TETFund: The return of Bogoro
The sudden reinstatement of Professor Suleiman Bogoro as the Executive Secretary is still a subject of discourse.
The reality to start with is that, the appointment and removal followed due process, as the authorities vested with such powers were the ones that exercised it.
What is of interest, is what the return of Bogoro portends for the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
TETFund was established as an intervention agency under the Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act of 2011, with the responsibility for managing, disbursing and monitoring the education tax to public tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
To enable the agency achieve the above objectives, the act imposes a two per cent Education Tax on the assessable profit of all registered companies in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the federal tax body is empowered by the Act to assess and collect Education Tax.
The Fund administers the tax imposed by the Act and disburses the amount to tertiary educational institutions at Federal and State levels.
It also monitors the projects executed with the funds allocated to the beneficiaries.
According to Section 7 of the TETFund Act, the mandate of the fund is to administer and disburse the amount to federal and state tertiary educational institutions, specifically for the provision and maintenance of essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, instructional material and equipment.
Other objectives include research and publication, academic staff training and development and any other need, which, in the opinion of the Board of Trustees, is critical and essential for the improvement of quality and maintenance of standards in the higher educational institutions.
With above mandate, the leadership of the Fund occupies strategic position within the national education system.
Nigeria is presently experiencing turmoil in the higher education sector with ongoing strikes by university lecturers and general complaints about poor state of infrastructures in the higher institutions.
A general state of despondency has descended on the education sector. Bogoro’s return at this critical state is of significance. What can he do differently from the status quo?
What new ideas can he bring to bear on the system? How can he make the Fund truly impactful on the higher institutions?
It needs to be said from the onset that Bogoro is a man full of ideas with clear grasp of the office. Whether in or out of office, he has consistently served as the mouthpiece of reform and reorganization within the nation’s education system.
Many industry people agree that the Bauchi academic knows where the shoe pinches. Interestingly, having being in and out of the office, it is assumed that he must have review the scenario better and should be in a better position to address whatever impediment is holding down the fund.
He had in the past canvassed that universities can only survived if they adopt the non-budgetary funding option.
He had noted in the past that with the prevailing experiences of below 10 percent budgetary allocation by federal and state governments coupled with the current economic situation, more innovative, alternative source of funding for education must be introduced to save public universities, which presently hold 92 percent of the overall total university student population in the country.
With increasing difficulties faced by proprietors and management of both public and private universities, owing largely to irregular funding regimes, there is need for regularity of funding and more innovative and frugal management of resources, he had canvassed at a convocation lecture.
Bogoro had said despite the recent licensing of state and private universities to cater for increased demands for access into our universities, dwindling resources and inadequate prioritization of education have combined to stifle the otherwise good intentions of state governments.
At another lecture, he observed that with the positive correlation between higher investment in education and competitive parameters in contemporary knowledge-driven economies, government, citizens and corporate entities must upscale their investment in the sector.
“If State governments religiously apply the funding laws that require them and Local Government Councils to contribute specified annual budgetary funds to their universities consistently for 10-20 years, the impact would help in reducing their financial obligations subsequently.
More importantly, there is urgent need for state governments and citizens to come together and explore more innovative additional sustainable funding windows for state universities like legislation for national or state-level lottery, state education trust fund and consultancy fees among others.
“Besides, with more creativity and innovation by governing councils, management, senate, staff and student unions through peer review of local and overseas universities, one hopes that very soon our public universities will stop going cap in hand, while our private universities would blossom and overtake the public universities, which is the current global trend”, he said.
With countless considered options about how to address challenges in the education sector, the re-appointment is a serious test for this professor of Animal Science.
He is lucky, however, because as a former executive secretary he had severally identified why the fund is yet to fully satisfies the yearnings of tertiary institutions.
He had in the past identified improper documentation and problems associated with financial reports as some of the major factors limiting the access of tertiary institutions to the funds.
“In the past, TETFund observed with dismay that one of the major problems associated with accessing funds was improper documentation and rendition of financial returns.
It is this problem that necessitated the Fund to come up with a draft format on efficient and effective guidelines for projects, programmes and financial reports,’’ he said.
While admitting that TETFund’s insistence on strict adherence to the guidelines was posing a challenge for the institutions in their efforts to easily access the funds, his second coming challenged him to now take a second look at the guidelines.
This is to ease the hurdles without disregard for due process, as well as laid-down rules and regulations. Whatever must be done, enhancing access to the fund must be a major preoccupation of the executive secretary.
Counting on his integrity as an administrator, most observers expect not just easing of access but new procedures to ensure selection and early completion of priority infrastructure projects across the tertiary schools.
Other areas of interest include access to research funding for scholars. Just like the infrastructural projects, there are concerns too that the procedures for research funding appear too cumbersome and seem designed to block accessibility.
While standard should be maintained, there may be a need for a second look to reduce the bottlenecks and red tapism. Utilizing research outputs in the economy is also an area of concern.
It is not enough to fund researches; many stakeholders advocate application and integration of research findings into the economy and the national development process.
From all considerations, the return of Bogoro looks like a blessing in disguise for the nation. As an experienced administrator reputed for his disciplined antecedents and style, TETFund should have a new lease of life.
This piece was written by Ms Bolade Olawale