The Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) revealed that more than 137 students, sponsored by the fund for higher education abroad, have absconded and refused to return to the country after completing their programs. This revelation was made during the Executive Secretary’s appearance before the House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee investigating the alleged mismanagement of the N2.3tn tertiary education tax by TETFund.
Echono emphasized that the scholarship requires scholars to come back to the country after their studies, with a guarantor responsible for their return. However, many scholars disregard this obligation, causing a significant crisis. Efforts to enforce repayment from the guarantors have not yielded the desired results.
To address this issue, TETFund is collaborating with stakeholders to implement stringent measures against those who refuse to return. They are considering declaring such scholars “persona non grata,” notifying their embassies, and making them ineligible for jobs in their host countries.
Due to the exchange rate crisis, Echono revealed that TETFund may suspend foreign scholarships for a year or two. Taxes are paid to TETFund in foreign currencies, and sourcing Forex for scholars’ fees from the Central Bank of Nigeria has become increasingly challenging.
As an alternative, TETFund plans to conduct most training programs locally, utilizing experienced first-generation universities and specialized institutions within the country to manage resources efficiently.
In response to allegations of mismanagement, Echono denied any wrongdoing by TETFund. The committee chairman clarified that the investigation aims to prevent the misuse of public funds and is not intended to witch-hunt anyone.