In this report, Abdullahi Olesin analyses efforts by the new administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to revamp Kwara state's moribund education sector
The fact that Kwara state government failed to access the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) funds in the last four years is incontrovertible. The state had during this period failed to pay its UBEC counterpart funds, a prerequisite for accessing the funds.
The resultant effects of this is the state of disrepair the entire public primary and secondary schools in the state have been thrown into. There is general infrastructure decay in all public schools across the state.
But, in a bold step to reverse the unacceptable trend, the new administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has approved the payment of the N450m that the previous administration had allegedly diverted from the UBEC funds, clearing the way for immediate readmission of Kwara to a scheme that is meant to improve access to basic education.
Not only this, the governor has also reinstated salary of about 2000 teachers employed in the twilight of the immediate past administration and as well released N250m for payment of two months salaries to workers of the state owned tertiary institutions out of their outstanding salary arrears. These steps taken by the governor, in quick succession will no doubt improve the standard of education in the state and restore its lost glory.
The governor's approval for the payment of N450m to UBEC came a few days after the commissionís officials narrated how the previous administration had allegedly diverted the N1.5bn 2013 funds allocated to Kwara and how that had led to the official blacklisting of the state from UBEC. The allegations which the spokesman of former Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, Dr Muhideen Akorede had denied.
AbdulRazaq signed the documents approving the refund of the N450m during a meeting with the Permanent Secretary for the Kwara State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Bayo Onimago and Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Finance, Benjamin Fatigun in Ilorin, the state capital.
The payment of the N450m was a precondition for readmitting Kwara back to the UBEC after a five-year ban under the Abdulfatai Ahmedís administration.
Lamenting the 'criminal neglect' of the education sector and the decrepit state of infrastructure, AbdulRazaq had said he would immediately pay the N450m in the interest of the children, restore Kwara's relationship with UBEC and commit whatever fund accessed only for the purpose for which it was meant.
Rafiu Ajakaye, spokesman to the Governor, said one implication of this crucial step is that the state can now access UBEC funds worth over N5bn once it pays the counterpart funds.
"The situation before now was such that Kwara could no longer approach UBEC because the previous administration diverted the 2013 funds. That sullied the name of the state. Now, the governor has put that ugly chapter behind the people of Kwara State. Kwara currently ranks 37th or the lowest on the UBEC Matching Grant Disbursement Performance "Ajakaye said in a statement.
The governor has also reinstated the salary to workers employed in the twilight of the last administration.
ďThe Governor has directed that the workers be paid their May and June salary. As a statesman and father to all, His Excellency believes the government should not punish these workers for decisions they didnít take,ĒAjakaye added.
Noting that the usual practice is for the new administration to do away with the sunset workers, the statement noted that: "This governor dares to be different. He has shown good will and magnanimity to all. It is expected that the affected workers will do their part by serving the state diligently."
The last administration had in the twilight of its reign recruited hundreds of workers into the civil service, including teachers and ministry workers.
The recruitment triggered allegations that the beneficiaries were mainly members of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in the state and that the due process was not followed in engaging them.
"The Governor's action is another practical demonstration of his pledge to never victimise anyone for their perceived affiliations. He has therefore resolved to restore their salary," Ajakaye said.