Catholic schools, Fayose in face-off over education tax

The new education levy introduced by the Ekiti State Government is setting it against the Catholic Church, which has vowed to take the matter to court. KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE writes about the issues

When the 2015 Ekiti State Education Summit was convened by Governor Ayodele Fayose to chart a new future for education in the state, nobody knew the outcome would generate a fresh crisis in the education sector.
Speaking on the theme, ‘Restoring the lost glory’, the Chairman of the Summit and the Oluyin of Iyin Ekiti, Oba Ademola Ajakaye, lamented that students could not construct simple sentences any longer.
“If we are able to get it right at this level, the story would change for the better,” he said urging parents to be part of the change.
The then Provost, College of Education, Ikere Ekiti, Prof. Francesca Aladejana, in her papers, said education should be built on strong moral values and religious knowledge, calling for a review of the curriculum.
In its resolution, the summit agreed that “funding of education is no more government business alone, all stakeholders must be part. It should be a cost sharing arrangement.
“Entrepreneurship education should be given priority at primary and secondary school levels; welfare of teachers should be given top priority, parents should intensify monitoring of their children and Ministry of Education officials should monitor teachers.”
The governor at the summit also promised to go after private school owners.
“We are going to take the issue of taxation seriously as no government thrives without it. Private school owners should pay up their dues and levies,” he said.
A few days after the summit, the government announced a new tax regime where pupils in primary and secondary schools would be required to pay N500 each and N1,000 each per term, respectively, if finally approved.
The state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mr. Jide Egunjobi, made this known in a press release made available by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Idowu Adelusi.
According to the statement, there are 178,263 students in the 879 public primary schools; 48,960 in Junior Secondary Schools and 55,677 in Senior Secondary Schools in Ekiti State, making a total of 282,900.
Egunjobi said all stakeholders in the education sector, including parents and teachers, consented to the introduction of the education development levy at the Summit.
“Before now, secondary school students were paying N100 as PTA levy, N300 for Extra Lesson and N600 as Examination Fee while primary school students were paying N100 as PTA levy, N300 for extra lesson and N200 as Examination fee, making N600 per term,” he said.
“Apart from the Educational Development Levy of N1,000, secondary school students will pay N500 as Parents Teachers Association’s levy, N600 for examination, N300 for extra lesson, making N2, 400 per term while it is proposed that primary school pupils will pay N100 as PTA levy, N100 for Extra Lesson, N100 for examination, making a total of N800 per term.
“Students of public schools in Ekiti were paying PTA, examination and extra lesson levies before Governor Fayose assumed office,” the statement said.
Egunjobi reiterated the government’s commitment to the restoration of the State’s lost glory in the education sector.
The government, however, did not begin the enforcement of the levy until last term.
Nevertheless, on March 14, private schools in the state began a three-day strike to protest against the imposition of the development levy.
The National Association of Proprietors and Proprietress of Private Schools in Ekiti contended that the extension of the levy to private schools ran contrary to the spirit and letters of Section 42(1) (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution.
The President of the Association, Alhaji Saka Adeleye, said the private schools would remain shut for three days to protest against multiple taxation.
Adeleye wondered why the government extended the levy to private schools that enjoyed no benefits from government, despite paying 12 different taxes imposed on them.
He listed the taxes to include Annual Renewal Fee, Personal Income Tax, Pay As You Earn for staff, Personal Development Fee, Registration of Business Premises Fee, Environment Levy, Vehicle Permit fee and Tenement Rate.
“There is no infrastructural development extended to private schools. Nothing was given to us to develop our schools; all the government does is to extort us with taxes. Even during the outbreak of the deadly disease-Ebola-no kit was given to us.
“We use our capital to fund our schools. There have been no textbooks or chalks from the government. The government distributed laptops to public schools but not one was given to private schools. So what are we gaining?
“Even the meeting we were able to have with the Commissioner for Education (Jide Egunjobi) ended half way as he was summoned by the governor mid-way into the meeting. He promised to get back to us but till this moment, we never heard from him.”
The association described the policy as discriminatory and unconstitutional against NAPPS, which is an employer of over 20,000 workers.
“In view of the foregoing uncontroverted facts, it is practically impossible for members of our chapters to pay the new levy. It is our humble view that our amiable governor has not been well briefed or advised in respect of this matter.
“We call on the ministry to withdraw forthwith all the circular letters relating to payment of the newly introduced development levy in private schools in the state and/or any other development levy.”
But the state government has accused the proprietors of exploiting parents.
Egunjobi said school owners who cannot produce evidence of payment of other statutory levies imposed by the state will remain shut even after the self imposed strike.
Accusing some of the proprietors of inflating the levy, the commissioner noted that some of the schools had already collected the money from parents without remitting the same to the government.
