VMT News Ltd
No 1 News Site in Nigeria

TETFUND: TRANSFORMATIVE REFORMS AGENDA VERSES CORRUPTION FIGHTING BACK WITH IMPUNITY

522

TETFUND: TRANSFORMATIVE REFORMS AGENDA VERSES CORRUPTION FIGHTING BACK WITH IMPUNITY

TETFUND’S STAND: NO AMOUNT OF DISTRACTIONS CAN STOP THE ON GOING REFORMS IN TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS

Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history. – Joan Wallach Scott

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. – Socrates

By Hannatu D. L.

TETFund has been the lifeline of Tertiary Education in Nigeria as its intervention projects all over the federal and state-owned institutions in the country, stands out as the most impactful and successful projects in the universities, polytechnic and colleges of education.

The Federal Government of Nigeria establishes the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) in 2011 to disburse, manage, and monitor education tax to public tertiary institutions in Nigeria

TETFund is an essential part of Nigeria’s education sector, whose success is highly dependent on a robust, transparent and accountable system that ensures resources are appropriately allocated towards achieving public service delivery in the education sector

The agency came to existence because from 1980’s and beyond, the decay of all tiers of education was monumental. Facilities had almost collapsed; teachers and lecturer’s morale were at its lowest. Enabling environment for conducive teaching and learning was absent.

The administration of President, Ibrahim Babangida mindful of the reality of the situation took measures to arrest the rot. In December 1990 the Federal Government constituted the Commission on the Review of Higher Education in Nigeria (the Gray Longe Commission) to review the post-independence Nigerian Higher Education after Lord Ashby’s Commission of 1959.

The Longe Commission recommended among others the funding of higher education through earmarked tax to be borne by companies operating in Nigeria. An implementation committee under the chairmanship of Professor Olu O. Akinkugbe was constituted for implementation of Grey Longe’s Commission report recommendations, also an Agreement was signed between the Federal Government and ASUU on the 3rd September, 1992 on funding of universities.

TETFUND: TRANSFORMATIVE REFORMS AGENDA VERSES CORRUPTION FIGHTING BACK WITH IMPUNITY

Arc. Sunny Echono, the Execuitve Secretary of TETFund

Arc. Sunny Echono

 Arc. Sunny Echono after taking over the affairs of TETFund, he sorts to consolidate and improve upon the reforms initiated by his predecessors. He started by addressing the challenges associated with building a solid relationship between academia and private sectors.

The Echono led administration created an endless source of the academic workforce needed for national development through strategic innovations and programmes to his credit, TETFund brokered top local and international partnerships and initiated initiatives and programmes beneficial to achieving excellence in Nigeria’s Tertiary Institutions.

Under his watch, TETFund had entered strategic partnerships with notable institutions, including, ‘The University of Brazil, Vicosa for the training of more Nigerian professionals in agriculture, secured transnational cooperation with the government of Britain, forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Campus France on collaboration in the areas of joint research and promotion of innovation, training of qualified Nigerian academics in French higher educational institutions, scholars/students exchanges and support for French language immersion programme, as well as the African Union (AU) in areas of research and collaboration that would aid the growth and development of tertiary education in Nigeria.

To protect the academic integrity of educational institutions and academia, it was reported that TETFund initiated a Digitization Project Steering and Coordinating Committee with the mandate to create a national research bank to serve as a repository for academic work and to generate an extensive collation of local institutional research into Digital Repositories in line with international standards in public tertiary institutions across the country.

Also, under his leadership, TETFund set up a Coordinating Secretariat to operationalize the partnership between the government, private sector and academia

TRANSFORMATIVE REFORMS AGENDA

Echono came with transformative reforms agenda for TETFund. Items he spelt out included, but not limited to, Internal Reorganisation towards greater efficiency; swipe on Erring Contractors and staff of tertiary institutions in Overseas Training Funds; suspected Procurement Racketeering involving TETFund staff; Curriculum Review; Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship; ICT Advancement; Deepening Research Development and Innovation in Tertiary Institutions; Partnerships; and Books Publications.

