By Muhammad Sanusi Ibrahim
FOLLOWING the agitations by the group of 2013-2017 TETFund stranded scholars, the Fund has released new guidelines to the heads of beneficiary institutions in the country.
This is coming upon hearing that the group of TETFund stranded scholars had lodged a complaint with the National Assembly (NASS).
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions had invited the stranded scholars and the Executive Secretary of TETFund to investigate the issue of 2013 and 2014 TETFund sponsored stranded scholars through a public hearing on 30th July 2020, but the exigencies of Eid-el- Kabir Sallah Celebration overtook the commencement of the exercise.
A new date is being awaited. While it is the prerogative of TETfund management to come up with new guidelines to facilitate its operations, we are forced to observe that such guidelines should not be done to harm citizens in whose mandate the organisation exists in the first place.
It is highly unexpected that a highly respected organisation such as TETFund would result in using two different sets of guidelines for reimbursement of her stranded scholars of the same category after claiming that they had spent N7.2 billion on stranded scholars as published in a national newspaper in December, 2019.
TETfund management has decided to remove the stranded scholars of 2013 and 2014 from the new guideline knowing that the quest for bail-out is being championed by this group. The claim that there was a “delay in payment” because “the Fund observed that most of the submissions forwarded for processing were not in line with the approved guidelines, which among other things led to the delay in payments to the genuine stranded scholars, while others who did not fall within the approved category were paid”, is not the true position of things.
Initially, TETfund management denied or pretended about the existence of this category of scholars. Actually, TETfund management never wanted to pay and when they decided to do so following our agitations, they did it haphazardly in order to cause confusion among the scholars, which, in their estimation, would lead to abandoning our cause. It was a clear case of divide and rule to break our ranks. We refused to cringe before the ploy.
In fact, they set out to discredit us in their rejoinder to our Open Letter, which they published in the Leadership and Daily Trust Newspapers of 27th May, 2020. In the continuation of the effort by TETfund management, aside seeking to intimidate, blackmail and rubbish the integrity of individual scholars using heads of their institutions, they have now resulted into using the strategy of technical knockout to remove scholars who were really stranded from the new guidelines. The venom is clearly reflected in the item (i) of paragraph 2 of the letter sent to heads of institutions in which the beneficiary year starts from 2015/16 leaving out 2013/14 and 2014/15.
As we have always maintained, by the time the crisis of Naira started in 2015, the scholars of 2013-2014 were still in school running their programmes, and were also affected. It is on record that some scholars of 2013-2014 got paid in 2019 and we have documented evidence to support this claim. So, 2013 and 2014 scholars ought not to have been excluded in this new guideline. And the fact that people managed to complete their programmes does not mean that they didn’t suffer the excruciating crash of the Naira when they were in school. Still on paragraph 2, item (iii, d) is another technical knockout plot by TETFund management to set us against our institutions as it is clearly seen in the part where they are using mode of release of funds by home institutions to their scholars as a standard for bailout. Here, we want to remind TETFund management that the upsurge of exchange rate did not respect those who got paid in bulk or on a yearly basis.
Even though some heads of institutions have become complicit and accessories to the plots by TETfund management to pay some scholars and deny some. Before now, some heads of tertiary institutions have used this bailout as a revenge mission against stranded scholars whose sense of independence of views have run against the management of their institutions. Also, making draconian rules to punish stranded scholars is unhealthy for them. Paragraph 3 is a smack of an angry public organisation that is determined to punish the stranded scholars irrespective of what circumstances they are in or the country is in now.
TETfund management is only interested in bringing down a legitimate cause by lecturers who are serving their fatherland. Going by the illogical refund mentioned in paragraph 3 (iii). That assertion, as far as we are concerned is merely to justify their game as a genuine error when in the first place, it was supposed to serve as a game of divide-and-rule. Suggesting a refund by those not affected by the so-called new rule is a cheap escape route to sustain the exclusion of 2013 and 2014 stranded scholars.
The strategic punishment of the champions of bailout must find a technical enactment of a rule to achieve the vindictive posturing of some TETfund officials and their allies in institutions. Like one of our colleagues has philosophised in his book of poetry that, the age long adage that says: “a teacher’s reward is in heaven” has been largely misconstrued by managers of society especially some staff of TETfund to mean that lecturers on their scholarship should only look on to heaven for remedy. This is demonstrated by the level of disdain at which TETFund management has responded to calls to settle tuition fees and upkeep of these Nigerian lecturers who are/were stranded in institutions all over the world.
Lastly, we wish to thank the House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions for listening to our plea and constituting a committee to conduct a public hearing on the issue of TETfund Stranded Scholars’ Bailout. We have full confidence in their representative response to the yearnings and aspirations of distress citizens like us. It is in line with the foregoing that we request the National Assembly to expand the issue of public hearing on TETfund Stranded Scholars’ Bailout to a full-scale investigation of the activities of TETfund like that of the NDDC.
Dr. Muhammad Sanusi Ibrahim ATAP Bauchi Secretary General, For: 2013-2017 Stranded Scholars firstname.lastname@example.org