TERTIARY EDUCATION TRUST FUND (TETFUND)
Education is one of the most viable industries in almost every modern economy. A strong education is the backbone for any economic transformation. As Nelson Mandela of South Africa succinctly observed “education is most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. At the 20th Nigerian Economic Summit, the group described education as the sector that holds the key to national development and Nigeria’s ability to compete on the global stage.
Regrettably in Nigeria, from 1980’s and beyond witnessed a total decay of all tiers of education. Facilities had collapsed, teachers and lecturers morale was at its lowest. Enabling environment for conducive teaching and learning was virtually absent. The administration of President Ibrahim Babangida mindful of the reality of the situation took measures to arrest the rot. In December 1990, the Federal Government Constituted the Gray Longe Commission of the Review of Higher Education in Nigeria and post independence of Nigeria Higher Education after Lord Ashby’s Commission of 1959.
Similarly, Education Tax Act of No7 of January 1993 was promulgated alongside other education related decrees. The decree imposed a 2% 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 gains thereto; build capacity of teachers and lecturers; teacher’s development and development of prototype designs etc. The education Tax Act of No7 of 1993 mandated the Fund to operate as an Intervention Agency to all levels of public education (federal, state and local). This mandate was faithfully discharged between 1999 to May 2011when the ET Act was repealed and replaced by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act, due to lapses and Ea n d b i g g e s t challenges in operating the Education Trust Fund (ETF), Universal Basic Education (UBE) and Millennium Development Goal (MDG). These challenges include:
- ETF project was overburdened and overstretched, and could render palliative support to all levels of public education institutions in Nigeria.
- Duplications of functions and mandate of other Agencies set up after the ETF, such as the UBE and MDG
- The decay, rot, and dilapidation of facilities the issues in the tertiary education continued to be irritating as funds are only thinly spread.
Following the above lapses, it is evident that the Nigeria government is not living up to its expectations in the education sector in general. Over the years, the objective of meeting the United National Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommendation of 26% of the local budget allocation to Education Sector. In view of this, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund) was established as an intervention agency under the Education Tax Act No 7 of 1993, (ETF, 2011) as amended by Act No 40 of 1998. The Fund was given three cardinal objectives of rehabilitation, restoration and consolidation of Tertiary Education in Nigeria. The main source of fund is the two percent education tax paid from the assessable profit of Companies registered in Nigeria. The Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) were given the responsibility of assessing and collecting the tax on behalf of the Fund. However, funds are disbursed for the general improvement of education in Federal and State Tertiary Educations specifically for the provision or maintenance of:
- Essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning.
- Instructional material and equipment.
- Research and publication
- Academic Staff Training and Development
- Any other need that is critical and essential for the improvement of quality and maintenance of standards in the higher educational institutions.
Apparently, TETFund Act since it was amended in 2011 has been living up to its much desired expectation. This is through the inspiration and meticulous leadership style of the incumbent Executive Secretary, Prof. Suleiman Bogoro. The Fund in absolute terms is a timely intervention. It has invested hundreds of billions to tertiary institutions across board- Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. Significantly, TETFund was able to rehabilitate and upgrade laboratories of 51 federal and state polytechnics, constructed micro-teaching laboratories in 58 federal and state Colleges of Education, trained and developed close to 10,000 academic staff and supported 29 institutions to develop and publish research journals both locally and internationally.
Like the precursor, the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) was led by the President Muhammadu Buhari during the Sani Abacha regime in those days which made an indelible impression in the hearts of the people and contributed tremendously to education; TETFund under Prof. Bogoro aptly demonstrated what is possible given the right political will. The past one year has seen the Fund made progress that an organization can only make under a leadership that is amenable to change. The erudite scholar has already whipped up a micro version of the larger change that is today sweeping across the entire Education sector. The utilization of funds in the Education sector and other sectors prior to the inception of Bogoro’s regime was abysmally executed. TETFund under this regime has given hope to the hopeless, voice to the voiceless and new lease of life to downtrodden Nigerians. Nigeria has been ranked lowly among International Community in education. In the past, evidences abound that none of the Nigeria Institution of higher learning could compete favorably with her outside counterparts in terms of infrastructural facility, human capacity/teachers development and research/ publication. Today, our institutions of higher learning have been pouring a ovation and encomium on Prof Bogoro. His leadership and fastidious approach in handling this project is worthy of note and has without mincing words injected a round peg in a round hole. The growth and improvement in infrastructure is only rivaled by the capacity building for staff of tertiary institutions in the country. The implication of this is that those entrusted with educating our youths are themselves now being empowered. This move is one in the right direction because it would have been pointless building, renovating and furnishing structures while those who churn out the products remain struck as in 90s. It is therefore remarkable that this aspect was not overlooked by TETFund.
The Fund has established a Research and Development Center. It is a re-assertion of the primacy of research in the contemporary world. The Center in nearest future will definitely empower more Nigerians in terms of research and innovation. Consequently, Nigerian students can now heave a sigh of relief instead of running from pillar to post. Prospective students will likely no longer have to spend billions of naira paid as school fees that in turn power the economies of other countries to the detriment of Nigeria. Many students who would have travelled abroad for their Masters and PhD programmes can comfortably undergo it here with ease. Conversely, students from other countries of the world now undergo research programmes in Nigeria institutions due to the enabling environment that exists here.
Whatever Professor Bogoro did to turn TETFund around should be studied and properly articulated with a view to making related agencies and organizations see what they can adapt for implementation in their own sphere. Other sectors of the economy are at edge of total collapse due nonchalant and corrupt tendency of people at the helm of affairs. They need people like Professor Bogoro who has been a lone voice in the wilderness. The Professor ably must however realize that the kind of accolades following his achievements will only lead the people to demand for more. He must continually dip into his bag of ideas and come up with further innovations that can make Nigeria into an education destination, not just for the African continent but for the whole world. He must closely watch his colleagues and those who could attempt to drag him into needless confrontations aimed at distracting the change taking place at TETFund. This has happened to trailblazers in the past and it is something the country cannot afford to happen at this critical juncture when the preponderance of desire is to see the key institutions of the land reboot into functional modes for development. So like Oliver Twist, one must ask for more. He should demonstrate that Nigeria institutions can compete with their counterparts all around the globe in every facet of measurement.
In a similar perspective, the dividends of TETFund have much being felt at the Federal College of Education (Technical) Umunze. This is due to the transparent approach of our amiable and indefatigable Provost, Professor J.O Ogbuagu. He has made TETFund a non thunderous excludable good. We can all see his hand writing on the wall as the school has witnessed an unprecedented development in both infrastructural and human-capacity development. Specifically, the Fund has sponsored many staff on International Conference. A lot of staff is also beneficiaries through local conference. In the same vein, 15 staff has been energized on school based research through this Intervention Agency. Also, 40 Masters and 39 PhD students are beneficiaries in the area of staff training. Many of them have completed their programmes while others are still undergoing theirs, all happening within the short tenure of his administration. All hands must be on deck to support this national initiative and to make it stand the test of time.