Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan on Thursday declared in Abuja that the Safe School Initiative programme in Nigeria was designed to fail.
Lawan spoke at an investigative hearing by the Senate joint Committee on Education (Basic & Secondary), and Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND on the utilisation of the funding proposed and budgeted for the Safe Schools Initiative, including monies, supports and donations received from foreign governments and agencies.
The Senate President made the remarks in response to the submissions by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Arch. Sonny Echono that his ministry played no role in the funding or application of funds meant for the programme.
Echono said the Federal Ministry of Finance, National Planning and Budget had the control of the funding of the programme to the exclusion of the Ministry of Education.
The Senate President, who declared open the investigative hearing, said that the 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 the Federal Ministry of Finance controlling it, the Ministry of Finance is just to provide funds, appropriated or donated.
“So this programme was designed to fail….And 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 felt disappointed that the beneficiaries of the programme did not turn up for the hearing.
“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 the 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.”
Earlier, 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, WEFA 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.
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