*Says national legislators lack institutional memory
Mr Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights crusader, has accused the National Assembly of lacking institutions memory over Universal Basic Education in Nigeria, especially as it concerns the Child’s Rights Act, 2003 and the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004. Otherwise, they would not have come up again with a similar thing, a state of affairs that, according to Falana, shows they are just paying lip service to it.
In a statement today, Falana said that at the commemoration of the 2023 International Day of the Girl Child at plenary last Thursday, the members of the House of Representatives unanimously passed an embarrassing resolution which urged the Federal Ministry of Education to drastically reduce the number of out-of-school girls by ensuring compulsory free education for all girls across the country.
He went further: “This was a sequel to the adoption of a motion by Rep. Kafilat Ogbara (APC-Lagos). The legislator said that the last survey by UNICEF revealed that 18.5 million children were out of school in Nigeria, 60 per cent of which were girls. While insisting that adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated and healthy life, Hon Ogbara said that investing in girls’ leadership included creating space and platforms for girls to raise their voices at every policy-making level.
At about the same time, the Senate passed for first reading of a bill that recommends a fine of N50,000 to parents who default in providing their children with primary and secondary school education. The bill proposed by Senator Orji Kalu seeks to amend section (4) (b) of the Principal Act by deleting N2,000 and inserting N20,000; section (4) (c) of the Principal Act by deleting N5,000 and inserting N50,000 while section 3(2) of the Principal Act is amended by deleting N10,000 and inserting N100,000.”
It is indeed regrettable to note that the members of the House of Representatives are not aware that the Child’s Rights Act, 2003 and the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004 have made education free and compulsory for every Nigerian child from primary to junior secondary school. In SERAP v FRN (2010] ACHPR 109 and LEPAD v Federal Ministry of Education (unreported suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/978/15), the Ecowas Court and the Federal High Court directed the Federal Government to ensure that every Nigerian child is given free and compulsory education.
The needless resolutions are indeed unfortunate because they show that the federal law markers are seemingly lacking in institutional memories of even the progress made by the legislature in making laws to promote universal access to basic education.
Since each of the 36 States of the Federation has adopted the Child’s Rights Act and enacted a Child’s Right Law, it has become the joint responsibility of the Federal, State and Local Governments to ensure that every Nigerian child is given access free and compulsory education.
Furthermore, the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2019, guarantees free education up to senior secondary school level for every person with disability while all public schools, whether primary, secondary or tertiary shall have at least one personnel trained to cater for the educational development of persons with disabilities or special facilities for the effective education of persons with disabilities.
These laws have been observed in their breach because the members of the political class drawn from all registered political parties have not demonstrated any commitment to the education of every child in Nigeria. Hence, the members of the legislative and executive organs of governments have failed to appreciate the danger of having 18.5 million out-of-school children, the highest number in the world. Therefore, amending the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act to to make it more strings for parents will not work in a poverty stricken environment.
What the National Assembly should do instead is address the refusal of state governments to make counterpart contribution to the Universal Basic Education Fund pursuant to section 2 of the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act.
As a matter of urgency, the National Assembly should ensure the amendment of the Constitution to empower the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from source the counterpart fund payable by every state government to the Universal Basic Education Fund.”