By Winifred Ogbebo, Michael Oche and Uju Ujukwu, Abuja
The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) indicated yesterday that there wouldn’t have been any need for the ongoing strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
It said it has since 2016 increased funding for tertiary institutions in Nigeria by threefold to enable the institutions become world class in standard and to improve their global ranking.
The executive secretary of the Fund, Dr Abdullahi Baffa, who stated this yesterday during a sensitisation workshop at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) headquarters in Abuja, noted that TETFund’s commitment to ensuring quality of tertiary education in Nigeria is total.
Baffa said, “Based on the sharing formulae enshrined in section 7(3) of the TETFund Act, the distribution of funds are in the ratio of 2:1:1 as between universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
“Therefore, for the 2016 interventions, universities received N1.009 billion, Polytechnics N 691.63 million and Colleges of Education N679 million as opposed to universities N337 million, polytechnics N250 million and Colleges of Education N227 million in 2015”.
ASUU had on August 14, 2017 embarked on an industrial action to protest poor wages and infrastructure at the nation’s universities.
Among the issues ASUU raised are funding for the revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowances, registration of Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company and pension matters, university staff school, fractionalisation and nonpayment of salaries among others.
The TETFund boss, who was represented by the director in his office, Barr Ifiok Ukim, said the idea of increasing allocations was to improve the world ranking of the tertiary institutions.
This, he said, is of deep concern to President Muhammadu Buhari who is determined to reverse the trend.
He added that TETFund will collaborate effectively with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to ensure that there is improvement in education tax collections that are made available to the Fund’s benefiting institutions.
According to Baffa, TETFund recently embarked on an access clinic and project proposal defence by beneficiary institutions, which was aimed at discussing, diagnosing and resolving all the difficulties impeding access to Fund’s interventions.
“It was observed that most of the institutions were not conversant with our guidelines or aware of the existence of some of our intervention lines, thereby leading to poor access to our intervention funds”, he said.
He noted that TETFund has success in its areas of mandate through the provision and improvement of the physical infrastructure in all its 202 benefiting institutions from 2011 to date as its jets litter all the campuses of Nigerian’s public tertiary institutions.
He said, “In 2011, the Fund launched the National Research Fund (NRF) with a seed fund of N3billion to support cutting edge research in areas of critical national need and development. So far, a total of N1.7billion has been accessed by lecturers to finance their research activities.
“TETFund also allocates funds on annual basis to institutions for their Institution-Based Research (IBR) for research projects that are not more than N2 million per project.
“Remarkable progress has been made in the area of academic staff training and development. As at May 207, a total of 17, 482 have been sponsored by TETFund for Masters and Ph.D courses in top ranked universities both in Nigeria and overseas”.
On his part, the Vice Chancellor of NOUN, represented by deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), Professor Victor Adedipe, acknowledged the ignorance of some staff members of NOUN on the guidelines of accessing TETFund’s interventions, just as he appreciated the Fund for the sensitization programme.
“I will not end this remark without appreciating TETFund for all its support so far to NOUN. In fact, this building we are currently is courtesy of TETFund. The university really appreciates and thank you for all the assistance we have received so far”, he said.
We’ll go back to work if we are paid– Doctors
Meanwhile, resident doctors in the country have given condition for suspending their ongoing strike action, saying they will do so as soon there is evidence of payment of salaries to affected Federal Tertiary Health Institutions (FTHI) as agreed at a meeting between them and the federal government.
The figure of the salary arrears is put at N13.2billion meant to address the shortfalls in public sector, including payment of salaries of affected doctors in FTHI.
This was part of the agreement reached early Friday morning between the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and the federal government.
The doctors agreed that once the payment is confirmed, they would present the outcome of the re-negotiated Memorandum of Terms of Settlement to an emergency meeting of its members today, with a view to suspending the strike.
According to the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement reached between the doctors and the government team, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) did receive one Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) of the sum of N13.2Billion to address the shortfalls in public sector, including payment of the salaries of affected doctors in FTHI.
It was however agreed that the OAGF has to employ checks and balances in disbursing government funds.
Though verifications had been done by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), there was still need to carry out authentications.
This entailed that payment would therefore be made directly to the affected FTHI for doctors and staff that have been authenticated and additionally, a soft copy would be forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, CMDs, NARD and NMA.
The agreement noted: “The FTHIs on list A of the document submitted by NARD that have been authenticated by OAGF were expected to receive payments on or before Friday, September 8, 2017 as OAGF tendered a mandate containing 8 FTHI and pledged to forward an additional list of the remaining FTHI to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for necessary action between September 7 – 8, 2017
“That the 2nd batch (list B) Mandate will be treated as soon as their AIE is sent to OAGF since NARD claimed that PICA had verified the shortfalls”.
The meeting noted and agreed with NARD’s demand for a 100% payment of salaries to its members.
The agreement reads further: “However it was observed that the shortfalls were basically experienced by those not on the IPPIS platform termed “Non Regular Allowances/Payments”. The challenges on this issue were discussed extensively and it was noted that the OAGF was currently capturing the Paramilitary Staff on IPPIS Platform and would be ready to deal with members of NARD by first week of October precisely October 4, 2017.
“In this regard, it is expected that the 100% payment will be implemented as from October 2017, as September salaries were already at advanced stage of preparation. However, any shortfall that occurs will be treated together with that of August, 2017.
“Other issues such as failure to circularize house officers’ entry point, failure to correct the stagnation of promotion of our members and properly place them on their appropriate grade level, failure to budget, deduct and remit both the employer and employees’ contributions our pension to our retirement savings account since 2013 were also resolved during the meeting”.
It was also agreed that the federal government will appeal to state governments and organisations that owe salary shortfalls/emoluments to health workers to make genuine efforts to liquidate these arrears in the spirit of revamping the health care system in the country.
It was also agreed that no member of NARD will be victimised as a result of the strike if suspended, after the emergency meeting of Friday, September 8, 2017.
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