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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Nigeria: Accessing Funds for Higher Education
The revelation that 43 billion naira is lying unutilised for specified purposes in the coffers of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, while most of the country's institutions suffer from prolonged infrastructure deficits, symbolises the decay that continues to bedevil the nation's education sector.
The existence of this dismaying paradox was made public by the TETFund's Chairman, Dr Musa Babayo, during a presentation at a forum held with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). According to Babayo, many higher institutions failed to meet the basic requirements they need to access the funds, which was why, he added, they could not use the money in spite of their pressing need for it. As a result, the funds are in an account at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Dr Babayo also disclosed that part of the funds was invested to yield profits that are ploughed back in to the Fund. In 2013, he said, 18billion naira interest accrued to the Fund from such investments.
Explaining why funds are not often released, 'no matter the pressure', to institutions that fail to meet the requirements, Dr Musa Babayo said the agency would want to be sure that the money would be used judiciously, noting that the Fund needed to monitor every project in order to prevent what he described as 'qualitative corruption', which he defined by citing the case of a classroom that is not well built but might eventually collapse and cause loss of lives.
Nevertheless, Babayo announced the agency's plan to dis-burse over 250 billion naira for projects and research activities in some higher institutions later in the year, insisting that only those that meet the stipulated conditions would benefit. 'If they fail to access it, we'll keep the money in CBN', he said.
Despite TETFund's many workshops designed for tertiary schools on the best modes to secure funds from it, their managements have been lax in following up, he added.
It is indeed ironic that part of the money meant primarily for the provision of facilities as well as teaching and learning equipments would instead be spent on training management staff of higher institutions on how to access funds, with no tangible results. Heads of such institutions must be aware of the significance of intervention funds to the development of their campuses and how these can be accessed.
The apparent indifference of the managements of tertiary institutions in accessing TETFund's intervention programmes cannot be due to ignorance of the procedure or the possible bureaucratic bottlenecks involved. A more plausible factor to explain the unresponsiveness of tertiary institutions is the requirement that fresh access to funds is dependent on providing evidence of how previous disbursements were spent. Some elements of personal gratification may therefore be involved; if individuals cannot benefit, the institutional should not benefit. This is a retrogress position to be in. The TETfund policy in this regard is sound, and should be sustained. What the intervention agency needs to do further is to fashion out a mechanism by which the leadership of tertiary institutions would be required by regulation to access the funds for projects and for the capacity building of both academic and non-academic cadres.
One strategy is for TETFund to periodically publish lists of institutions that neglect to access the agency's intervention funds. Such reports should be made available to members of the Councils and Senates of tertiary institutions, which in turn should take the matter up with the management of their respective schools. The academic and non-academic unions and alumni should equally be interested in the level of patronage of TETFund by their institutions. Monitoring of projects should also be of concern to them.