Arthur Schopenha was a German philosopher. He is best known for his 1818 work The World as Will and Representation died more than two centuries ago but there still stands some immortal and memorial thoughts he blessed the world with before his demise in 1860.
Arthur said that: All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; and third, it is accepted as self-evident.”
These thoughts bear striking parallelism to the factual and detailed presentation of Architect Sunny Echono’s presentation at a public hearing on the alleged missing N2.3 trillion in TETFUND organised by an Adhoc Committee Set-up to Probe the Fund.
The TETFUND Boss on Tuesday revealed that since 2013, the FG has borrowed over N370 billion from the fund to meet pressing needs.
The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) has refuted allegations of a missing N2.3 trillion from its coffers.
Executive Secretary, Sonny Echono, in his clear-cut reaction to the Commitee, informed the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee that the Federal Government is owing the Fund the sum of N323 billion.
Echono, made the disclosure with facts and figure and supporting documents as he herald the workings and operational processes of the Fund to the committee.
He debunked the alleged missing N2.3 trillion and then put to bare the true state of the financial status of Tetfund.
Recall that the House had last Tuesday set up the Committee, chaired by Rep. Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun), to investigate the alleged misuse of N2.3 trillion generated from the Tertiary Education Tax by the Fund from 2011 to 2023.
The Executive Secretary however, said the actual sum generated from education tax from 2011 to 2022 was N2.476 trillion out of which the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) retained N99 billion as cost of collection.
He also explained that the Federal Government since 2013, had borrowed N371.3 billion from the Fund out of which it has paid N48 billion so far.
“We do have challenges but they have nothing to do with fraud. They are basically issues of governance and I would start by explaining what the challenges are. First in absolute terms, so we have a clear picture of what we are talking about. From the year 2011 to 2022 total education tax collected by the FIRS as presented to us in their documentations, as confirmed from the statements we received from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which we have also attached for the Committee to peruse is N2, 476, 733, 181, 679.75.
Out of this amount, a total sum of 99 billion were retained by FIRS (Federal Inland Revenue Service) as cost of collection leaving a balance of 2.37 trillion. So the total fund that had hit the education pool account at the CBN is N2.3 trillion from 2011 to date.
However, the FG over time, in the course of governance and to meet pressing needs has borrowed funds from these accounts. The total borrowing is approximately N371.339 billion. These borrowings happened over time and most of the borrowings started in 2013.
The FG acknowledges that it was borrowing and we have full documentation of this and all the correspondences that accompanied it. Other borrowings since then are being tabulated and given to you. We did secure presidential approval for the refund of this borrowing since 2015 and the FG has been refunding albeit in piecemeal.
To date total borrowing is over N371 billion. But total repayment to this date is about N48 billion. Last year 12.8 billion was given to us, this year another 12.89 billion was given to us. They are just paying. God knows how long this will take to defray the principal amount.”
The TETFUND boss further appealed to the Ad-hoc Committee to assist the Fund in recovering the money, adding that consultations are ongoing to suspend foreign scholarships as a result of the current exchange rate.
He further said that the tax accruable to the fund is generated by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the fund’s account is domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Echono said that some of the tax comes in foreign currencies to CBN but, when it is time to pay fees for scholars abroad, the apex bank insisted on TETFUND source forex by itself.
“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,” he said.
Again Echono urged the Committee to intervene and compel the CBN to allow TETFUND access to forex to pay fees as at when due.
“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 guideline. The money we allocated in naira cannot cover the dollar requirement for training. Those who are currently there, we now need more naira to pay for the dollar that is required for their annual fees. We are trying to put a hold,” he said.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the chairman of the Committee said they were not out to witch hunt anybody but, stressed that they would ensure they get to the root of the matter.
He then thank the Executive Secretary and his management team for the robust and insightful engagement.
Adagher Tersoo, A Critique and Public Affairs Analyst, wrote from Abuja.