Makinde and burden of N60m Law students’ bursary in Oyo

DAPO FALADE X-rays the issues thrown up by the decision of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, last week, to approve N500, 000 each as bursary award for the indigenes of the state in the Nigerian Law School for the 2019/2020 session.

 

SINCE his assumption of office on May 29, 2019, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has been doing things that are remarkably a clear departure from the administration of his predecessor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi. He has been making policies which are fundamentally different from that of the former governor. Quite naturally, some of these policies have continued to draw flak from those who are opposed to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led administration currently in place in the state.

Most profoundly touched by the Makinde administration in the last two months is the education sector, where the governor is unwavering in reversing some policies of the previous administration. At his inauguration the governor, among several others, announced the stoppage, with immediate effect, of the payment of N3, 000 by students of public schools in the state. He also promised to increase the annual budgetary allocation to the education sector from a paltry two per cent to 10 per cent. He further declared that the budgetary allocation to the sector would be increased annually to meet up with the United Nations (UN) standard of 26 per cent, for as long as the fund was available.

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In fact, not quite a few people of the state were surprised by what has now come to be known as the Liberty Stadium Declaration of Governor Makinde as a lot of people in the state are wondering how he would be able to meet up with his campaign promises and the huge expectations of eager supporters and foes alike. But the man appears to be undaunted as it is becoming quite clear that he is well prepared for the tasks ahead of him.

Only last Tuesday, Governor Makinde held the people of the state spellbound as he announced the approval of the sum of N60 million bursary for the indigenes of Oyo State at the Nigerian Law School. In a move that was clearly unprecedented, the governor announced the sum of N500, 000 as bursary to each of the 120 indigenes of the state in the Law School. He gave the approval when he received a delegation of the Law School students in his office. What made the approval unprecedented was in the amount involved, coupled with the fact that the last time the indigenes of the state in the school received a bursary of N100, 000 was in 2012 during the Senator Ajimobi administration.

The delegation, led by Mr Olaniyi Ogunlade, had presented their case to the governor as they noted that they stood at the risk of not completing their mandatory one-year programme to qualify them as legal practitioners, if the governor did not come to their rescue by paying their school fees of N300, 000 each.

According to the students, their chances of becoming lawyers are in jeopardy as neither they nor their parents can afford to raise the money to pay the school fees. Seyi Makinde, who has promised to match his words with action, promptly offered to take the burden off the shoulder of the students and their parents as he gave an immediate approval for the payment of N500, 000 to each of them.

In a statement made available last week by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr Taiwo Adisa, the governor said: “He was approving the sum of N60 million to cater for the 2019/2020 backlog session of Oyo State indigenes in the Nigerian Law School.” He further said his decision was aimed at assisting and encouraging the students to achieve greatness, even as he urged them to return home at the completion of their programme to make their own contributions to the development of the state.

He maintained that, by that gesture, Oyo had made an investment on the students and would therefore love them to return to make a positive impact on the development of the state. He assured them that his administration would make the state attractive for them and the people in general, even as he challenged the students to understand the fact that “life is not just for those who work hard but for those who persevere.”

While the appreciative beneficiaries of the government largess expressed their determination to return and contribute their quotas to the development of the state, the approval of the N60million bursary award was, however, to the consternation of some top government officials as they raised a genuine fear on how to raise the money. A drama was said to have ensued in the governor’s office when the ministry officials confronted with the stark realities about the state of finances of the state and the paltry sum in the accounts of the state’s Scholarship Board.

Nevertheless, the governor was said to have insisted that provisions should be made to make the money available for the 120 students, noting that the state stood to gain immensely from the students at the completion of their programme, in terms of human capacity and development.

A source who was present at the meeting of the governor with the students’ delegation disclosed thus: “When Governor Makinde announced the approval of the N60 million bursary award to the Oyo State indigenes at the Nigerian Law School, numbering 120, there was a mild drama as the top civil servants, who were present at the meeting were skeptical about how to raise the money.

“Their fear is not unfounded because there is not much money in the state coffers. However, Mr Governor insisted that he is going ahead with the bursary. He said the state should be able to fund it because as an individual, he has been consistent with funding his yearly scholarship awards, worth N50million, to students in the state for some years now. The governor also assured that the N60million for the Law School students would be funded from the proposed supplementary budget,” he said.

Immediately after the governor approved the N60million bursary award, another issue cropped up. Another batch of 190 Oyo State indigenes, also in the Law School, came up with their own demands as they claimed that they were left out. According to them, they wrote a letter to the immediate past administration in the state, asking for government support to funding their school fees. But there was no such approval, even till the end of the tenure of the Ajimobi administration.

Speaking on the issue, the CPS to the governor, Adisa, confirmed that it was true that the 190 Law School students wrote a letter to former Governor Ajimobi, asking for bursary. He added: “Up till last April, there was no bursary approval for these 190 students who are already in the Law School. They want to be among the beneficiaries of the governor’s gesture. Their letter was with the Oyo State Scholarship Board. It has not been sent to either the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) or Governor Seyi Makinde.”

A major fallout of the governor’s gesture was the demand by various people across the state that the Law students should not be given any preferential treatment as there are other indigenes of the state in other fields of study in various higher institutions across the country. Many are saying such students must also be given bursary awards to help them in their educational pursuits.

Adisa allayed the fear of the people in this regard as he said the governor was fully aware of the need to take care of the interest of all the people of the state, the students inclusive, as indicated in his campaign manifesto. “With the assurance from the governor to transform the education sector, it is not without any doubt that other categories of students from the state in other fields of learning will have a cause to laugh too,” he added.

In spite of the assurances from Governor Makinde and the government, the questions on the lips of a lot of people are, ‘How will the government finance bursary awards to hundreds of the indigenes of the state who are in various higher institutions in the country?’ How sustainable is the yearly award of N500, 000 to the indigenes of the state who will be going for their mandatory one-year study at the Nigerian Law School?

The questions became pertinent given that the state has a meagre revenue base and more importantly, the purse of the state scholarship board is not robust enough to take care of even the bursary need of the students who are presently in the Law School.

However, another top aide of the governor allayed such fears as he said, “On sustainability, it is expected that once the budgetary allocation to the education sector is jerked up to 10 per cent of the total annual budget, there will be no problem of raising money to assist our students in the Law School and, at the same time, attend to the needs of every other students and as well as ensure the development of the sector.”

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