Sonny Echono, the Executive secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, has revealed that 137 students who were backed by the fund to pursue higher education abroad are now refusing to return home.
This was made known on Tuesday as Echono presented himself before the House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee in charge of investigating claims of misuse of N2.3tn tertiary education tax by TETFund. He expressed alarm at the situation.
The Executive Secretary expressed alarm that some of the scholars who have been sponsored through the scholarship program refuse to come back after obtaining a higher degree. This issue has become a major crisis, and the scholarship requirements clearly state that recipients must come back. Unfortunately, these measures have not been effective, thus leaving their guarantors to suffer undue hardship due to the amount of money already spent in their behalf.
The Executive Secretary of TETFund, Echono, noted that the fund is working with relevant stakeholders to enforce stringent and effective measures against absconders who refuse to return home. He mentioned they want to write to embassies in countries abroad, preventing them from getting jobs and declaring them persona non grata. With an alarming number of 137 absconders, Echono iterated that TETFund will strive for support in strengthening existing regulations to ensure citizens utilize the programme benefits in Nigeria. Furthermore, due to the exchange rate crisis, he said consultations are in place for a suspension of foreign training for up to two years.
“We may have to take that hard stand because the numbers are alarming. We just checked about 40 institutions and over 137 absconders and the review is ongoing.
“It is a huge number that we cannot afford and so we will be seeking your support to strengthen some of the existing regulations to ensure that those who benefit from this programme must come back. “We are not against people looking for greener pastures but do so on your own, not through our scholarship or our sponsorship.”
“We have determined that the naira allocated cannot suffice the dollar requirement necessary for training”. Consequently, we need to source additional naira to pay for the dollars required for annual fees. We are trying our best to arrange this. Echono further explained that local training will be conducted through experienced universities and specialised institutions within our country. This way, our resources will remain internal and the variance in foreign exchange rate can be countered. He clarified that the government has a debt of N371.3bn with TETFund, out of which N46bn has already been paid back. Moreover, Oluwole Oke declared that their probe is not aimed at persecuting individuals; rather they want to put an end to misappropriation of public funds.