By Adesina Wahab
When the Education Tax Fund, ETF, transformed to the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund with the mandate to bridge the gap in the provision of facilities, training of teachers etc in tertiary institutions in the country, a lot of expectations set in. This is because it is daily becoming clear that government’s funding of education is becoming grossly inadequate. The Fund derives its revenue from the Education Development Tax, EDT, that the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, helps collect. The tax is from the profits declared by public quoted companies.
It used to be 2 percent of the said profits, but with the enactment of Finance Act 2020, it was jerked up to 2.5 percent. The leadership of TETFund is hoping that the Act would further be amended and the percentage increased to three. Even at the current levels, many stakeholders in the education sector, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, whose struggle led to the setting up of the body, have given kudos to it for helping to change the landscape of public tertiary institutions and boosting the careers of lots of lecturers.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, it really affected the revenue of many firms and thereby reducing the EDT that was collected. At a recent interactive session with beneficiary institutions and individuals in Lagos, the importance of tax to national development and education in particular, came to the fore.
Speaking on the occasion, the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Mr. Sunny Echono, said the need to boost the EDT cannot be overemphasized. “Tax collection is vital to the growth of the education sector and in the light of this, we have to appreciate the support and contributions of the FIRS. Eligible tax payers must be drawn into the tax pool. In 2021, what we got was N189 billion which was lower than the over N200 billion that we got in 2020 and we had to scale down our activities.
“We are, however, glad that the inflow this year has been very impressive, as at September this year, we had N309 billion, which was even higher than the N305 billion target for the whole year. We are grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari for raising the EDT from 2 percent to 2.5 percent.
” We hope that our target of N500 billion by 2025 would be met and that the President would help raise the EDT to 3 percent before leaving office. We will continually justify the confidence reposed in us by making judicious use of the funds, ” he said.
Echono added that apart from the provision of physical facilities in tertiary institutions across the country, no fewer than 37,000 academic staff have been trained at postgraduate level within and outside Nigeria on the bill of the fund.
In his speech, the Executive Chairman of FIRS, Mohammed Nami, noted that the agency was making significant progress in revenue collection.
Nami, represented by Abubakar Mohammed, said FIRS had become the major contributor to the revenue purse of the federal government in the last few years.
“We are deploying technology in the collection of tax. The Finance Act 2020 as amended has helped us in generating more funds and we are constantly looking at areas we can improve on. In 2021, the total collection we made was N6. 4 trillion, but by September this year, we have collected N7.5 trillion,” he stated .
The management of beneficiary institutions such as the Yaba College of Technology, and the Federal College of Education, Technical, Akoka were in attendance to testify to how TETFund has helped in the provision of facilities and in the training of their staff.
The Rector of Yabatech, Obafemi Omokungbe, emphasised the need for corporate bodies and individuals to support in the provision of facilities in schools. He added that it was in the light of that that the college recently launched a N50 billion endowment fund.
Officials of TETFund and FIRS later took a tour of Yabatech to assess projects executed there.
Many individuals who also benefited from scholarship awards and training workshops courtesy the Fund also gave testimonies and offered advice on areas needing improvement.