One exception to the rule

Education Minister, Prof Ruqayyatu Rufai (second from right), Executive Secretary ,National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof Julius Okojie (left), former Head of Service of the Federation, Prof.Oladapo Afolabi, Chairman, Tertiary Education Trust Fund Board of Trustees, Dr Musa Babayaro and Director, Education Support Services (TETFund),Mallam Baba Lawan (right) displaying a prototype of the Academic Publishing Center, at the launching of the Guidelines for Higher Education Book Development in Abuja.
August 2012

…………….. No one expects any government agency to do
anything quite well, but TETFund still offers great hope

The creation of what would eventually transform to the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), as an intervention agency under the Federal Ministry of Education in 1993, was circumstantial rather than by design. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was on strike in 1992 and had been negotiating with the former General Ibrahim Babangida’s administration. The Late Prof. Aliu Babatunde Fafunwa was the Education Minister and Prof Attahiru Jega, former Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano and current chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was ASUU’s leader at that time.
The University teachers had tabled a long list of demands with huge financial implications before the federal government, which, in turn, had also challenged ASUU to come up with an imaginative way of raising funds for university education outside appropriation. It was at this point that ASUU suggested the introduction of Education Tax to the government, to be paid by all companies operating in Nigeria, the proceeds of which would then be channeled into the University system. The proposed intervention was intended to be transformative rather than palliative.
The federal government bought the idea, leading to the promulgation of the Education Tax Fund Act 7 of 1993, which was later amended by the Education Tax No 40 of 1998. However, instead of designating it specifically for higher education as negotiated, the new agency was now fashioned to support all levels of education. The logic at that time was that all the levels of public education were in need of support.
Thus, the Act imposes a two per cent Education Tax on the assessable profit of all registered companies in Nigeria. It also empowered the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to determine and collect the tax, while the agency administers and disburses the relevant amounts to educational institutions in the three tiers of government: federal, state and local, including primary and secondary schools. The agency also has the mandate to monitor the projects executed with the funds allocated to the beneficiaries.
Although, the law allows the beneficiaries to, among other things, utilize the disbursed funds for any other ancillary matters, the specific purposes prescribed include: work centres and prototype development; staff development and conference attendance; library systems at different levels of education and research equipment procurement and maintenance. Other specifics are: higher education book development fund; redressing any imbalance in enrolment mix as between higher educational institutions; and execution of the nine-year compulsory education programme.
Thus, from the outset, the agency, had too much to contend with. Besides, the impression was now created that TETFund was an alternative proprietor of some sort, with so much money to throw around, leading, ultimately, to unmitigated requests from those who apparently had abdicated their own responsibilities. Although, its impact was indeed felt across all the education levels, with many new structures in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions ascribed to the agency, it did not take time for stakeholders to agree that something about the agency’s mandate was still not right. Besides, each time ASUU went to the negotiation table with the federal government, the union would remind the government that the idea behind TETFund was to have an effective intervention specifically for the tertiary level and not in all the levels.
Thus, when Prof. Mahmood Yakubu was appointed Executive Secretary in 2007, he began consultations with strategic stakeholders on how to narrow the agency’s activities to its appropriate mandate. Meetings were held with, among others, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), both of which support basic education. While UBEC had the clear mandate of overseeing basic education, the MDGs also had eight goals, one of which is basic education. They agreed to make a case to President Goodluck Jonathan, through the Education Minister, for the streamlining of the agency’s activities in order to restore it to its original concept. The President and the Executive Council approved it. An executive bill was promptly forwarded to the National Assembly for the amendment of the Education Tax Act 1993, which had established the ETF, to pave the way for a Tertiary Education Trust Fund. The law was eventually enacted by the National Assembly and assented to by the President on June 3, 2011.
According to Mahmood, TETFund’s mandate is now more clearly defined. He explained that the agency will now focus on providing “essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, instructional material and equipment, research and publication, academic staff training and development, and any other need which, in the opinion of the Board of Trustees, is critical and essential for the improvement of quality and maintenance of standards in the higher educational institutions.”
The beneficiaries of the rechristened agency, as contained in Sec. 21 (1) of TETFund Act include public universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. All private universities, polytechnics and colleges are precluded, to the chagrin of the proprietors of such institutions.
From take off to 2010, a period of 16 years, ,TETfund has, through the FIRS, collected the sum of N463 billion as Education Tax. Much of this, however, came in the last five years, which coincided with when Yakubu was appointed as Executive Secretary. Yakubu attributed the increased revenue to what he described as the “excellent work” done by the immediate past Chairman of the FIRS, Mrs Ifueko Omogui-Okauru. It is also on record that between 1999 and 2008, the agency disbursed over N72 billion to Universities, Polytechnics, Colleges of Education Monotechnics, State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) and states’ ministries of education.
With increased revenue, much more funds are now available to the public tertiary institutions, giving room for other aspects not taken care of before now. However, the institutions also know, for instance, that until they satisfactorily and verifiably account for money disbursed to them by TETFund the previous year, they will not have access to funds for the next year. This has forced them to tow the right path.


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