Barely 24 hours after former President Olusegun Obasanjo raised an alarm that out-of-school children posed a threat to national security, the House of Representatives had passed for second reading a bill seeking to establish National Commission for Almajiri education and out-of-school children.
It will be recalled that the government of former President Goodluck also gave the almajiri a facelift, establishing schools to educate them.
Tilted, “Bill for an Act to Establish National Commission for Almajiri Education and out of School Children to Provide for a Multimodal System of Education to tackle the Menace of Illiteracy, Develop Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Programmes, Prevent Youth Poverty, Delinquency and Destitution in Nigeria; and for Related Matters (HB.2028),” the bill was sponsored by Hon. Shehu Kakale and 18 other lawmakers.
In his lead debate at Wednesday’s plenary, Kakale noted that Nigeria was among the countries with millions of children that were out of school.
He said, “Nigeria is among many other countries that are confronted with the phenomenon of out-of-school children. As you may be aware, millions of children and teenagers across the country are currently out of school, due to one reason or the other.
“Mr Speaker, as of September 2022, out-of-school children in Nigeria were estimated to be 18.5 million by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). However, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) estimated the same to be 13.2 million.”
The lawmaker also gave staggering statistics of the figures in many states of Nigeria, recalling Jonathan’s efforts to build 157 schools for the almajiris.
“The statistics appear even grimmer, judging from the rough estimate of out-of-school children per state in the country.
“Mr. Speaker and my Honourable Colleagues, the digest of basic education statistics by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) revealed that Ten (10) out of Nigeria’s Thirty-Six (36) states were homes to more than half of Nigeria’s out-of-school children, as at 2018. The 10 states at the top of the chart had about 5.2 million of the country’s approximately 10.2 million out-of-school children at that time.
“In no particular order, Kano State had the most with 989,234, while Akwa-Ibom (581,800), Katsina (536,122) and Kaduna (524,670) followed closely. Taraba (499,923), Sokoto (436,570), Yobe (427,230), Zamfara (422,214) and Bauchi (354,373) were other states that ranked high on the list. States with the lowest numbers of out-of-school children were Cross River with 97,919, Abia with 91, 548, Kwara with 84,247, Enugu with 82,051, Bayelsa with 53,079, FCT with 52,972 and Ekiti with 50,945.
“Mr. Speaker, several challenges are associated with the high number of out-of-school children in Nigeria. All out-of-school children in Nigeria are at risk of exploitation, vulnerable to recruitment by insurgents, human traffickers, and by other criminal elements in society.
In fact, in your address to Members of the House of Representatives in this hallowed chamber on 28th January 2020, Mr. Speaker, you were very vivid on the rising number of out-of-school children and the danger it portends for the Nigerian state.
“Mr Speaker and my Honourable colleagues, as I draw this debate to a close, permit me to reiterate the fact that education is pivotal to human development and the growth of a nation. It was in recognition of this that Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had to build 157 Almajiri Model Schools to enable the education of the almajiris in Nigeria.
“There cannot be a functional society without a functional educational system. Accordingly, the establishment of the proposed Commission will ensure that the Almajiris receive sound education that will shield them from exploitation by criminal elements. It is in line with the foregoing, I hereby urge you Mr. Speaker, and my respected colleagues to support that this Bill is read the Second time,” he said.
In his contribution, the Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila said the bill was worthy of passage.
Gbajabiamila said, “The sponsor and I worked very closely last year on the issue of almajiri. I commend him for this proactiveness. For anything that has to do with education in this 9th assembly, we have been very proactive. Education has been a priority in our legislative agenda. We have just concluded a two-day summit on tertiary education. We hope that at the end of the day, we will make recommendations.”
But in his own inputs, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai said that while he was not against the bill, a timeline should be provided in the bill for the termination of the programme.
“You are aware that 12 years ago, the Presidency embarked on making sure that the almajiris are integrated into the educational sector. I agree with this bill but in agreeing with it, they are making an intervention and it should have a gestation period like saying this program will last ten to 15 years or so. If the commission is established to just run like that, it will be discriminatory in nature. Every child is entitled to an education. This particular program is an interventionist to bridge the gap, so if it’s an intervention to bridge the gap, it supposed to have a timeline, the laws are made in that way”, he said.
Also contributing, Hon. Dachung Bagos called for punitive measures against failures on the part of the operators of the commission when established.
