Chie Livinus Agbovu (JP) is a former permanent secretary, Ministry of Local Government Affairs in Rivers State. In this interview with TNN EDITH CHUKU, he spoke on the recent free education initiative of the state governor, Nyesom Wike, among other issues.
What's your impression on the recent free education policy of Governor Wike?
It's of course a welcome development. We appreciate him for this initiative. The Rivers State governor is full of surprises. We pray it continues to be, for the good/benefit of the people. So, it's kudos to him. But it must be followed, monitored and implemented to the letter. The implementation of this policy is of utmost important. Ideas are easily conceived, Policies are easily made but implementation of such policy is what eludes it from mere mirage and absolute caricature.
Do you fear it might just be a mere pronouncement?
No, not at all, I have complete faith in the governor. I know he has the interest of Rivers people at heart, he did not just wake up and decided, oh, I will declare free education; it was properly conceived, thought and envisaged before he made the pronouncement, knowing it is for the good of Rivers people and residents at large. But I will appeal to him to ensure that his good intention is not jeopardized by anyone for selfish gain.
Does that explain the reason he dissolved the State Universal Basic Education Board (RSUBEB).
Well, the dissolution of the state universal basic education board by the governor can only be better explained by him, he has his reasons which I will not be able to interpret nor explain.
The free education policy is not new. The past governor, Amaechi tried but failed. What makes you think it will succeed now?
That's where implementation comes in. The governor has said but it will have no effect if it is not completely implemented I will always emphasize.
If it fails, who should be blamed?
The problem we have is that we expect government to do everything. It doesn't work like that, it is not in the place of the governor to start going from school to school to ensure students are not extorted, that the free education policy is upheld. Amaechi sent students abroad to school and they were abandoned all in the name of scholarship, most of them were repatriated; only those whose parents could afford it continued, it's not about the pronouncement, if what it takes to maintain free education is there, then it should be followed strictly.
How can this be achieved?
It's everyone's responsibility. Parents should report to the school when their children start asking money for this and that. Principals should support government by keeping to the policy, the board should continually monitor to ensure the implementation of this policy, government should place strict sanction, and anyone caught should be dealt with properly.
Most state schools built by Amaechi are in horrible condition, the environments pose serious threat to students.
I believe you did manual labour when you were in school. Again, there are levies students are meant to pay, like the PTA and environmental levy. The essence of these is to take care of these exigencies. Students are supposed to clean their environment. When I was the director audit, I was going round to supervise these things and audit them on that, they must be pro-active, government certainly cannot do everything.