President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said on Thursday that the Safe School Initiative of the Federal Government was designed to fail.
Lawan stated this at an investigative hearing by the Senate joint committee on education (basic and secondary) and Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND.
The panels were unravelling the utilisation of the funding proposed and budgeted for the Safe Schools Initiative, including monies, supports and donations received from foreign government and agencies.
The Safe Schools Initiative was launched in 2014 at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Nigeria, by a coalition of Nigerian business leaders, working with the UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, the Global Business Coalition for Education and A World at School.
The objective of the initiative was to enable school pupils, family members and teaching staff in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states enjoy better protection and made safer so that children could attend school without interruption.
The Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning implemented the programme which was supposed to
run from 2014 to 2018
The Senate President spoke while reacting to the submissions by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Arch. Sonny Echono.
Echono had said that his ministry played no role in the funding or application of funds meant for the programme.
He also said that the Federal Ministry of Finance had the control of the funding of the programme to the exclusion of the Education ministry.
The Senate President, who declared open the investigative hearing said that arrangement which did not factor in the role of the Ministry of Education was not good enough.
Lawan said, “This programme, Safe School Initiative was designed to fail. What is the meaning of the Ministry of Finance handling this. It was unnecessarily controlled by the Ministry of Finance.
“Ordinarily, I would have thought that the National Council on Education where the Federal Ministry of Education and all the States Ministry of Education, would come up with a National Policy and Strategy for Safe School Initiative.
“Rather than Federal Ministry of Finance controlling it, Ministry of Finance is just to provide fund, appropriated or donated.
“So this programme was designed to fail. This is why we are where we are today.
“I believe at the end of the day, we should look at the possibility of taking that programme from the Ministry of Finance and domicile it where it rightly belongs. That is the Ministry of Education.”
The Senate President also said he felt disappointed that the beneficiaries of the programme did not turn up for the hearing.
He said, “I was thinking that those schools that benefitted from this Initiative should have been here because they are supposed to give testimony to what their schools got. But they are not here.
“If someone comes from Finance ministry now and tells us this is what they did, if we cannot corroborate that from those beneficiaries, our work will still be half done.
“I believe the Federal Ministry of Education should lead this initiative. So, probably the joint committee should look into the implementation whether it should remain in the Ministry of Finance or the Ministry of Education should be in charge of that.
“I do believe that there should be a National Safe School Initiative committee that should bring together the Ministry of Education, relevant security agencies and so on.
“Until we have a national strategy and policy, driven by a committee that is given the responsibility, we cannot achieve anything,” Lawan said.
The Senate President said the investigation was not to look for fault “because it is not only limited and restricted to whether someone is not applying all the funds but also to find out how the funds were applied.”
The Chairman of the joint committee, Senator Ibrahim Gaidam said the essence of the investigative hearing was to receive factual submissions, inputs and insights on the implementation of the initiative from invited stakeholders.
Gaidam recalled that the Safe School Initiative was launched in 2014 during the World Economic Forum on Africa by the Nigerian government in collaboration with the United Nations in order to rebuild, rehabilitate and restore normalcy in the education sector.
The initiative, he said, was to be implemented then in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, expanded to other northern states and to cover the entire country as a National Initiative.