First published, December 2015
Contrary to the wide spread allegation of the sudden disappearance of the sum of N200billion from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund which is currently heating up the polity in the upper legislative chamber since the beginning of December, 2015. PowerSteering’s finding has shown that the allegation is baseless and false. Therefore the senate may be investigating and persecuting the wrong person after all as no such money was paid into nor removed from TETFund project account at anytime.
The Nigerian Senate of the 8th Assembly had on Wednesday the 2nd of December, 2015 raised an alarm and ordered the commencement of a probe into an alleged Education Trust Fund scam running into billions of Naira. The Senate has subsequently invited the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Prof. Suleiman Elias Bogoro to appear before it over the alleged diversion of funds. It alleged that TETFund under the incumbent Executive Secretary and with the supervision of the Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan diverted N200billion education tax collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) between 2012 and 2013 to an unknown and unspecified uses not recognized in or permitted under the Act establishing the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund. This allegation was contained in a motion sponsored by one Senator Abdullahi Aliyu (APC-Niger-North) at its plenary session. The Senator also alleged that some institutions got multiple allocations of special intervention, while institutions that are their peers in other zones did not receive any within the period under review.
Aliyu who was neither sure of the figures nor specific on the amount involved alleged virtually that “About N200billion of education tax collected between 2012 and 2013 were diverted. “Tertiary Education Trust Fund Board granted a loan to the Federal Ministry of Education and also organized a workshop and pre-retreat in the United States of America and Kenya in 2014 – 2015 without recourse to guidelines of the Act.
The Senator further stated that after spending nearly N1trillion between 2011 and 2015, “the state of infrastructure in tertiary institutions was still shabby, dilapidated and mostly run down.”
Following the resolution to probe TETFund, the Senate President Bukola Saraki directed that the Committee on Tertiary Institutions investigate and report back to the senate within a month. The probe is to cover the diversion of the tax collected between 2012 and 2013 and used for projects not recognized in or permitted under TETFund establishment Act, 2011.
The committee is also to look into an alleged misappropriation of funds from 2011 to 2015. “I want the committee to do a thorough job and within a month report to the senate so that we get a clear picture of the situation” the Senate president ordered.
But PowerSteering can authoritatively state that the N279 billion being Education Tax deducted by the Federal Inland Revenue for 2012 and 2013 neither got into the account of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund nor was any such amount diverted by TETFUND management within the said period. PowerSteering reliably gathered that the above mentioned tax for education collected by FIRS was transferred into the TETFund account in Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) ready to be appropriated and used by TETFUND when the Federal Government in its own wisdom at its time of need quickly used it to implement the NEEDS Assessment Programme of the Federal Government of Nigeria. This prompted this magazine to do an FoI Act letter sometimes in February 2015 demanding an explanation from FIRS, CBN and TETFund.
PowerSteering News Magazine reliably learnt that a total sum of N273.9billion was withdrawn from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) between September and December, 2013. With the approval of the Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan without recourse to the TETFund Board for the purpose of revamping and reconstructing the dilapidated infrastructures in the Nigerian Universities across the country under the NEEDS Assessment Programme of the Federal Government.
It will be recalled that on July 4, 2013 the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on a nation-wide strike to press for the implementation of the 2009 agreement signed with the Federal Government.
One of the critical issues in the agreement is the urgent need to provide critical infrastructure on the university campuses or rehabilitate existing facilities in deplorable state of decay.
In order to tackle the problem of gross infrastructural deficit on the campuses in a systematic manner, the Federal Government set up a Needs Assessment Committee made up of Federal Government officials drawn from relevant agencies, representatives of the governing councils of the universities and the ASUU.
The committee toured all the federal and state universities in the country to obtain first hand, the status of infrastructure on the campuses with the view to ascertaining the quantity and quality of facilities required on each of the campuses that would make learning, teaching and research more conducive for both the students and lecturers.
