Legislative brief on the Bill seeking regulation of international studies by Hon Sergius Ose Ogun

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Hon.(Barr) Deacon Sergius Ose Ogun, Member House of Representatives representing Esan North East /South East of Edo State at the National Assembly presented the bill which was first read on the floor of the House in April, 2017. When Hon. Ogun brought up a legislative brief on the bill recently, the speaker of the House expressed displeasure that the bill stayed for over eighteen months after it was first read and has not gone for second reading. Below is the full content of the legislative brief;

    LEAD DEBATE

IN SUPPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL STUDIES (REGULATION) BILL, 2017 AND FOR RELATED MATTERS (HB. 1005)

1.0 Protocol
Mr. Speaker, Honorable Colleagues, permit me to lead the debate in support of the International Studies (Regulation) Bill, which seeks to regulate the practice of public servants sending their children and wards to study abroad, when we have the capacity to build and develop an enviable educational system. This practice of utilizing our commonwealth in developing the economies of other nations in the name of overseas studies, will leave ours weak and puerile, hence the need to regulate foreign studies. This will in the long run improve the standard of our educational system and bring our educational institutions into the league of leading global educational institutions.
2.0 Background
Mr. Speaker, Honorable Colleagues, the number of Nigerians who travel abroad for studies is on the rise. The trend is visible at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels and the destinations are varied and diverse. United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada are choice destinations for Nigerians. More recently, some African countries like Ghana, Egypt and South Africa have joined in the league of choice destinations for Nigerian students seeking to study abroad. This in itself is not bad, as every good-intentioned quest for knowledge, skill and expertise is a noble pursuit and should be encouraged. However, the financial, human and economic drain which it spells for Nigeria, is the reason why this trend has to be regulated. Also, the latitude which it gives public servants, political office holders and government officials to loot our commonwealth and stack state funds into foreign institutions for their children/wards studying overseas, is alarming. For instance, it has been reported that Ghana alone, gets 160 billion naira of Nigerian students’ funds, while the United Kingdom gets 80 billion naira, from Nigerian students. In 2014, about 75,000 Nigerians were said to be studying in Ghana, paying about 1 billion US dollars annually as tuition fees and upkeep.
Most of these Nigerian foreign students are children/wards of public servants and political office holders who ostensibly cart away public funds to private use. It is against this background that this bill is designed to; regulate this practice, curtail the depletion of our national patrimony by corrupt means, forestall the stifling of our economic growth process and rebuild our educational system for global competitiveness.

