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Out-of-school children: Falana sues FG, 36 states

The Federal Government (through the Attorney General of the Federation), the Minister of Education, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), and 36 states have been dragged to the Federal High Court, Lagos, over the issue of out-of-school children in the country.

 

Human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana alongside an early childhood education specialist, Hauwa Mustapha, on behalf of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond, filed the suit.

Their suit is over their failure to access N68bn Universal Basic Education Commission funds to provide free basic education for every Nigerian Child of school age.

The Attorneys General of the 36 states of the Federation and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja were also listed as respondents in the suit, which was filed through their lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mrs Funmi Falana.

The suit which was filed on Jan. 19th at the Federal High Court, Lagos, asks the court to determine:

“Whether the Respondents are not under a legal obligation to provide free, compulsory and Universal basic education for every Nigerian child of school age by section 2(1) of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, LFN, 2004.

“Whether the refusal or failure of the Respondents to contribute not less than 50% of the total cost of projects as its commitment to the execution of the free, compulsory education project for every Nigerian child of school age is illegal as it violates section 11(2) of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

“Whether the Respondents are not under a legal obligation to provide free, compulsory and Universal basic education for every Nigerian child of school age by section 2(1) of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, LFN, 2004.”

In an affidavit sworn to by Femi Falana at the Federal High Court Registry in Lagos on January 26, 2024, the senior lawyer noted that a report made public by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently estimated the total number of out-of-school children in Nigeria to be 20.2 million.

Falana noted that the report added that one in three children in the country is out of school and that the country has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.

He said, “The 1st Respondent is the Minister of Justice and the Chief Law officer of the Federation to enforce law and order and ensure compliance with all orders granted by Nigerian courts.

“The 2nd Respondent is constitutionally responsible for the formulation of educational policies and ensuring quality control at all levels of education in Nigeria.

“The 3rd Respondent is the body created by the Universal Basic Education and Other Matters Act, 2004 (UBEA) responsible for the disbursement of the Federal Government Universal Basic Education grants to states and other stakeholders and the coordination of the implementation of the UBE programme throughout Nigeria.

“The 4th to 40th Respondents are the chief law officers of the 36 states of the Federation.

“That the Universal Basic Education and Other Matters Act, 2004 (UBEA) provides for compulsory, free universal basic education for all children of primary and junior secondary school age in Nigeria.”

The applicants are asking the court to grant the following orders in the interest of justice:

A declaration that by section 2(1) of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the Respondents are legally obligated to provide free, compulsory and Universal basic education for every Nigerian child of primary and junior secondary, school age.

A declaration that by section 11(1) of the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act the Federal Government shall contribute a block grant of not less than 2% of its Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Universal Basic Education Fund on an annual basis.

A declaration that by section 11(2) of the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act, each State of the Federation shall contribute not less than 50% of the total cost of projects as its commitment to the execution of the projects to qualify for the Federal Government block grant under subsection 1(1) of this section.

A declaration that the refusal or failure of the Respondents to access the sum of N68 billion for the universal basic education of children of school age in Nigeria is illegal as it violates section 1(2) of the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act.

An order directing the 4th-40th Respondents to pay the counterpart fund to access the matching grant of N68 billion in the account of the Universal Basic Education Fund and report compliance with the order within 30 days of the delivery of the judgment of the Honourable court.

An order directing the 4th-40th Respondents to pay the counterpart fund to access the matching grant in the Account of the Universal Basic Fund as at when due forthwith.

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