By Demola Atobaba, Ado-Ekiti
Frontline legal icon and founder of Afe Babalola Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Aare Bamofin Afe Babalola, SAN, has called for an immediate amendment to Section 7(1) of the TETFUND Act, which he says contradicts the provisions of Section 3(1) of the Act and violates Section 18 of the 1979 Constitution in order to address the obviously-unconstitutional, unfair and unjustifiable exclusion of private institutions from benefiting from the funds accruable from TETFUND.
Speaking at the commencement of the 48th Conference of the Nigerian Association of Law Teachers (NALT) in Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) on Tuesday, Babalola wondered why the provisions of Section 7(1) of the Act should exclude private institutions, including universities, from benefiting from the funds collected from companies, which are mainly private.
Babalola recalled how consequent upon the failure of public universities to fully accommodate a majority of qualified candidates, the Federal Government granted licenses to private individuals and organizations to establish private universities in 1999 as a result of the number of such private universities has increased steadily with the passage of time.
He was miffed that despite the fact that private universities offer a viable alternative to public institutions and even complement and aide the drive of the government to increase the accessibility and quality of education, private universities do not receive any form of funding from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund.
According to him, a careful reading of the relevant sections of the law shows that the intention of the lawmakers in imposing Education Tax on registered companies in Nigeria is for advancement of education to various levels and categories of education through rehabilitation, restoration and consolidation of education in Nigeria.
Curiously, however, by the provisions of Section 7(1) of the Act, private institutions including universities are excluded from benefiting from the funds collected from companies which are mainly private. “It seems clearly that Section 7(1) of the Act contradicts the provisions of Section 3(1) and violates Section 18 of the 1979 Constitution. The exclusion of private institutions apart from the contradiction between Sections 3 and 7 of the Law is obviously unconstitutional, unfair and unjustifiable”.
As if to absolve the government of any deliberate wrong-doing in this matter, Babalola said the government may probably be right to think that if the fund is made available to all private universities, without let or hindrance, it may be abused as some people will just wake up one morning and claim they have established some nebulous private universities just for them to access funds from TETFUND.
To straighten things out, he recommended that any private university which operates on its permanent with a minimum of 20 of its academic programmes accredited by the NUC, the Regulatory Authority for University Education in Nigeria, and has also commenced its Postgraduate studies should have an unfettered access to TETFUND facilities as it is done in other parts of the world.
Taking a cue from the theme of the 48th NALT Conference: “Mainstreaming Interdisciplinary Approach to Legal Education: Imperatives for Nigeria’s Development,” the learned Senior Advocate opined that legal knowledge needs to be combined with other forms of expertise, such as knowledge of markets and customer needs in order to create innovative new products and services.
That, according to him, is why ABUAD cares so much about its students and their future as a result of which it has created interdisciplinary and outreaching model of entrepreneurship education: the more reason why it offers undergraduate courses in soft managerial skills, teamwork skills across all disciplines including law, such as, Introduction to Entrepreneurship (GST 116), Introduction to Entrepreneurship Skill (GST 212) and Practical Entrepreneurship Skills (GST 301) and Afe courses which include Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, French, Chinese, biography and auto-biography of great men.
Besides, it also offers 28 Physical Education Sports programmes, which are geared towards providing the students with the values, knowledge and skills needed to face complex social and environmental challenges and build community connections as well as strengthen relationships across national and international spheres.