The Federal Government on Thursday described the rate of illiteracy in Nigeria as alarming, saying between 65 and 75 million people are illiterate in the country.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, made the remark on Thursday when he paid a courtesy call on Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State in Birnin Kebbi.
The minister was in the state for a two-day International Literacy Day conference organised by the National Commission for Mass Education.
Nigeria has an estimated population of 170 million people.
Mr. Adamu described the illiteracy figure figure as unbecoming and high, considering the country's population.
"Education is the bedrock of any country's development and any country that does not educate its populace is bound to fail.
"Unfortunately, in Nigeria we have a very large population of illiterates; the illiterates figure, considering our population, is unbecoming," he said.
Mr. Adamu, who was represented by Jonathan Mbaka, the Director of Basic and Secondary Education, Federal Ministry of Education, said that the federal government was targeting educating out-of-school children.
He said this was part of its strategic plan to reduce the number of the illiterates in the country.
"The government is doing all it can to reduce the number of children that are out of school.
"This includes the adoption of inclusive education where every Nigerian will be given the opportunity to go to school, regardless of background, ethnicity and gender," he said.
Mr. Adamu commended the governor's wife, Aisha Bagudu, for reducing the number of out-of-school children and illiterates in Kebbi State through her Mass Almajiri Literacy and Poverty Alleviation Initiative (MALPAI).
Responding, the governor said that most of the security challenges the country faced were manifestations of the level of illiteracy in the country.
"We have an army of people whose inability to read can be exploited by divisive elements in the country
Mr. Bagudu commended them for ignoring the fears and tension created by a few group of people by assembling in the state to deliberate on how to reduce illiteracy in the country.
"I am very proud that we are hosting eminent delegates from across the federation at the time like this, where there is tension, and fear in Nigeria.
"For you to ignore fears that a few people cannot intimidate us is commendable.
"Our destiny remains in our hands and not allowing inconsequential elements to determine our fate is also commendable," he said.
The governor linked the high illiteracy rate in Nigeria to Boko Haram insurgency, saying that many of the sect's followers only knew the Quran but could not interpret and digest its meanings.