• Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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Abdulsalami Abubakar’s appeal for FG to support private institutions

Abdulsalami  Abubakar’s appeal for FG to support private institutions

Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former Nigerian Head of State recently appealed to the Federal Government to render support to private universities through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and other agencies of government. This is with regard to the various initiatives currently being exclusively enjoyed by public institutions.

Abubakar, who is also the Chancellor and Chairman, Board of Trustees of PAMO University of Medical Sciences (PUMS), Port Harcourt, Rivers State also called on the state governments to support private institutions in their various states, for an improved standard of education of the students.

It is beyond arguments to say that private universities have made ample contributions to the development of education in Nigeria since their emergence some twenty years ago.

They have added significant fillip to university education hitherto provided by only federal and state universities. As stakeholders, private universities are closing a gap in the attainment of university education of Nigerian youths.

By way of support, private universities can be made to enjoy tax-free business operations and other tax duty waivers

We, therefore, believe that it is necessary for the federal government supports private universities through The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) since the bulk of these funds emanates from taxes from the private sector, including private universities.

After all, the students from these institutions are citizens of Nigeria who are already contributing positively to the country’s economy. In fact, many of them who are now either as entrepreneurs or employees are already contributing to the payment of these taxes. Since TETFund was formed to support the delivery of tertiary education for all qualified Nigerians, the exclusion of patrons of private universities amounts to discrimination.

In the United States of America for example, private universities are usually not operated by governments, although many receive tax breaks, public student loans, and grants. Public universities receive funding from the government, while private universities are funded by endowments.

Most private universities also receive financial supports from the government in the form of grants or federally insured student loans.

Given the giant strides that have been made by the private universities in Nigeria since its inception about twenty years ago, there is no doubt that the development they offer to the country is an opportunity to further move in, plugging identified gaps in tertiary education and leapfrogging our drive towards technological advancement. That is only possible if the country will address some of the challenges being faced by these private institutions, which have to do with the lack of access to long-term funding.

The time has therefore come for a review of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment, etc.) Act of 2011, so that privately-owned tertiary institutions in Nigeria can benefit, alongside their government-owned counterparts, from the TETFund.

The mandate of TETFund for the rehabilitation, restoration, and consolidation of tertiary education in Nigeria can only be partially met if its focus continues to remain exclusively on government-owned universities, while private universities, which constitute 50 percent of the universities in Nigeria, are left out. Whereas, the fund itself is generated through contributions by the private sector, by virtue of the 2 percent education tax paid from the assessable profit of companies registered in the country.

Greater progress can only be made in the development of tertiary education with support, as offered by TETFund if such support is also extended to privately-owned tertiary institutions.

Read also: Major events that shaped education in 2021

Be that as it may, suffice it to be said that Nigeria is not yet ripe for such a benevolent act in a comprehensive way, as many may cash in on this to obtain funds from the federal government.

We have in Nigeria many glorified secondary schools used as polytechnics and universities. And there is every tendency that the owners of such institutions, who in most cases are the politicians or affiliates to politicians would want to hijack the opportunity for less noble ends.

Besides, should the federal government choose to honour this call of Abdulsalami, we fear that it might create a leeway for many other private businesses to begin to agitate for funds from the government.

Thus, no matter how we choose to look at it, private universities are essentially individual businesses geared to profitability. Whether they are making profits now or not is another issue. But the undeniable fact is that the owners are in the business for profit.

We have in Nigeria businessmen and women in the mortgage, textile, agricultural, etc; business who also need federal government interventions.

We, therefore, support that the federal government should only help universities who need funds to do researches by way of giving them grants.

There are many other ways the federal government can boost learning environments in Nigeria. The government should first equip the public universities to enable them to accommodate more students and reduce insistent ASUU strikes that are paralyzing studies in tertiary institutions.

By way of support, private universities can be made to enjoy tax-free business operations and other tax duty waivers.

For now, at least, we wish to reiterate that Abubakar’s suggestion should be adopted only in a modified form. Wholesale support; No. Rather, such assistance should be confined to research projects on the platform of TETFUND.