Vice Chancellors Battle Lawmakers Over Alleged Extortion Plot On N683bn Intervention Fund

Vice chancellors of public universities in Nigeria are gearing up to fiercely resist what they consider a new extortion scheme by some members of a committee of the House of Representatives to shake them down.

The face-off between the vice-chancellors and the lawmakers concerns the N683 billion 2024 intervention fund the federal government recently approved for the nation’s publicly-owned tertiary institutions.

On January 12, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) announced President Bola Tinubu’s approval to release 2024 intervention funds for tertiary institutions worth N683 billion. 
The fund-starved public schools are expected to get a respite with this intervention which is twice the N320 billion they got in 2023.

The sharing formula shows that each university will get N1.9 billion comprising N1.6 billion annual direct disbursement and N250 million from zonal intervention fund.

Each polytechnic will get N1.1 billion; N1 billion as annual direct disbursement and N150 million from zonal intervention fund.

On their part, each of the colleges of education will get N1.3 billion each. While N1.2 billion is from the annual direct disbursement, N150 million will be sourced from zonal intervention fund.

However, hours after the announcement of the release, the House Committee on TETFUND, chaired by Miriam Onuoha (APC, Imo), wrote the Committee of Provosts of Colleges of Education, the Committee of Rectors of Polytechnics and the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian University, directing them to halt the implementation of the intervention fund until they are cleared to proceed by lawmakers.

The House committee, in the letter, dated 12 January, asked all heads of tertiary institutions to “stay action on the implementation process until submission and appearance before the committee is concluded”.
The lawmakers asked the officials to submit “full implementation details, including but not limited to the drawings, designs and specifications for all projects, procurement and services as contained in your 2024 TETFUND Normal Intervention Allocation letter issued to your Institution.”

“All submissions in Thirty hard copies and a Soft copy are expected to reach the Committee Secretariat in Room 305, Third Floor, White House, House of Representatives, National Assembly Complex on or before Friday 23 February, 2024 while your appearance before the Committee is slated for Tuesday 27 February 2024 at Committee Room 107, House of Representatives, New building, National Assembly by 2:00 p.m.,” the letter reads in part.

The Committee of Vice Chancellors said that the letter from the lawmakers sparked anger and generated heated debate among vice chancellors, with some of them describing the action of the legislators as another ploy to extort them.

“They (lawmakers) want to know the contracts that are available so that they can send their agents as contractors. All they want to do is to send in agents,”

“Once the money was announced by the government on Friday, it was like a shark that smelled blood in the water; their intervention is to get their boys to bid for some of the contracts,” A vice chancellor said.