By Emmanuel Edukugho
About N200 billion unutilised Universal Basic Education (UBE) matching grant is lying with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) due to inability of states to meet stipulated conditions and provide 50 per cent counterpart funding for projects. But the Jonathan administration has now come to their rescue.
According to our investigation, the Federal Government, represented by the immediate past Minister of Education before leaving office had a meeting with the management of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and chairmen of state UBE Boards on the dormant fund.
The Federal Government was said to be â€œappalledâ€ by the slow draw-out of the UBE grant and the slow release of non-conditional grants by the states.Â InÂ a dramatic development, the National Economic Council meeting presided over by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan decided that the fund be made accessible to states unable to provide 50 per cent counterpart funding.
The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) was established in 2004 by an Act of the National Assembly, known as the Compulsory, Free, Universal Basic Education Act, 2004. It provides for compulsory free universal basic education for all children of primary and junior secondary school age in the country and also stipulates penalties for parents who fail to comply with is provisions.
The Federal Government had said that it cannot allow a situation whereby children are sitting on the floor, or under trees, while there are unaccessed funds to provide a conducive learning environment and that government would be compelled to review its intervention strategy. More agonising is that a number of states in the federation which had accessed the grant in the past monthsÂ are even yet to implement the activities outlinedÂ in the action plan for which the fund was released.
Some states have not accessed the fund since 2005, while several others are yet to access between 2006 and 2010.
â€œThis is very sad and unacceptable not only by Federal Government, but also to the beneficiaries in whose interest the programme was set up.â€
The erstwhile education minister of state had expressed misgiving that, â€œwith the abundance of human resourcesÂ in our country, it seems that sabotage could be the appropriate word to use in describing a system that once cried for paucity of funds but has become reluctant in the face of overwhelming availability of unutilsed financial resources.â€
Our findings showed that the UBE programme is financed through:
*Not less than 2 per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the Federal Government.
*Funds/contributions in form of Federal Government Guaranteed credits.
*Local/international donor grants.
Section 9(b) of UBE Act 2004 spells out the formula for the disbursement of the 2 per cent of the CRF approved by Federal Executive Council.
*Matching grant to states on equality basis â€“ 75 %/
*Grants to states identified as weak to support special programme designed to rectify imbalance in basic education development, to last up to the year 2015 – 14%.
*Grants to states that have been adjudged as performing well in accordance with set criteria as incentive â€“ 5%.
*Special grant to states and other providers to assist in the education of the physically challenged â€“ 2%.
*Special grant to states for school feeding programme to increase enrolment, retention and nutritional level of children as well as their cognitive development â€“ 2%.
*UBE Commission Implementation Fund â€“ 2%
The following are the conditions for accessing the UBE Matching Grant by states;
*Enactment of the State Universal basic Education Law in compliance with Section12 (1) of the UBE Act, 2004.
*Establishment of state Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) in compliance with Section 12(1) of the UBE Act, 2004.
*Opening of separate Bank Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria titled â€œUBE Matching Grant Account.â€
*Development and Submission of State Action plan to UBE Commission for approval, in compliance with a requirement imposed by the Federal Executive Council, June 2005.
In respect of the criteria for accessing and utilisng the UBE matching grant, the Federal Government approved the under listed criteria for fund utilisation of the UBE Intervention Fund to the states and FCT:
Expenditure by component of UBE programme:
a) Pre-primary Education â€“ 5%.
b) Primary education â€“ 60%
c) Junior Secondary school level â€“ 35%
Expenditure by activities in each of the components of the UBE programme;
a) Infrastructural Development â€“ 70%
b) Textbooks and working materials â€“ 15%
c) teacher professional development â€“ 15%
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) before any SUBEB embarks on any of the UBE projects, both UBEC and SUBEB must agree as to the specific and peculiar needs of the state upon which projects/progrmmes evolve for execution by the grant. To that effect, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) spelling out the details shall be signed by both parties for execution by SUBEB.
