Most Nigerians were shocked to hear recently that lecturers across the nation’s public tertiary institutions were diverting research grants made available to them by the Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund) to build homes, purchase cars, and engage in other frivolous activities.
TETFund, which made the allegation through its director of research and development, Salihu Bakari, said huge sums of money made available to the individual lecturers, and sometimes their teams for research exercises, conference attendance, among others, are usually misappropriated.
Consequently, TETFund said it has suspended forthwith sponsorship of conference attendance for lecturers in the country’s tertiary institutions.
According to source within the agency, who is a member of the governing board of TETFund, the decision to suspend the sponsorship of conference attendance for lecturers is part of efforts towards sanitising the country’s academic system.
He said the governing board, presently headed in acting capacity by the executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof Abubakar Rasheed, met recently to review the 2019 activities of TETFund.
“The agency’s activities were reviewed at the meeting, and more importantly was the sponsorship of the lecturers’ conference attendance. Quite unfortunately, more than 50 per cent of lecturers’ sponsored by TETFund for both local and foreign conferences did not attend the conferences but pocketed the money,” he said.
The source further disclosed that the agency was considering various options towards dealing with the challenge of abuse of funds by the beneficiaries.
The source added; “Just like foreign grants, there are lots of measures put in place to guide the disbursement of TETFund grants, but sometimes some either abscond after receiving first tranche or they change institutions without informing appropriate authorities”.
While we strongly condemn the alleged diversion of research grants and welcome the decision by TETFund to suspend sponsorship of conference attendance for lecturers, we would like to see further punitive actions taken against lecturers proven to have abused the privilege.
We believe that TETFund should go beyond suspension of sponsorship of conference attendance for lecturers to identify who among them diverted funds given him/her for research purposes to other things. Such persons should be sanctioned in line with extant laws, including refund of the disbursed amount to serve as deterrent. We are of the opinion that public funds should be used for the purposes they are meant for.
We recommend the setting up of a high powered and above board team to regularly monitor all research funds to lecturers whose mandates among others should include nipping in the bud any likelihood of diversion of such funds.
Finally, we appeal to beneficiary lecturers to stick to the purposes for which such research grants were awarded them by TETFund. This way, the organisation will be encouraged to extend such benefits to others.