THE Executive Secretary of Universal Basic Education Commission, Dr Hamid Bobboyi, has disclosed that many state governments have failed to access the Federal Government matching grant to them now to the tune of about N60billion as at March 31, 2017.
The matching grant, which is an intervention fund disbursed by the Federal Government to states through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) is meant to support the development of basic education and implementation of Universal Basic Education scheme.
Bobboyi, speaking at a meeting with the leadership of Education Correspondents Association of Nigeria (ECAN), in Abuja, said the inability of many states to access the intervention fund has greatly hampered the development of basic education in the country.
According to the statistics obtained from the commission on the un-accessed matching grant from 2005 to 2016 as at March 31, 2017, it was indicated that only two states have so far have accessed the 2016 grant. The states are Borno and Rivers.
Ebonyi State is the least performed state in terms of access and utilisation of the fund as it currently has up to N4 billion un-accessed fund with UBEC.
Other states that followed Ebonyi closely are: Enugu and Ondo with over N3billion each un-accessed while Bayelsa, Niger, Ogun, and Oyo, each has N2.8billion un-accessed fund lying idle with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The Executive Secretary of UBEC, also lamented that apart from refusal to access the intervention fund, some state Governors have been involved in diversion of the allocation to their states.
He particularly revealed that five states were involved in illegal withdrawal of the counterpart fund after the Federal Government would have released the matching grant to them on payment of the requisite counterpart fund.
Besides, he said the commission had noticed and closed down the accounts of some states where the intervention fund were placed on fixed deposit in banks.
The UBEC boss disclosed further that there were plethora of cases where the outgoing governors of some states allegedly move the money from the account of the States Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) to the state’s main account against the law, thereby creating confusion in the system.
This, he said had created a lot of problems for the incoming governors and in some cases UBEC had to ask for the return of the money before such a state could access fresh allocation.
He said: “On the issue of matching grant to states, if we provide N1billion to a state, the state is expected to bring its own N1billion and this expands the resource base available to the basic education sector.
“This is the reason I feel very worried that after the Federal Government pays its own matching grant, the state would withdraw its own counterpart fund.
“This is not only against the law, but it negates the entire arrangement that is made in terms of the partnership between the states and the Federal Government.
“There are many states that were involved in the withdrawal of funds over a period of time. We don’t go out to embarrass anybody but we take action. The kind of action we take is that if we noticed gross violation, we close down the matching grant account, we freeze it and then ask the state to come and tell us exactly what had happened with the fund.”
He however said that some of these infractions have been greatly minimised with the coming of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said it was a fact that some states are trying, but there were still serious challenges including payment of salaries of teachers which many states governments are owing up to several months.
He said: “You can provide the inputs, infrastructure and all what you think, at the end of the day, if you don’t pay the teachers, the entire infrastructure would amount to nothing because there could be no meaningful teaching and learning taking place with the four walls of education.”
He emphasised that Nigeria could not make any headway in terms of development if the basic education continue to suffer neglect, saying Korea and most other countries that were at the same level development with Nigeria jumped up the ladder after laying solid foundation of basic education.