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Former Commissioner for Information in Delta State, Mr Charles Aniagwu, has debunked media reports of a court order allegedly directing the state government to account for N200 billion funds received from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).
Speaking at a news conference in Asaba, he said that at no time did the Okowa administration receive such funds from UBEC, describing the report as the imagination of those who wrote it
Aniagwu, who was flanked by former Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okowa, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, said that the state government had no challenge providing information on issues of accountability, adding however, that such requests must follow due procedure.
He said “we do not question the rights of Nigerians whether NGOs or 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..
“So, any attempt for individuals to want to know what we did, we take it up very gladly because we are proud of our interventions in all the sectors.
“The projects and milestones recorded by the Senator Ifeanyi Okowa-led administration from 2015-2023 are eloquent testimonies of our accountability and interventions in both political and the economic landscape of our dear state.
“In this instance, the Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) had proceeded to seek certain answers with respect to what we had done specifically with respect to primary and secondary schools in relation to UBEC and State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB)..
“Let me state that at no time did the plaintiff (SERAP) put before the court anything that has to do with N200 billion. It was not in their argument neither was it in the brief they submitted before the court.
“So, the issue of N200 billion is just the imagination of those who reported it and perhaps, it could be coming from political flanks.
“In our own response to their request as respondents, we did not also mention anything about N200 billion because it was only in the imagination of those who concocted it.
“There is no N200 billion as far as this issue is concerned. What SERAP wanted was for us to furnish them with information as to how we ran our basic education within the period of 2015 to 2019.
“That demand was in relation to a particular viral video of young Success Adegor, a pupil of Okotie Eboh Primary School in Sapele.
“We reasoned that it was the right of any individual to seek for information and accountability but there are procedures that must be followed.”
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 much 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.