• I Never Said N359b was Stolen by Former President GEJ or was Missing
  • TETFund has not Scrapped International Conferences, budgets N3.4b, Instead
  • Our Audited Accounts, One of the Most Up-to-date, Transparent in Nigeria
  • We are Committed to Promoting R & D in our Varsities
  • Hails Timely Debut of Education Monitor Newspaper

By Waziri Isa Adam


The Executive Secretary of Education Trust Fund, Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro, has denied accusing former President Goodluck Jonathan for illegally withdrawing the Fund’s N359B,  as wrongly or mischievously reported in a syndicated story by some national dailies.

The TETFund’s Boss who reacted to the misleading story in an exclusive interview with select few media organisations in his Office recently, said he did not and could not have made such unwarranted and spurious allegations against the former President.

Professor Bogoro who described the syndicated story as unfair, said what he said in reaction to a question raised by a Member of House of Representatives Committee on Tertiary Education and Services  during an oversight visit to TETFund’s office recently on monies borrowed from the agency by Government, was, “the immediate past government borrowed N263.99b from the Education Trust Pool Account at the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2013” for the purpose of execution of other projects, after fulfilling conditions required for taking such a loan.

He however revealed that about N10b, out of the amount borrowed by the past government had since been repaid.

Professor Bogoro further clarified that the present government also borrowed N58b and N20b in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

All these monies, he reiterated, were borrowed by both the past and present governments to execute non TETFund projects with undertaking to pay back.

He however set the record straight by categorically stating that to say the monies in question were stolen or missing is unfair and misrepresentation of facts.

Professor Bogoro therefore called on Journalists to live up to their responsibility of cross checking any information before writing to avoid misrepresentation or reporting unsubstantiated and injurious stories, an act he described as wrong and against global best practice of ethical journalism.

The Full Interview:

Sir, you were recently and widely reported, rightly or wrongly, in some leading newspapers as saying that former President Goodluck Jonathan withdrew a whopping sum of N359b in 2013, belonging to the TETFund. Could you please shed more light on this claim?

Before responding to this question, I would like to let you know that I have been close enough to the media to know some traditions or protocols and procedures of reporting matters, news as it were, activities or events; and in my understanding, as it is obtained around the world and in Nigeria, we know what are the indices of best practices even in the media and journalism generally.  We also see what is obtained even in other African countries in terms of reporting issues. It is only but ethical that clarifications must always be sought on very important and sensitive issues, from their sources. Also, issues raised by personalities must always be properly and contextually understood, and documented evidences must always be obtained by journalists before rushing to the Press. But, regrettably, this is not the case with most journalists in Nigeria today. In the light of this, therefore, I believe we owe our country a patriotic duty to report facts as they are.

I must say that I was very surprised to hear people say that they read in some newspapers that I indicated that former President Goodluck Jonathan, in respect of the total of N359b owed TETFund which have been documented, were taken without the knowledge of the Agency. It is true that between September and December 2013, a total of N273.9b was taken by the previous administration and I know I didn’t have to call the name of the President and I did not. There was no basis doing that because I wasn’t aiming at his person.  In fact, it was a corporate entity that we were talking about – that is Nigeria’s Federal Government.

We had further withdrawals of N58b in 2018 and N20b in 2019, making a total of N78b. And, all these details were there in the report which I presented before the Honorable Members of House of Representatives Committee on Tertiary Education and Services on the 6th of March, 2020, during an oversight visit to TETFund. Details of all these records were in front of me and in front of every other person seated there including the Honorable Members that I faced, and my understanding was that the media too, had it, and if the media had it, and somebody decided to cut the total figure and attribute it to 2013 that is falsehood. The breakdown was there and was very clear. Even when I was watching a particular electronic media, it quoted the same amount but later contradicted itself by saying that 2013 deduction was N273b. 273 and 359 are not the same figures, so why didn’t they talk about the other pieces that made up the deferential that make up between 273 and 359, and that the two items are those of 2018 and 2019. Although we know that in 2016, N10b out of the original amount that was taken in 2013 was refunded by PTDF. That was the only amount that was refunded so far.

