By Cecilia Ijuo
Abuja, Sept. 6, 2020 Sen. Abdullahi Adamu (APC-Nasarawa), says the ongoing amendments to the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) Act is part of efforts to reinvigorate Colleges of Agriculture (COA), to enable it contribute meaningfully to national development.
Adamu, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, stated this in an interview with newsmen in Abuja on Sunday.
He said that the amendment among other things would enable the colleges to benefit from the TETFund.
NAN reports that Fund was established as an intervention agency under the TETFund Act 2011.
It was charged with the responsibility for managing, disbursing and monitoring the education tax to public tertiary institutions in the country.
Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa State, said that lack of proper funding for the COA had greatly hampered the objectives for its creation.
He said the TETFund Act (Amendment) Bill 2019, which had scaled first and second reading and currently before the relevant committee when passed and signed into law would restore the fortunes of the colleges.
He noted that while other higher institutions of learning were benefitting from the Fund, it was not the same with the COA.
The senator lamented that the colleges were benefitting from the TETFund at a point but for some reasons it was stopped.
“The effect of stopping COA from benefitting from the TETFund is that there is no attraction for good lecturers to stay and work in the colleges.
“Those who are benefitting from the Fund often take away the good hands from the COA to their institutions because they have the financial capability.
“As a result, the colleges are becoming less significant and less attractive for academicians.
“So, for the colleges to have the where withal to develop infrastructure for those levels of educational pursuit for agriculture, the funds have to be made available,” he said.
Adamu stressed that ensuring adequate funding would change the fortunes of the colleges and enhance its operations.
He said the measure would encourage education of people to work in the agricultural sector such as extension workers and other specialists.
“If we do not have the right education work, if we do not have the right expertise in research and other things in colleges, we will not get the best.
“We are hoping that once the fortunes of these colleges improve, the performance will also improve.
“When that happens, the students will be an improved specie and it will be to the benefit of agriculture in Nigeria generally,” he added.
Commenting on the National Agricultural Research Council Act (Amendment) Bill, also before the National Assembly, Adamu said that he sponsored the bill to ensure adequate funding for the Council.
According to him, the Agricultural Research Council, meant to be an apex research institute in the country ought to be repositioned because it was not living up to the expectations.
The lawmaker said the council with over 20 research institutes in the various aspects of agriculture was not well funded.
“At the moment, their recurrent budgetary allocation, that is, salaries and wages, is almost 100 per cent. Overhead, which includes travels, seminars and workshops, is between 40 to 60 per cent.
“But the capital allocation is between 12 and 20 per cent and it is the capital budget that caters for the equipment required for research.
“Go to any research institute in the country and ask what research they have carried out over the last 10 years and you will realise there is nothing new.
“So people are being paid without carrying out research and the few instances where there are research works, they are gathering cobwebs in the shelves,” he said.
Adamu lamented that besides poor funding, the law establishing the council had been prone to abuse in various ways.
“People who led the place were not agricultural scientists. Somebody who did Public Administration becoming the Executive Secretary cannot deliver effectively.
“These all came about because it was confused to be one of the government’s agency instead of a research institute.
“It got to a point when the staff of the council were embarking on incessant strike and there was a time they did not have an executive secretary.
“So, with this law, everybody will sit up and we believe that the main problem would have been resolved,” he added.
The lawmaker further revealed that he was sponsoring another bill, the Agricultural Development Fund Bill, to give legal backing to spell out specific funding areas of the fund.
He said the funds usually kept with the Federal Government were taken from the Federation Account, adding: “there are no laws for the use of the funds, instead any time the government sense pressure from any part of the economy, it resorts to the funds.
“This started from the military era to the Fourth Republic and it is still going on.
“So; with the law, we want to see what aspect of the fund will generate the kind of funds that will make for the promotion of agriculture in Nigeria,” he said.