Establish Education Bank, SERAP Tells Jonathan

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA, June 29, (THEWILL) - A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP),has accused the Administration of President Goodluck Jonathan of 'letting down millions of poor Nigerians by failing to implement courts' judgments on the right to education, the latest of which ordered the president to establish the Nigerian Education Bank that would enhance access of millions of disadvantaged children to education.'

According to SERAP, 'Nigeria has the resources and capacity to establish the bank if the government is able to exercise the required political will.

'If President Jonathan seriously wants to end the phenomenon of Boko Haram, he should move swiftly to establish the Nigerian Education Bank.

'We believe that it is 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.'

A statement issued on Sunday by the Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said 'the judgment just delivered by the Hon. Justice M.B. Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos ordering President Goodluck Jonathan to establish a Nigerian Education Bank is an important development in the efforts to achieve access to quality education for all Nigerian children.

' But we fear that the government will ignore this judgment just as it did regarding the ECOWAS Court right to education judgment.'

In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1122/11 dated 22 November 2011, and filed

by the Falana and Falana's Chambers, Justice Idris held that, 'The duty to establish the bank is mandatory and President Goodluck Jonathan cannot elect not to establish it.'

The judge added that 'The failure by the President to do this is nothing but an act of arbitrariness,' stressing that 'It is apostasy for the government to ignore the provision of the law. Everyone, high or low must be prepared to justify his act by reference to some law which authorises him to act precisely in the way in which he has acted.'

According to SERAP, 'Without access to quality education, our children cannot have the chance to end the cycle of poverty, disease, abuse, manipulation, victimisation, and violence. But education is more than an escape; it is a legally enforceable fundamental human right.

'SERAP agrees with the court when it said that 'the establishment of the bank will go a long way in alleviating the suffering of poor Nigerians who cannot afford the services of our conventional banking system'. Now, millions of Nigerian children are waiting to see if President Jonathan will swiftly implement this judgment and show them that he is truly committed to alleviate their suffering.'

The court also held that, 'The failure to establish the Nigerian Education Bank amounts to a gross violation of existing laws in Nigeria. The refusal by President Goodluck Jonathan to reply to the Plaintiff's letter is a violation of the Oath of Office contained in Seventh Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.'

According to the organisation, 'As the court correctly stated, there is a responsibility for the government to act on the law establishing the bank, on fundamental objectives and directive principles provisions of the 1999 Constitution and on article 17 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights guaranteeing the right to education.”

“The court said the failure to uphold these provisions should attract accountability. SERAP will therefore seek contempt proceedings against the government of President Goodluck Jonathan if it continues to ignore this important judgment.'

The bank's functions include approving and disbursing loans for educational purposes, providing loans to students to finance their education in institutions of higher learning, and providing short-term loans to individuals and other bodies in appropriate cases.

The court also ruled that: 'The purpose of the bank's Act is to enhance the educational development of Nigeria. There is no doubt that the Nigerian Education Bank Act was made against the backdrop of the need for all Nigerians to be educated. This reflects the right to education guaranteed and protected by article 17 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights which is enforceable in our courts.

'The Act is also an offshoot of the educational objectives of the government contained in Section 18 of the Constitution. By the Nigerian Education Bank Act, therefore, the government is expected to direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all level. The government is also expected to eradicate illiteracy.'

According to the court, 'The non-justiciability of the fundamental objectives and directive principles in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution, which reflect economic and social rights, is a barrier to the expansion of human rights.'