Lecturers on TETFund foreign scholarship absconding – Exec. Secretary

The Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Sonny Echono, has described as alarming the number of Nigerian university lecturers studying abroad under TETFund sponsorship and have absconded.

Echono said TETFund would make the absconded lecturers refund money expended on them or be repatriated.

He spoke on Monday on the sidelines of the TETFund Management Retreat held in Makurdi,

He said TETFund devised the two ways, which he described as soft and hard measures, to ensure that the university lecturers who absconded were sanctioned.

He said, “I don’t want to give a figure because it’s alarming; it’s very sad that this opportunity that is being given is being abused.

“The figure is comprehensive, that is why it’s a bit large because there are others who have come back home but did not complete the minimum of their bond before deciding to relocate or what is called ‘japa syndrome’.

“We have a database now, which we are refining each time because the institutions are the ones submitting the report. Although it is a difficult thing to get accurate reports, for some, it’s not that they absconded but they exceeded their course period.

“But some have extensions in their programme; we have a very good idea and the number is not encouraging and I can tell you that even the security agencies are also becoming interested and they are looking at that.”

Speaking on the sanctions, he said, “What we are doing, first as a soft landing, we are requiring anybody who has benefitted in our programme and does not come back, to make the full refund of the money expended in training them.

“The other option, which is the harder one, is that we are collaborating with our embassies, the embassies of the country where they are, and the institutions.

“You will have recalled recently when I met with foreign institutions that will sponsor our candidate, I made it a condition for further patronage that those of our scholars who went to such institutions and did not return, must provide that information to the relevant authorities to their own equivalent of their internal affairs because they’re staying on visas that have not expired or does not permit them to seek employment.

“This means that they have abused their visa and they are subject to migration that is the next step we are going to take and we believe they will do the honorable thing and take the first option.

He further said that TETFund had disbursed over N400bn to tertiary institutions in the country.

(Punch)

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ASUU berates low education budget, threatens strike

Universities across the country may witness strikes in 2024 due to the small budget allotted to the education sector and poor remuneration, the Academic Staff Union of Universities has said.

Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday, Prof. Emmanuel Oshodeke, explained that during the campaign and election earlier this year, President Bola Tinubu promised to increase the Education sector to at least 15 per cent or over.

Similarly, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation also recommended for member states, a 26 per cent benchmark allocation for the education sector.

He complained that Nigeria was the country with the least remuneration for professors, globally.

Oshodeke, however, said that ASUU was dejected when the 2024  education budget was announced to be N2.18tr or 7.9 per cent of the budget.

He reiterated that it was the same figure during the Buhari government, adding that not much progress would be made in the sector; if the budget was not increased.

Oshodeke advised the government to meet with the cabinet members and increase the budget to 15 or more.

“With this seven per cent education budget,  nothing will change in the sector, it is just as we had during Buhari’s time. Tinubu during his campaign promised to increase the education budget but nothing.

“However, there is still a chance for him, to change. But if no improvement on this and our other demands, by next year, we will mobilise our people and we can’t stay like this because Oyo State has 15 per cent and Enugu State budgeted 32 per cent for education, but FG is giving less than eight per cent.

“He can still increase it, they should liaise with the executives and come out with a budget that is not less than 15 per cent as he promised during the election.”

National president, The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Dr Anderson Ezeibe, also told The PUNCH “It is demoralising to see the allocation follow the same trend as in the past.

“The sectoral allocation for education is less than eight per cent and can barely provide solutions to the multifaceted problems in the sector. The allocation is inadequate and falls short of the expectations.”

While speaking on the japa syndrome, which he said had led to an overwhelming brain drain in the university system, he advised the government to increase the salaries of lecturers, pay the backlog of Earned Allowance and withheld salaries.

Osohodeke added, “They should increase lecturers’ salaries, and the increment of retirement age, will enable lecturers to produce more PhDs, but the government is not interested in the system. They should separate lecturers from civil servants.”

He also complained about the lack of international lecturers in the tertiary institutions in Nigeria, saying, “For you to be well-ranked, you have to get lecturers all over the world to come lecture in your system. We pay the least remuneration to professors, globally.

