Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has criticised the National Assembly for passing resolutions that he described as “embarrassing” and “unfortunate” regarding basic education in the country. He said that the lawmakers were not aware of the existing laws that have made education free and compulsory for every Nigerian child from primary to junior secondary school.
Falana was reacting to the resolution passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday, which urged the Federal Ministry of Education to reduce the number of out-of-school girls by ensuring compulsory free education for all girls across the country. He was also referring to the bill proposed by Senator Orji Kalu, which seeks to amend the Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 by introducing severe penalties for parents who fail to send their children to school.
Falana said that these resolutions were needless because they showed that the federal lawmakers were lacking in institutional memories of even the progress made by the legislature in making laws to promote universal access to basic education. He cited the Child’s Rights Act of 2003 and the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act of 2004, which have been adopted by all 36 states of the federation. He also mentioned the judgements of the ECOWAS Court and the Federal High Court, which directed the Federal Government to ensure that every Nigerian child is given free and compulsory education.
Falana said that instead of passing resolutions that would not work in a poverty-stricken environment, the National Assembly should address the refusal of state governments to make counterpart contributions to the Universal Basic Education Fund, which is meant to provide infrastructure and facilities for basic education. He suggested that the Constitution should be amended to empower the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from the source the counterpart fund payable by every state government to the Universal Basic Education Fund.
Falana said that it was regrettable that 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. He said that this was a threat to national security and development, as well as a violation of the rights of millions of Nigerian children. He urged the National Assembly to stop paying lip service to basic education and take concrete steps to ensure its implementation.