WALKING THE TALK

He walked the talk when he initiated practical reforms aimed at promoting prudent spending, curbing financial leakages and wastages, and ending programmes or projects that were not productive to the agency or tertiary institutions across the country.

The TETFund Boss believes that transparency and accountability are also crucial in addressing some of the challenges in the agency. He argues that through greater accountability, the leaky pipes of corruption and inefficiency will be repaired, and funds will be channeled more effectively towards initiatives of more significant and visible result

Also, in line with his Transformative Reforms Agenda of accountability and transparency, Echono reviewed the agency’s procurement processes to conform to standard practices and extant laws. He also championed the reorientation of the agency’s workforce through seminars and workshops to acquaint workers with the new practice. This ultimately discouraged the deployment of unethical practices within the agency.

Arc. Sunny Echono has so far shown great courage; he does not shy away from stepping on toes in his determination to provide purposeful leadership. It is on record that the era of frivolous programmes and initiatives without benefits to the operational mandate of the agency has been discontinued and replaced with laudable programmes with an impact on the promotion of focused and transformative intervention in public Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria.

TETFUND: TRANSFORMATIVE REFORMS AGENDA VERSES CORRUPTION FIGHTING BACK WITH IMPUNITY

“I believe that without great research and development, no nation can develop to achieve its desire”- President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

STAKEHOLDERS CORROBORATION AND VOTE OF CONFIDENCE

Arc. Sunny Echono is silently revolutionizing TETFund and in turn our Tertiary Institutions; these various stakeholders have corroborated and have passed vote of confidence on him. The position of stakeholders is that the operations of TETFund have been rejigged and positioned for optimal results.

For example, the Council of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) extolled the high level of professionalism demonstrated by Arc. Sunny Echono and his sound management principles and practices in running the affairs of the agency.

The Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman has commended the drive of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) in research, innovation and development, revealing that the Federal Government planned to establish about 24 Skill Centres across the country.

The commendation was given when the Minister paid an inspection visit to Innova8 Hub Abuja in company of the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Arc. Sonny Echono.

NANS President, Comrade Lucky Emonefe applauded TETFund for its contributions to the growth and sustenance of tertiary institutions in Nigeria, remarking that without the efforts of the Fund, Nigeria institutions would be nothing to write home about.

He stated this during a courtesy visit to TETFund in Abuja to formally introduce the new leadership of the association to the management of TETFund and also look into areas of possible collaboration.

Governor Hyacinth Alia, commended TETFund management for the huge intervention in public tertiary institutions in Benue state and the nation at large. 

He said: “We are here on a solidarity visit with my brother, the Executive Secretary of TETFund. I’m honoured to be here having understood how much he has been doing, promoting education nationwide and improving on the teaching and learning infrastructure as well as making the educational wheel of the nation run and running smoothly. 

“Benue state is also a beneficiary of the projects from you and the good people of the state have conveyed our appreciation to your establishment. 

Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara State has commended the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) for its laudable intervention in public tertiary educational institutions in Kwara State and other parts of the country.

“This visit is to say you are doing a good job and on behalf of the people and government of Kwara State, we say thank you for the job you have done and we appreciate you.

The Governor of Katsina State, Dikko Umar Radda noted that the Fund has contributed greatly to the development of tertiary institutions in the state.

In his words, “your presence is everywhere, and even when I engaged our lecturers, they told me what you have been doing in our state in terms of improving capacity through some of your interventions”.

Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Usman Ododo has applauded the efforts of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) in the development of tertiary educational institutions in the State.

“I appreciate TETFund for the remarkable impact and timely support for tertiary institutions in Kogi State, such as the Prince Abubakar Audu University, Ayingba; Confluence University of Science and Technology, Osara; Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja; College of Education Ankpa; College of Education (Technical) Kabba, have enjoyed so far,” he said.

