Buhari gets 2-week deadline to recover missing UBEC, SUBEBs funds

President Muhammadu Buhari has been given two weeks ultimatum to probe and recover billions of naira missing from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) between 2004 and 2020.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) issued the deadline on Sunday, saying that it would drag the government of Buhari to court if no reply was gotten from the presidency.

SERAP urged Buhari “to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN to work with appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly probe allegations of corruption in UBEC and SUBEBs between 2004 and 2020, including missing N3,836,685,213.13 documented in the 2017 Annual Report by the Auditor-General of the Federation.”

The organization also urged him to “direct Mr Malami and the anti-corruption agencies to make public the outcome of any investigation, and to prosecute suspected perpetrators if there is relevant admissible evidence, as well as fully recover any missing public funds.”

In the open letter dated 20 February, 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy’s director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Allegations of corruption in UBEC and SUBEBs violate the right to education of millions of Nigerian children who continue to face unsuitable learning conditions, as shown by the poor learning and boarding facilities at the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State where dozens of schoolchildren, teachers and their relatives were abducted by gunmen.”

SERAP said: “Investigating the allegations of corruption and mismanagement in UBEC and SUBEBs, prosecuting suspected perpetrators and recovering any missing public funds would contribute to addressing the education crisis in the country, which has disproportionately affected the most vulnerable and marginalized, and entrenched inequality.”

SERAP also urged Buhari to “ensure prompt investigation into the spending of money budgeted for the Safe School Initiative since 2014, including N3.2 billion from the Federal Government and private donors meant to ensure a safer school environment for children, and to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption in the education sector.”

According to SERAP: “Many years of unresolved allegations of corruption and mismanagement in UBEC and SUBEBs have resulted in decreasing quality of education for poor children while many politicians send their own children to the best private schools in the country and abroad, and thereby leaving behind generations of poor children.”

The letter, read in part: “We would be grateful if your government would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations in the in public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in UBEC and SUBEBs.

“Allegations of corruption in UBEC and SUBEBs undermine public confidence in the education sector, lead to the erosion of education quality and access, and if not urgently addressed will lead to an increase in out-of-school children, and exacerbate educational inequalities in the country.

“According to the 2017 Annual Report by the Auditor-General of the Federation, UBEC spent ₦7,712,000.00 to engage external solicitors between January to December, 2015 without due process and the approval of the Attorney General of the Federation. UBEC also reportedly failed to explain the nature of the legal services rendered. The Auditor-General is concerned UBEC may have engaged ‘unqualified solicitors.’

“The Plateau State Universal Basic Education Board also reportedly failed to account for ₦37,200,000.00 despite repeated requests by the Auditor-General. The Plateau SUBEB also spent ₦9,709,989 without any payment vouchers. The SUBEB spent ₦1,607,007,353.72 Special Intervention funds by the Federal Government without any documents.

“The Plateau SUBEB also paid ₦10,341,575.00 to various contractors without evidence of advance payment guarantee. The SUBEB paid ₦70,569,471.00 through cheques to a staff, in violation of the Federal Government e-payment policy. The SUBEB also failed to explain the purpose of the payment. It spent ₦120,948,000.00 on professional development of teachers but failed to retire and account for the money.

“The Imo State Universal Basic Education Board reportedly spent N482, 560,000.00 as mobilization fees to some contractors without due process, and any advance payment guarantee. The contracts were funded from the Matching Grant Account. The Auditor-General stated that the contractors selected lacked ‘the financial capacity to handle the contracts.’ The SUBEB has also failed to account for ₦140,774,702.12 of project fund since 2015.

“The Kano State Universal Basic Education Board reportedly paid ₦71,263,000.15 to contractors without due process and without open competitive bidding. Similarly, the Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board paid ₦569,758,938.00 to ‘unqualified contractors and companies’ for the reconstruction and renovation of classrooms. The Ebonyi SUBEB also spent ₦10,123,892.46 to buy store items but without any documents.

“The Gombe State Universal Basic Education Board paid ₦31,822,600.00 to a staff from its teachers’ professional development funds but failed to account for the money. The Auditor-General is concerned that ‘the payment is fictitious’, and that ‘the funds did not benefit the intended beneficiaries.’ The SUBEB also reportedly paid ₦41, 277,983.00 as cash advance to staff to ‘buy some materials and for press coverage but failed to account for the money.’

“SERAP is concerned about allegations of widespread and systemic corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement within UBEC and several SUBEBs, the failure to investigate these allegations, and to recover any missing public funds. The Federal Government bears responsibility for ensuring that every Nigerian child has access to quality education in conducive learning environment, and to safeguard education as a public good.

“Your government’s responsibility to guarantee and ensure the right to quality education for every Nigerian child is interlinked with the responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office.’ This imposes a fundamental obligation to investigate the missing public funds from UBEC and SUBEBs, to prosecute suspected perpetrators, recover the money, and to remove opportunities for corruption in these institutions.”

“Access to quality education would empower children to be full and active participants in society, able to exercise their rights and engage in civil and political life.”

“Any failure to promptly and thoroughly investigate the allegations and prosecute suspected perpetrators, and to recover the missing public funds would breach Nigeria’s anti-corruption legislation, the Nigerian Constitution, the UN Convention against Corruption, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“The letter is copied to Mr Malami; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); and Mr Mohammed Abba, Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”

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