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25.06.2014 Feature Article

UBEC: Dishonesty Mars 2015 Target For Universal Primary Education

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Primary education is seen as the fundamental right of every child. The United Nations, UN, identifies this under its Millennium Development Goals, MDG. It targets universal primary education for all children of school age by 2015. Against this backdrop, the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1999 established the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). The aim was to ensure quality of basic education throughout the country and provide access to 9-year formal education to every child of school-going age and, also, provide free and obligatory basic education.

Nevertheless pundits, dons, opinion leaders and stakeholders have bemoaned that education in the country has been fraught with corruption, strikes... A Professor of Educational Management at the University of Ilorin, Noha Bisi Oyedeji, while delivering the 140th Inaugural Lecture of the University on Thursday, December 5, 2013, reportedly said, 'When strike or students riot occurs, school activities are disturbed, leading to some other distortions, such as lowered students' academic performance, social menace by idle students...'

One of the manifests of the dishonesty in UBEC is that over 56 million Nigerians are illiterates, according to an account in a national broadsheet. Amongst others, it's believed that if the UBEC has lived up to its expectation, the story would have been different. Owing to the revelations by investigation, it was certain that the UN was clairvoyance in forecasting that Nigeria would not keep to the MDG on education. Today, the education sector is loaded with dirt like lack of basic infrastructures, unfortunate funding, bad management, lack of learning materials in schools...

These are as a result of poor policies and faulty implementation of them, which are most times the handiwork of lack of genuine and transparent officials monitoring these policies. It was observed that even where the learning materials are available, they are not redistributed for the purposes they are created. This, Nigerians have clamoured about how teachers' salaries and allowances in some states across the country, are seemingly being withheld for political reasons and many teachers face the avoidable issues of promotion and transfer as at when due them.

Scrutiny has proved that states and UBEC are in loggerhead over who has the right to the ostensible funds meant for UBEC that are in billions of naira haboured in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, for project development. The cost of this is that some students have died in many decrepit schools across the country. The infirm schools are said were without roofs, walls, doors or windows. The issue of having desks, electricity and its appliances are said to be a tall dream.

Recently, there is an account that at a community primary school in Ado Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State, a pupil died and four others wounded when the school's wall fell down. At Idimu Community Primary School of Lagos State and, Ikeja, Oshodi, Agege and Iju respectively, it's observed that the students were meant to endure leaking zincs and ceilings and many sat on windows and cement blocks to take lectures. These are infinitesimal evident that UBEC has not lived up to the reason it was formed, according to sources, because in some states in the South-East - like Anambra and Imo - pupils still take studies from their teachers under trees and on the bare ground.

Explanations accounted that in Kwara, Kano, Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo, Benue and Nasarawa States, the story is not different. 'It is absurd that this is happening in a country where free primary education was initiated in Africa by one of its regions in 1955... It is rather tragic that all the 36 states and the FCT combined have failed to draw down up to N44 billion of the sums provided as federal subsidies for primary education since 2005 through the Universal Basic Education Commission,' said a source.

In May 2010, there was a conviction that there were deceitful awards of contracts somewhat in surplus of N161 million to six companies for the 'procurement of instructional materials for children with special needs' that took place in the UBEC, which was aimed at improving the wellbeing of the physically challenged children. The items, according to a source, included wheelchairs, Braille, hearing aids and other audio-visual devices. The funds were said to have come from an Education Trust Funds, ETF, grant.

According to Sahara Reporters: 'The ministerial tenders board at its meeting of Friday, 19th December, 2008, approved the award of the contract for the procurement of instructional materials for children with special needs in favour of the following contractors - Al-Mala Nig. Ltd - N29, 286,000 (North west), Triangular Communications Ltd. - N35, 453,000 (North east); Binwa Press Ltd. N36,721,300 (North central), Infinity Telecoms N24, 703, 000 (South east), Isani Ventures N31, 104, 000 (South-south) and Giniyike Ltd-N30,704 (South west),' concluding, 'You are pleased (sic) requested to award the contract accordingly'.

