Echono implores Buhari to pass Finance Bill 2023 as parting gift to education sector
The Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Arc. Sonny Echono has just spent one year in office. Yet, his giant strides by way of significant contributions towards repositioning Nigeria’s tertiary education sector speak for themselves.
It is no doubt that TETFund under Echono has recorded major milestones, not only in research, innovations, partnerships as well as efforts at tackling text book deficit in tertiary institutions, he has also done well in the area of revenue generation, considering the challenge of paucity of funds prevailing across government owned tertiary institutions in the country.
Aware that the Fund cannot achieve desired goals without enough capital, Echono canvassed for increase in Tertiary Education Tax. Although the tax was increased to 2.5 per cent, the Finance Bill 2023, which is awaiting President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent, provides for an upward review to three per cent. The tax is imposed on every Nigerian company at the rate of 2.5 per cent (as amended in the 2021 Finance Act).
With the expected increase, the Fund can expand its scope of interventions. Based on this understanding, the Executive Secretary appealed to Mr. President during the week to assent to the Finance Act amendment bill as a parting gift to the education sector and a fitting finale to his manifest desire to improve education funding in the country.
Echono made the appeal during the 2023 Annual Strategic Planning Workshop and Presentation of Intervention Guidelines and Allocation Letters to beneficiary institutions.
Echono’s appeal to Mr. President to ascent the bill before leaving office in May, has become very necessary in view of the incessant industrial actions embarked upon by tertiary institutions over infrastructural deficit, obsolete equipment and poor working conditions, especially for academic staff.
Beyond the presentation, the forum also served to receive feedback from stakeholders as well as evaluate the performance of its intervention lines to help the Fund deliver on its mandate in a more effective and efficient manner.
While announcing the government approved N320 billion to public tertiary institutions, he attributed the current fortunes of the nation’s tertiary education sector to the commitment of President Buhari’s administration to quality education. He noted that within an interval of eight years (2015 till date), a total sum of N1.702 trillion has been disbursed as Education Tax collection to public universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. This figure was against the sum of N1.249trillion disbursed from the inception of the Fund in 1993 till 2014 (21 years).
The N320, 345, 040, 835 TETFund intervention fund for public tertiary education institutions in the country for the year 2023 was for public universities, polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
Echono said: “The remarkable success is due to sustained efforts at expanding and increasing efficiency of collection of Education Tax and added impetus is the gracious approval of Mr. President for an increase in Education Tax from 2.0 per cent to 2.5 per cent in 2021.
“We are grateful to all the key actors, notably the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu; Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed Shamsuna; the Chairmen and members of the Senate and House Committees on Finance as well as my brother and Chairman. Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), Mohammed Nami.”
The ES also recalled that a recent workshop provided him an opportunity to listen to several complaints and problems facing several beneficiary institutions. “And we were able to respond appropriately to many of the issues raised and committed to looking into those that required our careful examination and review”, Echono stated.
While waiting for increased revenue, he taxed heads of beneficiary institutions to ensure a smooth, timely, judicious and effective implementation and utilization of the year 2023 intervention allocation, to make the needed impacts in the respective tertiary institutions.
At the Wednesday’s forum was also the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed. He suggested that between 70 and 80 per cent of intervention funds allocation should go to the universities.
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, David A. Adejo, urged the beneficiary institutions to use the intervention judiciously.
For the Executive Secretary, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Professor Idris Muhammad Bugaje, the fund should be allocated equally among tertiary institutions.
Bugaje said: “So you can always change those regulations. Why don’t we all accept, as brothers and sisters, to allow every tertiary institution, be it a college of education, polytechnic or university, take equal share of these allocations? I am appealing to Vice Chancellors to drive the agenda of equal sharing.”