President Muhammadu Buhari has challenged state governors to pay more attention to the areas of security, health, education and agriculture so as to address the menace of poverty in the society.
The president gave the challenge when he inaugurated the 2019 to 2023 National Economic Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday.
NEC, which is established by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), as amended, is chaired by the Vice-President.
Membership of the Council includes governors of the 36 states; the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Agriculture, Federal Capital Territory and the Minister of State, Petroleum.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Budget and National Planning served as Secretary to the Council.
Buhari said, “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.’’
According to him, if these four areas (security, education, health and agriculture) are actively implemented and closely monitored by NEC and the Governors’ Forum, “we shall in the near future see a more peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.’’
The president enjoined the States to find ways to increase internally generated revenues, improve Value Added Tax collection and increase agricultural output without disrupting business activities.
He also stressed the need to take very seriously and enforce very rigorously the statutory provisions on free and compulsory basic education.
“Section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended places on all of us here an obligation to eradicate illiteracy and provide free and compulsory 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.
“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,’’ he said.
Buhari noted that the first nine years of basic education were crucial for the development of any child and thus could not be toyed with.
“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,” he said.
The president urged the governors to 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 said the Federal Government on its part would strive to extend the school feeding programme which would not only encourage school enrollment but also enhance the health and learning capabilities of pupils.
He said the government would also assist states as much as possible to access the counterpart funding provided by UBEC for the development of basic education.
He also charged them to work with the Federal Agencies and the service providers in ensuring that broadband infrastructure is made available all over the country.
According to him, Information and Communication Technology is the future of work and “we must not allow ourselves to be left behind’’.
President Buhari observed that the Federal Government in the last four years had demonstrated unwavering inclusiveness in dealing with every State, notwithstanding the political leaning of the Governor or the predominant party in power at the State level.
“I want this to be your model at the State level. No matter which party we belong to, let us shun divisive policies and join hands together for the upliftment of our people,’’ he said.