“This bill coming from a PDP man, my colleague from Sokoto. This is the heartbeat of the project the PDP administration started during the time of Goodluck Jonathan because of the importance— of seeing that Almajiri and out-of-school children— if someone had done his work all through the years, we could not have been at the point in time. It is a bill we support totally, but ours is that once this is established, the people that are supposed to do their work in the bill should be able to spell out actual punishment for those that are supposed to carry out that duty. At this point, let the penalty be spelled out,” Bagos said.
Responding to Ossai comment, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase who presided over the session said the bill was not discriminatory but for all out-of-school children nationwide.
“I want you (Ossai) to look at the long title of the bill. It says almajiri and out-of-school children, which we have in all parts of Nigeria. It’s not only for the almajiri, it will also take care of our brothers that are always in the street,” he said.
The bill later scaled through second reading when put to a voice vote by the presiding officer.
In a related development, the House also passed for second reading a Bill for an Act to Establish Chartered Institute of Corporate and Business Management Affairs; and for Related Matters sponsored by Hon. Julius Ihonvbere from Edo State.
Adeleke Denies Sacking Workers, Monarchs
Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, has denied making executive orders to sack traditional rulers and workers in the state.
He said he only set up a review panel and nobody has been sacked.
His Chief Press Secretary, Olawale Rasheed, who spoke on a radio programme in Osogbo, said Executive Orders one to five showed the intentions of the administration to review, nullify, and set aside while the instrumentality to effect the orders was Order six which is the composition of the panel.
He said: “There was never sack of any worker or traditional ruler. We only set up a review panel. It is impossible to sack and put a review panel in place.
“The review panel is to look at the number of the people that were employed, due processes of the employment, and qualification among other things.
“Before our taking over, there were issues of backdating of employment, even till last year. So, order 1-5 will be operationalised by order 6 which are the panels.
“Those that were employed from July 17 till our takeover are still at work presently, they have not been sacked. The staff audit will review the employment.”
However, a statement by Rasheed said the governor has approved the dissolution of all non-statutory boards in the state with immediate effect.
“As a follow-up to the pronouncement of Governor Adeleke, on Sunday, November 27, 2022, all non-statutory boards, commissions and parastatals, including those of tertiary institutions (with exception of UNIOSUN) are hereby dissolved in the state, forthwith.
“Consequently, all accounting officers of such boards, parastatals and commissions are to take charge with immediate effect,” Rasheed said.
Elect Leaders That’ll Seek Development, Jega Urges Nigerians
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, has called on Nigerians to elect into power leaders who will seek the development and growth of the country.
He added that they should not collect peanuts given by politicians, thereby refusing to contribute to the problems of the nation.
Jaga stated this while delivering a keynote address at a summit organised by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru.
The former INEC chairman noted that enlightenment, sensitisation and voters’ civic education were very important, saying that it was not only the responsibility of INEC but also a primary responsibility of political parties because, “they are the ones that recruit candidates, prepare them for elections and they want people to come and vote. How can they sit back and expect INEC with its limited funds to do that for them.”
He condemned the political class for their inability to engage citizens on substance, ideas, ideologies or realistic programmes, but rather mobilize people based on ethnicity and primordial identities to create us-versus-them distinctions which seemed like a strategy for winning elections but has now been weaponised, leading to violence.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, the Director General of NIPSS, Professor Ayo Omotayo stated that the summit would be a contribution to the ongoing debate on how to ensure that the 2023 general elections in Nigeria produced a set of leaders that will move the country forward.
Omotayo who was represented by the Director of Research, NIPSS, Professor Dung Pam Sha said that the institute had specially organised the summit to present a platform for political parties and other political actors from government agencies, the Civil Society, academia and non-governmental organisations and developmental sectors with the opportunity to brainstorm and have deep reflections on the state of political parties in Nigeria and how to conduct successful elections.
He noted that the meeting was expected to make a thorough examination of the theme and proffer solutions on questions concerning credible elections, improvement in national politics, sustaining faith in the democratic process as well as meeting the avenues of constitutional changes of democratic governance in Nigeria and possibly other parts of Africa.
“Amongst the questions that we will seek answers to are how do we sustain efforts in ensuring credible elections? How do we ensure improvement in the Nigerian politics? How do we sustain faith in the Democratic process. How do we prevent reversals of the things we have reported in our Democratic process? How do we meet the avenues of constitutional changes of Democratic governance in Nigeria and possibly other parts of Africa?
