A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has declared that every Nigerian child has the constitutional right to free and compulsory primary education, and free junior secondary education.
The court, presided over by Justice John Tsoho, also declared that the federal and state governments have constitutional duties to provide adequate funds for it.
The court held that failure by any government to fund free primary and junior secondary education will constitute a breach of the constitution.
The judgment was delivered in a suit filed by a non-governmental organisation, Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), against the Federal Ministry of Education and the Attorney General of the Federation.
LEDAP had asked the court to determine whether by the combined effect of section 18(3)(a) of the 1999 Constitution and section 2 (1) of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, (UBE) 2004, the right to free and compulsory primary education and free junior secondary education for all qualified Nigerian citizens are enforceable rights in Nigeria.
Justice Tsoho who relied on a 2002 decision of the Supreme Court, held that by enacting the UBE Act, the National Assembly has made the right to free and compulsory primary and free junior secondary education contained in Chapter 2 an enforceable or justiciable right.
Reacting to the judgment, the lead counsel to LEDAP, Mr Chino Obiagwu, said that the court has now 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28 million Nigerian children who are currently out of primary and Junior Secondary School or who are at risk of being withdrawn from school.
This according to him, is because of the inability of many parents or guardians to pay the tuition fees and school expenses. Some on the other hand, he believes are withdrawn from school so that they can be given out in early marriage or be sent to the streets to hawk or beg for alms.
By this judgment however, any child not enrolled in school or who is withdrawn from school can exercise his or her constitutional rights against the parent or guardian or against the government.