On Children's Day, Nigerian group urges right to education


As Nigerians and the world celebrate the Children Day, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a letter to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Muhammed Adoke, SAN urging him to “use your good offices and leadership to ensure that your government urgently comply with the judgment by the ECOWAS Court of Justice on the right of Nigerian children to free, quality and compulsory basic education without further delay.”

The organization said that “should the government fail and/or neglect to fully and effectively implement the judgment within two weeks of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, we will seek sanctions against the government pursuant to Article 24 of the Supplementary Protocol of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, and Article 77 of the ECOWAS Treaty.”

The organization’s letter dated 25 May 2012 and signed by its Solicitors Femi Falana of Falana and Falana’s Chambers reads in part: “However, since the judgment was delivered in November 2010, the government has neither acknowledged the judgment nor taken steps to implement the letter and spirit of the judgment. Since the judgment was delivered, more than 12 million Nigerian children of school age still roam the streets and have no access to primary education; 115 million adults are illiterate. Nigerian children still lack access to quality primary education in Nigeria.”

The organization noted that, “Nigeria has the resources and capacity to implement the ECOWAS Court right to education judgment if the government is able to exercise the required political will.”

“The UBEC also confirmed that several states have failed to provide the counterpart funds to access over #30 billion naira of the UBEC funds, which remain unspent to date,” the organization added.

According to the organization, “While senior government officials send their children to schools abroad, poor children continue to be denied access to quality primary education in the country.”

The organization also said that, “The lack of real tools for poor children to fight the cycle that plagues their families and villages, make them more susceptible to manipulation and victimisation by political leaders who seek public positions at all costs for personal enrichment. Without access to quality education, our children cannot have the chance to end the cycle of poverty, disease, abuse, manipulation, victimization, and violence. But education is more than an escape; it is a legally enforceable fundamental human right.”

“We believe that by the judgment, the government is required to review the effectiveness of the existing domestic legal and constitutional remedies for the enforcement of the human right to education, and to take steps to address structural or general deficiencies in national law or practice. We note that Article 15(4) of the ECOWAS Treaty makes the Judgment of the Court binding on Member States, including Nigeria. Also, Article 19(2) of the 1991 Protocol provides that the decisions of the Court shall be final and immediately enforceable,” the organization also said.

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The organization said that, “By fully and effectively implementing the ECOWAS Court judgment, the government will also send a strong message that the government is ready and willing to make substantial investments into the country’s most valuable resources: children. The implementation of the judgment by the government will be consistent with the government’s very courageous action of signing into law the Freedom of Information Act. It will also strengthen Nigeria’s role as a leading country within the sub-region, and show good example for states to implement ECOWAS treaties and decisions.”

The organization therefore asked the federal government to:

➢ Publicly acknowledge and welcome the ECOWAS Court right to education judgment, and to express your government’s commitment to complying fully and effectively with the judgment
➢ Urgently institute a mechanism to review legal and constitutional remedies for the right to education and bring them into line with the ECOWAS Court judgment
➢ Make available funds that can be used to replace stolen education funds and cater for the children that have been left behind as a result of the corruption in the UBEC
➢ Work with the anti-corruption agencies to ensure the effective prosecution of those responsible for the theft of the UBEC funds, and the full recovery of stolen funds. Also, promote the expansion of the mandates of the anticorruption agencies to ensure specific monitoring and transparency spending of education funds

Following a case instituted against the Nigerian government, the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in November 2010 delivered a ground-breaking judgment requiring the government to provide as of right, free, quality, and compulsory basic education to every Nigerian child.

The suit had alleged violation of the right to quality education, the right to dignity, the right of peoples to their wealth and natural resources and to economic and social development guaranteed by Articles 1, 2, 17, 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The court in its well-considered judgment ordered the government to make adequate provisions for the compulsory and free education of every child forthwith.

The court also asked the government to ensure that the right to education is not to be undermined by corruption. The ECOWAS Court held that the UBEC has the responsibility to ensure that funds disbursed for basic education are properly used for this purpose.

The Court also noted that there was prima facie evidence of embezzlement of funds on the basis of the reports of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). The Court stated that while steps are taken to recover funds and/or prosecute the suspects, the Nigerian government should provide the funds necessary to cover the shortfall in order to avoid denying any of its people the right to education.