A comprehensive report made from this exercise and a technical report drawn from the main report was presented to the National Council on Education, the highest policy-making body on education matters in the country for ratification. The report was also presented to the Federal Executive Council and the National Economic Council which variously approved the report. Having received the necessary approvals, the stage was set for its implementation, hence the setting up of the Needs Assessment Implementation Committee for the Nigerian Public Universities.
The committee headed by the former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Torwua Suswam, held its inaugural meeting on August 1, 2013 after its earlier inauguration by Ex-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. It had as members a Senator representing the Senate Committee on Education, Honourable Member representing the House of Representatives Committee on Education, the Ministers of Education, Labour and Productivity, Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC), Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), former Executive Secretaries of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) in the person of Professor Mahmood Yakubu who is now the present INEC Chairman and Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Chief Executives of the National Communications Commission (NCC), National Universities Commission (NUC) and representative of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). Other members of the committee included the representatives of the ASUU, Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU).
After its inauguration, the committee took up its assignment with vigour and commitment leading to the successful mobilisation of initial N100billion for injection into the university system in the area of provision of infrastructure.
Gabriel Suswam, the former Governor of Benue State who was the chairman of the committee deployed his immense experience in handling labour matters in his state as well as his lobbying skills as a former legislator and his understanding of bureaucratic processes as then the governor of Benue State to bear on the assignment while harnessing every useful idea from committee members for the desired result.
The first strategy deployed was to pool all contributions of the federal agencies to the provision of infrastructure to universities which was hitherto done in haphazard or uncoordinated manner. This strategy saw the NNPC, CBN, PTDF, NCC, and TETFund all bringing huge sums of money which amounted to the N100billion raised for the first phase of intervention in the provision of critical infrastructure on the university campuses.
The next critical step in the committee’s assignment was how to distribute the N100billion to the state and federal universities in line with the Needs Assessment Report. To this end, a technical sub-committee was set up with representatives of ASUU to work out a formula for disbursement for the funds. The sub-committee benefitted immensely from the expertise of the ASUU representative, Dr Baffa, in the adoption of technical criteria as students population to determine how much funding would go to a particular university. The sub-committee relying on figures contained in the Needs Assessment report categorized the universities into three.
The first category was those with students population of 30,000 and above, the second category had universities with students enrolment of between 25,000 and 29,000, the third category comprised universities with students size of between 15,000 and 19,000, while the fourth category had universities with students population of between 5,000 and 14,000.
The Technical Sub-Committee report was presented to the main committee for adoption. It was at this point that ASUU wrote to the committee announcing its intention to discontinue participation from meetings of the committee.
The committee nevertheless adopted the report of its Technical Sub-committee and approved disbursement of various sums out of the N100billion to the 59 benefiting universities.
From the template approved by the committee, the University of Ibadan received N3.25billion; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Benin received N3.2billion; while the Bayero University Kano, Universities of Ilorin, Jos, Lagos, Maiduguri and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka received N3.05bilion each from the fund. The other public universities also received various sums of money from the N100billion intervention package.
The funds were disbursed directly to the vice chancellors and chairmen of the governing councils of the universities at a meeting held on August 23, 2013. The management of the various universities and their councils were directed to quickly complete the procurement processes and get the projects started. The committee further directed that both the renovation works and new projects initiated should be completed within 12 months. The disbursed funds were to be committed to the construction of new hostels of various sizes, renovation of existing hostels, building of new lecture theatres, classrooms, laboratories and libraries in accordance with the priority needs of the universities as already captured in the Needs Assessment Report.
It was important then even as it is today to emphasize that the Presidential Implementation Committee headed by Governor Suswam had nothing to do with the award of contracts under this programme as the governing councils of the universities had the overall control of the funds disbursed to their respective institutions. The process was very transparent and well coordinated.
At this point, we reliably learnt that it was pertinent to return to the concerns raised by the ASUU then on basis of which it opted out of the committee, some of whom felt there were under hands playing out in the awards of contracts in their various institutions.