What I did not however say and want to say it now is that in 2015, when this government was about to come in, and when the former President was leaving, we impressed it on him to acknowledge that that money had been taken from Education Trust Pool account at the Central Bank, because anybody coming to scrutinize our books will ask where is this money? And if TETFund did not explain it, it means TETFund has stolen it and we couldn’t have stolen it. However, I want to, at this point, emphasize that the money that was taken in 2013, was from what we call the Education Pool Account that we are not Signatories to. So, we cannot take money from that account unless it has been moved to our intervention account in the Central Bank and we are notified that such money has been collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service and has been posted to us that we can utilize. That did not happen. And I want to make it very clear that in the physical documents we made available to the Members of House of Representatives, about missing money in TETFund, I said, no money was missing, however, money was actually borrowed, which the immediate past federal government even acknowledged that it was a loan and it will be refunded. I also remember that immediately President Buhari came on board in 2015, we communicated this approval to him that it was a loan so that it is acknowledged, otherwise again, the new government would have asked where is that money and if there is no acknowledgement by the former President, then TETFund will be the first to be asked about it.

But thank God there are documents to show where the money is or how the money was taken out. And that was even why President Buhari expeditiously endorsed that federal government should refund that money. So, as we were discussing securitization of the money at the Debt Management Office, additional withdrawals of N58b and N20b were made in 2018 and 2019 respectively, which amounted to N78b that raised the total amount to N359b as it were. That is the long and short of it, and that is what should have been reported by the media since the breakdown were circulated to the House of Representatives Members, and it was my understanding that the media was supposed to have copies too.

In fact, both the Auditor General and the Account General are aware that government took that money in 2013, 2018 and 2019. We all have copies of the letter written to communicate that government has taken money from our Pool Account at the Central Bank. I also mentioned that N128b was taken for non-education-intervention, and, it appears that there is likely a compelling part that they may start the refund with it. We are negotiating on the refund.  But the truth is, no money disappeared. However, they were used for some other purposes.  But when some people say it was stolen or missing, that’s unfair. The money was used for some other purposes other than TETFund’s,  that’s all.

But what I want you to do is to go to the Ministry of Finance, particularly to the office of the Accountant General and confirm if what I have said is true.

It may interest you to also know that at the close of this government last year, before the President came in for his second term, when we were closing our books; we sat down with the immediate past Minister of National Planning, where it was agreed again   that  the  Finance  Ministry  and  the

Budget Office, should work out a framework for refunding our money. This may be paid back or refunded at installments over a period of two or three years or so.

To achieve this, we approached the National Assembly and requested them to, besides securitization, include it in the budget as one of the windows for the refund, so that if it were possible in the 2020 budget, let them include it so that the first installment of payment starts from 2020.

Are your budgets and activities not threatened by these borrowed and unremitted monies?

You can be sure that our books are not balanced, as a result of this, and that is why we have issues of recurrence.  That is also why the first thing the National Assembly did was to look into our books to ascertain whether any money had been taken or not.

TETFund seems to have recently been emphasizing the imperative of research and development in our Universities. Can you share with us the prompting of this emphasis?

The Federal government has decided to interrogate the issue of competitiveness of Nigeria. And in the contemporary global context, competitiveness is about the capacity of a nation to stand and attempt to measure up with other countries; especially all parameters of the economy, most of which are defined and shaped by technology-in STEM and STI. That is Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Science Technology Innovation. This is the creativity of the human capital that is making the difference.  When we talk of knowledge economy in the 21st century which is the current economy that derives resources and monetary values from intellectual expertise and entrepreneurship; and information communication technology is very central because that is what makes the difference for Japan, South Korea and now China is copying.  You would see that China’s economy is moving up very fast, catching up with many countries in the West and even overtaken Japan. It wants to overtake even the USA, if it goes to sleep. And guess what? it is education. Education that is deepened and defined mainly by research. And you don’t do research for the sake of it, you do research for development.  That is why Research and Development (R&D) is the basic thing.

