Written by Godfrey AKON

ASUU, others reject amendments to TETFund law

Efforts to amend the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, Act 2011 and expand its scope of intervention have suffered setbacks as stakeholders firmly rejected changes to the law.

Two separate bills proposing the amendments of clause 72a and 73 had passed first and second reading at the House of Representatives and came up for public hearing held by the House Committee on Tertiary Education Services.

The bills seek to expand TETFund interventions to private universities by about 10 per cent of all the 2 per cent company taxes collected; and to federal tertiary health institutions and teaching hospitals by 17.5 per cent of the taxes.

Speaking at the public hearing which was Chaired by Aminu Suleiman, Chairman, House Committee on Tertiary Education Services, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, rejected the idea od including private universities in the list of be3neficiaries as that will violate the essence of establishing TETFund.

“How 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?” 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.

Ogunyemi 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.

On the bill to fund tertiary hospitals, he said the National Assembly, in the 2018 budget, actualised the 1 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.

“Currently 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.

Presenting the position of TETFund, the Executive Secretary of the Fund, Dr Abdulahi Baffa, refuted calls for the amendment of the law, stressing that the Act establishing the fund was not broken and does not require fixing.

Baffa said “again, when intending interested persons wishing to establish a private university apply to NUC, one of the requirement is that they provide an evidence of certain quantum of resources available for the establishment and maintenance of the university.

“If ETF, the precursor TETFund, was established to arrest rot and decay and was established to avoid government from charging tuition fee, how could tuition-charging institutions ask to draw from TETFund? This defeats the essence of establishing ETF and of establishing TETFund.”

“Just like workshops of colleges of engineering, just like workshops of biochemistry students, just like laboratories of biology students, just like the laboratories of computer science students, medical teaching hospitals were laboratories and are still laboratories.

Earlier, the Chairman of Committee of Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors of Federal Tertiary Health institutions in Nigeria, Prof Thomas Agan, appealed to the National assembly to amend the Act to provide more funding for the health institutions.

Agan said “this Act needs to be amended. As you are aware, the teaching hospitals and other tertiary health institutions are the workshops of all the universities in this country. Over 80 per cent of students that go through medical colleges of university must go through the tertiary hospitals before they qualify.

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