Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has asked the federal government to increase the Education Tax from the current 2.5 per cent to 10 per cent to enable Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) to mobilise more funds to adequately address the decay and challenges confronting the tertiary education sub-sector.
This came as the federal government made a public presentation of 50 new textbooks published by Nigerian authors under the sponsorship of TETFund.
Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who unveiled the textbooks in Abuja, said the publications would end the dominance of foreign academic materials in the nation’s educational institutions.
ASUU President, Comrade Emmanuel Osodeke, who is attending such public functions in recent times as a result of a lingering face-off with the federal government, described TETFund as a brainchild of the Union.
While commending the agency for transforming the nation’s higher education sub-sector, Osodoke called for an increase of education tax from the current 2.5 per cent to 10 per cent to enable TETFund to improve its intervention in the tertiary education sub-sector.
He decried the poor attitude of some big companies and wealthy Nigerians on the payment of education tax, saying there was a need to reposition and expand the education tax net to bring about more resources for tertiary education institutions.
Adamu, who was represented by the Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Nanah Opiah, said: “Overtime, Nigeria’s tertiary education institutions became dependent on books published outside the country with the attendant consequences of the herculean processes and unfavourable foreign exchange rate.
“It is equally worrisome that the quality of most academic publications in our country leaves much to be desired. It is therefore expected that nourishing the culture of quality authorship and the production of indigenous books will not only ensure the availability of relevant books in the diverse subject areas taking cognisance of our local environment and sensitivities but will also safeguard national pride and reduce the demand for foreign exchange.”
The minister, who commended TETFund for the publications, challenged the agency and authors to also produce books in the nation’s indigenous languages.
“I also charge TETFund and the academia to go beyond publishing in the English Language to promoting authorship in our local languages in line with the recently approved National Language Policy,” he said.
On his part, Executive Secretary of TETFund, Arc. Sonny Echono, commended the authors, TETFund’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and others for the publication of the 50 new textbooks.
“TETFund is committed to doing this. TETFund has set a minimum target of 50 textbooks per year. I am sure that TAG will also surpass our expectations,” Echono said.
The TETFund boss also assured that the newly published books would be distributed to tertiary institutions’ libraries at no cost.
“All the books we have published so far, the initial publications are going to be distributed to the libraries of our tertiary institutions free of charge. It is the subsequent publications that students will be buying or other researchers will buy.
“We are also going to help them because the ministry has established an education cloud, we are digitising our thesis and records, and through that ecosystem, you are going to have digital copies of these materials. All we are going to do now is to ensure we will protect the authors’ intellectual property rights and once that is done, they are going to be available on the internet,” Echono said.
On the ASUU President’s clamour for a 10 per cent education tax, Echono said: “I am aware the current administration has done a lot in this regard. Mr. President in just two years has taken two bold steps, I know there is a degree of pushback from industries, from NECA about the issue of multiple taxations and the difficult operating environment, but seeing how important education is to national development, this President on two occasions; last year it was increased from 2 to 2.5 per cent and in the current Finance Bill, Mr. President has ensured that it is increased to 3 per cent.
“I don’t want to preempt until it is signed, but that shows the commitment of the President that wants to leave a legacy.
“Everyone knows that what is happening in most tertiary institutions is through the instrumentality of TETFund so increasing TETFund funding will go a long way in achieving that, whether we can go to 10 per cent currently is a conversation that will be held somewhere else.”