The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State, seven days to provide information on details of the budgetary allocations and actual spending on primary school education in the oil-rich state.
SERAP made the demand in reaction to the video of Success Adegor, a pupil of Okotie-Eboh Primary School 1, Sapele expressing displeasure over her dismissal from school for failure to pay her exam levy.
The video went viral and made success an instant celebrity; it also made many well-to-do Nigerians come to her aid.
In its response to the vido, the Delta Government suspended Vero Igbigwe, head teacher of the school, for collecting illegal fees.
According to Chiedu Ebie, the Delta State Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education," basic and secondary education — primary, Junior and secondary — in Delta state is still remains free"
Chiedu said the head teacher had no right to impose any levy or fees on the students of her school.
However, SERAP believes the Delta Government can do more. It therefore urged Okowa to "use his good office and leadership position to urgently provide information on details of the budgetary allocations and actual government spending by your government to provide and ensure acccess of Nigerian children to free and quality primary school education in your state between 2015 and 2019".
SERAP said "the evidence of education deficit in the state is further buttressed by the case of Adegor, who was sent home because her parents could not pay the illegal school fee/levy of N900 and the insufficient and poor-quality education infrastructure of Okotie-Eboh Primary School 1, Sapele".
It added: “If we have not heard from you within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel you to comply with our request.”
“Full development of human personality is essential objective of education. A strong Delta State in the future requires a strong education system today. A poor education system will severely cripple Delta State’s future growth, development and sustainability, both socially and economically. Providing the information as requested would show your commitment to ensuring access to quality education as a public good," SERAP said in the FOI request, dated April 5, 2019, and signed by Kolawole Oluwadare, its Deputy Director.
“Despite the huge resources available to your government and the massive budgetary allocations to primary education in your state, including from the UBEC funds, several of the around 1,124 primary schools across the State are in a shambles, and with very poor teaching facilities, thereby jeopardizing the futures of tens of thousands of Nigerian children in the State.”
The FOI request read in part: “SERAP notes that since assuming office, your government has received over N7.8 billion from Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Your government has also received funds from federal allocations to Delta State. Your government accessed over N3 billion of UBEC funds between 2015 and 2016, while also reportedly approved the release of N1.28 billion counterpart fund to enable it access UBEC funds for 2017. Your government also received N213 billion from Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) in 2018, at an average of N17.8 billion monthly.
“We urge you to provide details of budgetary allocations and actual spending by your government between 2015 and 2019, including specific projects carried out to improve access to free and quality primary education in your state, the locations of such projects and the primary schools that have benefited from the projects.
“We also seek information on specific details of the steps your government is taking to improve the overall welfare of children in primary schools across your state, and details of your government’s fee-free programme, if any, across primary schools in the state and information on indirect costs, including uniforms, exercise books, and transport costs to students and their parents.
“Your government should also provide details of specific projects by your government to improve access to education for children with disabilities. SERAP believes that investment in education is an obligation of States under human rights law, and adequate resources must be allocated to the education sector including primary education on enduring basis and in a transparent and accountable manner.
“Promoting transparency and accountability in the spending on primary schools would demonstrate your commitment to achieve the goal of universal quality education for all free of costs, as stated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the United Nations Summit in July 2015.”
SERAP noted that the information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act.
"The information bothers on an issue of access to education, development, good governance, transparency and accountability," it said. "The disclosure of the information requested will give SERAP and the general public a true picture on how budgetary allocations and UBEC funds received by your state have been spent to provide access to free quality primary education.”