Education is a fundamental human right and its importance cannot be overemphasised. This is buttressed by several International Human Rights instruments that provide for education as a fundamental human right. These include: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1981). The relationship between education and development is well established, such that education is a key index of development. The importance and linkage of education to the development of any society is well known.

I must, therefore, commend and congratulate the organisers of this Summit, BusinessDay Media Limited, for recognising the importance of putting together a veritable platform comprising relevant stakeholders, captains of industry and policy makers, with a view to enhancing business collaboration with educational institutions and regulatory authorities; collective business involvement in policy development on youth empowerment; and education and private sector supply of inputs into the education process, amongst other objectives.

I also thank you immensely for the privilege of being invited as Special Guest of Honour, and the opportunity given to me to address this august gathering.

There is no doubt that the education system in Nigeria has a lot of challenges that leave so much to be desired. However, there are perspectives and approaches that can be utilised in order to turn the situation around. What needs to be done is clear. We need to rise up to the challenges and change the course of events in Nigeria by working to put education on the right footing. That is the only sure way to sustainable development.

In this regard, the theme of this summit, ‘Realigning Education with Market Demands, the Role of Private Sector as Catalyst’ is not only apt, but also could not have come at a better time. In recent times, there has been an avalanche of commentary on the downward trend of the nation’s education system, ranging from issues of quality to standards. While it is generally believed that the standard of education is falling in Nigeria, one school of thought opines that the standard of education is, in fact, not falling. It posits three domains of education, namely, cognitive, psychomotor and affective. It then argues that if the standard of cognitive is seen to have fallen, how about those of psychomotor and affective? This school of thought suggests that any learner that excels in psychomotor or affective domain, but is found wanting on the cognitive front, cannot be said to have failed to acquire the needed standard of education. Such a person would be lacking in the cognitive aspect only. Whichever way the argument may swing, what is not in doubt, is that graduates and school leavers in Nigeria today find it increasingly difficult to express their skills and the knowledge imbibed in the course of learning, to the benefit of themselves and the society.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the task of revamping our nation’s education system cannot be left entirely to the Federal Government. As noted by the event organisers, “Recent recommendations from education and human capital development experts, especially from the 22nd Nigerian Economic Summit held in October 2016, have continued to call for Private-Public Partnerships to fix the sector.” This is even more so, when one considers the financial impact of over N38 trillion spent on schools from 1999 to 2016.

The concept of Public-Private Partnership may be such that involves joint ownership in the training and acquisition of skills in education. This can be further realised through joint ownership of the concession or venture, contracted or lease agreement. These contracted agreement forms could be among the four types: Rehabilitate-Operate-Transfer (ROT), Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT), Build-Own-Operate (BOO), and Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT). Public-Private Partnership could also be utilised to upgrade school facilities or build school infrastructure. Government, on its part, may wish to contract a private firm to maintain or build a school building on a long-term basis, where the private firm assumes responsibility for any financial risks involved.

Ladies and Gentlemen, while this summit x-rays the role of the private sector as a catalyst for a more productive education system, the responsibility of legislatures across the three tiers of government is also critical. Legislative and executive programmes, policies and laws made by the National Assembly are not always efficiently or effectively implemented by the executive branch. Further legislative intervention therefore becomes necessary, in such cases, in order to implement laws passed by the National Assembly and detect or correct problems when they arise. Consequently, oversight of executive programmes and activities has become very critical to the effective performance of the Executive and good governance in Nigeria.

The Senate’s oversight activities leverage on the constitutionally mandated power of investigation under Sections 88 and 89 of the constitution to expose corruption, inefficiency and waste in the conduct of government business. Further powers as contained in the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act are also effectively utilised.
Following the tragic deaths of three students in Queens College Lagos, Nigeria’s oldest all-girls unity school, earlier this year, the Senate expressed grave concerns about the poor state of infrastructure in the school; and directed the Federal Ministry of Education to carry out an urgent upgrade in the facilities. The Senate Committee on Education was also mandated to organise a Public Hearing comprising critical stakeholders, with a view to proffering long lasting measures to prevent future occurrences, and develop the infrastructure across our various institutions.