TETFUND: TRANSFORMATIVE REFORMS AGENDA VERSES CORRUPTION FIGHTING BACK WITH IMPUNITY

Prof. Tahir Mamman, the Minister of Education with Arc. Sunny Echono, The Executive Secretary of TETFund

Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State has extolled the foresight for the establishment of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), noting that the Fund has played a significant role in the development of the state-owned tertiary educational institutions as well as federal institutions located in the state.

“I chose to come to TETFund because of the importance of this institution to our educational development. I salute the foresight of those that came up with this institution. We say thank you,” he said.

EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH ECHONO:

Can you quickly speak on the issue of paying a local company in dollars?

It is not true. It is false. The records are very clear. We paid to Blackboard directly through CBN. We did not pay a single dollar to any local company. We have no way of doing that. The central bank is there; they can check. We have no account in any commercial bank.

In the first place, these payments are passing through CBN. As I said earlier, we are not the one paying. We are only giving instructions. We do offshore, but it goes straight to the offshore company directly.

Why did you settle for an MoU?

There are projects suitable for contracts which is strictly an exchange of values with definite scope, cost and duration. The other party will demand strict enforcement of the terms of the contract. If we had done a contract, the vendors would have called for re-negotiation because of the foreign exchange issues we recently experienced. But MoU, by definition, two of you are agreeing to collaborate, to partner, to cooperate. It is even possible under an MoU for somebody to help you without financial return, which is better than the contract, which is purely an exchange of values.

Give me this item, I give you that and once any person defaults, they will now begin to say non-performance. There is a claim attached to it. So, unfortunately for us, when that announcement was made, the official exchange rate went up. Meaning that the naira cover to get the equal number of dollars now went up.

If we had done this at N448 that we intended, we would have got almost 80 percent savings because they keep saying only at 20 percent cost. If you talk to Blackboard, they say they gave it to us practically at 20 percent in the dollar terms. But in reality, for us, because we have to pay higher naira for the dollar, that was why what we saved was about 60 percent, and that is huge compared to paying that to vendors. Imagine the amount of money that we’ve saved for the institution and they are very happy about it.

We use MoU generally for training programmes. It’s an academic programme. I told you the operating term is the school fees, the tuition fees. It is also a principle that payment for academic programmes or professional training is done at the point of registration. You do not say until you finish the programme, you write your exam and you pass, then you now pay your school fees. Under contract law, you will make the maximum advance payment. What you pay to a contractor is fixed at 30%. Every subsequent one will be made a milestone, what they call valuation. That could make it unsuitable for this type of arrangement.

It is not true that we have finished paying. We have 15% that we have not paid because the programmes are still running. I am now trying to ramp up more of our students to begin to use the platforms. If we made it a contract, they’d have told us to renew after one year. Otherwise, you can no longer have access to it. But this one, it is until we reach that number that we agreed. That is what the benefit of an MoU again. We have been doing these MoUs and I inherited about nine of them when I came in. I have only done about four, I think.

Some stakeholders believe that TETFund is a cesspool of corruption. What do you feel about this and what are you doing to curb it?

People are invited to come and see the new TETFund. When I was asked to come here, I was given a mandate and I have introduced reforms, made very powerful enemies and you can see some bits of that. It shows that we have done a quick deal in reforming our systems to the acknowledgement of all our stakeholders.

The initial impression that TETFund is a cesspool of corruption was an exaggerated one. I can confirm that from my experience. It was an exaggeration of what was happening. There was some type of cartels that were in charge of TETFund projects and they also felt that all manners of political leaders could come to TETFund, collect what they call special intervention. There were no form of system or processes in place. I invited ICPC to come and inspect the systems and they did. They have come back the second time.

We have resolved issues of lecturers who get trained and they abscond. There are lecturers who collect money to go for workshops, conferences and they don’t go. We are recovering money. We are punishing and prosecuting them.

The ones that have absconded, we also have a programme through our embassies, through the embassies of the countries which they are. That is why our MoU again is coming in. When we sign an MoU with you, you must repatriate the student to us. It’s your responsibility. We didn’t have that before. That was why they could jump their bond. So, we have cleaned that out. We’ve done a lot of reforms. We run a very transparent system.

