President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated the National Economic Council for the year 2019-2023, with a declaration that it is now a crime for parents not to send their children of school age to school.
The President also charged State governments to make the security of lives and property top on their agenda.
President Buhari noted that the first nine years of basic education were crucial for the development of any child thus cannot be toyed with.
“On Education I want to stress in particular the need to take very seriously and enforce very rigorously the statutory provisions of free and compulsory basic education. Section 18 (3) of the Nigerian constitution places on of all of us here an obligation to eradicate illiteracy and provide compulsory basic education.
“Section 2 of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act provides that every Government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age. It is indeed a crime for any parent to keep his child out of school for this period. In my view, when a government fails to provide the schools, teachers and teaching materials necessary for basic education, it is actually aiding and abetting that crime,” he stressed.
The President urged State Governors to also step down the same directive to local government Chairmen in their various states.
He said: “This is, therefore, a call to action. I would like to see every Governor rise from this meeting and rally his local Government Chairmen towards ensuring that our schools offer the right opportunities and provide the needed materials and teachers for basic education, at the minimum. If we are able to do this, the benefits will surely manifest themselves.
“Ensuring proper education during the first nine years of schooling means that our children start off their lives with some discipline and education. They will be safeguarded from roaming the streets, and protected from all the evil influences that assail idle hands and idle minds.
“Whatever they choose to do thereafter, children with basic education will be better prepared to learn and to appreciate their own role in society. This will also go a long way in solving our security and other anti-social problems, which are often the manifestations of early delinquency. I therefore think every Governor here should make a firm commitment to be personally involved in ensuring that every child of school age actually goes to school throughout the crucial nine years of basic education.”He stated that the Nigerian government on its part will further expand the school feeding programme in order to encourage school enrolment.
“On our own part, the Federal Government will strive to extend the school feeding programme which will not only encourage school enrolment but also enhance the health and learning capabilities of pupils. We will also assist States as much as possible to access the counterpart funding provided by UBEC for the development of basic education,” he said.
On security, the President tasked Governors to step up action, to guarantee the safety of lives and property across the country.
“Your Excellencies, I want you to pay special attention to the four major issues of security, education, health and agriculture in the coming years of this tenure. As you are no doubt aware, our successes in these four areas will go a long way in lifting our people out of poverty and secure our future for sustainable growth and development.
“On Security, government will continue to rate security of lives and properties as top priority on our agenda. We are firmly committed to securing the territorial integrity of our nation, while confronting the remnants of terrorists, bandits and other criminals across the country. There must be collective and deliberate efforts by all to improve the security of lives and properties across the country. Security is a bottom to top operation. Everybody must be involved for total success.“While the Federal Government has primary responsibility for security and will not shy away from it, the States also have a critical role to play; in particular Your Excellencies, as State Governors. You can definitely make a difference, not just by assisting the security agencies in your respective States, but also by keenly pursuing policies and programmes that forestall communal, tribal, religious and societal conflicts; policies and programs that promote education, information, dispute resolution, vocational training and youth employment,” he said.
He admonished the Governors to do more on revenue generation, to enable them have more for development.
“Going forward, States must in the next four years find ways to increase internally generated revenues, improve VAT collection and increase agricultural output without disrupting business activities. I also want you to work with the Federal Agencies and the service providers in ensuring that broadband infrastructure is made available all over the country. Information and Communication Technology is the future of work and we must not allow ourselves to be left behind,” he said.
The Nigerian leader also harped on the provision of adequate healthcare and employment to all Nigerians, as he underscored the importance of the National Economic Council, NEC.
He said: “Let me restate the high expectations on NEC as a veritable source of articulating policies and programmes that are expected to drive growth and development, secure our environment and take the country to the next level. Your Excellencies, the challenges that confront us in the next few years, especially in the areas of security, human capital development and employment for our youths are monumental and historic. But we are more than equal to the task.”
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo highlighted the role of NEC, describing it as an important body that advices and sometimes implements economic and social policies that affects the livelihood of Nigerians.
Osinbajo said Thursday’s meeting was focusing on the crucial issue of national security.The meeting was the first in the second term of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration and it had 12 new members, the Governors of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Imo, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Oyo, Yobe and Zamfara States.
By Sammie Idika