FORMER Governor of Kwara State, Abdulfatah Ahmed, was a profound example of governors who failed to provide the counterpart funding of the Universal Basic Education, UBE, scheme. The state was unable to draw down N7.1bn worth of the UBE funds during his eight years tenure.
The UBE facility was created by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration to help provide facelifts to schools at the basic education level (primary and junior secondary).
According to Section 2, Part III of the UBE Act, 2004: “For any state to qualify for the Federal Government’s block grant pursuant to subsection 1(1) of this Section, such state shall contribute not less than 50 per cent of the total cost of projects as its commitment in the execution of the projects”.
It was learnt that the sum of N1.83 bn released to Kwara in July 2016 as the state’s share of UBE grant for 2014 and 2015 was returned to the Commission because the Kwara State Government reportedly “diverted” its N1.45bn counterpart fund which it had initially deposited with some banks.
An aide of the former governor, however, claimed the fund was not diverted but that due to the recent economic recession the state could no longer shoulder the bank loans used to feed the counterpart funding.
The important thing here is that as a result, N7.1bn UBE fund that would have gone to the upgrade of schools attended by children of ordinary Kwara residents remained unclaimed.
In April 2017, it was reported that 33 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, failed to provide counterpart funding for a total of N60bn for the period between 2011 and 2016.
There is hardly any state in the country where dilapidated public schools do not abound, with children of the poor forced to endure classrooms without roofs, doors, windows, desks and other facilities which the UBEC are meant to help provide.
Meanwhile, these negligent governors and politicians educate their children in expensive private schools in Nigeria and abroad with funds belonging to the same public whose needs are being neglected.
Nigeria accounts for the highest number of out-of-school children in the world (about 15 million) yet governors abandon efforts to draw-down federal counterpart funding to ameliorate the situation.
We must start now to openly demonise these governors who shirk their educational responsibilities to the down-trodden. We must hold them to account and never give them a moment’s peace for keeping children of the masses in darkness and destitution while giving their own children the very best with public funds.
We must also commend governors such as Kaduna State’s Nasir el Rufai who have made education their top priority.