By ABAH ADAH, Abuja
For the year 2022 annual direct intervention by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), the Tertiary Education Trust fund (TETFund) is to disburse N1.4 billion to public universities in the country.
This follows the approval of the guidelines of the 2022 intervention budget for implementation by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Disclosing this at a Strategic Interactive Sessions for Heads of TETFund Beneficiary Institutions on Monday in Abuja, the Executive Secretary (ES), TETFund, Arc. Sunday Echono, said approval had been for the disbursement of the sum of N642,848,138 to each beneficiary university; N396, 780, 086 to each participating polytechnic; and N447, 708,804 to each beneficiary College of education across the country.
He assured the heads of higher institutions that their letters of allocation for the Annual Direct Intervention would be released at the event, while allocations for special intervention would be released appropriately in due course.
Reiterating his commitment to build on the achievements of his successors to reposition TETFund and all its activities, Echono said, “I will continue to support all three area – research and development, innovation, and entrepreneurship education. The innermost task of repositioning the tertiary individual sector for sustained relevance is the collective work.
“It requires that we work in harmony and synergy to achieve the desired national objective of human capital.
One of our primary areas of focus is the value and the development and deployment of information and communication technology, including up because broadband and data connectivity and access to AI is crucial to enhance our eyes capabilities.
“One of our primary areas of focus is the value and the development and deployment of information and communication technology, including the ubiquitous broadband and data connectivity and access to our institutions to enhance our our capabilities,” he said.
“This is informed my visit to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, to discuss possibilities and collaboration on our intervention to our tertiary institutions. Presently, the ICT department has embarked on several projects that include dematerialisation and digitalisation of projects.
The ES however announced that there was bad news this year in the disbursement in that the collectible tax dropped significantly by as much as N58 billion, adding “the implication of that is that what we are disbursing this year is not what we were able to achieve last year. Based on the concerns expressed, I had my first official meeting with the Chairman Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), and I am pleased to report that arising from that meeting, we now have a joint committee, working very closely with tax payers to ensure that every collective tax is collected”.
On that note the ES said they were not only looking at expanding the efficient tax collection, but also at improving it towards optimum collection from taxpayers in the coming years.
He also informed his guests that efforts were being made to remove all bottlenecks that have accounted for delay in release of fund to benefitting institutions, saying it had been decided, for instance, that the need to obtain permission before accessing the final tranche of payment be removed.
“Henceforth Internal Auditing will only be required before payment of final tranche,” he said, noting that another worrisome issue was that of distressed or non-performing projects that rampant on campuses, which must be addressed as quickly as possible.
He said it becomes even more worrisome when viewed alongside the problem of unaccessible funds, noting that in the following weeks TETFund would be visiting beneficiary institutions who such serious problems with a view of bringing the project to speedy completion.
“Given my background in project management and procurement, I believe that I should be able to resolve these very quickly. By our projection, before the end of the year, at least 30 per cent of those projects will be completed,” he said, while urging the beneficiary institutions not to fail in playing their parts in reciprocity for government’s goodwill gesture.
The ES also informed the gathering of Vice Chancellors, Rectors, Provosts, and Frontline stakeholders in the education sector that TETFund had, in pursuit of its paradigm shift, initiated a Trainer-the-Trainer Capacity Building programme which is expected to have trained 1761 academics that would train others locally that would in turn expand the frontiers of knowledge along the value chain, noting that as such, the training would be done locally in 2022, 2023, and beyond.
“We also propose to refocus the entrepreneurship intervention line for universities to meet best practice of entrereneurship development and training,” he added.
In his goodwill remark, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, while congratulating his TETFund counterpart on his appointment enjoined all hands to be on deck in the quest to bring the Nigerian university system at par with international standards.
“I believe that together we shall be able to resolve a number of our problems and we shall be able to map out the best way of utilising and managing the resources.
“It is unfortunate that because of the COVID-19 and 102 policy couple with inflation among others, on 102 policy the not only the quality of the information, or the evaluation, the amounts being given to the institutions currently is not as valuable as it used to be. Which is why it would require a new thinking. And that’s why I think we are very, very happy; because Arc. Echono is a sound manager of men, money and material, and he certainly is going to achieve a lot with our own support and cooperation,” he said.
According to him, Echono, haven served up to the rank of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education before, has a lot of knowledge about the sector and cannot afford to fail if given the right support.
Speaking, the Chairman, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU) and Vice Chancellor, Niger Delta University, Prof. Samuel Edoumiekumo, thanked the ES, TETFund for addressing some of the issues of concern to them in their various institutions in his speech.
He said, “We are happy that some of the issues we were to raise were addressed in your speech, such as the issue of bottlenecks here and there and that of audit clearance.”
He lamented that any delay in the release of fund now that inflationary movement is rife is counterproductive as the value of fund is not stable.
He also appealed that the policy of 2 years maximum for intervention funds to be mopped up be looked into, arguing that such duration may be too short to start a project and finish it, especially in an area of difficult terrain.