By Adetola A. Kehinde
The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) fund is an annual grant by the federal government to help states in Nigeria upgrade their primary and junior secondary education facilities. To access the fund, state governments are required to match the federal government’s grant.
In 2013, the previous Government of Kwara State under the administration of AbdulFatah Ahmed borrowed ₦1.5bn from the bank to access ₦1.5bn UBEC funds. Upon the payment of ₦1.5bn counterpart fund, UBEC released ₦1.5bn. But instead of the Government to use the money for upgrading of primary and junior secondary education infrastructures, the money was diverted into another thing (non-educational things). This contradicts UBEC policy and got UBEC to blacklist Kwara State from accessing its grants. Also, UBEC demanded the refund of ₦1.5bn they had earlier released.
The then government later refunded N1.050bn, leaving an outstanding of N450m which they never paid to UBEC until they left office in 2019.
Upon assuming office as the Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq visited UBEC Office in Abuja, but he was told that UBEC will only do business with Kwara when the outstanding ₦450m is refunded to UBEC by Kwara State Government. A bitter pill it was, but AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq with no choice swallowed it and swiftly released ₦450m. The release of ₦450m in 2019 got Kwara de-blacklisted. This implies that Kwara can now access at least N7.1bn UBEC funds, this made Kwara State top the list of states with unaccessed UBEC funds.
With the unaccessed funds lying fallow, the growing number of dilapidated primary and junior secondary school infrastructures in the state makes it saddening.
In all of these, the good news coming from Kwara State Government House is that Kwara State Executive Council is set to access UBEC funds it last accessed in 2013 by approving ₦7.1bn facility to access the UBEC Funds.
If Kwara can pay ₦7.1bn as counterpart fund, they would access the 6 years backlog of outstanding UBEC funds. This means that the state will have about ₦14.3bn to upgrade primary and secondary school infrastructures in the state.
What can ₦14.3bn achieve in changing the face of primary and secondary infrastructures in Kwara State? Having in mind that under the first phase of the renovation of 31 public schools embarked upon in the state by AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq administration, a total sum of N2,004,205,641.01 was spent on that project. Taking a look at this figure in the sight of ₦14.3bn, it is obvious that the ₦14.3bn UBEC fund will go a long in repositioning basic education infrastructure in the state.
It is now expedient for the Kwara State Government to be strategic in ensuring that the fund when released is judiciously used to meet the basic educational needs of the people. Schools, when built or renovated should have basic facilities such as toilets, well-equipped libraries, computer rooms, audiovisual resources, recreational centres, sporting facilities, clinics coupled with capacity development for teachers.
Adetola A. Kehinde writes from Ilorin. Email: [email protected]