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Echoes From TETFund/FIRS Interactive Forum

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Before now, Tertiary education in Nigeria is faced  with serious  decay including low lecturers’ morale  due to what they go through while discharging their duties. The lecturers’ productivity was said to be very  low due to low pay package.

Apart from the  poor pay package, their working environment was not so conducive due to broken down facilities which are in a complete state of decay.

Other challenges faced by tertiary education include poor learning/teaching facilities,  lack of research  incentives, incessant strike actions by members of the Academic Staff unions of University (ASUU).

The implication of this is that students who  the institution of higher learning churned out on yearly basis end up becoming “half baked” notwithstanding the years  spent  in school in pursuit of various academic programmes.

The students end up graduating without securing  jobs for themselves. Even when job opportunities are available, the graduates are not employable because they  lacked  the requisite/ basic skills required for employability in the  labor  market.

As should be expected, this  it brings  grievous  retrogression to the economy of the nation since most graduates  who ought to  make  meaningful contributions towards the the  development/ growth of the economy of the nation end up becoming a  big burden.

To get Nigerians off this ugly   and poor situation of poor quality education which accounts for graduates becoming unemployed after going through a tertiary education, the  then administration of President, Ibrahim  Badamosi Babangida mindful of the reality of the situation took measures to arrest the rot.

By  1990,  the federal government  constituted a  Commission on the Review of Higher Education in Nigeria (the Gray Longe Commission),  to review the post independence Nigerian Higher Education after Lord Ashby’s Commission of 1959.

The Longe Commission recommended among several other issues including the funding of higher education through earmarked tax to be borne by companies operating in Nigeria. An implementation committee under the chairmanship of Professor Olu O. Akinkugbe was constituted  to implementation Grey Longe’s Commission report’s recommendations.

Also, an Agreement was signed between the Federal Government and ASUU on 3rd September, 1992, on funding of universities.

In January 1993, the Education Tax Act No7 of 1993 was promulgated alongside other education related Decrees. The Decree imposed a 2 per cent  tax on the assessable profits of all companies in Nigeria. This was a home grown solution to address issues of funding to rehabilitate decaying  infrastructure, restore the lost glory of education and confidence in the system as well as consolidate the  gains and   build capacity of lecturers; teacher development and development of prototype designs.

The Education Tax Act of No7 of 1993 gave authorisation to the Fund to operate as an Intervention Fund to all levels of public education (Federal, State and Local). This mandate was faithfully discharged  between 1999 to May 2011 when the ETF Act was repealed and replaced by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act, due to lapses and challenges in operating the Education Trust Fund.

Records  from  Bureau of Statistics shows  that as at 2016, 38 per cent of Nigeria’s  population density  that falls within the employable age are not employed  with 65 per cent  of the  youths living in squalor  due to lack of  jobs.

Of course, among measures put in place to address the challenges faced by  tertiary education in Nigeria is the establishment of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). The agency was initially established as Education Tax Fund (ETF) by Act No.7 1993.

In 2011, the law establishing the Fund was amended through Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund), Act No.16 which  focused on only public Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. Since then, it has been one success story after another.

At the just concluded joint TETFund/FIRS Interactive Forum where stakeholders meet to brainstorm on current trends  affecting management of  tertiary education in Nigeria, in Calabar, Executive Secretary of  TETFund, Prof. Suleiman Bogoro stated that  N728.225,862,128.86 has been allocated during the period under review by the fund to  intervene  in critical areas of tertiary education in Nigeria so as to raise educational standard.

Bogoro who  was  represented at the forum by  the deputy director finance and  investment, Gloria Olotu, charged benefitting institutions  to utilized the fund prudently.

He said that TETFund under his watch, has expanded  its mandate by not only making  funding that can take care of physical infrastructure  but stimulating high quality research  by beneficiary institutions  to enable them  address their socioeconomic challenges.

Bogoro who spoke  on ‘Mitigating the Challenges of Education Tax Collection in a Recuperating Economy’, stated that the amount allocated  will  be used   to  cater for  physical infrastructure, project maintenance, entrepreneurship, academic staff training and development.

He listed other areas which the money can be channeled to include library development and research among others for the  various public tertiary educational institutions across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

TETFund executive secretary averred that the fund had already made available  take-off grants for some newly established universities where federal government budgetary provisions were not available.

He pointed out that in the area of facilitating  researches to spearhead  national development, the board of trustees  made   approval for  additional N5bn and noted that over N2bn has been accessed by researchers to carry out researches in various fields of human endeavors stressing that since kickoff  of the programme in 2012,  over 133 proposals has been given  approval.

“At the commencement of this intervention in 2012, only 30 proposals were received,  out  of which 13 proposals were adjudged fundable to the tune of N266,570,615.00.

“The fund received 1,846  research proposals out of which 39 proposals were successful and the sum of N1,024,602,374.00 approved by the Board of Trustees to cover the three thematic areas of research”. Bogoro added.

When asked to explain on what the fund had done to give succor to some Nigerian scholars stranded overseas, an issue which almost dragged the country /the fund’s  image to the disrepute sometimes ago,  the executive secretary stated that the issue had been resolved, with appropriate steps taken by TETFund to eliminate the lapses that led to the situation.

“Already, payments have commenced for certified TETFund scholars facing this predicament”. Bogoro emphasised.

Speaking on challenges, the TETFund  boss decried low capacity utilisation by beneficiary institutions which after accessing the fund, failed to complete  projects  at specified time adding that problems of such nature were compounded  due to lack of provisions for sanctions in the fund’s enabling law.

For his part, the Executive Chairman of FIRS, Tunde Fowler who spoke on ‘Tertiary Education Collection, The Activities, Performance, Challenges and Recommendations”, urged TETFund to prioritise  sensitisation campaigns so that the tax payers will be abreast of how the taxes they pay are used noting the measure was necessary so that tax payers would not feel betrayed and cheated.

Interestingly, different stakeholders who spoke at the even applauded the TETFund for its modest achievements in repositioning the tertiary education sector and urged the managers of the fund to sustain what is generally regarded as  judicious use of tax payers’ money.

 

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