Aminat Isah, Abuja
Stakeholders in the education sector on Monday kicked against the amendment of clause 72(a) and 73 of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, (TETFund) Act 2011, as well as the expansion of the scope of its intervention.
Two separate bills proposing the amendments had passed first and second reading at the federal house of Representatives and came up for public hearing on Monday where stakeholders tersely spurned the amendments as an attempt to weaken the impact of TETFund.
The bills seek to expand TETFund interventions 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.
“How can we be deploying public funds to support private investment? They are charging fees and making profit and they are coming back to say they want to draw from public funds?” he said.
He however 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.
Presenting the position of TETFund, the Executive Secretary of the Fund, Dr Abdulahi Baffa, refuted calls for the amendment of the law, stressing that the Act establishing the fund was not broken and does not require fixing.
Baffa took a swipe at the promoters of the amendment to include private universities who failed to show up at the public hearing or were unable to make their presentations, describing it as a sound ground of rejecting their request.
“Again, Mr. Chairman, when intending interested persons wishing to establish a private university apply to NUC, one of the requirement is that they provide an evidence of certain quantum of resources available for the establishment and maintenance of the university.
“If after granting the license they would turn round and be requesting for money from government, it means that what they presented as evidence is not correct and this should be reason to withdraw the licence.
“If ETF, the precursor TETFund, was established to arrest rot and decay and was established to avoid government from charging tuition fee, how could tuition-charging institutions ask to draw from TETFund? This defeats the essence of establishing ETF and of establishing TETFund,” he said.
The NUC boss advised the House to mandate NUC to include a statement in the licences issued to private universities to read “no recourse to public funds” so as any attempt to draw from public fund could result in revocation of the licenses.
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.
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