How TETFund spends billions yearly on scholars (first article)

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In 2008, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie, via the University World News, 30 March 2008, Issue:0021, announced that PhD would be the minimum qualification for all academic staff in Nigerian universities. This triggered a frenzy for higher education as had the policy been implemented, it would have resulted in the dismissal of almost 70 per cent of “PhDless” lecturers.

One of the areas of TETFund interventions to tertiary institutions across Nigeria is in the area of Academic staff training and development, research, book development, and publication of journals by scholars. These scholars get a helpline from TETFund as they can seek funds to further their studies and improve their capabilities for the nation and their institutions.

The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) was established by an Act of the National Assembly in June 2011. The Act replaced the Education Tax Fund, which was set up to administer and disburse education tax collections to the federal and state tertiary education institutions in Nigeria. The main source of income available to the Fund is the 2 per cent education tax paid from the assessable profit of companies registered in Nigeria. The levies are collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Beneficiaries of the fund, mainly tertiary institutions, are required to apply the funds for the provision of essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, provision of instructional materials and equipment, research, book development and publications, academic staff training and development and any other need which is seen as critical and essential to the improvement of quality and maintenance of standards in the educational institutions.

In the past ten years, investigations revealed that over 24,385 scholars from various tertiary institutions across Nigeria have benefited from the funds’ scholarship under the academic staff development programme in the last 10 years both at home and abroad, however, according to the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro, in a paper presented at the Institute for Security Studies Bwari, FCT Abuja, on 17th May 2019 and titled: TETFUND AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF TERTIARY EDUCATION IN NIGERIA: STRATEGIES, PERFORMANCE, AND CHALLENGES, he said that presently 215 tertiary institutions are beneficiaries of the Fund, including 81 Universities, 64 Polytechnics and 70 Colleges of Education.

From January 2012 when the scheme commenced to March 2019, 24,385 Academic staff have been trained by TETFund under this programme. Of this number, 7,437 were trained in foreign institutions, comprising of Foreign Ph.D. – 3,902, Foreign Masters – 2,940 and Foreign Bench word – 595. Also, a total of 16,948 were trained in Nigeria, including Local Ph.D.- 8,447 and Local Masters – 8,501.

Before the introduction of this intervention, only 40 per cent of academic staff in Nigeria’s Tertiary Institutions had Ph.D., which is the minimum requirement to be a lecturer in a Tertiary Institution. But as of this year, the percentage has risen to nearly 70 per cent.

Are more lecturers in Northcentral opting for foreign Masters and PhDs?

In an investigation carried out by Leakblast in six federal universities in the North central, it was discovered that most of the lecturers prefer seeking funding to study abroad than studying in Nigeria. While most of them get approval for this, others have to settle for furthering their education here in Nigeria.

Some of the lecturers cite intimidation from supervisors, unavailability of experts, unfixed calendars, lack of infrastructures and equipment to research as part of the reasons why they seek funding to study outside the country.

In the University of Abuja, one of Nigeria’s popular universities, Leakblast discovered that difficulties in getting visas have hampered many scholars who apply to the Fund for support to study abroad to resort to studying at home. However, available data showed that between 2013 to date, about 35 lecturers have gone abroad to study various Ph.D. programmes while over 30 lecturers have done their various master courses in universities across Nigeria. Seventeen lecturers who are professors and doctors have benefited from the fund for various research projects.

In 2015, N125,569,400 was said to have been disbursed to 44 lecturers as funds for academic staff training to study in universities both at home and abroad; in 2016, N24,750,000 was first disbursed to 18 Lecturers while another N36,676,666 was disbursed to three lecturers; in 2017, N79,745,265 was disbursed to another 30 while in 2019, N47,070,236 has been disbursed to nine lecturers while between 2015 and 2016, N15,050,916 was disbursed to 17 lecturers for their research projects.

In the Federal University, Lokoja, it was revealed that most of the beneficiaries of the academic staff training and development went outside the country to study. However, being a new university, not many of the lecturers have benefited.

Between 2016 and 2017, only seven of the lecturers benefited with six doing their PhDs outside the country while one is doing his in Nigeria. The university claims not to have accessed 2017 and 2018 interventions as at the time this investigation was carried out. Over N87 million has so far been disbursed to these beneficiaries.

