• Demands Increase in Education Tax to 10%

From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has raised the alarm over the absence of Governing Councils in federal universities for nearly a year, stating that this renders the institutions’ operations illegal.

“Are we serious in this country at all? We are obviously not serious with our education system,” ASUU President Emmanuel Osodoke lamented at a recent workshop. “Nigeria is the only country in the world where universities are allowed to function for one week without a Governing Council.”

He emphasized the legal requirement for Governing Councils to oversee university activities, stating, “Universities function illegally if there are no Governing Councils, and that’s exactly what it means. Heads of the tertiary institutions practically operate solely without checks and balances, which is contrary to the Establishment Act of the universities.”

Osodoke challenged the government to act swiftly and constitute the Governing Councils, stating, “We have done research/survey of education funding in West African countries and discovered that the least budget for education in any West African country was 15 per cent, and the highest was 32 per cent. Sadly, Nigeria still struggles with 4.5 to 7 per cent, some of which are not even released at the end of the day.”

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He further proposed increasing the education tax from 3% to 10% to significantly boost TETFund revenue and address funding challenges in the sector. “A few years ago, former President Muhammadu Buhari took the bold steps and approved the increase in education tax from two per cent to three per cent,” Osodoke noted. “That resulted in a significant increase in funds available for disbursement to the tertiary institutions. TETFund revenue rose to over N600bn last year.”

The President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), represented by former President Anderson Ezeribe, echoed ASUU’s concerns and called for TETFund to implement stricter monitoring mechanisms to ensure value for money in its interventions.

“ASUP has been involved in activities that have taken our representatives across the country to look at equipment in the laboratories and others in the tertiary institutions, and the reports are not good ones,” Ezeribe stated. “I want to join the ASUU President to stress the importance of TETFund to activate a platform that will ensure monitoring at the institutional level. That’s one sure way of extracting value for money.”

TETFund Executive Secretary, Sonny Echono, acknowledged the importance of the workshop in identifying areas for improvement and ensuring the effectiveness of interventions in the tertiary education sector. “Funding educational activities requires careful consideration of different needs and expectations,” Echono said. “Funding must also be directed at essential programmes which align with the strategic objectives in terms of outcomes of investment in either physical or content development that the funding usually supports.”