Reps to probe over N2trn allocated for education sector in 10 years

• Call for scrapping of Almajiri educational system

The House of Representatives, on Thursday, unveiled plans to conduct an investigation into the utilisation of over N2 trillion budgetary allocations, intervention funds, as well as ascertaining the utilisation of the funds and the status of all ongoing capital projects in the educational sector and Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) over the past 10 years.

The resolution was passed during debate of the ‘Motion of urgent public importance on the need for the House to deliberate on the matter of the millions of out of school children in Nigeria and to consider lasting solutions,’ sponsored by Hon. Omowumi Ogunlola.

To this end, the House mandated its Committee on Basic Education chaired by Hon. Julius Ihonvbere to report back to the House within 4 weeks for further legislative action.

In her lead debate, Hon. Ogunlola, who observed that a large number of Nigerian citizens lack access to quality education, argued that the prevailing situation “is akin to a nation without life as education is the surest means of raising millions of people out of poverty and offering them a chance to live full lives of personal achievement in the 21st-century knowledge economy.”

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She maintained that the figures of out of school children in Nigeria as provided by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is evidence of a national crisis of such severe proportions that unless urgent action is taken, we are at risk of a lost generation of young people.

“The House is disturbed that after years of expensive interventions by the Federal Government of Nigeria, we have not achieved any sustained reduction in these dire statistics, and the possibility still exists that the numbers will get worse in the coming years.

“The House is also disturbed that across the country, many of our children who are supposed to be in school are roaming the streets as beggars and petty hawkers; others are employed in menial roles whilst others become victims and perpetrators of crime,” Hon. Ogunlola stressed.

In the bid to address the menace, she called for an amendment of the National Youth Service Corps Act with the view to establishing a programme for identification, recruitment and training of willing, capable and promising young Nigerians to serve as teachers in under-served areas.

While supporting the motion, the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, urged members to sacrifice funds from their allowances and salaries to sponsor out-of-school children in their various constituencies.

“All of us here and the political class, in general, have the responsibility to sponsor out-of-school in our various states. We can do this, we lawmakers do this by setting aside funds from our allowances or salaries to sponsor these out of school children.

“So let’s not think of what the government can do for us but we should rather think of what we can do for our country.

“Today, Elumelu Foundation founded by my brother is helping children and youths in Nigeria and across Africa and I believe we can do same for our young people.

“Let’s not also forget that the former President, Goodluck Jonathan introduced almajiri school shortly before his exit, what has happened to that project?” Hon. Elumelu queried.

Also speaking, Chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters and Political Parties, Hon. Aisha Dukku, kicked against clarion calls by some lawmakers to abolish almajiri system of education, despite the bastardisation of the initiative.

While venting his view on the plight of the out of school children, Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Oluwole Oke, argued that the issue of the out-of-school problem was borne out of corruption.

“For me, all the problems mentioned here by various speakers is not the issue rather what seems to be the basic issue here is corruption,” he said.

In his remarks, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who presided over the special session, announced the institution of an Education Week, and the need for members to use the last weekend of the month to visit their constituencies with the view to educate them and other stakeholders on the importance of education.

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