By Christiana Ekpa
A bill seeking to alter the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Cap. 23, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 to include and place free, compulsory and universal basic education under chapter IV of the document yesterday passed for a second reading at the House of Representatives.
The bill being sponsored by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila will be creating a new section 45 in the Principal Act to read that free, compulsory and universal basic education in consonance with the would-be amended section 18 which would substitute the entire sub-section 3 thereof with a new subsection 3 to read as follows: “Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy in Nigeria”.
The bill was titled “A Bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 Cap. C.23, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to make Free, Compulsory and Basic Education a Fundamental Right of all Citizens Under Chapter IV; and for Related Matters (HB.596).”
In his lead debate at plenary, the Speaker said that if the bill is successfully assented to after the amendment, every Nigerian would be entitled to compulsory education.
He said: “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to free, compulsory and universal basic education, and every government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education to every child from primary to junior secondary school.
“It shall be the duty of every parent to ensure that his child or ward attends and completes his primary and junior secondary school education by endeavoring to send the child to primary and junior secondary schools.
“Every stakeholder in education shall ensure that every parent or person who has the care and custody of a child performs the duty imposed on him under section 45 of this Constitution.
“Section 318 of the principal Act is amended in sub-section 1 by the addition of a new definition paragraph immediately after the definition of the word “authority” as follows:
“basic education” means free and compulsory education from primary school to junior secondary school.
“The Principal Act is hereby amended by renumbering the existing sections 45 to 318 of the constitution as sections 46 to 319”.
The bill was referred to special committee on the review of the 1999 constitution.