The Federal Government on Thursday said it released 10 million dollars about N1.64 billion to support the “Safe School” initiative of the Nigerian business community.
The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, made this known when she received a German Government delegation led by the country’s Minister of Development Operations, Mr. Gerd Mueller, in Abuja.
The school initiative, facilitated by the business community and Mr. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy on Education, was launched at the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Abuja.
The initiative, which is targeted 500 schools in the North-East as a pilot scheme, would focus on ensuring safety of girls and women going to school in the area.
Okonjo-Iweala said the amount released by the government was its counterpart contribution to the project, explaining that its facilitators also contributed 10 million dollars.
Sad the minister:“As at yesterday, the president has approved the release of the money and we are going to open a trust fund to deposit the money.
“The Director-General of Budget Office and the Accountant General are working to lodge in the money between today and tomorrow.
“The president approved the money a couple of weeks ago, but we are actualising it starting from today and he has given me the permission to work with Gordon Brown on this initiative.
“There is a lot of international interest trying to support the children in the North-East, particularly the girls to have a safe environment and be able to go to school.
“That is the determination of the country to say that nothing that is happening will make us stop our children from going to school,’’ she said.
According to her, there are a couple of measures to strengthen the security and safety of schools.
She added that the initiative would continue to provide incentives to children, stressing that it would start first in states having “emergency rule”.
The minister said that there were short-term programme to secure schools in the states and local communities, adding that the federal, state and local governments would collaborate on it.
Okonjo-Iweala also said that a lot of international organisations, including the World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), United Kingdom and the Norwegians, had indicated interest to support the initiative.
Her words:“We are meeting this afternoon with the private sector. We are meeting to discuss the governance structure of this fund.
“That’s where we are; we welcome German support for this fund. We will also have a window for the fund for emergency relief and another window for reconstruction,” she said
She expressed the hope that the initiative would dovetail into the longer-term North-East development initiative, being supported by Jonathan.
Responding, Mueller expressed the readiness of the German Government to support the initiative.
He said that part of the reasons of the visit was to find ways of enhancing his country’s support for Nigeria’s education sector.
The minister said the German government would invest more money to support Goethe –Institute, its school in Nigeria, to avail many Nigerians the opportunity to know more about Germany.
According to him, only 750 Nigerian students are currently studying in Germany.
“We need to encourage more people; we want to enhance our exchange programme to be able to achieve this,’’ Mueller said.