September 12, 2023

175 distressed projects in our tertiary institutions, TETFund boss

India to reopen schools even as country sees 89,700 new virus cases

…Says UNILAG library project may be rewarded

By Adesina Wahab

The Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, Mr Sonny Echono, has said no fewer than 175 distressed projects, sponsored by the fund, dot the landscape of various higher institutions in the country, saying efforts are on to complete them.

Speaking in Ikeja, Lagos yesterday, he said the abandonment of some of the projects arose from the attitude of some heads of the institutions who would stop work on projects initiated by their predecessors.

Echono, who spoke at the opening ceremony of a two-day seminar for Desk Officers on TETFund Interventions Programmes in Beneficiary Institutions, wondered why some vice chancellors, rectors and provosts would decide to turn their campuses to personal estates.

“We are giving priority attention to the completion of abandoned projects across the country and we are doing that this year and the next. I am advising heads of the institutions not to jettison inherited structures and projects. Some of the heads abandoned some projects because they were not the initiators.

“We are learning a wrong lesson from our political environment. Now, on campuses, we have caucuses and when a new man comes in, he brings in his own people. Sometimes, in doing this, expertise, competence and other virtues are abandoned. I will advise that heads of our institutions should appoint people who will add value to the system to positions.

“Among the abandoned projects, we have some that we just need to do a little work and we are good to go. Many of such are to be inaugurated in the next one or two weeks. Some are not like that and the contracts may have to be determined,” he explained.

Answering questions regarding the new library project at the University of Lagos, UNILAG, that has been abandoned for over five years, Echono said the Federal Executive Council, FEC, would have to wade into the matter.

“The UNILAG library project was awarded by the FEC and for anything to be done, FEC would have to revisit the matter. If it is found out that the contractor is incompetent, then the contract could be determined. But if he is competent to handle it, he could be given more funds to finish it,” he explained.

On the fate of some scholars given scholarship to study in the Far East and other remote locations, Echono said it was unfortunate that the value of the naira changed from the level it was when they were going.

“We won’t allow our scholars to be stranded. We are doing everything possible to assist them. When most of them were going a few years back, a dollar was about N480, but now the rate has gone high. Also, the cost of living has gone high globally too. People we gave $1,000 to as living expenses allowance now need about $1,500.

“To guide against such in the future, we are going to change the pattern of our scholarship awards. We will make it 30 percent foreign and 70 percent local,” he added.

Echono charged the Desk Officers to see themselves as the interface between the fund and the heads of their schools and live up to expectations.

Speaking on the sideline of the event, the Vice Chancellor, Lagos State University of Education, LASUED, Ijanikin, Prof. Bidemi Lafiaji-Okuneye, commended the fund for saving the higher education sector from collapse.

“Though we are a new university and yet to start benefiting from the fund, going to some of our campuses, one would see the tremendous and great job TETFund is doing. We are also using this medium to give the assurance that anytime we are listed by the fund, we are going to make judicious use of the resources given to us,” she assured.