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By Innocent Oweh, Correspondent, Abuja
When the Federal Government announced the establishment of the Education Trust Fund (ETF) through the Education Tax Decree, No 7 of 1993 before it later metamorphosed into Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), the whole idea was to create an intermediary agency to manage the two percent of all assessable profits of companies registered in Nigeria on its behalf as a special intervention funds for the education sector.
Beyond this fact, it is also not in doubt that manifestations of the general rot in the education system were probably another factor that necessitated the establishment of the agency too.
Then, Nigeria’s educational system both at the basic and tertiary level had started to experience a general decline, with various stakeholders already raising concerns of the prospects and future of the nation’s education system.
The major characteristics then was a general unrest in the tertiary system, occasioned by incessant strikes and agitations by Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), Non Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) among other sister unions within the system, with an alarming rate of dropout in young school children nationwide.
By 1994, when the fund effectively took off, it became the mandate the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to collect the monies and domicile it with TETFund for disbursement in the sector.
The overriding objective was to channel all the funds towards the improvement of the quality of education in both structure and capacity through intervention programmes at all levels of the education system in Nigeria, until 2011, when the National Assembly carried out an amendment to the Act, forcing it to shift emphasis to tertiary institutions alone.
Twenty years down the line, the collection of education tax in the country has witnessed a geometric progression with over N128 billion collected in 2011 alone as stated by the Acting Executive Chairman of FIRS, Kabir Mashi.
Recently, in Lagos, the TETFund and FIRS found it worthy to showcase their score card to Nigerians, particularly to explain to the taxpayers how and what areas the funds have been disbursed.
The programme, tagged Taxpayers Forum, 2012 is intended to be an annual event and was organised to honour some of the notable companies that have been consistent in paying their tax to the FIRS.
Mashi who succeeded Ifueko Omogui Okauro as FIRS boss, said, “Over the years, the collection of education tax has witnessed a geometric progression in collection performance with N1.96billion collected in 1995, N21.8billion in 2005 and N128billion collected in 2011.
“The board and management of FIRS are very proud to be associated with the laudable initiative that showcases the usage of taxpayers’ money.
“The feat recorded within these few years of its existence is not unconnected with the way the fund had been deployed, in the face of numerous teething challenges, the fund had made tremendous impacts on our educational system, I am aware that this government agency has set a standard for countries within Africa to learn from.”
On his part, Executive Secretary of TETFund, Mahmood Yakubu said the success of the scheme has made Nigeria a rallying point for other African countries desiring to boost funding for their educational system.
He revealed that the initiative has already been exported to the governments of Tanzania, Ghana and Sierra-Leone, with plans to establish the African education trust fund in the near future.
And in solidarity with the intervention agency, representatives of the Tanzania Education Authority, (TEA) Rose Lalabuka, Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), Cobbah Alfred Mills and Sierra Leone Tertiary Education Commission, David Koroma were all on ground at the event.
According to Mahmood, “We need as part of government policy to deepen and strengthen accountability and transparency to continue not only to showcase to Nigerians, but also the tax payers what we have used the money for, it’s money from corporate tax but ultimately it’s also public funds,
“It’s over N500billion over 18 years, and as I said in my presentation if we take three universities, University of Ibadan Ahmedu Bello University, Zaria and University of Nigeria, Nsukka, commit all the monies collected over the last 18 years, it would make them world class universities, but remember we are funding 74 universities”.
Nigeria’s Minister of Education, Ruqayyatu Rufa’i in her keynote address at the forum, collaborated what Mahmood said, stating that Federal Government’s direct intervention funds injected into all tiers of the education sector in the past 18 years is estimated at N591.6 billion.
She noted that a significant amount of the money, representing over 70 percent was collected within the last two years.
While acknowledging that the Nigeria business communities were becoming more aware of their corporate social responsibilities, she said through the intervention scheme, Federal Government has sponsored a total of 5,867 lecturers for both local and international programmes to boost their proficiency and ultimately shore up the capacities of graduates churned out of the academic system.
She noted that through the initiative, government has delivered on its mandate of providing both teaching and physical infrastructures for the academic communities in Nigeria in the past 18years.
It would be recalled that precisely, on August 27, 2012, the agency commenced the second phase of funds disbursement to aid publication of journals in Nigerian Universities.
This intervention amounted to N260million and was disbursed to 52 professional associations in the academic system to publish home grown books which is also aimed at reducing over dependence on foreign journals.
Rufa’i who flagged off the journals programme in Abuja at the Headquarters of the National Universities Commission, said, “Government intention is to encourage the important culture of academic publication by our own scholars instead of simply spending money to buy books and journals from other nations.
“This administration believes that while we are part and parcel of the global community of knowledge, our scholars should, first of all, be encouraged to conduct research.
“One of the laudable objectives of the fund is to support the resuscitation of scholarly journals, two years ago, 52 journals of professional associations were selected, each was supported with a grant of N5million to improve the contents, aesthetics, website and regularity of the its journals.”
TETFund, by virtue of the provisions establishing it is meant to complement other grants by Federal and State governments, specifically for the provision or maintenance of essential physical infrastructures for teaching and learning.
Including, the provision of instructional materials and equipment, research and publications, academic staff training and development and any other need which, in the opinion of the Board of Trustees, is deemed critical and essential for the improvement and maintenance of standards in the higher educational institutions.