To enable them access the N64.8 billion Universal Basic Education (UBE) funds with ease, the 36 governors have started to lobby President Muhammadu Buhari to amend the Universal Basic Education Act 2004.
The governors are demanding amendment to a clause in the law which makes it compulsory for every state to pay counterpart funds before accessing matching grants.
In the alternative, they are begging the President to prevail on the National Assembly to reduce the counterpart funding to 10 per cent.
The UBE initiated by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration seeks to provide free education for children between the ages of seven to 17 from primary school to Junior Secondary School three (JSS III).
About two per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund is set aside for the funding of the UBE.
The enabling Act says that the distribution formula shall be decided by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
About 50% of the funds go to states as conditional grant; 14% non-conditional; 10% for professional development; 15% for instructional materials among others.
But there had been apathy from states in accessing the UBE funds because of the counterpart funding, accountability and transparency criteria put in place by the government.
According to investigation by our correspondent, about N64, 896,175,821.64 has not been accessed in the last 10 years because most states could not afford to meet up with the payment of their 50 per cent counterpart funding.
The breakdown is as follows: N50.67m(2005-2006); N4,865.00(2007-2008); N0.68m(2009-2010); N2,600,296,649.74(2011-2012); N19,587,372,036.86b(2013-2014);N23,431,002,218.82b (2015); and N19,277,499,999.87b (2016).
Out of the 36 states and FCT, only nine states accessed their matching grants in 2015 as the rest 28 could not afford to pay counterpart funds.
States with highest rates of un-accessed grants are Abia(N4,260,232,474.13b); Oyo (N4,233,801,580.17b); Nasarawa(N4,233,801,580.17); Ekiti(N3,381,392,172.95b); Enugu(N2,955,192,649.43); Bayelsa( N2,350,067,568.95); Plateau ( N2,350,067,568.95); Rivers ( N2,350,067,568.95); Zamfara( N2,350,067,568.95); Kwara ( N2,350,067,568.95); Niger ( N2,350,067,568.95);and FCT ( N2,350,067,568.95) among others.
A reliable source said: “Due to the cash crunch, most of the governors are lobbying President Muhammadu Buhari to amend the UBEC Act 2004 to make the conditions for accessing matching grants affordable.
“They want the counterpart funding either removed as a condition for getting the grants or have the percentage reduced from 50 per cent to 10 per cent.
“They said the matching grants will continue to lie fallow leaving primary and Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) in dilapidated state. They are actually begging the President to prevail on the National Assembly to review the Act.
A top UBEC source, who gave insights into the challenge of un-accessed grants, said: “The counterpart funding by the states used to be 75 per cent. It means if a state is entitled to N1billion, it has to provide N750million to collect the matching grant which will amount to N1.75billion. But during the tenure of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, the governors asked that the 75 per cent be reduced to 50 per cent, which was approved.
“Now, most of the states that cannot pay salaries are begging the President to reduce the counterpart funding to either zero or 10 per cent. The fear of stakeholders is that the governors may waste these funds if the conditions are relaxed.
“Whenever we ask states to draw plans for what they will use matching grants for, it is always difficult to get their proposals. We have had experience in the past when some governors went to banks to borrow money to meet up with counterpart funding only for such funds to get trapped or diverted to other use.
“You can see why primary and JSS schools are suffering from neglect. States do not want to meet up with their obligations at all.”
The Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar confirmed that governors have made a case for the review of the UBEC Act.
Abubakar said: “Although Bauchi is one of the few states that have accessed their UBE matching grants, some states are on their knees to do so.
“The governors have asked the Federal Government to amend UBEC laws on counterpart funding. It is either matching grants do not require counterpart funding or the conditions are easier.
Source: THE NATION