You are relatively young in TETFund. What’s the next big thing for you?

Many issues. But as I said, we are taking our bearing from Mr. President. What the president is focused on is the competitiveness of our tertiary institutions. He is also focused on skills. What Mr. President is saying is that train our students not just to obtain a degree. Let them have proficiencies. Let them be modern graduates that can work anywhere in the world. Regardless of the course, he wants to promote employability. Entrepreneurship is there so that we produce people who will be wealth creators, not people who are queuing to look for jobs.

There are new initiatives in ICT that we are bringing on. Learn to earn. That’s coming on board, right on our campuses. We are making it possible to provide resources, provide training opportunities for our students while you are doing your course. It will not affect your academic programme. But you will learn skills that you can take on board and begin to do outsourcing jobs while you are in school. Nigerian students are very hardworking. They are very brilliant. They can combine this easily.

Mr. President said we should upskill. As I am talking to you, three teams are moving across the country to polytechnics, universities, assessing their laboratories, workshops. We want to provide them equipment. We want to upskill those instructors. We want each polytechnic to adopt a number of skills that they want to be known for.

We want all these people who are causing problems for us on the street to come and learn something. Learn a trade. Begin to participate in the economy. Earn something so that you can feed your family.

We have innovation hubs and entrepreneurship centres we are replicating on our campuses. We are driving employability. We are promoting research. If I can achieve those things in my tenure, I will leave here a very happy man. (DailyPost)

Research and innovation are remedies to address the challenges of underdevelopment bedeviling the nation, adding that they are the most compelling strategy for accelerating sustainable growth-. Echono

THE PRESS RELEASE- A REJOINDER

The attention of the Management of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has been drawn to a misleading publication in TheCable Newspaper of Monday, 15th April, 2024 captioned “The Insider: How TETFund Awarded N7.6bn Questionable Contracts within Two Month”.

2.      It was alluded in the said publication that questionable contracts amounting to the tune of N7.6 billion were awarded by TETFund, thereby usurping the powers of Mr. President and the Federal Executive Council (FEC); and that the Fund acted outside its mandate in carrying out capacity building programmes in its Beneficiary Institutions.

3.      We consider this publication as totally spurious and misleading and therefore find it necessary to provide background information and clarifications for the benefit of our various stakeholders and the general public as follows:

  1. The two Projects under reference are not Contracts but are ICT Projects being implemented under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) arrangement with the following two global academies:
  2. Anthology USA; owners of Blackboard Inc. which is a leading global educational technology academy providing Blackboard Ultra Learning Management System.
  3.  Edunet Academy, equally a global learning academy providing       certification tracks in communication, entrepreneurship and employability skills development.

These organisations are academies and owners of the intellectual property rights for their different products which does not make them open for competitive biddings in public procurements.

ii.       As part of measures to leverage on ICT in the transformation of the Nigerian tertiary educational sub-sector, three specialized committees were constituted by the Fund as follows:

  1. ICT Infrastructure Project Committee headed by Late. Prof. Samuel Edoumiekumo Gowon (former Chairman, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities)
  2. TETFund Advisory Committee on Digital Literacy, Productivity and Emerging Skills headed by Prof. Olagbemiro Jegede (VC Emeritus National Open University of Nigeria)
  3. Digitization Project Steering /Coordinating Committee headed by Prof. Yakubu Ochefu (Secretary-General, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities)

iii.      Based on the above, an ICT roadmap was developed and is being implemented by the Fund in conjunction with Beneficiary Institutions since 2016.

