TETFUND Reports Over 137 Scholarship Students Absconding Abroad
The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) has disclosed that more than 137 students who were sponsored on scholarships abroad have absconded. Sonny Echono, the Executive Secretary of TETFUND, made this revelation during a session with the House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the alleged mismanagement of N2.3 trillion tertiary education tax by TETFUND.
Echono stated that some of the scholars, who were sponsored for higher education abroad, refuse to return to Nigeria after completing their programs. He described this trend as a major crisis, emphasizing that the scholarship requires recipients to return to the country. Echono mentioned that guarantors have been held accountable for the expenses incurred on behalf of the scholars who disappeared, but this has not been effective.
TETFUND is now working with stakeholders to implement stringent and effective measures against those who refuse to return, ensuring that Nigerians benefit from their expertise. Echono suggested enforcing repayment for those who do not want to come back, working with embassies and institutions to declare them persona non grata, making it difficult for them to secure employment in their host countries.
Echono also highlighted that TETFUND may suspend foreign scholarships due to the exchange rate crisis. The taxes paid to TETFUND in foreign currencies are held at the Central Bank of Nigeria, but when fees need to be paid for scholars abroad, the apex bank insists that TETFUND source foreign exchange itself. This situation has led to additional costs, and as a result, TETFUND is considering suspending foreign training for a year or two and focusing on local training through experienced universities in Nigeria.
Regarding the probe into the alleged mismanagement of funds, Echono denied the accusations and clarified that the federal government still owes TETFUND N371.3 billion, of which N46 billion has been repaid so far. The chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke, emphasized that the investigation is not intended to witch-hunt but to prevent the misuse of public funds.