Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja has declared that the right to free and compulsory basic education up to Junior Secondary School as enshrined in the Constitution can now be demanded by every Nigerian child.
Justice Tsoho, in a judgment on Wednesday, held that both the federal and state governments were constitutionally required to provide adequate funding for the free education scheme.
The judge said although the right to free education in Section 18(3)(a) of the Constitution was ordinarily not enforceable like all other rights provided for in Chapter 2 of the Constitution, the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 enacted by the National Assembly has elevated the right to an enforceable status.
The judgment was on a suit filed by a group, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP).
The court held that the failure of any government at the state and federal levels to fund the scheme would constitute a violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Federal Ministry of Education and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), who were named defendants in the suit, failed to file any document in response to the suit filed in 2015, until February 28, 2017, when the Federal Ministry of Education filed a notice of preliminary objection.
At the proceedings, Justice Tsoho dismissed the preliminary objection before he proceeded to deliver the judgment on the substantive suit.
In a statement issued yesterday, LEDAP’s Executive Director, Adaobi Egboka quoted the plaintiff’s lawyer, Chino Obiagwu as describing the judgment as hope for 28 million Nigerian children.
The statement quoted Obiagwu as saying, “Honourable Justice Tsoho has today given life and hope to over 28 million Nigerian children who are currently out of primary and junior secondary school or who are at risk of being withdrawn from school because of the inability of their parents or guardians to pay the tuition fees and school expenses, or who are withdrawn from school so that they can be given out in early marriage or be sent to the streets to hawk or beg for alms.