· Says N722m disappeared overnight
A member of the Senate Committee on Education has affirmed that the proposed audit of the finances of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) will help establish how billions of Naira earmarked to help build strong educational institutions were mismanaged.
In one instance alone, said the senator, a N722 million grant from TETFund to the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), disappeared.
Acting on a motion by Kano-born Senator Jibrin Barau, the Senate had late last week resolved to probe the finances of TETFund in view of what it said was the disappearance of billions of Naira meant for education.
TETFund is funded by the monies realized from the deduction of 2 percent of the
profit of companies operating in Nigeria.
Justifying the need to probe TETfund, the senator said the fund had over the years become a cash cow to be milked by all to a point where the education system was on the verge of collapse.
The senator said the committees on education of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the Ministry of Education, had been flooded with petitions from worried Nigerians, but that most of the petitions were swept under the carpet.
He, however, commended the present leadership of TETFund for “bringing integrity to bear on the organization.”
On the N722 million he claimed disappeared overnight, the lawmaker said TETFund in September 2007 released the sum of N722,500,000 to UBEC “for procurement of additional classroom sitting materials (CKD) for junior secondary schools”. At the time, he explained, the fund was known as Education Trust Fund (ETF).
“On September 7, 2007, the then UBEC Executive Secretary, Dr. Ahmed Modibbo Mohammed, wrote his counterpart in ETF, Professor Mahmud Yakoob, a reminder ‘on the release of 85% grant’ which he put at N722,500,000.
Mohammed’s reminder came on the heels of an earlier letter by his predecessor, Dr. Lami Amodu, to ETF dated August 14, 2007,” said the senator.
He pointed out that, aside audit documents obtained from ETF, UBEC on Friday, August 22, 2008 ran full page advertorials in THISDAY and Daily Trust newspapers wherein it confirmed that it had received funding from ETF and proposed to use the money to produce school tables and chairs.
According to a copy of the advertorial sighted by THE AUTHORITY, UBEC disclosed that it “has received financial support from the Education Tax Fund (ETF) and intends to apply the proceeds for the procurement of high grade, impact resistant copolymer resin tables and chairs for the basic education sub-sector.”
The advertorial, which was signed by UBEC’s Head of Procurement, Mr. Benjamin Smart, invited “eligible manufacturers to apply for pre-qualification,” noting that “the plastic chairs and desks are to be delivered to SUBEBs in 36 states of the federation and FCT.”
The senator said some UBEC and ETC officials (names withheld) rode on the back of a legal dispute between UBEC and an American firm that produced the first set of desks and chairs to share the N722,500,000 with certain officials in the Presidency and Federal Ministry of Education.
Tasked to supply proof, the lawmaker quizzed, “When matters got to a head in court, the then ETF Executive Secretary, apparently to shield some people, deposed to an affidavit that the money was still in ETF custody. This was in 2012 or so (I have the documents) that is, over four years after the money was paid into UBEC account”.
“When Justice Abbul Kafarati ordered TETFund to deposit the money in the account of the Federal High Court for safekeeping, what happened? After initially agreeing to pay the money, which even the court knew had disappeared, TETFund rushed to appeal the ruling.”
“What happened after the appeal was dismissed? Did TETfund pay into the court’s account? No! The same persons who entangled themselves with the missing money have today been compensated with higher offices,” he lamented, stressing, “this is why it is important for Nigerians to know the truth about what happened to their money.”
Attempts to get reactions from Prof. Mahmud Yakoob and Dr. Modibbo Mohammed were unsuccessful as several calls put to their mobile telephone lines were not answered. Both also did not respond to text messages.