The source continued: 'The total contract sum came to N167 million. Our investigations revealed that not a single pin was supplied to the physically challenged children, in whose name the ETF grant was drawn. Besides, a certified copy of a search report of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) revealed that Binwa Press Ltd., RC816457, one of the six companies that benefited from the December 19th, 2008 contract awarded by UBEC, was not even incorporated until five months later.

'The company's incorporation took place on 7th May 2009, with its registered address, as 17 Atiku Abubakar Road, Jimeta, Yola. According to the CAC records in the possession of Saharareporters, three persons were listed as directors. According to CAC records, the company has 1,600,001 in total share capital. Of these, Aishatu Dahiru (Modibbo's wife) owns 1,600,000, her sister, Hauwa Dahiru, has one share, whilst the third director, Ali Biu Adams, has none. Even though Binwa Press Ltd. had not been registered as at December 19th, 2008, Dukku and Modibbo nonetheless awarded the 'company' a supply contract in the sum of N36, 721, 300...'

The level of racket in the UBEC goes unscathed. Only in January this year, in a matter that commenced in 2009, N787m alleged case of fraud was discharged and acquitted and the legal team of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was thrown into a muddled situation over the judgment. The accused persons were given as four directors of UBEC - Molkat Mutfwang, Michael Aule, Andrew Ekpunobi and Prof Bridget Sokan - who were given as 'all members of the commission's Bid Evaluation Committee', as well as an American contractor, Alexander Cozma and two companies allegedly used to siphon the funds, Intermarkets USA LLC and Intermarkets Nigeria.

Spectators are of the view that the fingered sums meant for UBEC that have seemingly gone into the pocket of few individuals are alarming. One commentator exclaimed: 'Nigeria is finished with this kind of financial recklessness! It is disheartening to note the level of decay in the system.' The sad side of the matter is that all those who are players in the UBEC's purportedly scams have not been really made to cough out the money and face the wrath of the law of the country.

Gov. Jonah Jang of Plateau freshly decried in Jos, while receiving the Senate Committee on Education, the discrepancy in policies as what have been destroying the country's education sector. He, however, admonished that the National Assembly must quickly rise to this challenge before it gets out of control and destroys the future of the younger generation.

Giving instances, he said: 'Nations like Germany practise the 6-3-3-4 (system) like Nigeria, but they have gone far because they have been very consistent with it.'' He avowed that each administration in Nigeria should stop discarding the old policies for the introduction of new ones. Professor Pius Adesanmi, a Professor of English, French, and African Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada also warned in a discussion with a Gbenga Adeniji.

Adesanmi said that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, says any country that wishes to become part of the 21st Century should be devoting 30-40 per cent of her total annual budget to education. Authorities are, however, of the analysis that the disconnect between the education sector and the educated is enormous laced with the spiteful attributes of politicians and elites that have set the pace of improving on education in the country back for too long. Experts have deprecated such as not the way to run a country.

Adesanmi further revealed that these groups run the public education like they are rigging elections or stealing public funds on a 'stratospheric scale that suggests mental illness'. He wept that these groups have seen using impunity of ignorance and poverty among the majority as the raw materials they think they need to manufacture a followership ready to defend their perversities to death on the basis of ethnicity or religion.

'You will weep for Nigeria if you knew how much Europe and America are currently devoting to education... Sadly, only the elite have the means and the resources to impose their own meaning of education on Nigeria. Hence, they underfund and destroy it while sending their kids abroad to acquire that which they deny the people at home,' Adesanmi lamented.

Odimegwu Onwumere, a Poet/Writer, writes from Rivers State.

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Odimegwu Onwumere
Odimegwu Onwumere, © 2014

The author has 590 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: OdimegwuOnwumere

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