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UBEC Denies Withholding N110bn Intervention Funds

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By Evelyn Terseer, Abuja

The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), has denied a media report alleging that about N110 billion unutilized intervention funds accessed from the commission by states in 2021 was left in its coffers.

UBEC in a statement issued yesterday by its Public Relations Officer, Mr. David Apeh, described the report as fake and baseless.

“The attention of the Management of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) has been drawn to an Editorial by the Sun Newspaper of 20th June, 2023 to the effect that about N110 billion of the intervention funds accessed from UBEC were not utilised by states as of 2021 with the money left in the coffers of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs).

“The report was not only a misrepresentation of comments made by the Executive Secretary of UBEC at a briefing to flag off the 2022 National Personnel Audit (NPA) but a mischievous way of distorting facts to put the Commission in the bad light,” the statement read.

According to the statement, the authors also falsely alleged corruption at UBEC and calling for thorough investigation and the culprits brought to book by the government while also talking about undue politicisation of UBEC Funds.

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“These are false and baseless allegations that cannot be substantiated because the current management of UBEC and indeed the Executive Secretary has continued to run the affairs of the Commission in an open and transparent manner,” the statement added.

The statement argued that, to set the records straight, there is no time the Executive Secretary of UBEC, lamented that the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were not coming forth with their counterpart funds that will enable them to access the annual matching grant.

“What the Executive Secretary said while responding to a question on the total amount of un-accessed fund was that it was between N28 to N30 billion but insisted that the account department should supply the correct figures at the end of the briefing so that wrong information is not sent out to the public”.

The statement further disclosed that the detail information supplied by the account department, the level of un-accessed matching grant from 2005-2021 as at 6th June, 2022 was N30.8 billion while the total of disbursements of matching grant to states stood at N533.7 billion over the same period.

“If there is any great achievement the current Executive Secretary, Dr Hamid Bobboyi, has achieved is in bringing down drastically the level of un-accessed funds through stakeholders’ engagement while also ensuring transparent management of the Funds” he added.

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“It is also important to state that anybody who is abreast with the way UBEC operates as an intervention Agency, would understand that there is no way it would release money to coffers of states up to N110 billion without utilisation”.

“The way UBEC operates is that you must utilise the first allocation to you before you are qualified to access the next year’s matching grant. It is evidence-based and the projects are also strictly monitored by the Commission”.

“It is also instructive to make it clear that the 50% counterpart fund, which is one of the requirements for accessing the matching grant is a law as contained in the UBEC Establishment Act and requires amendment by the National Assembly. As such, it is not what UBEC would wake up one day and change as was suggested in the said Editorial by the Sun Newspaper”.

“As it is currently, 17 states have already accessed up to 4th quarter, 2021 matching grant so far. The States are Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Katsina, Nasarawa, Osun, Taraba and Zamfara”.

While all states and FCT have accessed 2005-2017 matching grant, three states of Anambra, Imo, and Ogun had not accessed any quarter in 2019 matching grant.

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“One expects that one of the most widely read newspaper like Sun, should have done due diligence by cross checking facts before publication.

Education

Education Minister Promises Equity, Fairness over Unity Colleges Admissions

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By Evelyn Terseer, Abuja. 

As Principals of the Nation’s 110 Unity Colleges converge on Benin city, the Edo State capital to kick-start this year’s admission, Education Minister, Adamu Adamu has directed that they must be guided by the principles of fairness,equity and good conscience in the conduct of the admission exercise. 

In a message to the body of Principals handling the exercise, the Minister emphasized that every part of the country must be given a sense of belonging in the admission exercise, adding that the process must reflect the ideals of the founding fathers of unity colleges as centers of academic excellence and models for states and private schools as well as instruments for National integration and unity.

In a message delivered at the opening ceremony on  behalf of the Minister, the Director Senior Secondary Education, Hajia Binta  Abdulkadir said that; if we are to produce responsible citizens, we must stick to the rules in order to make the right choices of qualified candidates as a foundation for future academic excellence.