After a careful analysis of the situation, the ASUU’s action was premature and not based on the realities of the situation since the issues raised in its letter of August 20, 2013 either did not arise or were adequately addressed in subsequent meetings of the committee. For instance, the federal government disbursed the N100b directly to the universities and assured that the Due Process Office would be contacted to fast track the procurement processes of projects under this programme. Besides, the committee disbursed every kobo of the N100b to the 59 universities. This also addressed the fears of “pinching and pilfering” raised by the ASUU in its letter earlier referred to.
Also, the disbursement of the N100b was based on the criterion of population of students as proposed by the ASUU itself while the choice of projects in each university was in line with the Needs Assessment Report.
The other issue worthy of further elucidation was the quantum of funds injected into the system for provision of infrastructure. In the ASUU’s view, the 2009 agreement provided for N100b capital injection to stimulate the process of infrastructure on the campuses. This was to be followed by a progressive increase on an annual basis up to the tune of N400b by 2014. The Federal Government unfortunately could not commence this aspect of the agreement in 2009. The Federal Government position was that although there were delays in the implementation of this aspect of the agreement, having commenced the process in 2013 with N100b, there would be annual progressive intervention in the following years. The then Chairman of the committee, Ex-Governor Suswam repeatedly assured that based on the assurances received from the sources of funds (federal agencies) more funds would be mobilized and progressively applied to the identified needs of all Nigerian public universities. It was evident from assurances received that funds for the intervention package for 2014 would surely increase and possibly double in quantum. What this meant was that the universities would in the same vein progressively increase the quality and quantity of their infrastructural facilities.
It was at this point when funding became inadequate that the then Accountant General of the Federation through the then Minister of Finance realized that there was a large sum of money meant for educational intervention under the TETFund to the tune of N279 billion. At that time over N300billion of both current and recurrent fund meant for tertiary institutions was lying idle in TETFund main account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s attention was drawn to this and he quickly approved the use of a total sum of N273.9 billion in four withdrawal between September and December, 2013 for NEEDS Assessment implementation in the tertiary institutions.
PowerSteering can authoritatively prove that the 2012 and 2013, 2% education tax deduction by FIRS never got to TETFund project account from CBN. Agreed, it was lying idle in its account in CBN but not appropriated for use. Therefore TETFund never got any intervention funding in the whole of 2014 from the tax collected.
The withdrawals by the Federal Government of Nigeria for the purpose of the NEEDS Assessment Programme was done straight from the TETFund account in CBN through the NEEDS Implementation Committee to the various institutions PowerSteering learnt.
However, these withdrawals in four trenches were done between September and December, 2013 under the leadership of the former Acting –ES, Mr. Aliyu Manya before the present Executive Secretary of TETFund, Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro was appointed by the former President Goodluck Jonathan on the 14th April, 2014, months later.
When PowerSteering spoke to some of the stakeholders who wouldn’t want their names mentioned, they agreed that the decision of the Federal Government to pull out this sum of money was in line with the mandate of the Act that set up TETFund which has always been to intervene in the infrastructural development of the tertiary institutions. And all of this was done long before the Bogoro led management came on board, and since the management was a continuous one, they managed the resources available to them from April 2014 without the 2012 and 2013 fund from FIRS through CBN. It was after this time that TETFund started receiving her allocation in quarters.
However, our findings also led us to the 2014 intervention of TETFund under Prof. Bogoro. Contrary to the claims that not much had been done by TETFund in the past two years, we discovered that sometimes in September, 2014, the former Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, had at one time announced that the Nigeria’s Federal Government had disbursed N912million to each university from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) for 2014. Shekarau said that each polytechnic received N661million, while each College of Education got the sum of N581million. So one can only imagine how much that amounted to in 2014 only.
