States’ debts block access to N55bn UBE fund -PUNCH

About N55bn of the Universal Basic Education scheme has become inaccessible for 18 months by 27 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory because of their failure to contribute their matching grants to the scheme.

The Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission, Alhaji Dikko Suleiman, in a letter dated June 9, 2015, a copy of which was obtained by The PUNCH on Tuesday, stated that only nine states had been up-to-date in the contribution of their matching grants to the scheme.

The letter was addressed to the law firm of human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), in response to his request for the information under the Freedom of Information Act.

An appendix attached to Suleiman’s response to Falana listed the nine states that had been accessing the UBE fund as Adamawa, Anambra, Borno, Imo, Gombe, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Taraba.

It revealed that Ebonyi was the most-indebted state with its last contribution to the scheme made in 2010.

The letter also revealed that Abia, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Ekiti states were among the 14 states which last contributed to the scheme in 2012. Others included Enugu, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo and Oyo.

Other 12 states which last contribution was in 2013 are Bauchi, Bayelsa, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, Yobe, Zamfara and the FCT.

Under section 2 of the Universal Basic Education Act 2004, the Federal Government is expected to contribute two per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government to the scheme while the state governments are expected to contribute a matching grant of the same amount before they can access the fund

But according to UBEC, while the Federal Government contributed about N70bn in 2014 and about N8bn so far in year 2015, 27 states of the federation and the FCT have not contributed their grants and have been deprived the right to access the fund.

The UBEC boss however clarified that the N8bn contribution by the Federal Government this year was for the month of May and that the commission had yet to receive the allocations for January to April.

No state has made any contribution to the scheme this year. The FCT has also made no contribution this year.

Suleiman’s letter, titled, ‘Re: Request for Information on disbursement of UBE fund’, read in part, “Your letter dated June 3, 2015 on the above subject refers.

“In response to your request, we hereby forward the following information:

“(i) 2014 to 2015 statutory release (2 per cent Consolidated Revenue Fund)

“The sum of N70, 470,000,000 was received by the commission in 2014 being 2 per cent statutory transfers in line with section 2(i) of UBE Act, 2004.

“While in 2015 the sum of N8, 297,500,000 only was received being May 2015 statutory allocation.

“However, no release was made to the commission for the months of January to April 2015.

“(ii) The sum of N54, 859,094,758.48 is the total of un-accessed UBE matching grants due to the 36 states and FCT, Abuja as at June 9, 2015.”

Falana, in a statement on Tuesday, regretted that the development showed that federal and state governments had been paying lip service to the UBE scheme.

He said, “Since the children of top public officers and the members of the ruling class are being educated in private schools at home and abroad, the federal and state governments have continued to pay lip service to the UBE scheme which is the only avenue to provide the children of the poor with universal basic education.

“In view of the fact that Nigeria has 15 million children out of school, the highest rate in the world, the authorities of the FCT and the various state governments should access the UBE fund with a view to ensuring that every Nigerian child is given access to free and compulsory education from primary to junior secondary school in line with the provisions of the Compulsory, Universal Basic Education Act, 2004.

“We also call on the Federal Government to remit the statutory allocations for the months of January to April, 2015 to the UBE Fund without any further delay.”