Falana asks Buhari to sign bill seeking to make education free, compulsory


Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has asked
President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the bill seeking to make basic education the
right of every child in the country.


In a statement on Monday, Falana said it is the fundamental
right of every citizen to enjoy free and compulsory education.


He said it was unacceptable that little attention was paid
to the basic education bill which was among those not assented to by the
President recently, adding that Nigeria’s figure of out-of-school children remains
the highest in the world.


“Sometime in January 2023, the national assembly forwarded
35 constitutional amendment bills to President Muhammadu Buhari for his
assent,” the statement reads.


 “For reasons best
known to him, the President assented to 16 out of the 35 bills.  Out of the 16 approved by the President,
seven amended the names of some local government areas by correcting
typographical errors.


“However, the president has been commended for assenting to
bills 31, 32, and 33 which changed prisons to correctional services and
transferred them along with railway and electricity from the exclusive
legislative list to the concurrent list.


“The implication of such amendments is that state
governments have been empowered to establish and run their own prisons,
establish their own railway systems, and own electricity power grids, even in
areas where the federal government covers. Another important amendment is bill
No.6 which has granted financial independence to the state houses of assembly
and the judiciary.


 “It is sad to note
that while a section of the media and advocates of restructuring have
celebrated these amendments, no attention has been paid to the refusal of
President Buhari to assent to the constitution (Fifth Alteration) nill No. 63
(fundamental human rights) which seeks to alter the provisions of the
constitution to make free, compulsory, and basic education a fundamental right
of all citizens under chapter IV of the constitution.


“In the cases of SERAP v FRN (2010] ACHPR 109 and LEPAD v
federal ministry of education (unreported suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/978/15) decided
by the ECOWAS court and the federal high court respectively, the federal
government was directed to provide education for every Nigerian child.


“But due to the failure of the federal government to comply
with both judgments, the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria has
increased to 20 million, the highest figure in the world.


“In Olisa Agbakoba v attorney-general of the federation
& Ors (unreported Suit No: FHC/L/CS/941/2010), the federal high court ruled
that the president is required to assent to constitutional amendment bills
passed by the national assembly and the two-thirds majority of the states of
the Federation.


 “But the court did
not rule that the president is empowered to veto a constitutional amendment
which has been ratified by the national assembly and the houses of assembly of
the states.


“In other words, while the president has the power to assent
to or withhold assent to bills passed by the national assembly pursuant to
section 58 of the constitution, he lacks the power to withhold assent to
constitutional amendment bills passed by the national assembly and the houses
of assembly of the states under section 9 of the constitution. To that extent,
the remaining 19 constitutional amendment bills are deemed to have come into


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