IDLE N30 BILLION UBEC FUNDS

Filed in News by on March 30, 2011

Idle N30 billion UBEC funds
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Figures recently released by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) show that a whopping N30 billion has been unaccessed by various state governments between year 2005 and now. Those that top the list include Borno, Cross River, Benue, Kano, Nasarawa, Sokoto, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra and Delta states.

The Federal Government had enacted the Universal Basic Education Law, in which 2% of its Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) is set aside to finance the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme. Domiciled with the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the fund is to be accessed by states who provide 50% matching grant.

Other conditions to be met by states before accessing the fund include; enactment of the State Universal Basic Education Law, establishment of State Universal Basic Education Board, opening of separate matching grant bank account with a designated bank, and the deposit of not less than 50% of the total cost of projects as the states’ commitment in the execution of the projects.

Some other requirements include development and submission of State Action Plan to UBEC for approval, and judicious utilization of earlier disbursement in compliance with Section 9 (b) of the UBE Act, 2004, before subsequent disbursements.
Apparently, most state governments find the UBEC conditionalities laborious and burdensome. They, therefore, take the easy way out. They simply refuse to access the fund, thus leaving N30 billion lying idle in the coffers of the Commission.

It is regrettable that in a country with a blighted and afflicted education sector, such huge fund is left unutilized by state governments. Most of the defaulting states are the ones really at the bottom rungs of the education development ladder, and the UBEC fund would have proved useful in tackling critical matters crying for attention.

Nigeria is far behind the UNESCO benchmark for education, and we wonder how the country can make progress if a vital intervention fund like the one provided by UBEC is not utilized by states. Do they find the requirements too stringent? Or would they rather not provide the 50% counterpart funding as required by UBEC?

Again, supervision of educational projects is believed to be a sore point between the states and the Commission. The law setting up UBEC provides for regular and specialized monitoring and evaluation by the commission, special financial audits, and specialized monitoring conducted jointly by UBEC, Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Education, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, and other civil society organisations. It seems most states are not comfortable with this.

Rather than look at it from the narrow prism of what they can get, we believe the states should rather consider the good that accessing of UBEC funds can do to the generality of the people. A people without quality education are bound to be soused and marooned in ignorance and under-development. For the sakes of the people on whose behalf they hold their offices, state governors should turn a new leaf to education, particularly with respect to the UBEC funds.

On the other hand, a second look may be taken at the UBEC conditionalities, to find out why state governments shy away from the funds. A review of prescriptions that constitute stumbling blocks may therefore be necessary.
Supervising projects funded though UBEC should not be a matter of controversy, if the object truly is to serve the people. The governors are shooting themselves in the foot, indeed, doing great disservice to their own people, by shunning funds that could have had salutary impact on education in their respective states. This is one interventionist programme that should not be treated with the flippancy and levity that attends it now. It simply boggles the mind, and the time to turn a new leaf is now.

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