The House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education and Services recently concluded a two-day oversight inspection visit on UBEC / SUBEB intervention projects in Kwara state with a vow to expose erring states diverting UBEC marching grants. UMAR BAYO ABDULWAHB reports on the committee’s findings in the state.
It was an expression of mixed feelings when members of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Basic Education and Services, a fortnight ago, concluded a two-day oversight visit to Kwara state to inspect the completed and ongoing UBEC-SUBEB projects in the state.
For one reason, the committee was happy about the judicious use of UBEC marching grants and the level of infrastructure put up by the state government.
Before the coming on board of the ‘O to ge’ administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, UBEC had blacklisted Kwara for seven years, precisely between 2013 and 2019 for misappropriation of its grants.
This was an ugly and embarrasing trend which has now been reversed by the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC)-led government of Governor AbdulRazaq.
Making comparism from the current development in the state with the ugly experiences of the past, the visiting reps committee led by its chairman,
Prof Julius Ihonvbere, expressed displeasure about the misappropriation of UBEC marching grants by some state governments which, he said, have been using the agency as conduit pipe.
Other members of the National Assembly Ad-hoc Committee on the oversight visit were Hon Mayowa Akinfolarin; Hon Bashir Dawudu; Hon Oluyemi Taiwo; Hon Mufutau Egberongbe; Hon Cook Ganiyu Olododo; Hon Sylvester Ogbaga; Hon Usman Abdullahi; Hon Peter Owolasi and Hon Bukola Oyewo.
UBEC was represented during the tour by Dr Jimmy Equensen and Engr Yissa Yakubu
NASS mulls tough sanctions on erring states
Speaking during the oversights visit, Ihonvbere said no effort would be spared from sanctioning any states found to have diverted UBEC grants, including taking steps to retrieve some abandoned facilities the commission allocated to some defaulting state governments.
According o him, “There are penalties for states where UBEC allocated critical infrastructure to some state governments but were abandoned. We are amending the UBEC Act so that UBEC can retrieve such facilities and put them to public use,” Ihonvbere added.
“Secondly, we are looking at ways to compel compliance with the law of the land; a situation whereby states that have not accessed the marching grant or have accessed it, but used it wrongly would face some penalties.”
Rewards for compliant in states
Just like the committee vowed to mete out stiffer penalties to erring states, its chairman also hinted that state governments that comply with UBEC’s action plans would be rewarded with more support to serve as an encouragement to do more.
“At the level of the committee, the National Assembly and UBEC, state governments that utilised UBEC grants perfectly like Kwara would get additional support as a reward, so that it would encourage them to do more,” Ihonvbere added.
Stern warning to govs
Handing down a stern warning to state governors that are found wanting, Prof Ihonvbere said, “I would like to advise state governments to take basic education seriously in their own interests. Bulletproof cars, dogs and barbed wires cannot save them from the anger of uneducated, abused and marginalised children in the consequences.”
Kudos to Kwara
Appraising the level of compliance in Kwara state, the committee commended the state for efficient use of basic education grants and the state government’s determination to improve the standard of education.
“As an academic and the chairman of this committee, and I am sure my members share the same sentiments. We are very pleased and happy with the programmes of Kwara state. There are states that have collected marching grants from UBEC and have not deployed them to basic education. A few of those states have jettisoned the action plans of UBEC; they are doing something else with the money. Some have done wishy-washy works. With time, this committee would release a list of our observations in various states,” he said.
“Without education, you cannot go anywhere. It is not rocket science. And I think Kwara state seems determined to change the narratives. We are pleased about it,” he added
The commendation came barely one month after UBEC itself said Kwara now stands out for excellent utilisation of the grants, a feat the body observed is a clear departure from its horrible experiences with the state’s fund in the past when the grants were diverted, resulting in official blacklist of the state for a period of seven years.
He commended the management of the State Universal Basic Education Board and their chairman, Prof Sheu Raheem Adaramaja for proper monitoring and their insistence on delivery of quality jobs by contractors
“I think the best way to appreciate what is going on is to have the proper understanding of how it used to be and we’ve seen a lot in Kwara,” he added.
“It is not always that we find a leadership like AbdulRazaq that understands basic education and its value to national growth and development. If the basics, which is the foundation, is contaminated and corrupted, what it produces can never promote peace, stability, growth and development anywhere in the world; that is why basic education is very critical.”
Chairman Kwara SUBEB, said the school projects cover renovation, construction and comprehensive remodelling of various structures across at least 605 public schools in the state, including provision of furniture, public toilets and water facilities.
Some of the schools the committee visited included Ogele LGEA Primary School, Ogele and Otte LGEA Primary School Otte-Oja (both in Asa local government area); Sheikh Alimi Junior Secondary School (Ilorin West); Amoyo Junior Secondary School (Ifelodun); Gaa-Akanbi Junior Secondary School (Ilorin South); Shao LGEA Primary School, Shao (Moro) and Adeta UBEC Model Smart School in Ilorin West local government of the state.
As the committee continued its oversight functions across the country, analysts are of the views that it must not pay lip service to the nation as Nigerians are indeed tired of empty threats. It is therefore hoped that indeed the committee would make real it threats to list and sanction states known forndiverting marching grants meant for basic education.
Also, as the federal government and Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) continue in their blame game over the seven months industrial action embarked upon by lecturers, Nigerians cannot afford to have another crisis at the basic education level as a stitch on time, they say, saves nine.