iv.      Relying on the recommendations of the committees which were presented and accepted by all the heads of Beneficiary Institutions at the Fund’s Annual Stakeholders forum, it was agreed that, the sum of N100m be allocated for ICT support intervention for every University, N50m for every Polytechnic and N50m for every College of Education. Of this amount, 50% was to be utilised for Infrastructure and procurement based on the peculiar needs of the institutions, while the balance of 50% was earmarked for the converged services inclusive of educational resource subscriptions, software licenses and specialised capacity development programmes for both academic/non-academic staff as well as students. The cost of implementation for Blackboard Learn Ultra is N3,812,500.00 which translates to N14,607,279.69 per institution for the Fund’s 261 Beneficiary Institutions. The same applies to the certification in communication, entrepreneurship, and employability skills development project.

 v.      During implementation, the committee recommended the adoption of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the providers to achieve significant discount based on economies of scale, rather than individual Beneficiary Institutions accessing these facilities at higher costs. To this end, the global President of Anthology USA, owner of the Blackboard technology and international leader in educational technology and Artificial Intelligence led a delegation to Nigeria to sign the MoU. Similarly, Prof. Klauss who is a renowned global education resource provider and the intellectual property rights owner of Edunet Solutions Academy led his team to Nigeria to execute the MoU for its Academy. It is pertinent to note that Blackboard technology is used by over 4,000 tertiary institutions globally and during the visit of its President to the Honourable Minister of Education, he remarked that Nigeria is already late in its adoption of Blackboard given that Saudi Arabia adopted Blackboard 10 years ago and this has led to its remarkable success in improving education.

vi. Therefore, it is instructive to state that the Partnership with the two academies to execute the ICT roadmap of the Fund endorsed by Beneficiary Institutions were not carried out as contracts. Rather, Beneficiary Institutions’ ICT needs were aggregated for bulk negotiation to take advantage of economies of scale. With this, 60% cost saving was achieved.

vii.     TETFund has in the past, through similar MOUs engaged with other notable institutions and platforms worldwide such as the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and a host of others. Through the same mechanism in the earlier stage of the ICT roadmap, the Fund recorded success in building capacity for over 20,000 teaching and non-teaching staff of its Beneficiary Institutions using the ICDL productivity skills certification track for the intervention years 2016 to 2022.

4. For the report to allude that TETFund acted illegally in empowering students with ICT skills clearly indicate that the reporters are ignorant of the Fund’s mandate and responsibilities. The Fund continues to make giant strides in ensuring that Nigerian Tertiary Institutions are globally competitive. This much was acknowledged at the Innovate African Conference 2024 held at Havard Graduate School of Education in the United States only two weeks ago.  

5.      For the avoidance of doubt and in total contrast to what was reported in the publication, we wish to affirm that all TETFund Disbursement Guidelines are approved by Mr. President on the recommendation of the Fund’s Board of Trustees and concurrence of the Honourable Minister of Education in line with the TETFund Act 2011.

6.      We therefore, state unequivocally that at no time did the Fund make any attempt to usurp Mr. President’s powers or that of the Federal Executive Council, or award contracts without due process; as the entire write-up was based on the wrong assumption that contracts were awarded by the Fund.

7.      While we frown at attempts by certain elements to tarnish the Fund’s image for selfish purposes, we call on our Beneficiary Institutions, stakeholders and the general public who have always supported and appreciated the efforts of the Fund to ignore these campaigns of calumny.

8.      We wish to reassure you that the Fund will continue to act responsibly and in line with due process in all its activities.

Echono has a pedigree of excellence, unassuming simplicity, covering a stupendous database of essential knowledge, backed by a penchant for sacrifice, and a steadfast commitment and dedication to achieve set goals as well as core loyalty to procedural ethics, and a spirit of fairness are all what the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Arc. Sonny Echono brought on board in TETFund.

The measure of Intelligence is the ability to change- Albert Einstein

Support Voice Media Trust journalism of integrity and credibility

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to Voice Media Trust, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.

Donate into:

Dollar Account:

  • A/C NO: 3003093745
    A/C NAME: VOICE MEDIA TRUST LTD
    BANK: UNITED BANK FOR AFRICA

Naira Account:

  • A/C NO: 1023717841
    A/C NAME: VOICE  MEDIA TRUST LTD
    BANK: UNITED BANK FOR AFRICA

Leave a Reply