According to him, it was a remarkable increase compared with the previous disbursements. In his word “TETFund disburses funds realized from the 2% education tax collections to Federal and State Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
“Over the years, the quantum of funds allocated to the beneficiaries has increased by 41 percent for universities, 49 percent for polytechnics and 48 percent for colleges of education compared to 2013.
“This year, each university is receiving the sum of N912million in normal intervention, each polytechnic is receiving the sum of N661million while each college of education is receiving the sum of N581million” the former minister said that the intervention were supplements to normal annual budgetary provisions by the federal and state governments.
He warned that the intervention fund must be properly prioritized and applied to projects that directly add value to teaching and learning; and to post-graduate training for academic staff as well as to research and scholarly publications.
All of this seem to explain that so much has been done between 2014 and 2015 in TETFund.
On the issue of whether the funds injected into our institutions were judiciously used, and if it created any impact or added value to the learning and teaching, our source who spoke under a cover has this to say: in TETFund, we don’t have failed or abandoned projects. I am saying this without fear of contradictions. This is because if contractors should breach agreement, it will lead to an infraction of the terms of contract. So, we hold you liable, TETFund had forced some contractors to cough out funds collected for failed projects. So, our guidelines are very clear and strict in implementation. No institution can collect money from TETFund to execute new projects when it has not completed the previous projects and issued certificate of satisfactory delivery.
“Every government times immemorial is faced with problem of finance. That means it is almost impossible for any government to have more than enough money to spend at any time. So, those with such view are not fair in their opinion. The Federal Government is not only funding tertiary education through TETFund, it also opens additional windows like the one it provided for with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) when the union down tool across the country two years ago. The government, as fallout of the development, promised to release funds for universities for the next five years with $220billion yearly which is about N1.1 trillion. This is aside the initial $200 billion that was made available to them. So I don’t know what else somebody expects the government to do.”
On the issue of partial/one-sided intervention and access to funds allegation, the governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello recently attested to the fact that it is the responsibility of various institutions and states to respond to the offers being made by TETFund to access the available funds.
The governor disclosed that he has gone through the financial system of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and has certified it free from financial irregularities. The governor, who disclosed this on the 21st October, 2015 during a courtesy call to the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, stated that the agency has done remarkably well in its statutory responsibilities towards Nigeria’s institutions.
He had compared Niger State with its sister state of Kano, in terms of TETFund intervention and stated that there is a disparity in favour of Kano which was why he had visited the agency. “After going to BUK on the invitation of the governor, I observed that Kano State has benefitted a lot in terms of TETFund intervention and I wondered why the disparity? I am not blaming TETFund anymore but the state government.”
“The Executive Secretary has taken out time to explain to me how things are done and I have assured him that as soon as I go back, we will put things straight as my visit has given me the opportunity to be educated and enlightened” governor Sani had emphasized. This is the comment/testimony of the governor of the state where Senator Abdullahi Aliyu hails from. This explains why some institutions get more intervention funds than the others. This fund is accessed through diligent due process. It is not automatic.
There are guidelines and requirements for accessing funds for physical infrastructure and provision of equipment from TETFund. To access allocated funds for this, two (2) major stages are involved viz:
i) Obtaining Approval-in-Principle (AIP) for projects; and
ii) Post AIP stage, which leads to the access of funds.
PowerSteering during this investigation discovered that even when AIP is extending to some institutions, they do not respond promptly. And in responding, the second stage of the guideline which is submission of the feasibility study including detail design drawings comprising architectural and all engineering drawing, structural, electrical and mechanical and many more for construction related projects must be submitted through due process. We reliably learnt that if this is not done within a period of time, the Approval-In-Principle is revoked and offer given to more serious minded applicants since TETFund would not like such funds to remain idle in their banks.
Our source in reacting to the allegation of the pre-retreat in the United States of America and Kenya, raised by the senate, he said it is mandatory for the agency to carry out such functions but no such thing had happened since the present Executive Secretary, Prof. Suleiman Elias Bogoro took over leadership of TETFund.
First published, December 2015