• Says infrastructure gulped N76.5bn, academics training N44bn
• ‘Each varsity received N1bn, Poly N691m, COE N679m’
• ‘Era of impunity by contractors, scholars over’
Contrary to insinuations in certain quarters that the country’s higher institutions are not getting any assistance on funding in order to achieve their goals, an intervention agency, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Tetfund), has revealed how it intervened with a whopping billions of naira to change the narrative.
Speaking with The Daily Times editorial team during an exclusive interview in Abuja on Friday, the Executive Secreatry of Tetfund, Dr. Abdullahi Baffa, disclosed that over N120.5billion has been spent in the last one year on the Nigeria’s 203 higher institutions.
According to him, the development is to boost infrastructure and human capital development in the public universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
Baffa who spoke to the newspaper as part of activities marking his one year in office, also maintained that the primary focus of his administration is to build world class tertiary institutions that can match their counterparts in any other parts of the world.
He further disclosed that since his assumption of office on August 6, 2016, he has been working round the clock to ensure that the nation’s tertiary institutions compete favourably with their counterparts in advanced countries of the world by making funds available for state-of-the-art facilities in all campuses.
He also stated that within 12 months, the agency under his watch has tripled the amount of allocation made available to the universities, polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
He said that each public university in the country has received N1billion, Polytechnics N691million while the Colleges of Education got N679m all geared towards infrastructure development in the institutions.
This he said brings the total sum expended on infrastructure in tertiary institutions to N76.5billion.
As part of the efforts to enhance teaching standard and research work, Baffa stated that Tetfund has spent N44billion on human capital development for academics staff trained across top universities in the world.
Baffa further disclosed that Tetfund under his watch has resolved to transform tertiary institutions in the country in line with President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s agenda of “pursuing with vigour, the human capital development.”
The Tetfund boss said, “For the first time in the history of the fund, we have given the biggest allocation ever to beneficiary institutions. Since the establishment of Tetfund or going back to its days as ETF, never was any university given up to N1billion as normal intervention fund, never was any polytechnic given up to N691million as normal intervention fund, no college of education was given up to N679million as annual intervention but we have succeeded in doing this.
“The second thing that we are really happy with and which we count as our achievement, is that, we met unutilised allocation of about N175billion from 2011 to 2016 allocations meant for different institutions on different intervention lines for which they have either not drawn from or which they have started drawing but they have not finish unitlizing.
The Tetfund boss also spoke on measures put in place to address issues arising from the critical needs of the higher institutions.
He said, “We have conducted what we call the Access Clinic. For the very first time also in the history of the fund to be able to help beneficiary institutions to overcome whatever challenges that are impeding their ability to fully access and utilize these outstanding balances.
“I am happy to say that arising from the conduct of the Access Clinic, substantial percentage of this unutilised allocation have been cleared, because at the Access Clinic, what we do is to listen to institutions, hear their challenges, advise them appropriately and agree on timeline within which they should overcome such challenges and drawdown the outstanding balances due to them.
“We have also been assuring that we will ensure compliance with their strategic plan, with their academic brief, in the project that they are proposing. We have conducted what we call Project Proposal Defence.
“It is also for the very first time in the history of the fund that we invited all institutions, and tell them, we are giving you N1billion, tell us what you intend to deploy this N1billion for?
“We listen to your presentation and ensure that all the projects that you are proposing are guided by your strategic plan and according to your master plan and in accordance to your priorities and they are also not in violation of our mandate.
“This, we are very happy with because we have succeeded in ensuring that any project that was proposed by any institution that is outside our mandate area, we have excluded that. Any institution that is proposing structures that are small, tiny structures, small cubicles, we have also excluded them.
“Any institution that is not aware of what sort of document to prepare and to submit, we have also drawn their attention.
“These exercises that we have conducted are not only to help the institutions, but also to help ourselves so that we can improve on our own efficiency and our own performance.”
Regarding the issue of impunity, Baffa warned that recalcitrant beneficiaries or contractors would be dealt with, saying that the culture of impunity is over.
He said, “I must also say that we are able to end the culture of impunity in the manner in which the Act establishing Tetfund would be obeyed.
“We are able to ensure that every infringement that was going on in the past has been stopped and that is why for example, institutions that have abandoned projects, where contractors collected money and walked away without doing the project, we are able to get them back.