While they have not benefitted from the scheme to study abroad, most of the staff, however, have taken advantage of the fund for pieces of training and conference attendance both within and outside the country. So far, over N23.2 million have been disbursed to 113 staff of the university for this.

Although, Leakblast visited other universities, the reporter was unable to get the exact number of staff who have benefited from these academic staff development and training.

However, the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the University of Jos, Dr. Lazarus Luka Maigoro said that “a lot of staff have benefitted from this fund. The fund is available and open for staff to access to go for higher studies within or outside the country or go on conferences. But for now, I cannot give you the number of staff who have benefitted but I can tell you all of us have benefitted.”

For the Federal University, Lafia, the ASUU Chairman, Adams Abdullahi said staff that is qualified have benefitted from the institution, “every year, people who are qualified apply and they get. I know a good number of us are outside a very good number. My fear is that I do not have specific figures to give you. But as a union leader, I know that a lot of us are benefiting from the staff development and training from TETFund, particularly about issues relating to post-graduate training overseas, a lot of us are benefiting.”

At the University of Ilorin, Professor Adeola Abdullahi Adedeji, who is the representative of the Faculty of Engineering in the institution’s TETFund Committee, told the our reporter that from 2017 to 2019, academic staff have been going to universities in Malaysia, India and other countries for studies and research work, while others studied at home, adding that this had been made possible via the Fund.

“As many as hundreds have benefitted but I cannot give you the exact figures. But here in the Faculty of Education, we have had more than 20 staff that have been given admissions that were sponsored by TETFund in Nigeria and overseas but I cannot give the exact figure.”

NEITI and TETFund

For the 2018 intervention year, each University, Polytechnic, and Colleges of Education was allocated N230million, N119million and N135million, respectively for the training of teachers.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) is seeking a comprehensive audit of TETFund, saying that the agency received a total of N993.3billion from the Federation Account between 2012 and 2016 but “does not have a comprehensive accounting and operational manual.”

According to the latest NEITI Fiscal Allocation and Statutory Disbursement (FASD) Audit for the period 2012 to 2016, out of the total revenues of N993.3 billion received by TETFund from the Federation Account for its operations, about N804.9 billion came from mineral revenue sources and N188.5 billion from non-mineral sources.

Details of the revenues showed in 2012, the Fund got N188.4 billion. The amount received in 2013 increased by 48 per cent to N279.2 billion, while the figure following year (2014) dropped by a similar percentage margin to N189.6 billion.

In 2015, NEITI said the revenue allocated to the Fund increased by 8 per cent to N206 billion and then reduced to about N130 billion in 2016, a 37 per cent reduction.

However, NEITI said its audit team was unable to verify the populated templates submitted to TETFUND because its top officials were uncooperative.

According to the body in its final report, “Letters of introduction by NEITI were not honoured by the agency on two different occasions. A letter dated 10 April 2016, and another letter acknowledged as received on 8 June 2018 from NEITI were delivered to TETFUND. In both cases, we were informed the Executive Secretary had not yet given his permission for us to come and review the submitted templates, and so we were not granted permission to validate the templates.”

NEITI also said that following the “insufficient guide for accounting and operations’ processes,” its audit team was “unable to verify the income received from the various sources by the agency, and unable to evaluate the utilization of the funds.”

Consequently, the transparency agency recommended a comprehensive audit of the Fund to be carried out by the federal government immediately. The agency also called on the government to tackle the issue of undue political control and interference by State Governors in the execution of the Education Trust Fund-funded projects in their respective States.

“There is a need to educate the governors on ETF intervention policies, which are rooted in accountability and standards and are performance-driven. Intervention, beneficiaries with accumulated un-accessed funds should be allowed to merge all their outstanding allocations and propose projects to be funded with the backlog of funds,” the NEITI report said.

The other recommendations included the need to explore the possibility of developing prototypes for adoption by beneficiaries, to maintain standards and uniformity in projects they execute, and to minimise the challenges posed by un-accessed funds.

In addition, it called for the re-examination of the Fund’s intervention policies, and to modify them where necessary.

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