By Ayo Oyoze Baje
Running a university, be it public or privately-owned, is not a tea party. It demands a brilliant vision; to institute and execute the right processes and procedures and getting them right, even from the beginning as Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google admonished. Correct projections must be made and pro-active measures and mechanisms put in place to oil the machines of the day-to-day administration.
Similarly, solid and stable infrastructure, high quality manpower, state- of- the- art libraries and laboratories are equally needed, all with the aim of producing top-range manpower as the engine to drive the nation’s economic growth. Obviously, therefore, much money is required to achieve the lofty aims of the proprietors and chief promoters of such universities. It should be noted, that establishing private universities is not for profit but to place Nigeria in the comity of nations, when it comes to meeting international standards on education delivery and economic prosperity.
In the light of this, it is curious, if not unjust, that private universities in Nigeria are being denied access to the much-needed Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). Incidentally, part of the fund comes from the private sector, even as research findings from such citadels of learning are meant to benefit the entire nation, given the glaring fact that graduates produced from both the public and private universities enter the same perilous labour market.
As rightly noted by much-respected Prof. Isaac Adeyemi, the Vice Chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State who doubles as the Chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Registrar of Private Universities (CVCRPU), the repositioning of privately-owned universities for improved performance and service delivery would remain a mirage without adequate funding.
Incidentally, that formed the theme of the 2015 Annual General Meeting of the body, as the esteemed members of CVCRPU gathered at the main auditorium of the prestigious Chief Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) the previous week.
Said he: “For private universities to be repositioned, resource verification for new programmes must be enforced and accreditation requirements (for existing programmes) must be met. Doing this will relieve private universities of the burden of dual resource verification and accreditation, with the attendant pressures.”
This clarion call could not have come at a more auspicious time because “Nigeria has witnessed massive capital flight running into billions of naira not only to Europe, North America and South Africa, but also to neighbouring countries along the West African Coast.” Unfortunately, some of these universities are either not approved by their host countries or are substandard by Nigerian standards. In addition, the fees charged by these universities are higher than what their Nigerian counterparts are currently charging! The import of this ugly development is that many parents in Nigeria lack confidence in our education system. TETFUND should therefore come to the rescue.
In retrospect, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) was established by an Act of the National Assembly in June 2011. The Act replaced the Education Tax Fund Act Cap. E4 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and Education Tax Fund (Amendment) Act No 17, 2003.
The Fund was set up to administer and disburse education tax collections to the Federal and State tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria. The main source of income available to the Fund is the 2% education tax paid from the assessable profit of companies registered in Nigeria.
Of essence, the communiqué of The National Conference on Transparency, Accountability and Ethical Values in Tertiary Institutions for Sustainable Development justifies the increasing need for private universities to benefit from TETFUND. In this regard, the 8th National Assembly should take a more holistic look at this request, which is in the best interest of the country to fast track our educational development.
Nigerians should be worried that back in the early seventies four of our universities ranked amongst the best ten on the African continent but the reverse is the situation today. This is another food-for-thought for our policy makers and those who implement them.
—Baje, a veteran journalist, wrote from Lagos
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