The Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Sonny Echono, Tuesday urged the House of Representatives to help it recover the outstanding debt of N323bn the federal government borrowed from the TETFund.
Echono made the call at a public hearing by an ad-hoc committee of the House probing the alleged missing of N2.3trn in TETFUND.
The House had, last Tuesday, set up the committee, headed by Oluwole Oke, to investigate the alleged abuse of N2.3trn generated from the Tertiary Education Tax by the Fund from 2011 to 2023.
Echono said the allegation was untrue.
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He said the actual sum generated from education tax from 2011 to 2022 was N2.476trn out of which the Federal Inland Revenue Service retained N99bn as cost of collection.
He said the federal government, since 2013, had borrowed N371.3bn from the Fund and paid N48bn so far.
He said, “We do have challenges, but these challenges have nothing to do with fraud. They’re basically issues of governance. From the year 2011 to 2022, the total education tax collected by the FIRS as presented to us in their documentations, as confirmed from the statements we received from the Central Bank of Nigeria which we’ve also attached for the committee to peruse is N 2, 476, 733, 181, 679.75.
“Out of this amount, a total sum of N99bn was retained by FIRS as cost of collection leaving a balance of N2.37trn. So the total fund that had hit the education pool account at the CBN is N2.3trn from 2011 to date.
“However, the FG over time in the course of governance and to meet pressing needs has borrowed funds from these accounts. The total borrowing is approximately N371.339bn. These borrowings happened over time and most of the borrowings started in 2013.
But total repayment to this date is about N48bn. Last year, N12.8bn was given to us, this year another N12.89bn was given to us.”
Enocho also said consultations were ongoing to suspend foreign scholarships as a result of the current exchange rate.
He said the tax accruable to the fund was generated by the FIRS and the Fund’s account was domiciled in the CBN.
According to him, some of the tax comes in foreign currencies to CBN, but when it is time to pay fees for scholars abroad, the apex bank insists on TETFUND sourcing forex by itself.
He urged the committee to compel the CBN to allow TETFUND access to forex to pay fees when due.
He said the Fund had earlier decided that only limited courses where it did not have the capacity in Nigerian institutions would qualify for foreign sponsorship.
“Most of our training now will be done locally through our experienced, first-generation universities and other specialised universities based here. This way we can retain our resources in-house and cope with the change of foreign exchange variation.”