We had once visited Israel some years ago and our guide in the bus said that in Nigeria you have oil, in Israel we don’t have oil.  Our oil is R&D – Research and Development.  I am told that Israel had already got antidote for coronavirus.  That is Science for you.  Everybody knows that Israel has a cutting edge in Science and Innovation Technology.  They told us that in agriculture they export knowledge and seeds not the product. That is the priority because it is the human capital.  Gone are those days when you talk about number.  For instance, like the average Nigerian would always say we are the most populous black nation, and so what if that black nation has no human capacity measured with the number? So, it is the quality of the human number.  That is why federal government is now coming up with the idea of competitiveness, by narrowing it to you and me. What is your quality and value intrinsically as a human being is about intellectual value and capacity which boils down to research and development, deepened research, and problem solving research.  So, R&D is now the new concept globally and we can not run away from it. Many of you who are young and wanting to get scholarship in Nigeria,  TETFund is the highest scholarship body for higher degrees. But if we have a basket emanating from R&D platform, then you compel the industries to commit money for post graduate work so that professors in universities that have taken up people in the industries or those that are brilliant enough with first class,  to go for their Postgraduate Studies to PhD anywhere. Industries can pick up anybody not necessarily a lecturer. In Tetfund we are sponsoring only lecturers.  So, if there is R&D, with money from the industries, they look for the best professors and smart intellectuals that have laboratories, sales, consultancy outfits that can sponsor those candidates, then you have more money and  our young ones now don’t have to depend on PTDF or TETFUND or federal government scholarships. So, there are multiple benefits why we are promoting R&D.

There is this speculation and growing apprehension among dedicated Academics, especially in our Universities, that TETFund has stopped sponsoring International Conferences. What is really happening?

We have not stopped sponsoring academic conferences, we have only suspended it. We suspended it because of infringement and abuse. We discovered through our monitoring team recently that many people take money and don’t report or attend those conferences or assigned to sign attendance for them.  For instance, last year out of the 12 people that we sent only two people reported for that conference and they had taken money for it. Tell me, is that fair?,  how could we allow that? The report came to me from the academic staff training and we sat at management and recommended to the Board of Trustees for suspension. For now it has been suspended for 6 months but we are hoping that it would be lifted before then.  A committee has, however, been set up to investigate this; and if by four months, that is when the next Board of Trustees meeting will take place, precisely in June, and we are able to get report that identified the sources of the infractions and recommendations on how to block it, and we are convinced that it is going to be full proof,  that we will sponsor people and they will not go anywhere else rather than the conference,  then we will lift the suspension.  One of the House of Representatives members the other time said he saw N3.4b as conference money and he said is that not too much? But I told him that, that is a drop in the ocean.  By TETFund’s standard, every academic staff is permitted to attend one international conference every three years. Perhaps recently it has been brought to two years. Before that policy came we hardly had Nigerian lecturers going for international conferences because there was no money or no such opportunity.  It is only TETFund that is doing that.  Before TETFund scholarship came into being about 9 to 10 years ago,  I can tell you that some people would virtually retire as professors without having ever gone for one international conference.  And as academics, if you are locked up within the physical wall of the four walls of your university, it is bad. You need to go out there and share experiences, peer reviews,  knowledge sharing with people from other countries. Even in your narrow discipline you need to hear another perspective from another person. For instance, if you are here discussing climate change and you go to Finland or Iceland and you think they will be discussing desertification, you are wrong.  You forgot that their environment is different.  Even in Nigeria, although we are a tropical country but there are some of our highlands that temperate crops are grown and animals reared.  For example, the Jos Plateau, the Mambila plateau, Ogbudu, etc. So, you must contextualize your climate change investigation as a scientist. That is the point I’m making; and if you don’t go for international conferences, then you are confined to your local environment without requisite exposure as a scholar.

How transparent can you say the Tertiary Education Trust Fund is and had been?

In TETFund, we have no reason to hide anything. In fact, we have nothing to hide because we have a tradition and we are doing our best to ensure that our books are open. That is why today in this country, we are one of the few agencies whose audited accounts are the most up-to-date every year. There is no other way to demonstrate our transparency and openness than making available our detail accounts, and I think this corresponds with the performance of our organization.   If we are hiding anything, that means we have done something wrong; and there is no way people would see the kind of performance, the infrastructure and other things we are doing in Nigerian institutions.

Sir, what is your impression about Education Monitor which is the first and leading monthly newspaper in Nigeria’s protracted history of journalism that was conceived to, primarily, cover activities of the education sector, which is the most vital in the development drive of any nation?

Even though this is not the first time that I am seeing the Education Monitor newspaper, in fact, I have seen it several times. I must confess that I am highly impressed with the good work that you guys are doing of giving this most important sector a voice and more visibility. My appeal to you, however, is, please try to uphold ethics of the profession in your reportage and analysis of educational issues, and try to also pay attention to issues that are not reported or that are downplayed by other mainstream media. It is only by so doing that the paper will be noticed and will carve a niche for itself. I wish you the best of luck.