President Goodluck Jonathan
Oct 3rd, 2011 – President Jonathan Under Intense Pressure Over N34.1b UBE cash
Governors are pushing for direct access to the N34.1 billion Universal Basic Education (UBE) fund.
They are mounting pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan to amend the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act, to relax its strict guidelines and conditions.
The governors, specifically, are demanding non-payment of counterpart funds as a pre-condition for accessing matching grants.
But there are fears by stakeholders that the governors may divert the cash to political and cosmetic projects.
Governors tabled their demand for waivers at a meeting between the Nigerian Governors Forum and the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyisom Wike, last Tuesday in Abuja.
It was gathered that the governors asked the President to revisit two conditions for accessing the matching grants.
The conditions are contained in Sections 9(b) and 11(2) of the UBE Act.
Those sections read in part: “The Universal Basic Education Commission shall receive block grant from the Federal Government and allocate to states and local governments and other relevant agencies implementing the UBE in accordance with an approved formula as may be laid down by the Board of the commission and approved by the Federal Executive Council, provided that the Commission shall not disburse such grant until it is satisfied that the earlier disbursements have been applied in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
“For any state to qualify for the Federal Government block grant pursuant to sub-section 1(1) of this section, such state shall contribute not less than 50 per cent of the total cost of projects as its commitment in the execution of the project.”
A meeting of the National Economic Council, headed by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, is expected to be convened this week or later to consider the governors’ demand.
A source in the Presidency said: “The governors are mounting pressure on the President to reconsider the guidelines for accessing of funds for the UBE scheme.
“But the President cannot unilaterally review the guidelines without the amendment of the UBE Act through the parliament.
“Discussions are still ongoing among stakeholders. It is too early to conclude whether the President will bow to the governors’ request or not.”
A governor confirmed the demands.
He said governors are disappointed that funds have been lying idle as some states are unable to access their matching grants because they cannot afford counterpart funding.
“What we want is direct disbursement of funds due to the states for UBE implementation without any condition,” the governor, who pleaded not to be named, said, adding:
“We have been lobbying the President to make accessing the funds easier. Ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua, to a large extent, assisted us by taking matching grants to commercial banks. But we cannot secure loan facility that would enable us to draw our matching grants.
“We are actually pushing for amendment to the UBE Act to accelerate the implementation of the scheme.”
But a stakeholder, who spoke in confidence, said: “The governors are after the UBE cash, which they see as alternative source of funds for other projects.
“Our worry is that politics is creeping into UBE funds and the Presidency needs to avoid falling into the trap of the governors,” he said.
The total disbursement of the UBE funds as at July 5, 2011 is N113, 919,169,985.99. The un-accessed balance is N34,152,729,107.03.
According to a recent report, six states have not accessed their grants since 2008; 11 did not respond in 2009; and 27 states left their grant unattended in 2010.
The breakdown of the outstanding N34.1b grant is as follows:
Akwa Ibom (N1,465,294,572.80);
Cross River (N934,172,951.18);
Gombe (N634,568,889.98); and Imo (N1,228,972,951.14).
Others are: Jigawa (N634,568,886.98);
Kebbi (N634, 568,887.64);