“Professors in Nigeria earn between $200 to $300 a month but when such a professor moves to Rwanda, he earns $3000.

“The government should allow universities to run on its own, they should sign the agreement with Nimi Briggs. They can do all these if there is willpower.”

Ezeibe, added, “The only way to stop the japa syndrome and save our sector from brain drain is to improve funding for the education sector, improve the wage structure to meet at least the African average, and restore governance in the sector to global standards. By doing these, our academics who are leaving will stay back as they will be better motivated.”

(Punch)

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2024 budget: FG votes N50bn for student loan

The Federal Government had voted N50bn in the 2024 budget for the implementation of its student loan scheme.

This was contained in the details of the 2024 budget appropriation.

Meanwhile, details of how the loan scheme, unveiled by President Bola Tinubu in June, would be implemented remains sketchy.

But the President gave the assurance that the loan scheme would kick off January.

The PUNCH reports that Tinubu, who spoke at the 29th National Economic Summit in November, insisted that the student loan scheme was a more sustainable model for funding tertiary education and increasing citizen’s access to higher education

“By January 2024, the new students loan programme must commence. To the future of our children and students, we are saying no more strikes.

“To address long-standing issues in the education sector, a more sustainable model of funding tertiary education will be implemented, including the Student Loan Scheme scheduled to become operational by January 2024.

(Punch)

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Japa: Produce more doctors to boost health sector manpower, FG tasks varsities

The Federal Government has directed universities to begin to admit more students into Medicine and Surgery as a strategy to address the shortage of manpower in the health sector occasioned by the relentless exodus of health workers abroad in what has been termed japa.

The Vice Chancellor, Nile University, Prof. Dili Dogo, revealed the Federal Government’s directive in a statement on Thursday by the varsity.

The statement made available to The PUNCH quoted Dogo as saying Nile University would increase medical students’ admission by 100 per cent in compliance with the Federal Government’s directive to universities.

The VC said,“ We graduated the first set of medical students this year and the Federal Government has requested an increase in the number of medical students to cater for the migration of doctors due to the “Japa’ syndrome. To that effect, we are admitting 195 students into our medical programme, representing an increase of 100 per cent over that of last year.”

Dogo said Nile University had made a heavy investment in infrastructure to guarantee qualitative training.

“In our pursuit to ensure sound educational competence for our students, Nile University has invested heavily in infrastructure. In addition to the existing academic infrastructure commissioned last year, we will be commissioning new facilities, including a STEM laboratory complex. This will be the only state-of-the-art, purpose-built STEM laboratory in the country.

“We are also constructing a medical simulation centre, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. This will bridge the gap and promote the best medical and clinical practices. When completed, it is going to house nine suites of high-definition mannequins that will provide the necessary skills for the training of medical students,” he added.

(Punch)

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UNIBEN first-class graduates to get automatic jobs, says Gov Obaseki

The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has assured first-class graduates of the University of Benin of Edo origin of automatic recruitment into the State Civil and Public Service.

The governor gave the assurance while addressing graduates at the 48th Convocation and 53rd Founders’ Day ceremony at the UNIBEN main campus, in Ugbowo, Benin City.

Governor Obaseki said, “Governance is key and the quality of governance I see the Vice Chancellor of this university display is the one that is so admirable.

“As a government, we decided, seven years ago, to support this university even if it is not a state-owned university. This university is all about knowledge for service and what this university has done to position Edo State in Nigeria in terms of human capacity development is really unheard of.

“We are not a large State but a state with a population of about 5 million people and one university graduating 500 PhDs speaks a lot. I want to thank the university for this achievement.

“It is now a standing policy for the Edo State Government that any student of Edo State origin graduating with a first class degree from any recognised university gets an automatic job from the Edo State Government.

“For your 179 students who may not want to proceed immediately for further studies, just tell them that with just one e-mail, they get an automatic job with the Edo State Civil/Public Service.”

He added, “I have to be here to honour this event because this will be the last time I will be participating as governor of Edo State. I see quality Nigerians selected for honour today.”

(Punch)

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Increase budgetary allocations to varsities, VC begs Tinubu

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Prof Nyaudoh Ndaeyo, has appealed to President Bola Tinubu, to increase the annual budgetary allocations to the education sector in the country, particularly to the universities.

