The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) has revealed that more than 137 students who were sponsored with scholarships abroad have absconded. Sonny Echono, the Executive Secretary of TETFUND, revealed this during his appearance before an ad hoc House committee investigating TETFUND’s alleged mismanagement of N2.3 billion in tertiary education taxes.
Echono stated that the sponsored fellows, who were sent by TETFUND for higher education abroad, have refused to return to the country after completing their programs. He expressed concern about this issue, describing it as a major crisis. The fellowship program requires fellows to return to Nigeria, with a guarantor who will be responsible for financial expenses incurred on their behalf. However, the current measures have not been effective in ensuring their return.
Echono stressed that TETFUND is collaborating with stakeholders to implement strict and effective measures against those who refuse to return, so that Nigerians can benefit from their experience. He mentioned working with embassies and institutions to enforce payment to those who insist on not returning. If these fellows do not pay their fees, they may be declared persona non grata and face repercussions in terms of job prospects and legal status in their host countries.
Echono also mentioned the possibility of suspending foreign scholarships due to the currency crisis. TETFUND faces challenges in obtaining foreign exchange to pay scholarship fees abroad. As a result, they are considering suspending training abroad for a year or two and focusing on local training at established universities within Nigeria.
Additionally, Echono clarified that the federal government owes TETFUND N371.3 billion, of which N46 billion has been repaid so far. He denied allegations of mismanagement of the N2.3 trillion fund and stated that the investigation is aimed at preventing the misuse of public funds rather than witch-hunting people.
Committee chairman Oluwole Oke reiterated that the investigation is not targeting individuals but the misuse of public funds.
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