There is clause in the MoUs to ensure that misused, misapplied or diverted funds are recovered by UBE Commission through appropriate means including suspension or outright stoppage of grants to such defaulting states.
Due process committees:
There shall be due process committee to be established at the SUBEB level.
Also, some monitoring mechanisms have been put in place by UBEC to ensure proper utilisation of UBE funds.
Among these are regular routine and specialised supervision, monitoring and evaluation conducted by the UBE Commission, Special financial audits instituted by UBEC through instrumentality of independent auditors, occasional presidential visitation from time to time, and the peer group mechanism among the states and among other African countries including some relevant UN agencies like UNESCO, UNICEF, and other bilateral and multi-lateral agencies.
Without any doubt therefore, these stringent conditions and criteria stipulated, which most of the states find difficult to meet, have impactedÂ negatively on basic education delivery. Hence the education system especially at primary and secondary levels, has been going round in a vicious cycle, with the decadence and dilapidation of basic infrastructure becoming worsened.
What are the challenges confronting UBE?
Today, there are over 10 million school-age children not attending school and are out of the conventional school system, which negates the Federal Government policy of ensuring equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels.
Accordingly, Professor Tunde Adeniran, a former Minister of Education and presently Chairman of UBEC, has decried the situation.
Drop-out rate in primary school is about 20%.
Transition rate to secondary school is 61%.
The UBE porogramme is said to be in dire need of more than 40,000 qualified teachers, 336,144 additional chairs and tables and 950,430 units of toilets to meet present requirement.
There is need for fast-tracking the process of getting states that are lagging behind in accessing the UBE intervention fund.
Employment and retention of teachers of good quality. Another major challenge is tracking federal funds to ensure effective and efficient utilisation.
Poor funding has been identified as some of the most serious constraints militating against the successful implementation of mass education programme.
Executive Secretary, UBEC, Dr. Mohammed Modibbo, disclosed at a National Council on Education meeting recently that the UBE funds have remained unaccessed by states as the cumulative unaccessed funds as at December, 2008 stood at N67,379,821,134.00.
He said that as at that time, 12 states and FCT accessed up to 4th quarter 2007 matching grant, that only six states have accessed up to 2nd quarter of 2007, leaving 18 states yet to access the 2007 matching grant.
The slow pace of accessing FGN/UBE intervention funds by states reached a frightening dimension in 2008 with Ondo and Yobe being the only states that accessed 1st and 2nd quarter 2008 matching grant.
Modibbo had explained the reasons for slow-drawing of the funds saying that, the ugly development arises from a stateâ€™s inability to provide counterpart funds, delay by some states in preparing and submitting a credible Action plan and the delay by some states to invite the commission to monitor projects executed with the earlier disbursed funds which is one of the conditions to be met before accessing the next funds.
Governor Gbenga Daniel speaking after a meeting of the National Economic Council in Abuja recently apparently was in defence of states who cannot access the funds, asking for a review of the conditions. He said that it is not that the states donâ€™t want the money to upgrade their educational facilities but the conditions seem too stringent.
â€œInability to access the UBE funds is because of the failure to raise the counterpart fund. States are not able to do that.â€
The National Economic Council meeting with the governors of the 36 states and other economic stakeholders in attendance and presided over by the Acting President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan including the Ministers of Finance, National Planning, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, the Inspector-General of Police and Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, decided that the multi-billion UBEC fund be made more accessible to statesÂ that are unable to provide their 50% counterpart funding.
It was agreed that the fund will now be made available to commercial banks that will lend it to the states at single digit interest rate.
Consequently, this decision will accelerate the infrastructural development of education sector and check the rot and degradation of facilities that tend to destroy our education system.
However, it is not clear whether this development as a result of NEC intervention okayed by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan would require an amendment to the UBE Act 2004 by the National Assembly which among other things had prescribed the formula for the disbursement of the 2% of CRF.