The Minister reminded the principals that they should stick to the National policy of the ratio of one teacher to forty students per class in line with UNESCO regulations, adding that carrying capacity must be adhered to.

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Adamu Adamu emphasized that candidates who have applied for admission into Unity schools outside of their immediate communities should be given Priority.

The Minister directed Principals to adhere strictly to the criteria for the selection which is 60percent National merit, 30percent equality of states and 10percent exigency.

Earlier in her welcome address , the Chairperson of Principals of Federal Unity colleges who is also the Principal of Queens Collage Lagos,Dr T. F. O Yakubu-Oyinloye said government’s guidelines on merit and equality of states will be followed strictly so as to get the best candidates for the Nation’s Unity Colleges. 

One of the highlights of the opening ceremony was a guided tour of the host college, Federal Government Girls College Benin, which is wearing a brand new look, more like a University campus than a secondary school. 

The Principal of the collage Mrs Aghedo Osamediame who led her colleagues on the guided tour said, the brand new look of the college has been made possible courtesy of the intervention of the Ministry.

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Education

NECO Declares Sallah Day Exams Free

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By Evelyn Terseer, Abuja 

The National Examinations Council (NECO) has stated that it has not scheduled any examination for Saturday 9th July, 2022.

This is contrary to insinuations in some quarters that the Council has scheduled examination for 9th July, 2022, which is Sallah Day (Eid- Adha).

The Council emphasised it consciousness of the importance of religious festivals, and they always make adequate provision for such in fixing examination dates.

In the statement by the Head of Information and Public Relations Division, Azeez Sani, the Council has given a whole examination free week, beginning from Friday, 8th July to Wednesday, 13th July, 2022 in the On-going Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) for School based candidates to enable Muslim faithful have enough time to celebrate the festival.

It would be recalled that the 2022 Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) for School based Candidates commenced on 27th June, and will end on 12th August, 2022.

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 UNICEF Reveals 226,000 Grave Violations Against Children

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United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
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By Evelyn Terseer, Abuja. 

Between 2005 and 2020, the United Nations verified over 266,000 grave violations against children committed by parties to conflict in more than 30 conflict situations across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America,

 According to UNICEF, this figure is a fraction of the violations believed to have occurred, as access and security constraints, among others, and the shame, pain, and fear that child and family survivors suffer often hamper the reporting, documentation and verification of grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict.

West and Central Africa is the region with the second highest number of verified violations since 2005 with more than 67,000 verified grave violations, accounting for a quarter of all violations globally. In the Central Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger), conflict and insecurity have been major drivers of population displacement, which has put children further at risk of grave violations.

In these three countries, the number of verified grave violations increased by 40 per cent in the first quarter of 2022 compared with the last quarter of 2021. Hundreds of civilians, including children, have been killed in recent attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali. 

UNICEF emphasized that 25 years of children and armed conflict:Taking action to protect children in war – found that between 2005 and 2020 in West and Central Africa more than 7,600 children have been verified as killed or maimed in situations of armed conflict; over 42,000 children have been verified as recruited and used by parties to conflict; at least 4,800 children have been verified as abducted by parties to conflict; parties to conflict have raped, forcibly married, sexually exploited, and committed other grave forms of sexual violence against at least 8,000 children.

 The United Nations verified more than 2,500 incidents of attacks against schools and hospitals and verified no fewer than 1,900 incidents of denial of humanitarian access for children since 2005 in West and Central Africa.

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In Nigeria there were 391 verified cases of grave violations against 306 children. These violations mainly occurred in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States and were attributed to ISWAP and other armed groups. This is a 56 per cent increase in the number of grave violations against children (208) verified in 2020.

In most conflict areas in the West and Central Africa region, civilians continue to be targeted. This includes the deliberate targeting of frontline humanitarian workers who are finding it more difficult to deliver life-saving services and supplies to children in large parts of the Central Sahel and other conflict-affected areas of the region.

