Nigeria’s federal government has emphasised the strategic importance of allocating N15 billion in the 2023 budget to the Safe School Project, asserting that it is in the nation’s best interests.
Halima Iliya, the national coordinator of the Safe School Initiative (SSI) under the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, conveyed this message during a press conference held in Abuja on Tuesday.
Iliya explained that the objective of the SSI is to ensure that children affected by conflicts and insecurity can pursue their education without hindrance. She noted that a comprehensive national financing plan for the initiative was formulated and launched in December 2022. This blueprint will be implemented between 2023 and 2026, with a total investment of N144.8 billion.
In her presentation, she outlined the annual allocation breakdown for the plan: N32.58 billion in 2023, N36.98 billion in 2024, N37.15 billion in 2025, and N38.03 billion in 2026. The government has provisioned N15 billion for the year 2023.
Iliya elucidated that funding for the initiative will come from various sources, including federal, state, and local government budgets, as well as contributions from government interventionist agencies, foreign governments, multilateral institutions, donor partners, businesses, and philanthropists.
She emphasised that the strategy’s implementation would encompass safeguarding 50 percent of at-risk public schools over the medium term from 2023 to 2026. This endeavor aims to establish security resilient host communities to protect educational institutions, reinforce the capabilities of security agencies in terms of detection, deterrence, and response, and equip schools with security, response, and coordination centers.
The implementation of the plan was set in motion in January 2023 with the establishment of the national school security and coordination center, overseen by the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) as the lead agency responsible for safeguarding schools and government critical assets.
The Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, will convene a strategic forum focused on protecting schools and other learning facilities in Nigeria. This event will also feature the launch of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the police special squad dedicated to the initiative, scheduled for Wednesday.
Iliya revealed that the initiative initially covers 18 states, each with 48 schools participating. Future phases will include the involvement of additional states.
Addressing the historical context, Ms. Iliya noted that the former president had ratified the Safe School Declaration document, endorsed by 118 countries, thus affirming the nation’s commitment to its implementation.
She added that a technical working committee, comprised of key agencies such as the Ministry of Education, Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), NSCDC, Department of State Services, and Defence Headquarters, was established to devise a comprehensive national financing plan for the Safe School Initiative.
Ebenezer Leo, representing the Nigerian Governors Forum, encouraged the media to raise public awareness regarding the significance of the school safety initiative and the importance of everyone’s involvement in the project.