He said though the Federal Government had tried its best in tackling the issue of funding, the best was still grossly inadequate due to increasing population of students.

Ndaeyo said this in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, in his address to mark the combined convocation ceremonies of the institution on Saturday.

“The Federal Government has done its best in the aspect of funding tertiary education in the country, but this best is still grossly inadequate considering the ever-increasing population of students.

He called on the Federal Government to particularly revisit the issue of non-payment of takeoff to the University of Uyo, which he noted has remained a fervent prayer in the lips of the University management, adding that the prayers will not cease until government grants the much needed financial muscle to the institution.

The VC who appreciated the federal government for the release of four out of the eight months withheld salaries of staff of federal universities, called on the president to release entire withheld salaries adding that such gesture would greatly boost the morale of staff.

He listed challenges of the institution to include erosion and insecurity among others and called on spirited organisations and government to come to the aid of the University.

In his address the Chancellor of the University Alhaji Abubakar Maje, congratulated the graduands for their successes and urged them to be innovative, creative and resourceful in the face of limited white collar jobs.

In his speech which was read by the Vice chancellor of the University, professor Ndaeyo, the chancellor who is also the Emir of Hadeja and chairman Jigawa State Council of Chiefs, called on Nigerians to support President Tinubu’s led administration especially in its efforts to transform the country.

“I hereby called on all to support the present federal government which is just few months in office but with great promises to transform Nigeria into a destination of developments,” he said.

(Punch)

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Disbursement to institutions will increase in 2024 – TETFund

The Tertiary Education Trust Fund says it has budgeted a significant increase in annual direct disbursements in response to improvement in tax collections.

The Executive Secretary of TETFund, Sonny Echono, made this known in Abuja on Tuesday at an interactive session with heads of beneficiary institutions on the disbursement guidelines for the 2024 intervention cycle.

Echono, who appreciated the Federal Inland Revenue Service for its diligent efforts in collecting the education taxes, said that the 2023 collection was being allocated by the fund for the 2024 intervention projects.

Echono also said that its 2023 collection of education tax was the highest in a single year since inception.

The TETFund boss also attributed the high revenue to increases approved by the former and present administrations to 3 per cent of accessible profit and other factors diligently implemented by the FIRS in collaboration with the TETFund.

Speaking on the proposed areas of focus under the 2024 intervention programme, he said TETFund had budgeted a significant increase in annual direct disbursements in response to the improvement in tax collections.

According to him, 90.54 per cent of taxes generated is budgeted for direct disbursement and designated 6.5 per cent for some projects and 2.94 for stabilisation to enable the fund to respond to emerging issues, all of which are subject to final distribution/approvals.

“The proposed new interventions in the annual direct disbursement include the establishment of Career Centre/Unit in all categories of beneficiary institutions, as well as institution-based skills development for polytechnics to improve the employability and career prospects of students.

“For the Special Direct Disbursement, we have increased the allocation and number of beneficiary institutions for the Special High Impact Programme,” he said.

He added that SHIP would also focus on “provision of hostels using the Public Private Partnership arrangement for selected beneficiary institutions.

“We have also sustained allocations for Research including the National Research Fund Research and Innovation Fund, uptake of research findings to commercialisation, and supervision of scholars’ PhD research.

“We have made provision for four central multipurpose laboratories and an additional provision for the three agricultural laboratories and farms initiated in 2023.

“We have sustained the implementation of the ICT roadmap with provision for converged services, subscription services for fixed cable /internet access and the Tertiary Education Research Application Services initiative.

“There will be an upgrade of laboratories, workshops and equipment to Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education (Technical) for the 2024 Intervention Year. There will also be the early grade resource centres phase II to Colleges of Education,” he said.

He described the year 2023 as “an impactful year that had witnessed a series of programmes such as the development of the TETFund ICT roadmap culminating in the deployment of the BIMS and launching of the TERAS platforms.

He added that there had also been the commencement of the designs and strategy for the innovation hubs to selected beneficiary institutions, and the constitution of the committee for the establishment of two central research laboratories.

