- …Corruption allegation painful
Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro staged a comeback as the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) in January, 2019, after serving between 2014 and 2016. In an interaction with a delegation of Media Trust Limited on Monday, May 13, 2019, Prof. Bogoro said he returned with a renewed vigour to serve the country.
Allegation of embezzlement
I remember being earlier invited by the senate because the story all over then was that I stole over N200bn. I said “Oh God!” I come from a small village, Bogoro, I can’t hide that money in that village. It was very painful. It was abject falsehood by the sponsors. But then the senate invited me. They indicated five allegations, one of which was that we were spending N500m on media. The budget of TETFund was between N150 and N200bn. It is justifiable to spend that amount on the huge investment being done. We are sitting on public fund and we need to let the world know what we are doing. And they said it was rather inadequate, that we should have voted more money.
The money they were talking about was N273bn which was used to settle the 2013 Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) agreement; then, I wasn’t in TETFund. Some people wanted me out of this office, but God said He is not done with me here. And for three years, I waited patiently, nobody heard me complaining. In fact, I asked my friends to write a letter and thank Mr. President that it was a privilege that I served under him. And I thank God, the miracle happened; reinstatement. I came back with a renewed vigour to serve this country.
Triple helix innovation model
I came to TETFund with a vision, including taking Research and Development (R&D) to the “Next Level”; that is bringing the researcher and industry on the same platform and you can add government as the third entity; that is the triple helix.
The 21st century is about knowledge economy, not oil. For a long time, they said Nigeria would produce a lot of agricultural products, but because we couldn’t add value by even processing them; applying science and research, we were not exporting the products. The essence of R&D is to deepen research to solve the problem of the economy, technology and society. That is my passion, and I have gone far on that. My predecessor came and changed the name of the R&D Department I established, but I reversed it. The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, said he was happy to embrace my idea of R&D and together we are working with the industry; which is the future of this country.
Fundable research proposals
I once said professors write research proposals that fail to reach the standard that is hoped for. I am criticising myself and my colleagues. We should improve. Here we receive proposal from the National Research Fund (NRF) window that correspond to N50m. And a number of proposals coming from the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education have professors as principal investigators. In the first round of screening, basic compliance criteria; you are harvesting off 80 per cent. This is a fact.
We don’t want to see professors go for sabbatical only to universities, polytechnics or colleges of education, but the industry. Government makes laws that compel industry to make money available to the researcher, to get undergraduate and post-graduate candidates to supervise.
Independent monitors to asses fund’s projects
We are about doing an impact assessment, from 1999, that we have never done, and we need the media to help us. If we have not done well, we will share the information and they should tell the people and say it could have been better here or there. Even in our monitoring and evaluation, we discovered that some of our in-house officials don’t give us correct reports if they discover some infractions; physical or technical. So, we are now introducing independent monitors and evaluators. I warned my staff and said if I send you as a team, I won’t tell you I am sending independent monitors, but if they bring a report that contradicts you, it will affect your job. We have to be transparent because we have huge public funds and Nigerians expect so much from us. At a time our universities need to be ranked better. Only two universities are in the top 1,000 in the world, Covenant and University of Ibadan (UI). We should be doing better; we are gradually shifting into the content component not physical infrastructure.
We have started paying our stranded scholars abroad, almost two weeks now, and those that completed their PhDs recently within Nigeria because they could not go out due to lack of funds. We have approved post-doctoral research and bench work for them that can be between three to nine month and maximum of one year. This is for those that finished between first and five years after PhD. They can go and expose themselves to the best centres and laboratories, learn the techniques and come and apply them here. We are also doing manuscript development out of which many books and journals are being published.
Prompt delivery of projects
The Education Trust Fund (ETF), between 1993 and 1999, collected billions, and remember, when President Obasanjo came newly, they said about N40bn got missing and it was to be investigated and in 1999. They put up a board. We had that money, which was unitised between 1999 and 2011 across board. Even the basic sub-sector, research institutes and colleges of nursing benefited. The original concept was tertiary sub-sector, that was why ASUU insisted and the law was amended and in became TETFund. The law further specified universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, minus the private institutions, as the only beneficiaries. With that, things started changing and became manifest.
When I came in 2014, I changed the implementation guideline, and within six months our projects started moving faster; within 11 months I started and completed many projects.