The removal from office of the erstwhile Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Dr Abdullahi Baffa Bichi has raised controversy so much not just because of the personalities involved but also due to the enormity of the issues. Central to the controversy is the issue of corruption which has been the catchphrase of this administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari.
It could have been a normal storm that pales into insignificance with the type of jiffy it came but gained momentum against the backdrop of the ongoing strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on grounds that the Federal Government is not spending enough to raise the quality of education and learning environment in the federal universities.
Though Baffa has since been replaced by another ex-boss of the agency, Prof. Suleiman Elias Bogoro, who was ousted in 2016 for allegedly diverting N200 billion released for special intervention projects into the failed re-election bid of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, we believe that the circumstances that catapulted the change of guard, requires exhaustive examination to enable the public draw appropriate lessons for the future.
In the definition of many who know the backroom politics in government institutions, Baffa’s sack smacks of muscle-flexing between him and the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu. The ex-TETFUND boss was removed on Monday for alleged inaccessibility, high-handedness, disagreement with stakeholders, especially some vice chancellors and insubordination to the Minister.
In a nutshell, he was punished for alleged divided loyalties, addressing press conferences without authorization and for particularly taking decision on the 2018 tertiary institutions intervention fund without passing through TETFund board of trustees and the Minister of Education, before berthing at the president’s table for final approval.
Though It’s not clear what the “disagreement with stakeholders” meant, Baffa was allegedly soliciting kickbacks from over N200 billion intervention money to universities. Testimonies by staff under him, of his unfriendly attitude, leaves him in no better stead.
However, in considering the dictum that no one should be pronounced guilty until charged, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should wade into the activities of the former TETFUND Executive Secretary especially since he showed readiness to face the death penalty, if found guilty. We learnt that the EFCC is already looking into some issues in TETFUND from 2015, including Baffa’s tenure to date.
This is thecheering news but in doing so, EFCC must also look at the other side of the coin in total surgery of the case given the fact that Baffa also accused Adamu of firing him for refusing to give N200 million kick-back to the Minister. In the exchange of darts like this, nothing is useless as far as information is concerned.
This will go a long way in digging out the huge rot destroying the fabric of education in Nigeria. The TETFUND saga has indeed bared some of the unanswered questions and mysteries surrounding the endless disputes between lecturers and the government.