TETFUND considers suspending foreign scholarships for two years due to high exchange rate
Mr. Sonny Echono, the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), announced on Tuesday that there are plans to suspend foreign scholarships for a period of two years due to the high exchange rate. He stated that consultations are underway regarding this issue.
Echono also revealed that the federal government owes TETFUND the sum of N323 billion. He noted that TETFUND has borrowed over N371.3 billion since 2013, of which only N48 billion has been repaid thus far.
Speaking at a public hearing organized by a House of Representatives ad-hoc committee investigating the alleged missing N2.3 trillion in TETFUND, Echono highlighted the difficulty of accessing foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) despite the tax proceeds generated by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) on behalf of TETFUND.
According to Echono, the CBN insists that TETFUND sources its own forex to pay fees for scholars studying abroad. He requested the intervention of the committee in this matter.
Echono stated that TETFUND will shift its focus to local institutions for scholarship training due to the challenges in obtaining foreign exchange. He emphasized the need to retain resources in-house and adapt to the changing foreign exchange variations.
Furthermore, Echono expressed concerns about scholars sponsored by TETFUND who choose not to return to Nigeria after completing their studies abroad, referring to it as a major crisis. He mentioned efforts to implement stringent measures, such as requiring scholars to sign a bond and holding guarantors responsible for repayment if scholars fail to return.
Echono proposed working with embassies and institutions to enforce repayment and, if necessary, declaring non-returning scholars as ‘persona non grata,’ making it difficult for them to find employment.
Regarding the alleged missing N2.3 trillion in TETFUND, Echono dismissed the allegations as unfounded. He clarified that the actual sum generated from education tax from 2011 to 2022 was N2.476 trillion, with the FIRS retaining N99 billion as the cost of collection. Echono explained that the government has borrowed N371.3 billion from TETFUND since 2013, with only N48 billion repaid thus far.