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Why foreign scholarships will be suspended — TETFUND

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Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND, Mr Sonny Echono, yesterday dropped hint of planned suspension of foreign scholarships for two years due to high exchange rate.

He said consultations were ongoing on the issue, adding that the Fund was owed the sum of N323 billion by the federal government and had borrowed over N371.3 billion out of which N48 billion had been paid.

Echono spoke at a public hearing organized by an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives on the alleged missing N2.3 trillion in TETFUND.

It will be recalled that the House had last Tuesday, set up the committee, headed by Oluwole Oke, to investigate the alleged abuse of N2.3 trillion generated from the Tertiary Education Tax by the Fund from 2011 to 2023.

He said it was difficult accessing foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, even though the proceeds of their tax accruals generated on their behalf by the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, which is domiciled in Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

According to the Fund, the CBN always insists it sourced its forex to pay fees for scholars abroad.

Echono, urged the panel to intervene on TETFUND’s behalf, disclosing that the Fund would resort to local institutions for scholarship trainings.

He said: “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.

“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.

“Most of our training now will be done locally through our experienced, first-generation universities and other specialized universities based here. This way we can retain our resources in house and cope with the change of foreign exchange variation.

“Some of the scholars that have been sponsored, unpatriotically when they go, they enjoy our scholarship, acquire a higher degree, they refuse to come back, it has become a major crisis.

“We are working with the staff unions for stringent and effective measures to be taken; currently before you are sponsored, you are made to sign a bond.

“The scholarship requires that you will come back. It is required that you have a guarantor and in many cases the guarantor has suffered undue hardship because when you disappear, we hold the guarantor to pay all the money expended on your behalf but that has not been effective.

“We believe that a system where we work with our embassies and the institutions, we can enforce the repayment for those who insist they will not come back.

“If they don’t, we will declare them ‘persona non grata’. We will write to the embassies and they will make it available to those countries and they will not be able to get jobs. They will be seen as fugitives of law from their countries.

“We may have to take that hard stand because the numbers are alarming. We just checked about 40 institutions and over 137 absconders and the review is ongoing.

“It is a huge number that we cannot afford and so we will be seeking your support to strengthen some of the existing regulations to ensure that those who benefit from this programme must come back.

“We are not against people looking for greener pastures but do so on your own, not through our scholarship or through our sponsorship”.

Speaking on the alleged missing N2.3 trillion in TETFUND, Echono said the allegations were unfounded.

According to him, 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 said that the government had since 2013 borrowed N371.3 billion from the Fund out of which it has paid N48 billion so far.

“We do have challenges but these challenges and 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 N 2, 476, 733, 181, 679.75.

“Out of this amount, a total sum of N99 billion were retained by FIRS as cost of collection, leaving a balance of N2.37 trillion. So, the total fund that had hit education pool account at the CBN is N2.3 trillion from 2011 to date.

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Police Probe US Businessman’s Sudden Demise in Lagos Hotel

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– US-based businessman Onyejekwe Izuchukwu found dead in Lagos hotel
– Police investigation underway to determine cause of death
– Autopsy to be performed to reveal more details

The Lagos State Police Command has launched an investigation into the sudden death of Onyejekwe Izuchukwu, a 62-year-old US-based businessman. Izuchukwu’s body was discovered in his hotel room in Ikoyi on June 9, 2024.

According to a source, Izuchukwu had been staying at the hotel since June 6, engaging in business activities. Tragically, his lifeless body was found by a cleaner on the floor of his room.

The hotel’s management reported the incident to the police, who have commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Izuchukwu’s death. A doctor was called to the scene and confirmed the businessman’s demise.

Izuchukwu was a prominent figure in the oil and gas industry, having served as President of Bits and Drilling Tools, a division of Schlumberger. His death has sent shockwaves through the industry.

“The command has commenced an investigation into the case,” said Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin. “Izuchukwu’s corpse has been deposited in a morgue in Ikeja for autopsy.”

 

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Lagos Govt Opens Emergency Center To Curb Cholera Outbreak

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– Lagos activates emergency centre to combat cholera outbreak
– UNICEF urges provision of clean water and sanitation facilities
– 350 suspected cases reported with 17 confirmed and 15 deaths

Lagos State Government has activated its Public Health Emergency Operations Centre to tackle the cholera outbreak. The centre will coordinate responses to the increasing number of severe gastroenteritis cases across the state.

According to Prof. Akin Abayomi, Commissioner for Health, the laboratory investigation has confirmed Cholera sub-type O-1, associated with more severe disease. He urged residents to adhere strictly to precautionary measures to prevent further spread.

Meanwhile, UNICEF has called on the state government to provide high-standard water and sanitation facilities to communities. Celine Lafoucrier, Chief of UNICEF Lagos Field Office, emphasized the need for strengthened healthcare systems to respond to outbreaks.

Lafoucrier stated, “Addressing cholera outbreaks requires a deliberate focus on providing high-standard water and sanitation facilities.” She also stressed the importance of community engagement strategies to halt transmission.

The state government has confirmed 350 suspected cases of cholera in 29 wards across multiple LGAs, with 17 confirmed cases and 15 deaths. However, the number of new cases is subsiding in previously affected areas due to interventions and surveillance efforts.

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