3 Nov 2016

FG forces states to access dormant N41bn funds

Worried by the deplorable conditions under which children of poor parents attend classes beneath trees for lack of classrooms, Minister of State for Education, Prof.
Anthony Anwukah, has tasked State Governments across the country to, as a matter of urgency, access the over N41bn made available to them by the Federal Government through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to improve on education infrastructure at that level.

In a press release made available to Vanguard in his office in Abuja, after a marathon consultative meeting with 21 chief executives of agencies under the Federal Ministry of Education, the Minister said the refusal, and or inability of States to access their share of the  fund is strangulating the development of basic education nationwide; a development he described as ‘unfortunate’.

The former university Vice Chancellor said the necessity for states to access this fund cannot be over emphasized, noting that doing otherwise is not only depriving the country’s children the conducive learning environment they require to excel, but is also depriving Nigerians of thousands of employment windows that could be generated if N41 billion is injected into the economy through such productive activities.

Professor Anwukah noted that it’s economically wasteful to allow such bogus amount of money to lay dormant, especially at a time the country is in dire need of improving its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), given the shortfall in crude oil earnings. While acknowledging that only Borno State is up to date in accessing its share of UBEC funds-out of the 36 State of the Federation, the Minister disclosed that Abia State is leading the pack of defaulting States with its share lying dormant for the past 4 years.

Some of the reasons given by the Minister for the current rate of default by States include; the inability of beneficiary states to account for previous allocations, inability to pay 50% of their counterpart funding and in some cases, outright lack of commitment to the course of basic education.

Ruling out the possibility of altering the ratio of contribution between the Federal and State Governments which stands at 50:50 currently, the Minister said he will continue to exert the necessary pressure on states to access their fund as and when due in the interest of the Nigerian child. Professor Onwukah also noted that some of the primary schools where some children attend classes under tree shelter are sometimes used as polling centres during elections where politicians garner their votes, only to turn their backs on these children, forgetting that the same children will make up tomorrows voters.

Acknowledging the current economic realities in the country made worse by the global fall in the price of crude oil, Prof. Anwukah noted that acceessment of UBEC funds by States is a matter of political will and commitment. The Minister called on State Governors to make Universal Basic Education (UBE) a matter of top priority.

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