By Philip Agbese
I can bet that not many know about the core responsibilities of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), especially those outside the academia. But for the academics, TETFund has remained a life saver with its numerous interventions. TETFund as an agency is championing a more improved infrastructural and educational development in our Ivory towers.
As a start, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) was established as an intervention agency under the TETFund ACT – Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act, 2011; charged with the responsibility for managing, disbursing and monitoring the education tax to public tertiary institutions in Nigeria. TETFund ensures that funds generated from education tax are utilized to improve the quality of education in Nigeria. This much it has engaged in, but this time around, with so much vigour.
As an academic, I am one of those that were of the opinion that the interventions of TETFund in public universities have been phenomenal given its strategic importance on the development of critical human and physical infrastructures. I must add that for the years I have been in the academia, I haven’t seen such a time as now where TETFund has been proactively and aggressively churning out interventions that have positive impacts in ways too numerous to mention.
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I wasn’t surprised, to say the least for the fact that I knew Dr. Abdullahi Bichi-Baffa, the Executive Secretary way back in my days in Bayero University Kano as a doctoral student. I interacted with him on some issues, and I must add that his profound insights into the challenges confronting public universities then were astonishing. He displayed such aura of a core administrator with a penchant for thinking outside the box. So in a way, I wasn’t surprised by his exploits at TETFund.
Take it or leave it, Dr. Baffa-Bichi is not that conservative chap that limited his horizon to the four walls of the classrooms alone. He is such a chap that is innovative and never afraid to take a risk. His intellectual abilities resonate whenever he engages in conversations. He is daring and always ready to go. Little wonder on how he has transformed the operations of TETFund in less than three years? I will give an example of one of his innovative approaches.
In 2018 alone, TETFund completed 189 physical infrastructure projects in universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education across the country. It also granted a total of 3247 scholarships to Nigerian lecturers for masters and Ph.D. programmes in Nigerian and foreign universities. It also established National Research Laboratories to serve as centres for specialized research in various parts of the country. That is the quintessential Dr. Baffa-Bichi
Let me also state this. Dr. Abdullahi Baffa-Bichi is one hell of a control freak. His is such that nothing but the best must be done. His style of administration is one that is so transparent that it has endeared him to the hearts of the workers of the organization. This much he tells anyone that cares to listen. He often would say that as a leader, one must be transparent and accountable to the public trust. This much was confirmed by the Presidential Action Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), headed by Prof, Itse Sagay, when it recently applauded the management of TETFund for the level of transparency and accountability it has applied to the day-to-day running of the organization.
What does this tell us? It says a lot about the strength of character of Dr. Abdullahi Baffa-Bichi and resolve to dispense quality services in his place of national assignment. Some reading might be wondering why I am all over town heaping praises on him. The reason is that, through the intervention of TETFund, physical infrastructures in public universities has improved tremendously. Also, the quality of human resources has also improved through sponsorship programmes for masters and PhDs, as well as international conferences and seminars that have exposed most university lecturers a great deal.
In some quarters, it has been stated the coming of Dr. Baffa-Bichi indeed saved the Fund from an imminent disaster with the activities of middlemen between TETFund and beneficiaries. And also the fact that now, all TETFund projects are closely monitored for quality assurance purposes, is an indication of accountability and service delivery.
The story of Dr. Abdullahi Baffa-Bichi and his exploits at TETFund can’t be told in a day, as a fact, it can come on a documentary titled the “silent upbeat in TETFund.” In my opinion, the likes of Dr. Abdulahi Baffa-Bichi are rare, and if a fraction of public office holders displays such commitment to duty, Nigeria would indeed be a better place. The TETFund story is one worthy of emulation. It can be termed an amalgamation of purpose, drive, commitment, sincerity, and capacity.
And I think he deserves all the encouragements he can get to continue to deliver the best at TETFund. This much he is receiving from the academia already. But the larger community needs to join the fray because we are all involved in one way of the other.
Agbese wrote from the United Kingdom.