Kagara: SERAP Asks Buhari To Probe, Recover ‘Billions Missing From UBEC, SUBEBs

 

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari “to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN to work with appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly probe allegations of corruption in the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) between 2004 and 2020, including missing N3,836,685,213.13 documented in the 2017 Annual Report by the Auditor-General of the Federation.”

The organization also urged him to “direct Mr Malami and the anticorruption agencies to make public the outcome of any investigation, and to prosecute suspected perpetrators if there is relevant admissible evidence, as well as fully recover any missing public funds.”

In the open letter dated 20 February 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Allegations of corruption in UBEC and SUBEBs violate the right to education of millions of Nigerian children who continue to face unsuitable learning conditions, as shown by the poor learning and boarding facilities at the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State where dozens of schoolchildren, teachers and their relatives were abducted by gunmen.”

SERAP said: “Investigating the allegations of corruption and mismanagement in UBEC and SUBEBs, prosecuting suspected perpetrators and recovering any missing public funds would contribute to addressing the education crisis in the country, which has disproportionately affected the most vulnerable and marginalized, and entrenched inequality.”

SERAP also urged President Buhari to “ensure prompt investigation into the spending of money budgeted for the Safe School Initiative since 2014, including N3.2 billion from the Federal Government and private donors meant to ensure a safer school environment for children, and to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption in the education sector.”

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According to SERAP: “Many years of unresolved allegations of corruption and mismanagement in UBEC and SUBEBs have resulted in decreasing quality of education for poor children while many politicians send their own children to the best private schools in the country and abroad, and thereby leaving behind generations of poor children.”

The letter, read in part: “We would be grateful if your government would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations in the in public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in UBEC and SUBEBs.”

“Allegations of corruption in UBEC and SUBEBs undermine public confidence in the education sector, lead to the erosion of education quality and access, and if not urgently addressed will lead to an increase in out-of-school children, and exacerbate educational inequalities in the country.”

“According to the 2017 Annual Report by the Auditor-General of the Federation, UBEC spent ₦7,712,000.00 to engage external solicitors between January to December, 2015 without due process and the approval of the Attorney General of the Federation. UBEC also reportedly failed to explain the nature of the legal services rendered. The Auditor-General is concerned UBEC may have engaged ‘unqualified solicitors.’”

“The Plateau State Universal Basic Education Board also reportedly failed to account for ₦37,200,000.00 despite repeated requests by the Auditor-General. The Plateau SUBEB also spent ₦9,709,989 without any payment vouchers. The SUBEB spent ₦1,607,007,353.72 Special Intervention funds by the Federal Government without any documents.”

“The Plateau SUBEB also paid ₦10,341,575.00 to various contractors without evidence of advance payment guarantee. The SUBEB paid ₦70,569,471.00 through cheques to a staff, in violation of the Federal Government e-payment policy. The SUBEB also failed to explain the purpose of the payment. It spent ₦120,948,000.00 on professional development of teachers but failed to retire and account for the money.”

“The Imo State Universal Basic Education Board reportedly spent N482, 560,000.00 as mobilization fees to some contractors without due process, and any advance payment guarantee. The contracts were funded from the Matching Grant Account. The Auditor-General stated that the contractors selected lacked ‘the financial capacity to handle the contracts.’ The SUBEB has also failed to account for ₦140,774,702.12 of project fund since 2015.”

“The Kano State Universal Basic Education Board reportedly paid ₦71,263,000.15 to contractors without due process and without open competitive bidding. Similarly, the Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board paid ₦569,758,938.00 to ‘unqualified contractors and companies’ for the reconstruction and renovation of classrooms. The Ebonyi SUBEB also spent ₦10,123,892.46 to buy store items but without any documents.”

“The Gombe State Universal Basic Education Board paid ₦31,822,600.00 to a staff from its teachers’ professional development funds but failed to account for the money. The Auditor-General is concerned that ‘the payment is fictitious’, and that ‘the funds did not benefit the intended beneficiaries.’ The SUBEB also reportedly paid ₦41, 277,983.00 as cash advance to staff to ‘buy some materials and for press coverage but failed to account for the money.’”

