Not a few Nigerians were shocked to hear on Monday that a whooping sum of N73 billion set aside by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) as matching grants remain un-accessed by state governments across the country.
This is coming at a time when decayed infrastructure and dearth of adequate manpower in Nigeria’s basic education sector demand that urgent action be taken to reverse the situation.
Executive Secretary of UBEC, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, who made the revelation during his presentation to members of the House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education and Services on oversight visit to the commission’s headquarters on the 2019 budget performance in Abuja, said Kwara State alone has about N7 billion un-accessed fund from 2014 to 2019; Anambra State (N4.2 billion); Enugu State (N4.3 billion); Abia State (N3.8 billion) and Plateau State (N3.1 billion) among others.
Bobboyi told the delegation that the N73 billion was out of the over N112 billion allocated from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to UBEC under the 2019 Appropriation Act.
We are surprised that while several state governments on one hand profess commitment to improving education in their jurisdictions, they on the other hand, particularly in this instance of not accessing the UBEC matching grants, show utter disdain to education of a critical segment of the populace.
We wonder why it is difficult for these state governments to set aside their 50 per cent counterpart funds, which is a prerequisite for accessing the UBEC matching grants. This only goes to show the level of seriousness these government officials attach to education, particularly investments that will benefit the masses.
If really governors are determined to reverse the rot in the basic education sector in their states, they should have no problem deploying commensurate resources to the sector, including putting education related expenditure on a first line charge. No governor should allow his state to be mentioned among those unable to access the UBEC grants yearly. We believe that no effort should be spared in ensuring that children, a vulnerable segment of the nation’s population, are given the education they require to grow into responsible citizens. The era where pupils study under trees and makeshift classrooms and attended to by poorly trained teachers with little or no teaching aids should be a thing of the past if state governments make it a priority to access UBEC funds and other funds set aside to transform the basic education sector.
We therefore appeal to governors as chief executives of their states to urgently dismantle all encumbrances to their states accessing the UBEC matching grants for the upliftment of the basic education sector. This should include giving matching orders to officials whose responsibility is to ensure that counterpart funds are provided as well as other necessary requirements necessary for their states to enjoy the UBEC grants. It will not be out of place if sanctions are meted out to those who over the years orchestrated the delay in accessing the UBEC funds, at least to deter others.