LAST week’s disclosure about the approval of a counterpart fund of N1.5 billion by the Ifeanyi Okowa administration as a prelude to getting funds from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) is instructive in enlightening the public about the state government’s fidelity to its commitments in that regard.
The release of the funds that the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, announced at a press briefing, after an Executive Council (EXCO) meeting in Asaba, the state capital, would understandably facilitate the administration’s access to the state’s share of the national pool of funds domiciled at the Federal Capital (FCT), Abuja.
Since the 36 states of the federation and the FCT Abuja are expected to provide 50 per cent share of the funds they are entitled to, as a condition precedent to the disbursement of the total amount by UBEC, a large pool of funds is often left uncollected by the states, either because they are cash-strapped or did not deem it a priority.
However, since he mounted the saddle of governance in May 2015, Governor Okowa has not dithered in taking the appropriate steps to access the funds. Whenever UBEC drew the attention of the 36 states to the available funds, he not only gave approvals but also put machinery in motion to ensure the timely remittance of the money to the appropriate quarters.
“Delta is a peculiar state and our governor is passionate about education; as such, when the issue of counterpart funding for UBEC was raised and deliberated on, it was approved by the EXCO, which has made Delta the most consistent in the payment of counterpart funds”, Aniagwu was further quoted.
Without doubt, the governor’s timely release of the funds conveys his general disposition towards the development of the basic level which is quite important in the pyramidal grading of education. Like other conscious compatriots in the state, he is well aware that without the basic level given the needed attention, in terms of periodic recruitment of teachers, provision of an environment that is conducive to learning, and availability of instructional materials, it cannot effectively feed the secondary level.
While the governor’s prompt action in disbursement of funds has become a template that other states could borrow from, its basis could be easily understood within the context of the high premium the state and its people place on education. That education is a huge industry in Delta State is incontrovertible, given the existence of a large number of public and privately owned primary schools across the length and breadth of the state.
Beyond that, however, there has been a phenomenal growth in the number of secondary schools in the state bolstered by the fairly functioning state of the basic level. As earlier stated, the nexus between the increased number of primary school leavers and an exponential rise in the number of secondary school students is self-evident in Delta State, unlike some parts of the country which is continually atrophied by a progressive decline in school enrollments in the basic and secondary levels.
From all indications, the exemplary manner in which Okowa has driven the state’s counterpart funding is in sharp contrast with the apparent disinterest of some governors, who, for one reason or the other, continually foot-drag on the issue. A recent publication of UBEC captured this worrisome development.
While it stated that as at June this year, as many as 16 states had not taken noticeable steps to access funds for the 2016, it does not bode well for the well being of the basic level, especially at this time that Nigeria is agonized by the social malaise of having over 13 million out-school- children.
It is, therefore, imperative for the affected states to redouble efforts and provide their counterpart funds as a necessary step towards getting their own share of the funds. It is inexcusable to leave such relatively large funds without utilizing it for the intended objectives, which among others, seek to improve the fortune of the basic schools.
A Pointer Editorial