“Behind each of the violations detailed in the report is a child, his or her family and members of a community whose lives are torn apart, sometimes forever. We cannot remain indifferent and silent. The killing, abduction, and rape of girls and boys are horrific crimes. The increase in verified grave violations in the Central Sahel over the last quarter and their devastating impact on the wellbeing of children shows the need and importance of continuing our efforts to provide care to the victims and advocate for their immediate end. Attacks on civilians including children must be stopped and all measures for their protection, including during military operations, must be taken,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

Based on sixteen years of data from the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, the report illustrates the impact that armed conflicts have had on children, by presenting trends of grave violations across the world and over time. The report examines how information on the documented patterns of grave violations is being used to respond to children’s needs and how engagement with parties to conflict – State and non-State actors alike enables ending and preventing grave violations.

The annual number of verified violations in the world has gradually increased since 2005, surpassing 20,000 in a year for the first time in 2014 and reaching 26,425 in 2020. Between 2016 and 2020, the daily global average of verified grave violations stood at an alarming 71 violations. The elevated number of violations observed in recent years demonstrates the dramatic impact that armed conflict and increasingly complex and protracted protection crises have on children.

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The report notes that many children suffer from more than one violation, increasing their vulnerability. For example, abduction is often combined with or leads to other violations, particularly recruitment and use and sexual violence. Children especially girls who have been abducted and/or associated with parties to conflict are exposed to elevated risks of sexual violence, including rape, sexual exploitation and forced marriage.

The report found that grave violations against children were committed by States and non-State actors alike underscoring the importance of engagement with all parties to conflict, to meaningfully end and prevent violations against children.

In order to bolster accountability, parties to conflict listed in the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict develop and implement Action Plans with specific, concrete, and time-bound actions to establish sustainable measures to protect children from the impact of conflict. Between 2005 and 2021, a total of 16 Action Plans have been signed by parties to conflict in 6 conflict situations. 

14 Action Plans were signed with non-State actors, with the remaining 2 were signed with State actors. The report lays out several examples highlighting the critical value and impact of Action Plans in bringing about positive change for children, both in the immediate and long terms, as well as outlining challenges and obstacles.

The ever-growing number of armed non-State actors, the development and employment of new means and methods of warfare, the use of improvised explosive devices and other explosive weapons, particularly in populated areas, are just some of the many factors contributing to the creation of unprecedented challenges for the protection of children in situations of armed conflict.

It is important to note that the increase in verified violations over time also underscores the increasing strength of the monitoring and reporting mechanism over the years. The development of guidance on monitoring and reporting, the training and capacity building of UN and its partners’ staff on documenting grave violations, and the awareness raising of families and communities on the protection risks for children, have all contributed to strengthen the mechanism and enabled it to collect increased information on grave violations against children.

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Whilst the overall ability of the United Nations to document and verify incidents of grave violations has increased over time, it has fluctuated from one year to another, from one situation to another, and from one violation to another. In this regard, and based on all of the above, direct comparisons between situations, years, or violations should be undertaken with caution.

“Major humanitarian crises continue to unfold across West and Central Africa. The situation in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and multi-country emergencies, including crises in the Central Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin region, are having devastating consequences on children and communities. Beyond the consequences for the victims, grave violations of children’s rights are often accompanied by massive population displacements that increase the vulnerability of thousands of people and expose more children to other risks of violence,” said Ms. Poirier.

The report recommendations, based on the evidence and analysis presented, aim to mobilize all concerned stakeholders, including parties to conflict, States, and the UN Security Council, to effectively and sustainably protect children and to accelerate action at local, national, regional, and global levels.

In addition to calling on parties to conflict, and states, to abide by their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, the report includes recommendations on how to better provide adequate care and response services to children affected by conflict,ways to improve data disaggregation and analysis for better response and prevention,how to support Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMRs) to accelerate action, and improve CTFMR engagement with governments and ways to better engage with parties to conflict to develop Action Plans and sustainably protect children.

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