The UBEC Act 2004 requires state governments to contribute 50% counterpart funding before they can access the Federal Government contribution of 50% as warehoused in the Commission. Regrettably, over the years, it has been increasingly difficult for state governments to access the funds from UBEC, owing to their inability to pay up their corresponding matching grants. As at January 2017, only two states – Borno and Nasarawa – were able to access their 2016 grants. While Borno accessed 100% of its allocation, Nasarawa got more than half; the rest of the states were nowhere to be found in this regard.

These challenges, as well as other stakeholder suggestions, led the Senate to consider and pass the UBEC Amendment Bill (SB 324 & SB 307) on 27th July 2017. This was after the general principles of the Bills were debated in the Senate on 7th March, 2017 and 9th March, 2017. Subsequently, the bills were read a second time and referred to the Committee on Education (Basic and Secondary) for consolidation and further legislative work.

The Amendment of the Act was predicated on the urgent need to actualise the right to compulsory free and universal basic education to the Nigerian child up to Senior Secondary School level; and to accommodate the request of the Minister of Finance – during her briefing on the State of the Economy before the Senate – for legislative support to reduce the counterpart commitment of states, in order to access the Federal Government intervention Fund for UBE trapped in the Central Bank of Nigeria. In effect, while SB 324 sought to strengthen the states to easily access the Federal Government block grant and be active participants in the actualisation of this right – SB 304 was premised on the need for the extension of this right up to Senior Secondary Schools; as well as the enlargement of the source of funds.

Highlights of the amendments include: making both primary and secondary education free and compulsory in the country, with specific penalties for defaulters. The Block Grant contribution of the Federal Government was also increased, just as the Bill provides for the reduction of the contribution of state governments. Another new provision increased budgetary allocation from the federation account from to two (2) percent to three (3) percent. A major plank of the amended bill is that it provides for free and compulsory education for all Nigerian children from Primary to Secondary School.

It is hoped that these amendments will help develop the system; and provide compulsory, free and universal basic education in Nigeria. Needless to say, this can only be achieved with the active collaboration of critical stakeholders and effective monitoring of the process through meetings such as this summit.

The Senate is currently considering an amendment to the TETFund Act, to include Colleges of Agriculture as beneficiaries of the Fund. This will, in no small measure, improve the quality of education in such specialised tertiary institutions. Also, in the course of this 8th Senate, we have considered several Bills for either the upgrade of: existing Colleges of Education to Universities of Education – and Colleges of Agriculture to Universities of Agriculture – while also considering the establishment of new universities.

Distinguished participants, I cannot end this address without commending the activities of Civil Society partners, professional associations as well as interest groups such as NGOs and community-based organisations – for your efforts in helping to develop our educational sector.

These partner organisations play vital roles in amplifying government efforts in the areas of improvement of classrooms, hostels and other physical facilities in educational institutions. They also participate in the thrust to provide effective management and regulation of the Nigerian education system.

In closing, permit me to say that the involvement of the private sector in the public service for quality education in Nigeria can only result in more positive developments. These include the bringing in of specialised skills that improve the management and operation of public schools that will enable Governments to absorb the demand of students in terms of increased standards of learning. Public-Private Partnerships can ultimately lead Nigeria to a better tomorrow by increasing the quality of education.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you so much for your attention and wish you a most fulfilling summit.


Abubakar Bukola Saraki MBBS CON (pronunciationⓘ; born on 19 December 1962) is a Nigerian politician who served as the 13th president of the Nigerian Senate from 2015 to 2019.[1][2] He previously served as the governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011; and was elected to the Senate in 2011, under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District, and then re-elected in the 2015 general elections