“The summit will be a contribution to the ongoing debate on how to ensure that the 2023 general elections in Nigeria produce a set of leaders that will move the country forward.” he said.
He called on political actors and stakeholders to enable the summit to become an avenue for political parties to build consensus on common areas leading to free, fair and credible elections in 2023 as well as ensuring a formidable and united Nigeria.
The Director General also urged political parties and their candidates as well as their mouthpieces to conduct their campaigns with credibility, saying that their campaigns must be devoid of character assassination that contribute to heating the polity and creating room for violence.
The National Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Alhaji Yabagi Sani, stated that elections and the power to choose generally were fundamental rights for people to make choices, adding that elections should not be characterized by rancour.
Sani said that the conduct of free and fair elections in Africa has always been a very hard nut to crack, noting that, to a great extent, it was the absence of leadership that had caused the problems that have led the country to its present situation.
He said that it would be a huge task for the electoral umpire to manage the over 66 million Nigerians who have been given the opportunity to vote into power leaders because this is the first time such a number has been captured, adding that it was handy that NIPSS had brought together political parties, their leaders and stakeholders to ensure Democratic governance in the country.
The Ambassador of the European Union to Nigeria and the ECOWAS, Her Excellency, Samuela Isopi, noted that ahead of the general elections there was a lot of work to put in, hence the collaboration was necessary for the smooth running of elections in Nigeria.
In the same vein, Chairman INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, represented by Hauwa Habib, a Director in the electoral commission, said that through the summit there was a visible intention by stakeholders to consolidate Democracy in the country by proffering solutions to the challenges faced by political parties, electioneering and the need to ensure fundamental and Democratic objectives for the citizens.
The annual summit of political parties and stakeholders was organised in effort to establish a link between political parties, elections and consolidation of democracy in the country by critical examination of issues and challenges of electoral laws and credible elections and formulating strategies for the general elections.
2023: “Critical Assets Lost To Attacks”
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says critical facilities and assets were lost in attacks on its facilities across Nigeria.
The INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said this at the opening of a two-day induction retreat for the commission’s Residents Electoral Commissioners (RECS) in Lagos on Wednesday.
“These facilities included a total of 1,992 ballot boxes, 399 voting cubicles and 22 electric power generators, and thousands of uncollected PVCs (Permanent Voter Cards), among many other items,” he said.
In his opening remarks, Mr Yakubu said in the last four months, unknown persons attacked five local government offices of the commission.
“These attacks must stop and the perpetrators apprehended and prosecuted. Our responsibility is to conduct elections. The best solution for us is the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators,” the INEC chairman said.
He said the timely arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of attacks on its facilities and assets nationwide would end the trend.
“The ultimate solutions are the arrest and prosecution of the culprits so that vandals and arsonists do not feel that bad behaviour is acceptable in our country. It is really very sad as elections approach.
“However, I want to assure Nigerians that we will recover from these attacks, those materials will be replaced, but there is a limit to our ability to keep replacing lost items with just 86 days to the general elections.”
According to him, the commission will continue to work with the security agencies, traditional and community leaders and all well-meaning Nigerians to stop the attacks.
He said INEC was committed to ensuring that nothing would stop the elections from going ahead as scheduled,” and the will of Nigerian people will prevail. That is what we have been assuring Nigerians about.”
On the retreat, Mr Yakubu said it was part of the preparation for the 2023 general elections.
He said the retreat would also dwell on standard operating procedures for collecting PVCs, guidelines for voters distribution to polling units, a framework for electoral logistics and a code of conduct for the commission’s members, officials and staff.
Mr Yakubu said copies of the code of conduct for members, officials and staff would be made available for all.
Speaking on the rumour that voters could vote without PVC on election day, Mr Yakubu described such as “absolutely incorrect”, saying, “for any person to vote, he or she must be a registered voter, issued with the PVC.”
Commending UNDP for supporting the retreat, Mr Yakubu said that the long-standing partnership with INEC had gone a long way in sustaining the incremental progress being witnessed in the electoral processes.
In his goodwill message, Deryck Fritz, the Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP, urged the RECs to implement the commission’s policies effectively and be proactive frontline problem-solvers.
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