The claim that a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered that the administration of former governor Ifeanyi Okowa to account for N200 billion Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) fund has been described as a lie and that it exists in the imagination of the writer.
Former Information Commissioner in the Okowa administration, Mr. Charles Aniagwu at a press conference in Asaba on Monday he addressed to debunk the allegation said that at no time did the State receive N200 billion from UBEC and that the court also never gave such order because even the plaintiff, the Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) did not make such demand before the court.
Clarifying the situation Aniagwu said: “As a government, we do not question the rights of Nigerians, whether NGOs or even citizens on their own to ask for accountability as to what we did while we were in office. We do not have any challenge with that because we are very proud of our interventions across sectors not just in education sector. So, any attempt by individuals to want to know what we did, we take it up very, very gladly because we are very proud of our interventions in a number of sectors; and the projects and milestones recorded are eloquent testimonies of the interventions that the Okowa-led administration brought to bear in both the political and economic landscape of our dear state.
“In this instance, an NGO, SERAP (Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project) had proceeded to seek certain answers in respect to what we have done , specifically with primary and secondary schools, and most importantly primary schools, which had to do with the issue of UBEC and SUBEB. In laying the parameters again, let me state that at no time did the plaintiff put before the court anything that had to do with N200 billion.
“It was not in their argument, neither was it in the brief submitted before the court. And so that issue of N200 billion is just the imagination of of those who reported it. Perhaps, it could be coming from political flanks. But I don’t want to bother myself with the politics of the whole argument”, Aniagwu said.
He continued: “In our own response to their request as defendants/respondents, we did not also mention anything that has to do N200bn because it’s only in the imagination of those who wrote it. There’s no N200bn as far as this issue is concerned. So for that reason I’m not going to begin to bother myself with N200bn because it is phantom, it does not exist.”
Aniagwu disclosed that between 2015 and 2019 the state government got a total of N13.7 billion from UBEC which included counterpart funds from SUBEB.
“When we came in, we discovered that there was a backlog of 2013 and 2014 from the previous administration and the Okowa administration cleared them, in addition to meeting its counterpart commitment before you could access funds from UBEC.
“Out of the N13.7 billion, Delta State Government paid N6.6 billion as its own counterpart funding through SUBEB. This is important to be able to trigger a commensurate response from UBEC and it’s usually 50:50.
“By law, once UBEC releases the funds to the state, they have a responsibility to supervise how such funds are utilised in line with the projects so listed in those schools.
“As a government, we realised that beyond the UBEC/SUBEB arrangement, we needed to do something extraordinary because of the number of primary and secondary schools we have in the state.
“In Delta we have as many as 474 secondary schools and 1,130 primary schools and there are not too many states that have that number.
“In the course of our administration, the Okowa-led government established 81 new public schools comprising 56 secondary schools and 25 primary schools and these were in addition to what we had in existence and had nothing to do with what we had with UBEC and SUBEB,” he stated.
The former commissioner further stated that the Okowa administration did not rely on the UBEC funding alone to develop its school infrastructure, ezplaining that there were other interventions from the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education.
“So we are ready anytime any day to give out such information as to which schools we spent money on rehabilitation or built afresh.
“There is nothing wrong in people asking for information but it must be done for the purpose of advancing accountability and triggering development and not based on politics.
“The approach adopted by SERAP and the way they went about it did not clearly suggest that they were much more interested in accountability which we do not have any grudge against.
“As a government we are very proud of the things we did anytime and any day. If it is not politics where is the N200bn coming from and how can anybody think that UBEC had N200bn to give to Delta State Government within a period of four year?
“What is the total budget of UBEC in that same four years if only Delta could get N200bn? That tells you that there is some elements of politics in the report,” he explained.
Aniagwu also queried reports calling on Okowa to account for the funds even after leaving office, adding that government was a continuum and not about an individual.