President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday engaged the National Economic Council (NEC) to begin the means of implementing free and mandatory basic education for children as included in Section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as revised). The president spoke any governor who declined to provide schools, teachers and necessary teaching materials for the entrenchment of basic education would be supporting and encouraging the crime of having children away from school. Buhari addressed in Abuja at the inauguration of NEC for the second term of his presidency. He said another part of Section 18 mandated every government to \u201cprovide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.\u201d The membership of NEC, which is chaired by the vice-president, comprises governors and top government officials in charge of the country\u2019s economic affairs. According to the president, when governors provide the basic requirements for basic education as stipulated in the constitution, it will be a criminal act for any parent to deprive their children of the opportunity to be in school during the period. He challenged governors to rise from yesterday\u2019s meeting to mobilise their local government chairmen to provide the minimum level of education with a view to ensuring that children are prevented from roaming the streets within their first nine years. He said when this was done, children would be shielded from evil influences, adding that the minimum basic education acquired will help such children to make good decisions for their lives and simultaneously acknowledge their roles in the society. \u201cOn education, I want to stress in particular the need to take very seriously and enforce very rigorously the statutory provisions on free and compulsory basic education. Section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, places on all of us here an obligation to eradicate illiteracy and provide free and compulsory education. \u201cSection 2 of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act provides that every government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age. It is indeed a crime for any parent to keep his child out of school for this period. In my view, when a government fails to provide the schools, teachers and teaching materials necessary for basic education, it is actually aiding and abetting that crime. \u201cThis is, therefore, a call to action. I would like to see every governor rise from this meeting and rally his local government chairmen towards ensuring that our schools offer the right opportunities and provide the needed materials and teachers for basic education, at the minimum. If we are able to do this, the benefits will surely manifest themselves. \u201cEnsuring proper education during the first nine years of schooling means that our children start off their lives with some discipline and education. They will be safeguarded from roaming the streets and protected from all the evil influences that assail idle hands and idle minds. \u201cWhatever they choose to do thereafter, children with basic education will be better prepared to learn and to appreciate their own role in society. This will also go a long way in solving our security and other anti-social problems, which are often the manifestations of early delinquency. \u201cI, therefore, think every governor here should make a firm commitment to be personally involved in ensuring that every child of school age actually goes to school throughout the crucial nine years of basic education,\u201d Buhari said. The federal government on its part, the president added, would extend the school feeding programme, which will encourage school enrolment and enhance the health and learning abilities of pupils. He also said the federal government would assist states to access the counterpart funding provided by Universal Basic Education (UBEC) for the development of basic education. The president canvassed for the need for NEC to promote public healthcare, saying states and local governments have crucial roles to play in the health sector by ensuring that \u201cevery citizen gets at least a minimal access to healthcare, including primary, preventive and emergency care.\u201d While charging the governors to ensure that citizens have access to primary healthcare, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, Buhari said the federal government\u2019s provision of basic healthcare fund would \u201cachieve at least 65 per cent increase in the share of the population covered by primary healthcare by 2023, up from the 12.6 per cent we cover at the moment.\u201d Buhari also urged the council to be involved in the task of providing security for the country, noting that \u201cwhile the federal government has primary responsibility for security and will not shy away from it, the states also have a critical role to play.\u201d He said governors could make a difference in their respective states not only by assisting security agencies in their respective states, \u201cbut also by keenly pursuing policies and programmes that forestall communal, tribal, religious and societal conflicts; policies and programmes that promote education, information, dispute resolution, vocational training and youth employment.\u201d He urged the governors to emulate the federal government which in the last four years has exhibited the policy of inclusiveness by relating with every state, irrespective of the governor\u2019s political affiliation. He cautioned them to avoid divisive policies and to be committed to the task of uplifting the people. He challenged NEC to explore infrastructure development, revenue generation drive as well as improvement on value-added tax (VAT). NEC: Banditry Replacing Terrorism as Potent National Security Threat The NEC reviewed the security situation in the country and resolved that banditry in the North-west is now replacing terrorism and constitutes a major threat to national security. NEC resolution was the aftermath of the security briefing at the meeting by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major Gen. Babagana Monguno. The NSA also blamed the Almajiri system in Northern Nigeria largely for some of the increasing security crisis confronting the country, saying the federal government would be left with no option than to proscribe it. \u201cThe group I spoke about on illiteracy is the Almajiri. Ultimately, the government will have to proscribe this Almajiri phenomenon, because we cannot continue to have street urchins, children roaming around, only for them in a couple of years, or decades to become problems to a society,\u201d he said. Briefing State House correspondents after the inaugural NEC meeting, which lasted for over six hours, the NSA said he told the council that banditry had gradually entrenched itself in the country. However, he said the Nigeria Police had recorded some measures of success in recent times in the battle against banditry. He said: \u201cI also briefed the council on the activities of armed bandits and elements who have gradually entrenched themselves in the landscape. \u201cI also told the council that the activities of these armed bandits were gradually replacing terrorism, which was the primary security threat. \u201cNow, the bandits in the North-west have become major threats to national security. Of course, in recent weeks, the Nigerian Police Force has made a lot of gains in dealing with these criminals.\u201d Monguno also said he briefed NEC on the state of Boko Haram in the North-east, saying the situation remains acute and can only be addressed by collective approach through intelligence and operations. However, he said the multinational task force was battling the insurgents, notably the Islamic State West Africa Province in the Lake Chad. The NSA who said he also briefed the council on the menace of herdsmen\u2019s violence, added that NEC was currently working out a template to address it. He also said he briefed the council on various criminal activities in the Niger Delta including pipeline vandalism, illegal oil refineries and piracy. According to him, in recent times, no fewer than 373 illegal refineries have been discovered while piracy has been put under control. He highlighted moves by the federal government to tackle the situation through different ways including international cooperation and maritime activities. \u201cThis situation in the Niger Delta is also affecting security in the Gulf of Guinea and we have been collaborating with the secretariat in Rwanda to work to reduce the activities of these people. \u201cSo, basically we need not just domestic but international efforts to deal with this situation,\u201d he stated. The NSA listed unemployment, under-employment, poverty, drug abuse and rising population as causes of insecurity in the country. He also blamed the inability of some citizens to acquire education as another factor fuelling insecurity. Another factor he highlighted as the solution to criminality is the reform of the Nigeria Police which he said the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, was already addressing. In his own briefing, the IGP, Adamu, claimed that generally, the security situation in the country had stabilised. He also disclosed that NEC approved the constitution of Security and Policing Committee with the governors of Ekiti, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Katsina, Ogun and Borno as members. Other members of the committee, according to him, are the NSA, himself and the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin. Asked about how the $1 billion taken from the excess crude account (ECA) by the federal government to fight insecurity and supported by NEC was spent, he said the money was meant for military use. \u201cThe $1billion I believe that you are talking about was actually earmarked for the military, not for security agencies, like the intelligence community and the paramilitary agencies. \u201cIt was earmarked for the military. As much as I know, whether it was given to them, I really don\u2019t know,\u201d he stated.