Exchange rate: TETFund moves to suspend foreign scholarships

THE Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has commenced moves to suspend foreign scholarship offers to Nigerian students over exchange rate challenges.

TETFund Executive Secretary Sonny Echono disclosed this on Tuesday, July 18, when he appeared before the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee investigating the alleged mismanagement of N2.3 trillion tertiary education tax by TETFund.

Echono explained that some of the taxes are paid to TETFund in foreign currencies through an account held at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) but when fees are to be paid for scholars abroad, the Central bank insists on TETFund sourcing the required foreign exchange.

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“We operate a system where our forex is being sold on our behalf at an official rate and we apply like anybody else to get it, sometimes it leads to additional cost.

“Currently as I speak, we are in consultations with all our stakeholders to suspend foreign training for a year or two.

“This is because of the recent exchange rate adjustments. We are unable to continue based on our disbursement guidelines,” he said.

The Executive Secretary stressed that the money allocated in naira by TETfund cannot cover the dollar requirement for training students abroad. According to him, TETFund now needs more naira to pay for the dollar that is required for the annual fees of students currently studying abroad.

Echono added that, henceforth, TETfund training will be done locally through “our experienced, first-generation universities and other specialised universities” in the country.

“This way we can retain our resources in-house and cope with the change of foreign exchange variation,” he added.

While denying the allegations that TETFund mismanaged the N2.3 trillion fund, Echono noted that the Federal Government was owing the organisation N371.3 billion, out of which N46 billion has been repaid.

Over 137 Nigerian students studying abroad absconded 

The Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund also disclosed to the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee that over 137 Nigerian students from 40 institutions, sponsored abroad, absconded.

According to him, the scholars who were sponsored by TETFund for higher education abroad refused to return to the country after completing their programmes.

Echono warned that stringent and effective measures will be taken against those who refuse to return to the country for Nigerians to benefit from their expertise.

He stressed that such individuals would be considered fugitives of the law in their own country.

“Some of the scholars that have been sponsored, unpatriotically when they go, they enjoy our scholarship, acquire a higher degree, then refuse to come back. It has become a major crisis.

“The scholarship requires that you will come back. It is required that you have a guarantor and in many cases, the guarantor has suffered undue hardship because when you disappear, we hold the guarantor to pay all the money expended on your behalf but that has not been effective.”

Echono added that TETFund “can enforce the repayment for those who insist they will not come back.”



    “We will write to the embassies and they will make it available to those countries and they will not be able to get jobs. They will be seen as fugitives of law from their countries.

    “We may have to take that hard stand because the numbers are alarming. We just checked about 40 institutions and over 137 absconders and the review is ongoing.

    “It is a huge number that we cannot afford and so we will be seeking your support to strengthen some of the existing regulations to ensure that those who benefit from this programme must come back.

    Explaining that TETFund is not against people looking for greener pastures, Echono noted that such individuals must do so on their own.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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