in Abuja, indicated that as of July 20, 2016, none of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja had accessed the 2016 allocated to them.
The document indicated that the matching grant from UBEC to each state under the 2016 intervention is N521 million, bringing it to a total of N19.2 billion for 2016 allocation to all the states and the FCT.
The Public Relations Officer of UBEC, Mrs Helen Okoro, also confirmed that many states were yet to access the matching grant because of their inability to pay the mandatory counterpart fund.
She, however, noted that there has been remarkable improvement in the access of the grants since the inception of this administration as a result of the sustained advocacy by the UBEC management, even though none of the states has yet to access the 2016 allocation going by the available record.
According to her, the former Executive Secretary of UBEC, Dr. Dikko Suleiman, had worked relentlessly towards improvement of basic education in the country as well impressed it on the state governors the need to promptly access their intervention funds.
It was gathered from the document obtained that from 2005 to July 20, 2016, the Federal Government, through UBEC, disbursed about N325 billion to states with each state and FCT getting about N8.7 billion in the last 12 years.
The UBEC counterpart funds are targeted at the basic education sub-sector and to facilitate sucessful implementation of UBE that is primarily aimed at ensuring all Nigerian children receive basic education.
However, the document showed that Abia, Nasarawa and Oyo states top the list of states which performed poorly in accessing the matching grant with each of them having N4.2 billion un-accessed while basic education in the affected states suffers.
They are followed closely by Ekiti and Ondo. While Ekiti State has a total of N3.8 billion un-accessed fund, Ondo has N3.3 billion. Enugu State follows with N2.9 billion un-accessed fund.
Each of Bayelsa, Kwara, Niger, Ogun, Plateau, Rivers, Zamfara and FCT, Abuja has N2.3 billion un-accessed funds in the period under review.
Nonetheless, eight other states that appear to have performed impressively going by the record in terms of access to the matching grant are Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kano, Gombe, Ebonyi, Benue, Bauchi and Anambra. All the states in this category were able to access their grants up to 2015 leaving only the 2016 allocation to be accessed.
Also, each of Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Borno, Delta, Edo, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Lagos, Osun, Taraba and Yobe, has N1.3 billion to be accessed as of July 20.
Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Anwukah, who expressed his disgust at the inability of many states to access the matching grants, said a lot of improvement could have been achieved in existing schools, while new ones could also have been established.
Speaking recently while addressing the 15th quarterly meeting of UBEC management and chairmen of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs), Anwukah said the Federal Government was greatly concerned about the capability of accessing and utilisation of UBE matching grant as well as non-conditional Special Education Fund for all the states and the FCT.
He said: “The inability of some state governments to promptly access and utilise the matching grants is an issue that is worrisome when we realise that a lot of improvements could have been achieved in our existing schools or even in the establishment of new ones.”
“I, therefore, wish to appeal to SUBEBs chairmen to bring this to the notice of their Governors and impress on them the urgent need to take action in the interest of our educational system,” he said.
According to the UBEC act 2004, For any state to qualify for the intervention funds, it must contribute 50 per cent of the cost of whatever project it intends to embark upon as a commitment to its execution.
However, sources in some of the state governments said it was heculean to raise 50 per cent of the matching grant from UBEC in order to access to find from the Commission in the face of other contending issues with the limited resources in the states.