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N51bn UBEC Funds: Pay Counterpart Funds Now, SERAP Tells Govs

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the 36 state governors to “immediately redirect public funds budgeted to pay ex-governors undeserved pensions and other retirement benefits, and for ‘security votes’, and to use some of the savings to pay the counterpart funds that would allow poor children to enjoy access to quality basic education in your state.”
SERAP said: “Several of the 36 states have reportedly failed to pay the counterpart funds to access over N51billion matching grants earmarked by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) for basic education in the country, as at July, 2019.”
In the letter dated February 19, 2022, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The report by UBEC that several states have failed to access N51.6billionn of matching grants suggests that these states are doing very little for poor children. It also explains why the number of out-of-school children in the country has risen from 10.5million to 13.2million.”
According to SERAP, “A violation of the right to education will occur when there is insufficient expenditure or misallocation of public resources, which results in the non-enjoyment of the right to quality education by poor children within the states.”
SERAP said that, “States’ dereliction in paying counterpart funds is antithetical to the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, and the country’s international human rights obligations.”
The letter, sent to each of the 36 governors, read in part, “We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your state to comply with our request in the public interest.
“The enjoyment of the right to education for millions of poor children remains a distant goal. In several states, this goal is becoming increasingly remote. The persistent failure to pay counterpart funds has hugely contributed to denying poor Nigerian children access to quality basic education, opportunities and development.
“State governors are clearly in a position to invest more toward the progressive realisation of the right to quality education for poor children within their states.
“Rather than spending public funds to pay ex-governors undeserved pensions and other retirement benefits and apparently using security votes for patronage and political purposes, governors should prioritise investment in education by immediately paying up any outstanding counterpart funds to UBEC.
“Redirecting public funds budgeted for life pensions and security votes, and cutting the cost of governance to pay the counterpart funds would be entirely consistent with your constitutional oath of office, and the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution, as it would promote efficient, honest, and legal spending of public money.
“Continuing to spend scarce public funds on these expenses would deny poor Nigerian children access to quality, compulsory and free basic education in your state, and burden the next generation.
“Redirecting the funds as recommended would also ensure access to quality education for poor children, who have no opportunity to attend private schools. It would contribute to addressing poverty, inequality, marginalisation, and insecurity across several states.
“SERAP is separately seeking information from UBEC about the details of counterpart funds that have been between 2019 and 2022. In the meantime, SERAP urges you to clarify if your state has paid any counterpart fund between July, 2019 and 2022.
“SERAP urges you to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of any accessed matching grants from UBEC.
“States should prioritise paying their counterpart funds over and above spending on life pensions and other misallocations of scarce resources.
“Immediately paying your counterpart funds for basic education in your state would be a major step forward for children’s rights, and show your commitment to ensure the rights and well-being of all children, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds.
“According to the Universal Basic Education Commission, Kwara State has failed and/or refused to pay the counterpart funds that would allow the state to access the matching grant of N6,245,355,130.05.
“This is the cumulative amount that Kwara State has failed to access as at July, 2019. Notably, Kwara has failed to access the following matching grants: N952,297,297.30 for 2011-2012; N1,918,783,783.78 for 2015-2016; N1,286,343,183.55 for 2017; N1,473,832,845.21 for 2018, and N614,097,018.83 for 2019.
“According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 1 in 3 children do not complete primary school in several states. 27.2percent of children between 6 and 11 years do not attend school. Only 35.6percent of children aged 3–5 months attend pre-school.
“As revealed by a 2018 report by Transparency International (TI), most of the funds appropriated as security votes are spent on political activities, mismanaged or simply stolen.
“It is estimated that security votes add up to over N241.2billion every year. On top of appropriated security votes, state governments also receive millions of dollars yearly as international security assistance.
“According to the UBEC, Abia State has failed and/or refused to pay the counterpart funds that would allow the state to access the matching grant of N2,988,805,613.14.
“This is the cumulative amount that Abia State has failed to access as at July, 2019. Notably, Abia has failed to access the following matching grants: N26,430,893.96 for 2011-2012; N874,444,853.76 for 2017; N1,473,832,845.21 for 2018, and N614,097,018.83 for 2019.
“According to our information, basic education in several states has continued to experience a steady decline. The quality of education offered is low and standards have continued to drop.
“The learning environment does not promote effective learning. School facilities are in a state of extreme disrepair, requiring major rehabilitation. Basic teaching and learning resources are generally not available, leaving many teachers profoundly demoralised.
“This situation is patently contrary to Section 18 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended); and the Sections 2(1) and 11(2) of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act.
“Education is both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realising other human rights. As an empowerment right, education is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalised adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities.
“States are required to progressively implement socio-economic rights, including the right to quality education commensurate with the level of resources available. Gross misallocation of resources to the detriment of the enjoyment of the right to quality education can constitute a human rights violation.”

