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Sonny EchonoExecutive Secretary, TETFUND

JUST as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has announced the extension of its warning by three months, the Federal Government commenced the disbursement of the direct intervention funds approved by the presidency to public Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education in the country to boost their infrastructure development.

Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Arc. Sonny Echono, presented the allocation letters to heads of the beneficiary institutions on Monday, at the National Universities Commission (NUC), Abuja.

The intervention running into several billions of naira, had the Universities having the lion’s share of N642,848,138.00 each while the sum of N396,780,086.00 is allocated to each Polytechnic and N447,758,804.00 to each College of Education in the country for the year 2022.

He noted that the broad areas of interventions as approved by the Board of Trustees, are categorized into the Annual Direct Intervention, and the Special Interventions which are usually at the discretion of the Board of Trustees or the directives of the Federal Government, saying all cases, disbursements were based on the equality of states and of geo-political zones as enshrined in the enabling Act.

Echono said the desire to develop human capital to service the various sectors of the Nigerian economy, primarily informed the government’s investment in the education sector.

He added that the government was not unmindful of the deficit and decay in the tertiary sub-sector, noting that it also informed the establishment of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund; which was initially referred to as Education Tax Fund in 1993 and later metamorphosed into Tertiary Education Trust Fund in 2011.

The TETFund Boss equally lamented the instances of distressed or non-performing projects which according to him were becoming rampant and disturbing.

He noted that the Fund had about 7 nonperforming/distressed projects in the University of Port Harcourt. 6 in Enugu State University, a total of 5 in the University of Nigeria Nsukka, 4 in Taraba State University in University of Calabar, 4 in Kaduna State University and I at Alvan koku College of Education.

“This phenomenon becomes even more worrisome when viewed alongside the problem of un-accessed funds We are mindful of the intricate variables in project management and delivery as well as the constraints created by our own internal policies and are ensuring that we review our processes where required but will also demand from beneficiary institutions accountability and sanctions where needed.”

“I will in the coming weeks be engaging beneficiary institutions who have these serious problems with the view of bringing the projects to speedy completion and use,” he noted.

Recall that TETFund’s mandate involves the utilization of initially 2% and now 2.5% Education Tax charged on assessable profit of all companies registered in Nigeria to improve the conditions, and quality of the nation’s public tertiary institutions.

Echono who recently succeeded prof. Elais Bogoro as Executive Secretary of TETFund pledged to boost the ICT capacity of the Fund in order to ensure seamless operations.

He said, “Upon assumption of office. I received briefings and presentations from all the departments of the Fund on the status of their various activities. This was to enable me to assess the level of progress and to see if there are issues that needed to be addressed urgently.”

“One of our primary areas of focus is digital literacy and the development and deployment of information and communication technology (ICT), including ubiquitous broadband and data connectivity/access to our institutions to enhance our ICT capabilities.”

“This informed my visit to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy to discuss possibilities and collaboration on our interventions and other needs in our tertiary institutions presently, the ICT department has embarked on several projects that include; dematerialization and digitalization of thesis project 2 aggregations of electronic databases subscription project among other innovations.”