“We have indicated interest to see the receipts of all statutory levies. Receipts of renewal fees, upgrading and approval fees related to the schools must be produced. I have text messages from parents, who claimed to have paid the education development levy, yet some of these schools are among those who have not remitted the money to the government.”
The case took a religious twist when the Catholic Church threatened to sue Fayose over the levy, advising the government to exempt its schools from the schools to pay the levy.
Citing Ekiti State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Law, 2005, the church said the state government had the obligation to provide free and compulsory education for every child of primary to junior secondary school classes.
The Bishop of the Diocese, Most Rev. Felix Ajakaye, stated this in a press statement made available to journalists in Ado Ekiti.
He threatened to file a legal action against the government “in the circumstance that any of the schools under my custody is disturbed.
“No law empowers the state government of Ekiti to impose Education Development Levy on pupils/students of mission schools in Ekiti state.”
Ajakaye said that the church viewed the new tax as another burden on parents, whom he said were already overwhelmed with taxes in different forms by the state government.
He recalled with pain how the state, under the military regime in 1975, “forcibly” took over 106 Catholic primary schools, seven secondary schools and one technical school without compensation.
He added that the new tax was unnecessary because schools established by the Church had been paying various levies and taxes demanded by both local and state governments.
“The Catholic Church in Ekiti land implores the state government to see the Church as great contributor to quality education and a formidable partner in the development of education in the state. Therefore, the status of the Catholic schools must be recognised as defined by their purposes and they should be treated accordingly,” Ajakaye added.
But the state government in a swift response said that there is no going back on the levy in both state-owned and private schools in the state, including the mission schools.
It said that mission schools in the state would not be given preference over other schools because the decision was reached by all stakeholders at the 2015 Education Summit.
The Commissioner for Education in a statement, said, “No other body apart from the federal and state government has power to make policies concerning the operation of both private and public schools in the country.
“It is wrong for any organisation to claim that it has its own education policy that is different from that of the state and that no law empowers the state government of Ekiti to impose Education Development Levy on pupils/students of mission schools in Ekiti State,” he said.
Egunjobi disclosed that seven schools owned by the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti State had already complied with the government policy by paying the development levy, dismissing the threat to sue the government by the Catholic Diocese.
 “Christ The King Catholic College, Ire; St. Theresa`s Catholic School, Ikole; Ave Maria International College, Osun; St. Joseph`s Nursery/Primary School, Ado; Immaculate Nursery/Primary School, Ilupeju; St. Philip Catholic Nursery/Primary School, Otun and St. Louis Nursery/Primary School, Ikere have all complied with the government directive on the development levy,” he said.
The commissioner also disclosed that mission schools owned by the Anglican Diocesan, Christ Apostolic Church, Apostolic Faith, Baptist Church, Deeper Life and Muslim Societies have already paid the levy.
“It has become necessary that we correct the impression the press conference addressed by the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti, Most Rev. Felix Ajakaye, on the payment of Education Development Levy in Ekiti State was meant to create.
“In some states, Crèche Fee, Back Duty Levy, Entertainment or Merriment Levy and others levies are collected from schools and mission schools are not exempted.
“Whether or not mission schools should be treated differently does not even arise because most of the mission schools in the state have paid the development levy. Even the Catholic Diocese that is threatening legal action, seven of its schools have paid.”
But faulting the government’s position, the Catholic Bishop accused the state government of acting outside resolutions reached at the 2015 Ekiti Education Summit.
He maintained that the Education Development Levy imposed on pupils in private primary and secondary schools was not part of the resolutions reached at the summit.
Ajakaye said, “There was never any discussion, let alone any decision on Education Development Levy on private and mission schools.”
He said Catholic Church was one of the stakeholders at the summit and was not part of the resolution that such tax should be extended to private and mission schools, contrary to what the state government had claimed and made the public to believe.
Stating that Education Summit was different from Economic Summit, Ajakaiye advised the state government to look for other means to increase its internally generated revenue.
He said, “Here is a poser for the state government, why can’t it impose same education levy on public and private tertiary institutions in Ekiti State?”
“With the present stance of the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti on the imposition of the Education Levy, Ekiti State Government may decide to close our schools. We have to go beyond threat and weigh our actions today as we plan for tomorrow. Posterity will judge.”
In all this, the State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, Samuel Akosile, advised all stakeholders to support the government to revitalise the education sector.
In a telephone interview with our correspondent, he said, “Government alone should not be left for the development of education. The task of developing education should be collective. We appeal to parents to pay the money.
“The private and missionary schools are all for profit making. They ply government’s road and so should be ready to pay tax. The privileged and the rich in the society, whose children are in such schools, should support the government.
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