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World Bank To Fund $30bn Projects In Nigeria, Others

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The World Bank has said it is set to disburse a total of $30billion to fund existing and new projects in Nigeria and other countries as part of a global response to combat the ongoing food security crisis.
According to the bank, it is working with countries on a $12billion new projects fund for the next 15 months.
It said the projects are expected to support agriculture, social protection to cushion the effects of higher food prices, and water and irrigation projects.
It added that most of the funds would go to Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and South Asia.
The global bank disclosed this when it announced how it plans to be part of a comprehensive, global response to the ongoing food security crisis.
It stated that it intends to roll out this fund in existing and new projects in agriculture, nutrition, social protection, water, and irrigation.
It said, “This financing will include efforts to encourage food and fertiliser production, enhance food systems, facilitate greater trade, and support vulnerable households and producers.”
World Bank Group President, David Malpass, said, “Food price increases are having devastating effects on the poorest and most vulnerable.
“To inform and stabilise markets, it is critical that countries make clear statements now of future output increases in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Countries should make concerted efforts to increase the supply of energy and fertilizer, help farmers increase plantings and crop yields, and remove policies that block exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage unnecessary storage.”
The bank added that its current existing portfolio includes balances of $18.7billion in projects with direct links to food and nutrition security issues, covering agriculture and natural resources, nutrition, social protection, and other sectors.
It stated, “Altogether, this would amount to over $30billion available for implementation to address food insecurity over the next 15 months. This response will draw on the full range of Bank financing instruments and be complemented by analytical work.”

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FG Postpones FAAC Meeting Over AGF’s N80bn Probe

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The Federal Government has announced the postponement of May, 2022 Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting.
The sudden postponement may not be unconnected with the ongoing investigation of the suspended Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, over alleged fraud to the tune of N80billion.
The FAAC meeting is a monthly meeting where the federation allocates monthly revenue among the three tiers of government.
The meeting had earlier been scheduled to hold virtually between May 18 and 19, 2022.
The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, said this in a letter signed by Director, Home Finance,Stephen Okon.
The ministry said the meeting was postponed due to “certain circumstances.
“I am directed to inform you that the Federation Account/Allocation Committee (FAAC) meetings earlier scheduled to hold/virtually on the 18th and 19th May, 2022 have been postponed due to/certain circumstances,” the circular reads.
“In view of the foregoing, I am to further inform you that the new date for the meetings will be forwarded to you in due course.
“While we regret the inconveniences this change might cause you, please accept the assurances of the Minister’s warm regards,” the letter read in part.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on Monday arrested and detained Idris over an alleged N80billion fraud.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, announced indefinite suspension of Idris, last Wednesday.
Ahmed said the suspension “without pay” was to allow for “proper and unhindered investigation” in line with public service rules.

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Nigerian Out-Of-School Children Hit 18.5m

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Nigeria has 18.5million out-of-school children (OSC), the highest number in the world, and out of the figure, 10million are girls, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has said.
The Chief of UNICEF Field Office in Kano, Rahama Farah, stated this at a media dialogue on ‘Girls’ Education under the Girls’ Education Project 3, GEP 3’, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and implemented by UNICEF.
“For those lucky to be in school, their condition is also not enviable given the situation of public schools in the country. Only recently, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), said 50per cent of schools in Nigeria lack basic furniture”Farah said.
The Executive Secretary of the commission, Hamid Bobboyi, said this in Abuja at a one-day civil society organisations’ CSO-Legislative Roundtable Meeting where some National and State Houses of Assembly members were present.
According to him, emerging constraints in basic education delivery in the country may necessitate an increase in the consolidated revenue funds from the current two per cent to four per cent.
He buttressed his position for an increase in funding on the security challenges bedevilling the country, insisting that rising student population also poses urgent need for teaching facilities.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Basic Education, represented by Senator Frank Ibezim, decried the failure of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs), to sustain some UBEC-initiated projects such as classrooms and libraries earlier introduced by the commission in all constituencies in the country.
While commending UBEC over the construction of classrooms in schools across the country, he lamented the poor maintenance culture, noting that there is no school in the country that does not have a dilapidated block.
A representative of MacArthur Foundation, Mr Dayo Olaoye, called on stakeholders to review the impact of the country’s annual budget on education, stressing that it was not enough that the country is increasing its budget to the sector.
“As we think about reforms, let us think beyond buildings that have been delivered, let us start thinking about how many children have been brought to school,” he said.
“If classrooms are dilapidated, and there are not enough furniture, what about teachers and the quality of the ones available? The Registrar, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, said there are over 300,000 unqualified teachers in the system.
“Education is very important to be left in the hands of quacks and that is why at TRCN, we are stepping up efforts at ridding the system of unqualified hands. We implore teachers and their employers to take advantage of the various windows TRCN is providing to improve the quality of teachers in the country so as to get better results from our education system,” he said.
For the General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Dr Mike Ene, there is need for better funding of the education sector.
He noted that in many states, teachers are overwhelmed by the number of pupils and students they handle.
“In so many states, there is inadequacy of teachers. Some states have not recruited teachers in the last 10 years and yearly, teachers are leaving the system through retirement, resignation or even death. Worse hit by poor staffing are schools in the rural areas. Such schools are called hard-to-staff schools.”
It is in that regard that the welfare packages announced by the Federal Government are very much necessary,” he said.
Also speaking on the issue, the National President of the National Association of Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, decried the manner some state governments are implementing the Basic Education Policy of the government whereby pupils and students in primary and junior secondary schools are to enjoy free education and are given textbooks in some core subjects.
“Some states are not doing well in that respect. They have abandoned the programme. They are not funding education as it ought to be funded. Even counterpart funds that some states should put down to complement the funds from UBEC are not provided. Some states have even misused UBEC funds and are suspended from getting further grants.
“We are talking now about our tertiary institutions that are grounded by workers’ strikes, the basic education level, which is the foundation, is not faring better too. Something urgent must be done to redress the situation before the sector collapses finally,” he noted.

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