“We are able to get scholars who have collected money to go on Ph.D. training or Masters training, and failed to go, we are able to recover such money. All these major and minor infringements that we’re going on, we identified them and we have gone after the perpetrators and we are able to commence recovery or compel the contractors back site.
Baffa also disclosed that the various measures being put in place to end culture of impunity are beginning to attract good results.
He said, “But one thing that we are very happy with, during this last 12 months, everyone out there is now in full knowledge that the Tetfund of today is not the Tetfund of yesterday because our guiding principle is the Act establishing Tetfund.
“Whatever we are doing, we ensure that we are guided by the provision of the Act, whatever we are doing we ensure that we are guided by the operational guideline of Tetfund.”
The Tetfund boss also spoke on his decision to train members of staff of the agency for efficient performance, saying that the professional training would give them the necessary tools to keep them abreast of global practices.
He said, “I am also happy to say that internally, we have improved on the professional training that we offer to our staff so that we make them better equipped to handle the activities that we are doing.”
Baffa, who recently attained one year in office, also spoke on the agency’s intervention on human capital development, saying that the development remains one of his remarkable achievements.
He said, “One very clear achievement that we are proud to announce is our ability to increase the human capital development intervention. In 2015, each university was given N100million, polytechnics N70million and colleges of education N60million and for the purpose of academic staff training and development.
“But in 2016 when I came, we have tripled that amount, we have given each university N300million as against the N100million given to them. We have given polytechnic N200million as against N70million given to them previous years and we have also given colleges of education N200million as against the N60million given to them.”
Baffa further disclosed that all the abandoned projects are getting necessary attention, saying that every project he inherited would be completed before the end of his tenure.
He said, “It is sad to say that we have also succeeded in continuing with all the projects that we have inherited and we have also started numerous other ones arising from the intervention allocation that we have given. Suffice to say that counting numbers or listing is almost impossible as far as Tetfund is concerned.
“But suffice to say that one only need to walk into any campus of our beneficiary institutions and would see the signature of Tetfund all over. But what we are very proud of is that our support for scholars to pursue higher degrees, our support for scholars to attend academic conferences at home and abroad, our support to scholars for institution based research grant so that they can conduct research, our support to scholars for academic monitoring development has been increasing day in day out.”
Baffa also commended the agency’s workers for working hard to achieve desirable results and also thanked the beneficiary institutions for their cooperation.
On the accusation from certain quarters that the agency is partially fulfilling its mandate by focusing on two areas namely: infrastructure and academic equipment out of its 14 statutory interventionist areas, the TETFUND boss said the accusation is a misconception, insisting that his administration is eminently balanced in the execution of its statutory mandate to ensure an all-round development of every tertiary institutions
In a related development, Tetfund has disbursed about N1.72billion to finance researches in different areas.
Baffa, who stated this while inaugurating two committees namely: the National Research Fund Screening and Monitoring Committee (NRF&MC) and the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Book Development, also noted that additional N1billion was allocated in 2016 to beef up the intervention and that one of the concerns of the fund in respect of the implementation of the intervention, is quality of research proposals that are being submitted by applicants.
He further said that N2 billion seed grant was dedicated for lecturers in various public tertiary institutions to assess for the development of manuscript into books.
The National Research Fund (NRF), according to him, was introduced to resuscitate research activities in the national public tertiary institutions to support scholars meet up with the requirement teaching, research and community service.
He said. “Conducting quality research in our public tertiary institutions will not only engender national growth but will also raise the standard and the global competitiveness of Nigeria’s education system.”
The TETFund boss also maintained that to achieve research and development -driven socio economic process in the country, a coordinated, properly focused and cutting edge researches in all critical areas are required to be anchored by scholars in the higher education institutions.
Urging the committees to help in accelerating Nigeria’s journey to building a strong and responsive knowledge economy, he noted that Chairmen and members of the committees consist of wide range professionals drawn from the academia and some relevant parastatals under the Ministry of Education.
But the MRF&MC committee will be chaired by the Vice Chancellor of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Prof Abdalla Adamu, while the TAG committee will be chaired by former Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan, Prof Olufemi Bamiro.
In his acceptance speech, Prof Adamu commended the initiative, saying that African scholars have been left behind as thousands of researches are left in the library.
He said this is an opportunity for the researchers to contribute to global best practices and to ensure that they are also uploading and not downloading researches from the western world.
Tony Amokeodo, Mathew Dadiya, Augustine Okezie, Francesca Iwanmbe and Aisha Inuwa, Abuja