Ahead of the 2017 Wole Soyinka Media Lecture Series planned to examine the nexus between basic education and electricity on Thursday 13 July at the Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja, participants at a two-day stakeholders meeting held in Lagos on Wednesday 5 and Thursday 6 July, for the Regulators’ Monitoring Programme (REMOP) for basic education and electricity, have expressed grave concern about a potential development disaster if regulation and performance continue to slide in these important sectors.
The stakeholders, consisting representatives of government, pressure groups, non-governmental organisations, private sector and international development partners, lamented that faulty regulatory system, official secrecy, corruption, poor media coverage and paucity of data, are some of the challenges plaguing quality basic education and electricity supply in the country.
Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) Centre Coordinator, Motunrayo Alaka, who explained the vision behind REMOP to the participants, emphasised that, “the change we seek is the change we need, therefore, it is important that all concerned put pressure on the current government to deliver on its promise.”
Regarding basic education, the partners were worried that the sector is grappling with a myriad of challenges, including the embarrassing 8.7million children who are out of school, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics reports. Haruna Danjuma, President, National Parent Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), highlighted the fact that the figure is one of the highest globally. Corroborating the sad state of basic education in Nigeria, Olusegun Ajiboye, Registrar, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), stated that there is a need to pay attention to the quality of teachers who instruct students at this level.
On her part, Sharon Oriero-Oviemuno-Olise, Deputy Executive Secretary (Technical) of UBEC, who represented the Hon. Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu and the Executive Secretary of UBEC, Hamid Bobboyi, blamed the poor performance status on the lack of commitment by state governments to contribute the mandatory counterpart funds needed to enable them access grants from the Commission. Abosede Adelaja, Secretary to the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Lagos, who represented the Deputy Governor, Idiat Adebule and the Chairman of SUBEB, Ganiyu Sopeyin, however, said Lagos State continues to lead the rest in ensuring standard education.
Despite the huge investments on basic education, especially through the Universal Basic Education Commission’s (UBEC), Olatunde Adekola of the World Bank, who was represented by Solomon Adebayo, bewailed the fact that the sector is yet to make significant improvement in the drive to offer quality education to the 44 percent of its population who fall under the age of 15, which incidentally covers the age bracket for the basic education programme. “How are we spending the little we have? How are we prioritising targets?”, Adekola queried.
The consensus on the availability of electric power supply, on the other hand, was that, although the regulatory framework for the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) makes the body very powerful, the system is yet to work, as it should. According to Frank Jacobs, President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), the challenges bedeviling NERC have thus far made electricity more expensive for manufacturers who now spend 40 percent of their cost of production on power supply as against their counterparts in Ghana who deploy about 20 percent and those in China and Europe who use less than 10 percent.
Joy Ogaji, Executive Secretary, Association of Power Generation Companies (APGC), particularly blamed the inconsistencies in the sector on the clear lack of coordination. Ogaji also lamented the fact that various government authorities are compromising the independence of NERC. Tomi Akingbogun, Chairman, Network of Electricity Consumers Advocacy of Nigeria (NECAN), in his contribution, noted the damage the challenges with power supply has inflicted on the Nigerian people with huge cost of tariff despite the unavailability of electricity.
Chief Executive Officer, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), Azu Obiaya, on the other hand, asked the gathering to reflect on the humongous cost of investment that can guarantee electric power supply. “Risk is assigned where it is best borne. The consistency we hope to achieve in the sector will cost money. Someone has to pay.” Obiaya emphasised. “There is a need for Nigeria to decide whether it wants to keep electricity as a social service or fully privatise it”, he added.
The Stakeholders’ meeting on basic education and electricity is a major part of the REMOP initiative supported by the MacArthur Foundation, which seeks to foster proactive disclosure of information, transparency and accountability among regulatory institutions in Nigeria through the active engagement of the media and other actors. The WSCIJ intends to continue the conversation at the public annual lecture scheduled for 10am at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja on Thursday 13 July, which would be Wole Soyinka’s 83rd birthday.