3.0 Objectives of the Bill
Mr. Speaker, Honorable colleagues, this bill has the following objectives:
i. To regulate international studies for children of public servants in Nigeria;
ii. Strengthen indigenous educational institutions to meet global standards;
iii. Boost the economy by reducing cash flight and foreign exchange;
iv. Deter public servants from embezzling public funds;
v. Reduce brain drain and institute good welfare conditions for indigenous academics, experts and professionals based abroad to come back home and develop their country with their skills and expertise;
vi. Build a better society by developing formidable educational institutions;
vii. Facilitate the realization of the fundamental objectives and policies of state (Chapter two of the Constitution), as enshrined in Section 13 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) Cap C23, LFN, 2004, which provides that; “It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of this Constitution”. (Emphasis, mine).
4.0 Arguments
Mr. Speaker, Honorable Colleagues, the rationale for this bill lies in the fact that Nigeria’s educational system is admittedly in a parlous state, hence the exodus of our teeming vibrant youths abroad in quest for quality education. Among the factors responsible for the poor state of the education sector is a dearth of relevant teaching and learning facilities, poor infrastructure at various levels, poor funding, amongst other things. This is occasioned by gross insensitivity on the part of government, corruption and corrupt public servants who have the propensity to divert funds meant for development of the sector to their private use. These public servants fall into the category of “all authorities and persons” in Section 13 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Supra), who are constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of implementing the principles, policies, objectives and programmes of government, key of which is educational development.
With this bill in place, such public servants will be made to give account of the means by which they intend to sponsor their children/wards abroad, pursuant to Section 24(f) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Supra), which provides that; “It shall be the duty of every citizen to declare his income honestly to appropriate and lawful agencies…”. If no regulation is in place, there will be the tendency to corruptly use public funds to sponsor children/wards of public servants on studies abroad, thus starving the nation’s education sector of the needed funding. This will in turn reduce corrupt tendencies, strengthen our educational institutions and stop cash flight.
Mr. Speaker, Honorable Colleagues, let me make haste to dispel any tendency to think that this bill breaches the right to family and private life as well as other fundamental rights guaranteed Nigerian citizens in chapter four of the 1999 Constitution (Supra). The bill only seeks to regulate the practice of public servants sending their children/wards abroad for studies and thus, neglect the development of our indigenous educational institutions. It also seeks to make every public servant who desires to send the child/ward abroad, to first seek the approval of the Minister and show that he/she is capable of sponsoring the child/ward by just means. It specifically provides in Clause four that; “A public officer shall not send his ward or child overseas for studies without declaration of interest subject to approval”.
Mr. Speaker, Honorable Colleagues, the fact that there are no similar legislation in other jurisdictions does not obviate us of the responsibility to make laws to address peculiar challenges that bedevil us as a nation and correct any defect, where such exists, as enshrined in Section 88(2) of the 1999 Constitution (Supra). Also, the absence of similar legislations in other climes, only shows that they have built their educational institutions to a point of global admiration and have thus become educational tourism destinations for other nations. With this bill in place, our nation will come into that class. We may not be able to quantify the worth of quality education in terms of its impact on the individual, family and nation. But it is not in doubt that without quality education, a nation has no future. Therefore, we must pay the price for a great future by discouraging those in public service who want to thwart our nation’s development process, by corruptly diverting public funds for private gain, by regulating international studies of their wards and children as the monies used to fund such ventures can be re-deployed into our own educational sector to improve productivity and foster effectiveness.

5.0 Content Structure of the Bill
The bill has eleven clauses.
• Clause 1 makes provision for the principles and objectives of the bill.
• Clause 2 provides for the upgrade and maintenance of public educational institutions.
• Clause 3 provides for the sensitization of public officers on the negative effect of sending their children/ward to study abroad, on the nation.
• Clause 4 prohibits public officers from sending their children/ward abroad for studies, without prior approval of the Minister of Education at the time.
• Clause 5 makes provision for application for approval of intention to send a child/ward abroad, for studies, by the public officer.
• Clause 6 provides for the documents to be submitted alongside the application for approval, by the public officer.
• Clause 7 empowers the Minister to conduct investigation in a bid to verify the claims made by the public officer in the application.
• Clause 8 specifies the mode and duration within which an applicant is to be informed of the fate of his/her application, by the Minister.
• Clause 9 stipulates the penalty for anyone who violates this law.
• Clause 10 is the interpretation section, spelling out the meaning of the words and phrases used in this bill.
• Clause 11 provides for the citation of the bill.

6.0 Cost Implication
Mr. Speaker, Hon. Colleagues, this bill being a policy bill, requires no cost for implementation. The bill is not an establishment bill and therefore requires no cost to establish any agency. It seeks to end the spate of economic and human drain, by regulating international studies particularly of the children/ward of public officers where such officer has no justifiable means of sponsoring the child/ward. This legislative initiative will undoubtedly facilitate the fight against corruption, foster the development of our nation’s education system, and re-channel our resources towards the nation’s economic growth, amongst others.

7.0 Conclusion
Mr. Speaker, Honorable Colleagues, it is my pleasure to once again appreciate the usual co-operation of this House in supporting bills that are geared towards national development and strengthening of institutions. I thus solicit your collective support in considering and passing this bill into law.

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