The Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has revealed that over 137 students sponsored abroad by the fund have absconded. This disclosure was made during a session with the House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee investigating the alleged mismanagement of N2.3tn tertiary education tax by TETFund.
The Executive Secretary, while addressing the committee on Tuesday, expressed concern over the refusal of scholars sponsored by TETFund for higher education abroad to return to Nigeria after completing their programs. He described the situation as a major crisis, emphasizing that the scholarship program requires recipients to come back to the country.
Echono further explained that the guarantors of these scholars face undue hardship as they are held responsible for repaying the funds expended on their behalf. However, this measure has not been effective in ensuring their return. As a result, TETFund is collaborating with stakeholders to develop stringent and effective measures to be taken against those who refuse to come back, so that Nigerians can benefit from their expertise.
The Executive Secretary suggested enforcing repayment through embassies and institutions, stating that if the scholars fail to repay the funds, they will be declared persona non grata. Their information will be shared with the respective countries, making it difficult for them to secure employment.
Highlighting the challenges posed by the exchange rate crisis, Echono mentioned that TETFund may consider suspending foreign scholarships. The funds allocated in naira are insufficient to cover the dollar requirements for students’ fees abroad. In light of this, consultations are underway with stakeholders to explore the suspension of foreign training for a year or two. The focus will shift to conducting training locally, leveraging the expertise of Nigerian universities.
Echono also addressed the issue of outstanding payments from the federal government, stating that TETFund is owed N371.3 billion. He clarified that the allegations of mismanagement of the N2.3tn fund are unfounded.
Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke, emphasized that the aim of the probe is to ensure the proper use of public funds and not to witch-hunt individuals or organizations involved. The investigation seeks to prevent the misuse of resources allocated for tertiary education.