The allegation by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) to the effect that lecturers across the country’s public tertiary institutions are diverting research grants to build homes, purchase cars, and engage in other frivolous activities is quite weighty and must be addressed as a matter of urgent national importance.
This is coming days after an allegation of personnel budget inflation levelled against some academic and healthcare institutions including the University of Ibadan, by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), was made public.
Making the fresh allegation in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, TETFund’s director of research and development, Salihu Bakari, said huge sums of money made available to the individual lecturers, and sometimes their teams for research exercises, conference attendance, among others, are usually misappropriated.
Mr Bakari spoke at a capacity building workshop organised by the agency for select staffers of research and development units from some of the public tertiary institutions, as parts of efforts aimed at rejigging research activities in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
Responding to questions from the participants on the introduction of ‘stringent’ conditions by the agency, especially in the allocation of grants, Bakare noted that the culture of impunity, breach of trust, and violations of funding agreements and rules of engagement by the lecturers is unimaginable.
He said: “It is sad to note that public funds made available to lecturers to conduct groundbreaking and demand-driven researches towards solving Nigeria’s socio-economic, and even political challenges, are misappropriated by those who are expected to be above board. I mean the beneficiaries of our grants.
“Through our recovery efforts, we had traced monies to houses built by lecturers with the public fund; there are cases of cars purchased with the money, without any research work done. And these are the people who would be accusing politicians of being corrupt.”
He also accused many ofthe institutions ofcommitting worse crimes. He said TETFund’s new policy engagement, introduction of strict conditions, and the process towards recovering public funds misappropriated by both the individual lecturers and institutions will help to reduce malfeasance across various campuses.
Meanwhile, the agency has further accused the institutions and their lecturers of not accessing huge funds available at the organisation for research activities and development of innovative programmes. Bakari said the agency is shifting its focus from infrastructural development of the higher institutions to content development.
He said globally, high-flying academic institutions
are no longer known to occupy large space but are recognised with their
innovative ideas, rich
content and advancements in technology. However, he lamented that as much as the agency is trying to democratise access to its large pool of resources, lecturers and their institutions are not coming forward to access the funds.
“For instance, as at 2019, out of 220 public tertiary institutions that are eligible to access our funds for journal publications, only 26 applied. We now also have financial interventions in the areas of manuscript development, ICT development, basic research fund, national research fund, advocacy, among others.”
Major facilitators at the conference, including Nigeria-born Ibrahim Katampe of the Centre for Excellence in Emerging Technologies at the Central State University, USA; Olufemi Bamiro, former vice-chancellor of University of Ibadan, among others, said they have keyed into TETFund’s new vision.
Speaking on the sidelines of the opening programme at the conference, Mr Katampe, a professor, said no nation develops above the quality of her researchers. He said for Nigeria to reclaim her lost glory and combat the socio-economic and political challenges including insecurity, poverty, hunger and diseases, quality researches that are demand-driven must be constantly carried out by the country’s academics
“Things must change back home. Our experiences have shown that holding a serious workshop like this in Nigeria will only be counterproductive. Apart from distractions, absenteeism and nonchalance on the part of participants that we may encounter, realtime facilities for demonstrations are also not available back home.
“But now that TETFund is changing its focus from building constructions to content development, we want to believe it is time for positive change in the areas of research and development in our tertiary institutions. We are committed to this because we have got no other home apart from Nigeria, and no foreigners would fix our problems for us.”
It is instructive that the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, had in 2016 warned lecturers against diversion of intervention fund from the for personnel use. ASUP gave the warning in Lafia at the 6th National Conference of the union, accusing some lecturers in the polytechnics of diverting the intervention from TETFUND for further studies, buying of cars, lands and marrying more wives.
It is not criminal and highly unpatriotic for lecturers or anyone for that matter to divert research grants to other purposes. This reprehensible conduct, which is largely responsible for the poor global ranking of Nigerian universities, is not only inimical to the growth of the nation’s education system but also stymie the overall national socio-political economy. Consequently, we call for a thorough investigation into this matter with a view to imposing appropriate sanctions on the culprits.