Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights over “a serious breach of the obligations by Nigeria under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to progressively realize the right to education in accordance with the country’s maximum available resources.”
The group said that, “This fundamental breach is due primarily to the persistent refusal by the government to honor the agreement with members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)”
In the petition dated 25 October 2013 and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group said that, “Although the government in 2009 agreed with ASUU to improve the governance structures and funding for the operation of universities across the country to around 26% for the period covering 2009-2020, the terms of the agreement have remained largely unfulfilled. Conditions of service for staff members of the country’s universities remain very poor. Further the right of the students to freedom of assembly and association is not fully and effectively respected by the authorities.”
The petition sent to the committee through the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, also stated that, “under international law, Nigeria is required to demonstrate that, in aggregate, the measures being taken are sufficient to realize the right to education for Nigerian children in the shortest possible time using the maximum available resources.”
“However, the continuing refusal by the government to honour agreements with ASUU constitutes a fundamental breach of these obligations, and shows lack of good faith by the government to implement its voluntary international commitments,” the group argued.
According to the group, “One of the best financial investments States can make is education but the Nigeriangovernment’s investment on education for many years has been only a drop in the ocean especially when measured in the light of the country’s accrued revenue from oil, and its maximum available resources. No wonder, then, that the government has persistently failed to improve the infrastructural and academic environment at all levels of education in the country.”
“This situation is inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Covenant as well as the Committee’s own jurisprudence,” the group also argued.
The group called on the Committee to “demand that the Nigerian government should urgently and fully implement its agreement with ASUU, and ensure sufficient funding of universities across the country. The Committee should put pressure on the government to promote, protect and fulfil the right to education for the sake of millions of Nigerian children that continue to be denied this fundamental human right.”
The group argued that, “education is not only a human right in itself but also an indispensable means of realizing other human rights. It is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities. Education also has a vital role in empowering women, safeguarding children from exploitative and hazardous labour and sexual exploitation, promoting human rights and democracy, and protecting the environment.”
“As the Committee has stated, states must take deliberate, concrete and targeted steps as clearly as possible towards meeting the obligations recognized in the Covenant. But the persistent refusal by the government to sufficiently fund the country’s universities, and honor its own agreement to ASUU is a deliberate retrogressive measure, and shows lack of good faith,” the group insisted.
According to the group, “Although states are given a margin of discretion’ in the assessment of what resources are available, they nonetheless must utilise the maximum available resources to achieve the full realization of the right to education. SERAP contends that the refusal by the government to sufficiently fund the universities in accordance with its maximum available resources cannot be justified on any ground whatsoever.”