Forget innovation, Nigerian universities must first conquer corruption


As the world scrambles to uncover a lasting cure for the new Coronavirus (which is a mutated strain of the common cold), many have asked what Nigeria’s academic institutions are doing to contribute to the scientific research that will eventually lead to this breakthrough. This question is one that is asked often, and often answered by pushing the buck to the Federal government and lack of funding to tertiary institutions. Well news from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) suggests maybe we have been way too lenient on Nigerian universities and the lecturers and professors who are supposed to provide these breakthroughs.

This week, the management of the TETFund brought up accusations against academic faculties across the country of diversion of funds meant for research grants towards personal use. Dr. Salihu Bakari, the director of the institution publicized the allegations at a capacity building workshop for research units from several Nigerian universities. Bakari alleged TETFund has over the years provided funding for grant pitches and is yet to see any tangible breakthroughs from the research departments funded. What they have seen is increased spending from the researchers and professors who are assigned to the projects, spending that they cannot justify. He said:

“It is sad to note that public funds made available to lecturers to conduct groundbreaking and demand-driven researches towards solving Nigeria’s socio-economic, and even political challenges, are misappropriated by those who are expected to be above board. I mean the beneficiaries of our grants.

“Through our recovery efforts, we had traced monies to houses built by lecturers with the public fund; there are cases of cars purchased with the money, without any research work done. And these are the people who would be accusing politicians of being corrupt.”

But not to worry, TETFund is streamlining its engagement policies to reflect this new reality and making it harder for universities to gain access to research funding without proof of previous successful projects. TETFund is also seeking stronger punishments for academics who embezzle grant funding. Going forward everyone will have to work to earn research grant money and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

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