President Muhammadu Buhari has formally declared free basic and compulsory primary and junior secondary school education in Nigeria and asked state governments to key in as it is a constitutional matter.
According to the President , section 2 of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act provides that every Government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.
He stressed the need to take very seriously and enforce very rigorously the statutory provisions on free and compulsory basic education, adding that section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, “places on all of us here, an obligation to eradicate illiteracy and provide free and compulsory education.
“It is indeed a crime for any parent to keep his child out of school for this period.”
The President, who spoke today, June 20 at the inauguration of the National Economic Council (NEC) with governors of the 36 States of the federation constituting the bulk of its membership, said: “when a government fails to provide the schools, teachers and teaching materials necessary for basic education, it is actually aiding and abetting that crime.”
Buhari said that the urgent need for the governors to rise to the challenges is “a call to action.
“I would like to see every Governor rise from this meeting and rally his local Government Chairmen towards ensuring that our schools offer the right opportunities and provide the needed materials and teachers for basic education, at the minimum. If we are able to do this, the benefits will surely manifest themselves.
“Ensuring proper education during the first nine years of schooling means that our children start off their lives with some discipline and education. They will be safeguarded from roaming the streets, and protected from all the evil influences that assail idle hands and idle minds.
“Whatever they choose to do thereafter, children with basic education will be better prepared to learn and to appreciate their own role in society. This will also go a long way in solving our security and other anti-social problems, which are often the manifestations of early delinquency. I therefore think every Governor here should make a firm commitment to be personally involved in ensuring that every child of school age actually goes to school throughout the crucial nine years of basic education.
“On our own part, the Federal Government will strive to extend the school feeding programme which will not only encourage school enrolment but also enhance the health and learning capabilities of pupils. We will also assist States as much as possible to access the counterpart funding provided by UBEC for the development of basic education.”
On healthcare for the people of the country, President Buhari described it as a major sector of concern where States and Local Governments have crucial roles to play. According to the President, health is an area where the neglect of one person quickly amounts to the neglect of many.
“It is in our collective interest that each and every citizen gets at least a minimal access to healthcare, including primary, preventive and emergency care.
“Funding is again a major problem in this regard, so we must take more seriously the idea of universal health insurance and strive to make it work in our respective domains. We must also find ways of assisting the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, who cannot even afford to pay the premium. We must therefore resolve to increase budgetary allocation to health and ensure prompt fund releases to keep the hospitals and primary healthcare centres in operation at all times.
“The Federal Government is now implementing the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund. By this, we hope to achieve at least 65 percent increase in the share of the population covered by primary healthcare by 2023, up from the 12.6 percent we cover at the moment.
“Accordingly, it is imperative for us to do more on diversifying the economy, and this necessarily entails the sustenance and even acceleration of the agricultural revolution, which is already firmly rooted in some States. Of our nearly one million hectares of land, about 77% is confirmed suitable for agriculture.
“The potentials are therefore huge, both for the domestic and international markets. “Mechanisation and agro-allied industry are very big areas still largely untapped and awaiting investment, both by government and the private sector. I therefore urge you to take agriculture most seriously as a very viable developmental enterprise.”
The President said that while the Federal Government has primary responsibility for security and will not shy away from it, the States also have a critical role to play.
He said that State Governors can make a difference, not just by assisting the security agencies in their respective States, but also by keenly pursuing policies and programmes that forestall communal, tribal, religious and societal conflicts.
Such policies and programs, he added, should aimed at promoting education, information, dispute resolution, vocational training and youth employment.
Buhari said that if security, education, health and agriculture are actively implemented and closely monitored by NEC and the Governors’ Forum, “we shall in the near future see a more peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.”
The President told the governors and other members of NEC that his government in the last four years, has demonstrated unwavering inclusiveness in dealing with every State, notwithstanding the political leaning of the Governor or the predominant party in power at the State level.
“I want this to be your model at the State level. “No matter which party we belong to, let us shun divisive policies and join hands together for the upliftment of our people.
“Going forward, States must in the next four years find ways to increase internally generated revenues, improve VAT collection and increase agricultural output without disrupting business activities. I also want you to work with the Federal Agencies and the service providers in ensuring that broadband infrastructure is made available all over the country.
“Information and Communication Technology is the future of work and we must not allow ourselves to be left behind.
“Let me restate the high expectations on NEC as a veritable source of articulating policies and programmes that are expected to drive growth and development, secure our environment and take the country to the next level.”
He reminded members of NEC, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that the challenges that confront the elected leadership in the next few years, especially in the areas of security, human capital development and employment for the youths are monumental and historic.
“But we are more than equal to the task.”