The Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund) as an intervention agency in the tertiary education subsector, executes several projects for Nigerian public universities, polytechnics and Colleges of Education (CoEs).
It has over the years, with the aid of its education tax, executed key infrastructural projects such as the construction of lecture halls and theatres, Senate buildings, students’ hostels, and laboratories, across Nigerian public tertiary institutions.
￼It is still with the aid of the education tax that TETFund annually awards grants, through its National Research Fund, to research academics in the country to embark on critical, relevant and problem-solving research efforts with the aim of accelerating the country’s socio-economic growth and development.
Again, through the help of the education tax, TETFund, in 2020, established 12 brand new Academic Centres of Excellence in some select Nigerian public universities, across the six geo-political zones.
But as much as the education tax greatly assists the foremost intervention agency for Nigerian tertiary education sector, it is grossly insufficient for the implementation of TETFund’s core objectives which have been growing in recent times.
To this end, the TETFund is seeking the support of the National Assembly towards meeting its target of 3% education tax collection before the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in order to increase funding for public tertiary educational institutions in the country.
Executive Secretary of TETFund, Architect Sonny Echono, made the appeal when members of the House of Representatives Committee on Tertiary Education and Services, led by Hon. Aminu Suleiman, paid him an oversight visit in his office in Abuja recently.
Architect Echono noted that given President Buhari’s commitment on increased funding for education, and the usual support of the National Assembly, the tax rate was increased from 2 to 2.5% last year.
“The target is that before the end of this administration, it will increase to 3%, which is a commitment that the President has already given to the Global Partnership for Education,” Echono said.
Echono further commended the level of support and cooperation the Fund has enjoyed from the committee and the National Assembly, while seeking its support in effecting the amendment of the education tax law.
“This is a major area that will be seeking the support of the National Assembly in terms of legislation. The other aspect is the fact that in contravention of this oversight, we also want to open our activities more to independent assessment and evaluation on our behalf.
“So we have designed a monitoring and evaluation template that will be involving key stakeholders, like the National Assembly, even the staff unions in our tertiary institutions, to join us independently look at some of the things that we’re doing,” he added.
Speaking on the operations of the Fund and the state of finances, especially from 2017 to date, Echono stated that last year’s collection, which is what the Fund used to operate this year, dropped to N189bn.
“We witnessed a steady rise in collections under the education tax but unfortunately, last year, for 2021 there was a sharp drop and that left us in a very dire position.
“For example, as I said, from N154 billion in 2017, the tax collection rose steadily to N257 billion over the years. So by 2020, we’ve got N257 billion, but unfortunately, last year’s collection, which is what we use to operate this year, dropped sharply to N189 billion.
“So with over N60 billion drop in revenue or resources available to TETfund and the way we operate, 2021 collections were used for 2022 operations.”
Responding, Suleiman assured the Fund of its unflinching support and cooperation to ensure that the system continues to serve it’s purpose.
“We congratulate you and we assure you of our support, without prejudice to the fact that sometimes we can agree to disagree.
“Even when you were the Permanent Secretary, there were times we disagreed entirely with the ministry, but not predicated on any personal motive; and in most cases, we actually arrived at the surface. I have no doubt that our relationship will continue here. The essence is for us, like I said, to better the system,” Suleiman said.
The legislator said the visit was a legislative routine to appreciate challenges facing government agencies. But now that Echono has informed the lawmakers of the need to increase the education tax, efforts must be geared towards attaining the 3 percent target.
TETFund is one agency that has demonstrated, and is still showcasing, its avowed commitment to boosting the efficiency and productivity of the tertiary education subsector. This latest demand for a 3% tax will no doubt receive the support of not just the entire National Assembly but also that of Aso Villa.
Rahma Olamide Oladosu writes from Abuja.
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