Following the insistence of Governor Ayo Fayose not to back out of the imposition of N1,000 education development levy on private schools in the state, the Catholic Church in the state has again denied reaching such agreement with the government.
Governor Fayose had insisted that the decision to impose the fee was reached at the September 6, 2015 Education Summit.
Catholic Diocese of Ekiti, Most Rev. Felix Ajakaye, has vowed to go ahead with the court action against the policy.
The Catholic diocese of Ekiti had asked the state government to exempt its schools from payment of education development levy imposed on private schools in the state with a threat to institute a legal action against the government “in the circumstance that any of the schools under my custody is disturbed” for the payment of education levy.
The cleric said under the Ekiti State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Law, 2005, the state government had the mandatory obligation to provide free and compulsory education for every child of primary or junior secondary school age, adding that “No law empowers the state government of Ekiti to impose Education Development Levy on pupils/students of mission schools in Ekiti state.”
Following which Fayose had responded through his Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Hon. Jide Egunjobi, insisting that there was no going back on the N1, 000 and N500 education levy imposed on private and public primary and secondary schools respectively in the state, pointing out that that the decision on the education development levy was reached by all stakeholders at the education summit held last year.
In a swift reaction on Wednesday, the Catholic Bishop said “there was never any discussion, not to talk of decision, on Education Development Levy on Private and Mission Schools”, pointing out that 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.
The Bishop, in a statement made available to journalists in Ado Ekiti on Wednesday, averred that the action of the Catholic Bishop to go to court on the contentious was not a declaration of war on the state government as being painted, adding that the church would not also succumb to blackmail over the issue.
Bishop Ajakaye clarified that two of the seven schools claimed to have complied with the payment of the fee by the state government, including Ave Maria International College, Osun Ekiti and Immaculate Nursery/Primary School, Ilupeju, are not owned by Catholic Diocese.
“Even if the pupils and students of the mission schools have paid, not just the seven, we would have still followed the path of justice and honour. We didn’t threaten anybody or the state on the matter.
“We planned to go to court just to seek redress. Notably, Catholic Church does not threaten and cannot be threatened. It can never be intimidated and neither would it succumb to blackmail”, he said.
He added that representatives of the private and mission schools were at the summit, saying they wouldn’t have waited without raising observation where levy will be imposed on them to revamp infrastructure in public schools, describing this as akin to ‘’robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
The Bishop contended that Education Summit is different from Economic Summit, saying the government should better look for other means to increase its internally generated revenue, rather than this lopsided way.
“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?” the Bishop queried.
The Bishop insisted that the church won’t waver on its resolve to seek redress in court, regardless of how the government feels.
“With the present stand 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” the Bishop stated.