Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
The clamour to amend clause 72a and 73 of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) Act 2011 and expand its scope of intervention has again suffered a major setback as stakeholders vehemently rejected any change to the law.
The stakeholders are Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Committee of Vice Chancellors (CVC), TETFund and the National Universities Commission (NUC).
Two separate bills proposing the amendments had passed first and second reading in the 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 two per cent company taxes collected; and to federal tertiary health institutions and teaching hospitals by 17.5 per cent of the taxes.
Â Speaking at a public hearing held in the House Committee on Tertiary Education Services, the National President of the 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 would violate the essence of establishing the fund which is to get private sector to contribute to funding of education through education tax.
Â â€œHow 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?â€ he said.
He 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.
Â 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.
Â On the bill to fund tertiary hospitals, he said the National Assembly in the 2018 budget, actualised the one per cent consolidated revenue fund allocated to the health sector as stipulated in the National Health Act of 2014 which should give the health sector enough fund to take care of teaching hospitals that are strictly under the Federal Ministry of Health.
â€œCurrently there over 56 federal teaching hospital, specialists/teaching hospitals in Nigeria, once this law is amended to include the proposed institutions, the demand for inclusion will increase to the extent that satisfying the request will make the intervention of TETFund ineffective.
â€œWe believe that state universities teaching hospitals will come up, states specialist teaching hospital will come up, teaching hospitals for veterinary medicine will come up and the thing will keep proliferating; the impact of TETFund will actually be watered down.
â€œMr. Chairman, we have said over and over each time we appear at the National Assembly; I think this is about the fourth time in the last four, five years that we have come back to talk about tinkering with amendment of TETFund law,â€ he said.