Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Human Rights Lawyer, has called on the National Assembly to stop paying lip service to basic education in the country.
The call was made in a statement released on Sunday.
Falana expressed concern over the refusal of state governments to make counterpart contributions to the Universal Basic Education Fund, as stipulated by section 2 of the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act.
He emphasised that this lack of commitment from state governments is detrimental to the advancement of basic education in Nigeria.
In his statement, Falana also proposed a constitutional amendment.
He suggested that the Constitution should be amended 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.
He criticized the Members of Parliament (MPs) for attempting to amend the Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 by imposing harsh penalties on parents who fail to send their children to school.
He expressed concern that these resolutions demonstrate a lack of institutional memory regarding the progress made by the legislature in promoting universal access to basic education.
Falana emphasised that since each of the 36 States of the Federation has adopted the Child’s Rights Act and enacted a Child’s Rights Law, it is now the joint responsibility of the Federal, State, and Local Governments to ensure that every Nigerian child receives free and compulsory education. However, he pointed out that political leaders have not paid enough attention to basic education, leading to breaches in these laws.
Regarding the issue of 18.5 million out-of-school children, Falana urged the National Assembly to focus on addressing state governments’ refusal to make counterpart contributions to the Universal Basic Education Fund. He proposed an urgent amendment to the Constitution, empowering the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct counterpart funds directly from state governments.