“SERAP is concerned about allegations of widespread and systemic corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement within UBEC and several SUBEBs, the failure to investigate these allegations, and to recover any missing public funds. The Federal Government bears responsibility for ensuring that every Nigerian child has access to quality education in conducive learning environment, and to safeguard education as a public good.”

“Your government’s responsibility to guarantee and ensure the right to quality education for every Nigerian child is interlinked with the responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office.’ This imposes a fundamental obligation to investigate the missing public funds from UBEC and SUBEBs, to prosecute suspected perpetrators, recover the money, and to remove opportunities for corruption in these institutions.”

“Access to quality education would empower children to be full and active participants in society, able to exercise their rights and engage in civil and political life.”

“Any failure to promptly and thoroughly investigate the allegations and prosecute suspected perpetrators, and to recover the missing public funds would breach Nigeria’s anti-corruption legislation, the Nigerian Constitution, the UN Convention against Corruption, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“The letter is copied to Mr Malami; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); and Mr Mohammed Abba, Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”

Gunmen Kidnap UBEC Chairman, Daughter Along Kaduna-Abuja Highway

 

The Chairman of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Mohammad Abubakar and his daughter have been abducted by gunmen suspected to be kidnappers along the Kaduna-Abuja highway.

Confirming the incident in a statement, spokesman for the the Kaduna state police command, DSP Yakubu Sabo, says the gunmen who were dressed in military uniform intercepted two vehicles including a sports utility vehicle belonging to the UBEC chairman around Kurmin Kare village along the highway at about 3:30 pm on Monday, shot the driver dead, and later abducted the UBEC chairman and his daughter to an unknown destination.

READ ALSO: Police Arrest Suspected Killer Of Former Anambra Lawmaker

He said that two occupants of one of the vehicles who were travelling from Kano to Oyo State were injured and rescued to Katari Police Station.

The statement explains that a Combined Team Police Mobile Force, Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the Command, Special Forces and Operation Yaki were quickly mobilized to the area with a view to combing the bush for possible rescue of the victims and arresting the criminals.

It, however, quotes that the Commissioner of Police, Ahmad Abdurahman has appealed to members of the public to support the police with relevant information which could assist in apprehending the perpetrators of the heinous act.

FG should hand over primary education to state govt – UBEC boss

The Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr Ahmed Mohammed has stated that the federal government should hands off the basic education, but instead hand it to state government to handle.

The UBEC boss revealed this to the Senate Committee on Education, noting that the federal government has no business piloting primary education in the country.

Citing the apparent failure of the free primary education policy of the federal government which started about nine years ago, Dr Ahmed noted that “there are 80 per cent unqualified teachers employed in Sokoto and these teachers cannot read the books provided for them by UBEC.”

“How can such unqualified teachers impact the children” he asked.

He also noted that what the federal government is doing by establishing an institution such as UBEC, is for the agencies to serve as an intervention agency.

Dr Ahmed prayed that “God forbid that UBEC remains forever because if you have an intervention agencyand it remains forever, then it you (government) has failed”.

He also lamented that “states security votes, at local government level takes precedence over social welfare issues, education, health, water, sanitation at the local government level.”

The Senate Committee led by the chairman, Senator Uche Chukwumerije demanded to know how various funds received from the federal government had been spent.

The UBEC boss called for legislative reforms that will empower the regulatory agency to close down any substandard school and power that allows it to sanction states that that employs unqualified teachers.

Jonathan seeks adjustment to 2012 budget

Nigeria President, Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday wrote the National Assembly asking for an adjustment in the 2012 budget which he signed into law last Friday.

Mr Jonathan is seeking an upward review of allocations to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Universal Basic Education (UBE), as their allocations under statutory transfers are usually calculated as a percentage of revenue accruing to the federal government.

With the upward adjustment of the oil benchmark from $70 initially proposed, to $72 as passed by the National Assembly, shortfalls of N1.91 billion and N1.97 billion respectively has arisen in the budget of the two organisations.

The president also requested that a separate subhead be created for the Subsidy Re-investment Programme (SURE-P), to make it easier for the board to effectively perform their monitoring mandate.

On the Niger Delta amnesty programme, the president observed that the budget as passed appeared to have given priority to the cost of administering the implementation of the programme rather than the core aspects of it.

