TETFUND’s JAPA Crisis: 137 Sponsored Students Abscond, Refuse to Return To Nigeria

In a startling revelation, the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Sonny Echono, disclosed that over 137 students, who were sponsored abroad for “higher education,” have absconded and refused to return to Nigeria upon completing their programs.

Echono made this disclosure during his appearance before the House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee, which is investigating the alleged mismanagement of N2.3tn tertiary education tax by TETFund.

Expressing concern over the situation, Echono emphasized the importance of scholars fulfilling their obligation to return to the country after benefiting from TETFund’s scholarship.

He pointed out that the students are required to have a guarantor, and when they fail to return, the guarantor is held responsible for repaying the funds expended on their behalf. However, this approach has proven ineffective in resolving the crisis.

To address the issue, TETFund is collaborating with stakeholders to implement stringent and effective measures against those who refuse to return to Nigeria, thus depriving their fellow citizens of the benefits of their expertise. Echono suggested that working with Nigerian embassies and institutions could be a way to enforce repayment from the scholars who are unwilling to come back.

The Executive Secretary stated that scholars who persistently refuse to return and repay the funds may face severe consequences, such as being declared persona non grata. TETFund intends to write to the embassies of the scholars’ host countries, flagging them as fugitives of the law and making it difficult for them to secure jobs.

Regarding the exchange rate crisis, Echono revealed that TETFund may have to suspend foreign scholarships temporarily. The funds required for paying fees in foreign currencies pose a challenge due to exchange rate fluctuations, forcing the organization to consider local training options in experienced, first-generation, and specialized universities within Nigeria.

In response to accusations of mismanagement, Echono denied any wrongdoing on the part of TETFund. However, he acknowledged that the federal government owes TETFund N371.3 billion, of which N46 billion has been repaid so far.

Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke, clarified that the investigation aims to stop the misuse of public funds and is not intended as a witch-hunt.

As the probe continues, Nigerians remain anxious for answers and accountability, hoping that measures will be put in place to prevent further mismanagement and ensure that TETFund’s resources are utilized responsibly for the benefit of the nation’s education system.

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