The New Independence Group, NIG, a socio-economic think tank, has condemned the move by Nigeria’s Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, to resuscitate the defunct Northern Nigeria Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies as a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Education.
In a statement in Lagos, Monday, the group criticised the decision saying it leaves the impression that a section of the country is being promoted at the expense of others in a “supposedly federal polity.”
“It is unfortunate that the present crop of Ministers in the Muhammadu Buhari administration are either grossly incompetent or confused on the scope of their mandates,” the group said in the statement issued by Akinyemi Onigbinde, its convener.
“While we have nothing against insular agitations and believe that the promotion of provincial interests are the prerogatives of their proponents, the extant constitution, as imperfect as it seems, accommodates such yearnings as those that the states can legitimately legislate upon and bring to fruition.”
The NBAIS was one of the boards formally established in 1959 by the government of the defunct Northern Region to develop curriculum and syllabus for Arabic and Islamic schools and centres.
Mr. Adamu had, last week, forwarded a memo to the Federal Executive Council seeking approval for a waiver for the resuscitation of the board.
“The Arabic school and Islamic centres are also to provide a platform for regulating Islamic educational contents that are sound, appropriate and geared towards the acquisition of positive values for moral, human and national development,” the Vanguard newspaper quoted Mr. Adamu as saying.
The move had irked the Christian Association of Nigeria who described it as “completely unnecessary.”
On Monday, Mr. Onigbinde, a professor, said the decision was “awkward” and came across as a fundamental reversal of the logic of federalism that the federal government would be at the vanguard of such sectional cravings.
“At this critical period of economic recession, it is difficult to rationalize why the Federal Government would be interested in further creating more programmes and projects that have to do with the dominance of a particular region where the practice of a religion is preponderant and selectively generate employment for a religious group when a lot of its agencies are unviable and surplus to our institutional requirements, and should even be scrapped or merged as pointedly suggested in the report of the Steve Oronsanye Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalization of Federal Government Parastatals ,Commissions and Agencies.
“What we rather expect from the Federal Government in respect to education is to revisit The Needs Assessment Report recently prepared in respect of its tertiary institutions and Unity Schools, and endeavour to meet the funding gap that had hemmed our Universities, Polytechnics, and Teaching hospitals in state of rot and made perennial union strikes inevitable.
“It is also important that the Federal Government should clarify to Nigerians whether the country still runs on the working hypothesis of secularism.”
Mr. Onigbinde said there was nothing wrong in sections of the country agitating for what they deem best for their social progress, adding that such cravings should be “channelled through legitimate quarters and not be insensitively presented as national agenda”.
“The nation cannot pretend to be making national initiatives that exclude certain parts of it in application,” he said.
“It is better we restructure the country and get it back to a similitude of what obtained in the first republic when initiatives such as the NBAIS were affairs of the regions and were essentially exclusive of others that had other ideas on how to extricate their peoples from the backwaters.”