Stakeholders in the education sector has again rejected the clamour to amend clause 72a and 73 of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, Act 2011, and expanding of its scope of intervention.
Two separate bills proposing the amendments had passed first and second reading at the House of Representatives and came up for public hearing on Monday where stakeholders said no to an attempt to expand the scope of TETFund’s intervention to private universities by about 10 per cent of all the 2 per cent company taxes collected; and to federal tertiary health institutions and teaching hospitals by 17.5 per cent of the taxes.
Speaking at a public hearing held by the House of Representatives Committee on Tertiary Education Services, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, said private universities are private enterprises which should be contributing to TETFund and not drawing from it.
Ogunyemi argued that allowing private universities to benefit from TETFund will violate the essence of establishing the fund which was to get private sector to contribute to funding of education through education tax.
He warned that 40 out of the 74 private universities, representing about 54 per cent of private universities, were faith-based and encouraging them to draw from TETFund will open another window of national crisis.
The ASUU president also argued on the lack of geopolitical spread of the institutions as over 70 per cent of the universities are concentrated in two or three zones of the country which will further raise eyebrows about government using public funds to support private universities in some geopolitical zones.
On the bill to fund tertiary hospitals, he said the National Assembly, in the 2018 budget, actualised the 1 per cent consolidated revenue fund allocated to the health sector as stipulated in the national health act of 2014 which should give the health sector enough fund to take care of teaching hospitals that are strictly under the Federal Ministry of Health.
Also speaking, the Executive Secretary of the Fund, Dr Abdulahi Baffa, rejected calls for the amendment of the law, stressing that the Act establishing the fund was not broken and does not require fixing.
He described the proposal to include federal tertiary hospitals as an anomalous decision taken to soothe the ego of certain individuals who have put medical education in serious jeopardy and by the same token put medical practice in a quagmire in the country.
Chairman Committee of Vice Chancellors of Federal Universities and Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Prof Joseph Ahaneku, rejected amendments to the TETFund Act and wondered why tuition-charging institutions should benefit from public funds while federal universities are in need of funds as they have not received enough fund to manage the institutions.
Also speaking, the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, Prof Abubakar Rasheed, aligned with calls to stop the amendments, stating that NUC does not have an independent opinion on the matter.
Rasheed said NUC has convened a meeting with stakeholders to discuss the state of medical education the country and expressed hope that he would return to the House with the outcome of the meeting.