The Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and Tertiary Education Trust Fund,TETFund has said there is the need for an increase in tertiary institutions tax from 2.5 percent to three percent to improve research and development in the country.
The Committee made this submission during its oversight visit to TETFund to ascertain the level of 2021/ 2022 performance of budget, in Abuja.
Explaining the reason for the oversight visit, the Committee said, ” Upon the enactment of 2022 Appropriation Act, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria resolved that Committees should embark on oversight visit on MDAs under their jurisdiction. Consequent upon the above, the Committee commenced this oversight with the main Ministry and today TETFund.”
The fund 2. 5percent education tax paid from accessible profit of companies registered in Nigeria has obviously had a massive and sustaining impact on the improving tertiary education in Nigeria through several interventions, said the Senate Committee.
Describing the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Arc. Sonny Echono as Performer extra ordinary, the delegation led by their Chairman, Hon Ahmed Baba Kaita expressed hope that, the ES would replicate the same vision and mission of transforming education sector he had while he was serving as the Permanent Secretary of the ministry in TETFund.
The Committee maintained that, Education and Health sectors are two critical sectors that drive development hence the need for an upward review from 2.5percent education tax to three percent.
To this end, the delegation hoped that in the third Assembly the tax would be increased to three percent.
Also, while expressing his satisfaction over the reforms and excellent performance of TETFund for the year under review, the Chairman of the Committee used the opportunity to appeal to the Fund to incorporate Mathematical Centre in its interventions, saying that no country can thrive in the area of, research, science, technology, and innovation without embracing mathematics.
Kaita also urged TETFund to expedite efforts on providing Oxygen generator requested by Kaduna State Polytechnic during COVID- 19 in 2020.
Also, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, a member of the Committee, commended Echono for the robust interventions, carried out so far, called on intellectuals to provide a home answer to the COVID 19 response.
Utazi also called for entrenching of entrepreneurship in Nigerian university.
Speaking earlier, Echono appreciated the Committee for its usual support, saying that the harmony between the National Assembly and Education Sector was highly responsible for achievements recorded in the sector since past seven years.
He expressed gratitude to National Assembly for considering the passing of Finance Act last year which resulted to increase in education tax percentage to 2.5, adding that it was done on consultation and share acceptance of the need to increase funding and investment in education.
The Executive Secretary explained that TETFund engages in establishing, revitalising and support of benefiting tertiary institutions which classified as Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education in the area of infrastructure, training and development of academic staff, promoting research and innovation.
He said in 2021, TETFund disbursed N213bn to tertiary institutions. This, according to him, included the take- off grants for establishment of new institutions.
TETFund had the highest level of disbursement past seven and eight years, adding that through the 2.5 percent tax received the Fund has trained over 35000 academic staff both home and abroad with the plan to expand the number.
He said Fund has established Centre for Excellent in 24 institutions as a way of making them relevant to society and to solve societal problem.
Other programmes of action included, promoting employability of graduates, empowering tertiary institutions on ICT where each the campus will have in library or designated space for 24 hours internet services so student could access online sources; digitalising thesis- introduction of anti-plagiarism; promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the tertiary institutions.
He disclosed that TETFund is embarking on completion of all the abandoned projects in the Nigerian tertiary institutions by next year, a comprehensive list on the projects and institutions has been compiled with the view of completing them in phases.
Reacting to the Chairman Senate Committee’s request on providing oxygen generator for Kaduna State Polytechnics, Echono explained that Fund had approved N50million for the research, while half of the money has been paid.
On the incorporation of Mathematical Centre in the TETFund’s intervention funds, the Executive Secretary said the decision for the interventions to focus sharply on Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education which was the main driver of law is inhibiting TETFund from inclusion.
He, however, said the Fund is collaborating with the Mathematical Centre and the three other inter- University Centres in area like research.
He also announced that through the intervention of the Fund, Nigeria overcame the usual long wait of collecting of COVID-19 sample and getting the result.
Echono disclosed that TETFund, apart from funding research in COVID-19, is also funding research in Lassa- Fever and communicable diseases.
Also on research, the ES informed Senate Committee that the COVID-19 vaccine project sponsored by the Fund would be ready for first clinical trial in November this year.
He informed the Committee about the plan of the Fund to commence construct zonal offices in the states by next year.
The TETFund’s boss, therefore, attributed the reforms to the combine effect by increased percentage and internal operation measures put in place the management, disclosing that Fund exceeded the contribution it ever received in the past 10years.
While promising to do more with the continued support of the Senate Committee, Echono said TETFund has over 200 projects to commission soon.