Echono expressed the fund’s determination to deepen research, promote innovation and honing of skills, and encourage the discovery and development of creative talents amongst scholars and especially the students as a major pillar of the renewed hope agenda of the present administration.

(Punch)

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NUC approves 14 programmes for take-off of transportation varsity in Daura

The National Universities Commission (NUC) has given the Federal University of Transportation, Daura, Katsina State, the approval to commence 14 programmes.

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof Umar Adam-Katsayal, confirmed this, saying the approval followed the recent visit of the NUC resource verification team to the university.

In a letter dated October 18, 2023, addressed to the Vice-Chancellor and signed by the acting Director of Academic Planning, Abubakar Girei, the commission announced the endorsement for the introduction of full-time programmes at the university’s primary campus, effective from the 2023/2024 session.

The accredited programmes encompass B.Eng. Civil Engineering, B.Eng. Electrical Electronics Engineering, B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering, B.Eng. Mechatronics Engineering, and B.Eng. Railway Engineering. Other sanctioned courses include B.Eng. Highway Engineering, B.Sc. Aviation Management, B.Sc. Transport Management, B.Sc. Logistics and Supply Chain Management, B.Sc. Maritime Safety and Environmental Administration, B.Sc. Railway Transport Management, B.Sc. Sea Port and Dry Port Management, B.Sc. Inland Waterways Safety and Environmental Administration, and B.Sc. Maritime Economics.

However, the letter noted that the approval does not cover part-time programme delivery and that any modifications to the programme titles would necessitate the commission’s endorsement.

The NUC conducted a resource verification exercise on October 12, 2023, to evaluate the available human and material resources for the university’s initiation. The recently established institution has been christened the ‘Muhammad Buhari University of Transportation Daura.’

(Daily Post)

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Tinubu orders staggered take off of 37 new universities approved by Buhari

The Tinubu administration has said that operations of the newly approved 37 new universities by the past administration would be delayed.

Recall that the president Muhammadu Buhari-led past administration had approved the licensing of 37 new universities in the country a few days before the handing over date.

Minister of Education, Tahir Mamman disclosed this after a meeting with President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday in Abuja.

He said this was in recognition of the funding needed for effective and efficient educational programmes for these universities.

“A number of these new universities were approved by the past administration in its twilight. After much consideration, President Tinubu felt their take off should be staggered.

“It’s not that the universities will be scrapped but that they would be looked at in terms of their areas of strength and advantages to the students.

“The focus of education of the new administration will be on the skills that such institutions would impact on the youths.

“We desire a university where students can graduate with skills that are not only beneficial to them but to the economic growth of the nation,” he said.

The Minister said that government was equally looking at the challenges of states not being able to access the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, funds.

(Daily Post)

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Chicago University reconfirms Tinubu graduated in 1979

The Chicago State University confirmed to American news network, CBS, that President Bola Tinubu graduated from the institution in 1979 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Administration.

There has been controversy surrounding Tinubu’s academic record with the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, filing a lawsuit in the US to compel CSU officials to turn over Tinubu’s academic documents.

However,  CSU told CBS that it was confident in the veracity and integrity of its records regarding Tinubu’s completion of graduation requirements and degree certificate, but was restrained by the United States federal law to provide any further information about Tinubu’s record, without consent or unless allowed to do so via court order.

The statement from the Chicago State University on Tinubu published by CBS on Thursday reads, “As an educational institution, we are sometimes asked to provide information related to student records.

“Federal law known as FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) protects the privacy of student records and limits what an institution can release.

“In August 2023, a request was made in U.S. federal court for the university to provide information related to educational records concerning Bola Tinubu, the President of Nigeria, and a former CSU student.

“The university has confirmed Tinubu attended CSU and graduated in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree. Federal law, however, prevents us from providing any further information without consent or unless allowed to do so via court order.

“CSU is confident in the veracity and integrity of our records regarding Tinubu’s completion of graduation requirements and degree certificate.

“The university is not a party to the Nigerian legal proceedings that spurred this request, and a U.S. federal judge will determine whether the university will provide further requested information.

“Our response to the request for Tinubu’s academic records has been entirely consistent with our practices, policies, and federal law. We would respond in exactly the same manner for any request for any student information by a third party.”

(Punch)

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