President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday took state governors to task when he told them to be role models to their people by serving their interests.
For a start, the president charged them to “enforce very vigorously” free and compulsory basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.
The president also urged the governors to forget their party differences and work with his administration to lift the citizens out poverty and other social and economic challenges.
Buhari, who inaugurated the National Economic Council (NEC) at the presidential villa, urged that governors to pay special attention to “security, health and agriculture” in the next four years of their administration.
He reminded the governors that providing free and compulsory education is their constitutional responsibility.
According to him, ‘‘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.
‘‘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.
‘‘It is indeed a crime for any parent to keep his child out of school for this period. In my view, when a government fails to provide the schools, teachers and teaching materials necessary for basic education, it is actually aiding and abetting that crime.
‘‘This is, therefore, 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,’’ the president said in his 24-paragraph speech at the event.
Buhari further told the governors that successes in the four key areas of education, security, health and agriculture would help lifting Nigerians out of poverty, and securing the future for sustainable growth and development.
He said that NEC was established by the 1999 Constitution (as amended). By virtue of Section 153 and paragraph 18 of the 3rd Schedule to the constitution, NEC has the mandate to advise the president on the economic policies of the country and in particular, co-ordination of the economic planning efforts, and programmes of the three- tiers of government, Buhari stated.
The president observed that during his first term, the council made significant progress, holding an unprecedented total of 38 meetings and setting up 10 ad-hoc committees to address various issues of national concern.
In the course of its deliberations, Buhari noted that it came up with 173 resolutions, cutting across eight areas, namely: agriculture and solid minerals; investments promotion and industrialisation; monetary and fiscal stability; infrastructure, health and education; revenue generation, security and support for states.
Buhari, however, urged the NEC Coordination Team to press forward with key initiatives that would strengthen the implementation mechanism, enhance cooperation across states and further promote joint deliberations, peer learning and experience sharing, under a very strong monitoring and evaluation framework.
“I want you to pay special attention to the four major issues of security, education, health and agriculture in the coming years of this tenure.
“As you are no doubt aware, our successes in these four areas will go a long way in lifting our people out of poverty and secure our future for sustainable growth and development,” he said.
…Security Remains On Priority List
On security, Buhari said that the government would continue to rate security of life and property as priority on its agenda.
He restated the commitment of his administration to securing the territorial integrity of the country, while confronting the remnants of terrorists, bandits and other criminals across Nigeria.
On education, the president stressed the need to take very seriously and enforce very rigorously the statutory provisions on free and compulsory basic education citing Section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended places on an obligation on the federal and state government to eradicate illiteracy and provide free and compulsory education.
He said: “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 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,” he said.
…Urges States To Intensify VAT Collection
To meet the financial burden, Buhari asked the governors to increase their internally generated revenue (IGR), agricultural input and Value Added Tax (VAT) collection in the next four years.
He said that the governors should do so without disrupting business activities in their states.
The president continued: “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 (ICT) 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.
“Your Excellences, the challenges that confront us in the next few years, especially in the areas of security, human capital development and employment for our youths are monumental and historic. But we are more than equal to the task,” he said.
The federal government, according to him, in the last four years had 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.
Buhari said: “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 uplift of our people.”
…To Extend School Feeding Programme
Buhari said that the federal government would strive to extend the school feeding programme which would not only encourage school enrolment but also enhance the health and learning capabilities of pupils.
He promised to assist states to access the counterpart funding provided by UBEC for the development of basic education.
President Buhari noted that public healthcare is also a major sector of concern where states and local governments have crucial roles to play, saying that “health is an area where the neglect of one person quickly amounts to the neglect of many.”
He told the governors that It was in their collective interest that each and every citizen gets at least minimal access to healthcare, including primary, preventive and emergency care.
“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 per cent increase in the share of the population covered by primary healthcare by 2023, up from the 12.6 per cent we cover at the moment,” he said.
Buhari added that mechanisation and agro-allied industry were areas still largely untapped and awaiting investment, both by government and the private sector.
He, therefore, urged the states to take agriculture as a very viable developmental enterprise.
NEC Mulls Proscription Of Almajiri System
In view of the rising insecurity in the country, the federal government has hinted that it may proscribe the Almajiri system.
The national security adviser (NSA) , Babagana Mungono disclosed this yesterday to State House correspondents after the NEC meeting, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa.
Mungono said that banning the activities of the Almajiris and enrolling them in schools would help to stem the tide of insecurity in the country.
He said that in line with Buhari;s appeal to thegovernors to “enforce very vigorously” free and compulsory basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age, efforts would be made to increase school enrolment for the almajiris.
The NSA raised the alarm that the bandits in the Northwest had become major threats to national security, saying that their activities were gradually replacing terrorism, which was the primary security threat.
According to him, he briefed the council on the drivers of insecurity which are unemployment, under-employment, poverty, drug abuse, ad rising population.
He said: “I also made suggestions regarding the way forward which included employment creation and reduction of poverty, and being the culture of impunity and looking at stabilising certain areas of the country by giving rise to affordable education.
“This is very important because in most parts of the country we have a lot of children roaming around without any formal education. And as the president has mentioned earlier when he was inaugurating the NEC, we need to make education compulsory and free for every child in the country.
“Because the problem we face today are rooted in the fact that a lot of people who have been denied the opportunity to get formal education end up over the years being criminal, there is accumulation of large mass of human beings who end up becoming criminals, and drug addicts,” he said.
Explaining further, he said that “the group I spoke about on illiteracy is the almajiri. Ultimately, government will have to proscribe this almajiri phenomenal because we cannot continue to have street urchins, children roaming around, only for them in a couple of years, or decades to become problems to society. “
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