Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information request to governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa of Delta State requesting him to use his “good offices and leadership position to urgently provide information on details of the budgetary allocations and actual spending by your government to provide and ensure access 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 Success 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.”
The group also said: “If we have not heard from you within 7 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.”
In the FOI request dated 5 April 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the group said: “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.”
According to SERAP: “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 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.
“The goal 4 of the Agenda stipulates that ‘By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
“We note that it is the statutory responsibility of State Governments in Nigeria to provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age by virtue of Section 2(1) of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Act 2004. Further, under Section 18(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), government at all levels in Nigeria should strive to eradicate illiteracy and provide free, compulsory and universal primary education to the citizens.
“Nigeria is also a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which require states parties to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to education including primary education.
“These laws and treaties obligate your government to ensure the enjoyment of the right to primary education, including by promoting transparency and accountability in the spending on education, and taking steps to improve and expand quality and free education for all.
“By virtue of Section 1 (1) of the FOI Act, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on details of budgetary allocations and actual spending on primary schools in Delta State. By virtue of Section 4 (a) of the Act when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.
“By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information relating to spending of allocations and spending is widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means.
“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. 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.”