By Abubakar Sani
The Federal Government of Nigeria established the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) in 2011 to disburse, manage, and monitor education tax to public tertiary institutions in Nigeria. TETFUND is an essential part of Nigeria’s education sector, whose success is highly dependent on a robust, transparent and accountable system that ensures resources are appropriately allocated towards achieving public service delivery in the education sector.
In recent times, the activities of the agency have continued to elicit commendation from critical stakeholders in light of the visible improvements in the fulfilment of the operational mandate of the agency. In some quarters, this has been ascribed to the exploits of its Executive Secretary, Arc. Sunny Echono.
I recall when President Muhammadu Buhari approved the appointment of Arc. Sunny Echono as the executive secretary of TETFUND, many positives were expected of the former Permanent Secretary whose performances in the Education sector had been stellar. It was expected that he would bring to the table wealth of experiences spanning diverse sectors.
A reformer to the core, his ascension to the TETFUND leadership, was another opportunity for him to showcase the instrumentality of transparency and accountability in delivering excellent results. And so far, he has not disappointed. With in-depth experience in civil service and administrative positions, Arc Echono’s obsession with exceptional service delivery has never been in doubt.
Soon after taking over the affairs of TETFUND, Echono sort to consolidate and improve upon the reforms initiated by his predecessors. He is currently addressing the challenges associated with building a solid relationship between academia and other sectors. The Echono-led administration has created an endless source of the academic workforce needed for national development through strategic innovations and programmes. To his credit, TETFUND brokered top local and international partnerships and initiated initiatives and programmes beneficial to achieving excellence in Nigeria’s Tertiary institutions.
Under Arc. Sunny Echono, TETFUND had entered strategic partnerships with notable institutions, including “The University of Brazil, Vicosa, for the training of more Nigerian professionals in agriculture, secured transnational cooperation with the government of Britain, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) as well as the African Union (AU) in areas of research and collaboration that would aid the growth and development of tertiary education in Nigeria.
To protect the academic integrity of educational institutions and academia, it was reported that TETFUND initiated a Digitization Project Steering and Coordinating Committee with the mandate to create a national research bank to serve as a repository for academic work and to generate an extensive collation of local institutional research into Digital Repositories in line with international standards in public tertiary institutions across the country. Also, under his watch, TETFUND set up a Coordinating Secretariat to operationalize the partnership between the government, private sector and academia.
The TETFUND boss believes that transparency and accountability are also crucial in addressing some of the challenges in the operations of the agency. He argues that through greater accountability, the leaky pipes of corruption and inefficiency will be repaired, and funds will be channelled more effectively towards initiatives and programmes that will produce more significant and visible results.
True to his words, transparency and accountability have been entrenched in the operations of TETFUND. He initiated practical reforms aimed at promoting prudent spending, curbing financial leakages and wastages, and ending programmes or projects that were not productive to the agency or tertiary institutions across the country.
Arc. Echono has so far shown great courage; he does not shy away from stepping on toes in his determination to provide purposeful leadership. It is on record that the era of frivolous programmes and initiatives without benefits to the operational mandate of the agency has been discontinued and replaced with laudable programmes with an impact on the promotion of focused and transformative intervention in public Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria.
Also, in line with his agenda of accountability and transparency, Arch Echono reviewed the agency’s procurement processes to conform to standard practices and extant laws. He also championed the ongoing reorientation of the agency’s workforce through seminars and workshops to acquaint workers with the new practice. This ultimately discouraged the deployment of unethical practices within the agency.
The awards have poured in celebration of an astute administrator who has demonstrated passion and commitment to service delivery. His passion is infectious. This is evident in the improvement in workers’ morale at the agency. At TETFUND today, there is a breath of fresh air. Staffers are well motivated and it is indeed a regime of productivity at its best.
Arc Sunny Echono is silently revolutionizing TETFUND; these various stakeholders have corroborated. The position of stakeholders is that the operations of TETFUND have been rejigged and positioned for optimal results. For example, the Council of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) extolled the high level of professionalism demonstrated by Arc. Sunny Echono and his sound management principles and practices in running the agency affairs.
Without a doubt, Arc. Sunny Echono has provided credible leadership, which must be commended in service to the country.
Sani wrote this piece from FUT Minna.