The 2012 Appropriation Bill was signed into law last Friday by Mr. Jonathan.

The budget has an aggregate expenditure of N4.69 trillion whilst the total federal government revenue forecast is N3.5 trillion based on a benchmark oil price of $72 per barrel.
N1.32 trillion is earmarked for capital expenditure and N3.4 trillion is budgeted for recurrent expenditure.

N890 billion has been set aside to fund the government’s reduced petroleum subsidy payments, while the N180 billion for the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme is be deducted from federal accounts.

FG urged to scrap EFCC, ICPC, FRSC and 375 agencies

The federal government has been advised to scrap the nation’s anti-graft graft agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practice Commission (ICPC) and 375 other agencies citing inefficiency and replication of duties at a huge cost on the nation’s purse.

The recommendation was made by the Presidential Committee on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies in its 800 paged report which recommended the reduction of the nation’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) which are 541 in number, to 163.

According to the report the long-standing challenges that beset the Nigerian public sector has created a “single story” of inefficiency, corruption, poor work environment, low morale, ineffectiveness, deceit and low productivity, thereby establishing a perception of a dysfunctional and unproductive public sector.

The committee led by the former Head of Service, Stephen Oronsaye, during the submission of the report on Monday, recommended the outright scrapping of the anti-graft agencies (EFCC and ICPC) which it claims are performing the traditional functions of the Nigeria Police Force which includes fighting corruption.

Affirming that over the years, the Police force has failed at such duties, the committee questioned why the chairman of the EFCC is still appointed from the police and why the methodology adopted by the ICPC in conducting investigations as well as the training of its personnel are carried out by the police.

The report ponders “if it was really expedient to dismember the Nigeria Police rather than allow it to evolve as a vibrant and effective agency.”

Mr Oronsaye in his presentation to the president noted that “an institution is inefficient and ineffective should not be a basis for the creation of new ones”, adding that “it is a breach of acceptable practice of good public sector governance to create a new agency or institution as a response to the poor performance of an existing agency just to suit political or individual interests.”

He pointed out that the unnecessary duplication of the functions of agencies and parastatals puts the average cost of governance in Nigeria among the highest in the world.

The retired Head of service urged the federal government to embrace leaner governance just as it’s done in more advanced countries.

Also recommended for scrapping is the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), which the report observed was set up to do “a replication of the mandates of two existing bodies namely: the Highway Department of the Federal Ministry of Works with respect to the maintenance of safety and orderliness on our highways and the role of the Nigeria Police Force in ensuring law and order on our roads.”

Also cited was the case of the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) Limited, which was established as the commercial arm of the Nigerian Space Research Development Agency (NASRDA), but has now expanded its scope and is in rivalry with its parent body. The report further noted that the Nigerian Communications Satellite Corporation Bill recently passed by the House of Representatives also duplicates the functions of NASRDA.

It also added that the needless duplications of the bill further veers into the functions of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) in the area of frequency allocation.

In the environment sector, the committee observed that the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) was created to perform a function already assigned by law to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). “The continued existence of NOSDRA is tantamount to paying huge salaries to persons who do nothing but wait for spills to occur. This is despite the fact that there is a standard operating procedure for oil companies in Nigeria to clean up oil spill whenever it occurs” the group claimed.

The report also had criticism that the federal government owned media companies stating that the nation’s boadcasting agencies (NTA,FRCN and VON) focuses more on building structures rather than acquisition of broadcasting software that will lessen its human capacity.

For the education sector, thee committee noted that three different agencies: the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the Nomadic Education Commission (NEC), and the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education (NCMLA) all perform functions related to the provision of basic education.

The Committee strongly recommends a restructured Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR), which must be charged with the coordination and monitoring of compliance by the MDAs.

The committee, which was inaugurated in August 2011, was asked by the president to review all previous reports/records on the restructuring of Federal government parastatals and advise on whether they are still relevant.

It will be recalled that former defence Minister, Theophilus Danjuma had given a similar recommendation to the president when he was inaugurated as Acting President in 2008.

Danjuma as the head of thePresidential Advisory Committee recommended that the federal government prune down the number of MDAs in the nation’s public service to save cost and improve efficiency.