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TETFund and politics of sacking, reappointment

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Suleiman Elias Bogoro

To many Nigerians, politics has become a way of life to the extent that fundamental values are sometimes sacrificed to promote and perpetuate political correctness. The latest development in Nigeria’s education sector will appear to lend credence to that as the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, was said to have sanctioned the removal of Abdullahi Baffa as the boss of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Head, Education Desk, Iyabo Lawal, writes.

“Sir! Welcome! We’re happy! We’re happy!” some of the workers at the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) said in shrieks, following the sack of their former boss, Abdullahi Baffa, and the assumption of the new Executive Secretary of TETFund, Suleiman Bogoro.

The termination of Baffa came like a thunderbolt from a gloomy blue sky on Monday, January 21 this year. His sacking also has a twist to it as contained in the statement issued by the Federal Ministry of Education.

The terse statement, signed by the ministry’s spokesman, Ben Goong, said, “The Federal Government has approved the reinstatement of Prof. Suleiman Elias Bogoro as the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund. A statement from the office of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said the reinstatement of Prof. Bogoro is with immediate effect, with the same terms and conditions as it were in his previous appointment and as stipulated in the TETFUND staff conditions of service. Prof. Suleiman Bogoro was the Executive Secretary of TETFUND between April 2014 and February 2016.”

To many observers, it appears the government had to sacrifice Baffa in order to recall Bogoro because the government refused to give any reason for giving Baffa the boot.

But the sacked TETFund boss has since said he knew why he was kicked out: he was not playing ball with his principal, the minister of education.

In a recent interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Hausa Service, Baffa made some claims that should worry stakeholders in the sector and the Presidency that claim to be concerned about the dwindling fortunes of the educational system in Nigeria.

Before his sacking became public knowledge, some three days Baffa had received a call that Adamu was plotting his removal.

“The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, went to see the president (Muhammadu Buhari) clutching a file to report me – demanding my ouster. This is not the first time. For months he has been reporting me to the president, falsely accusing me. But the president resisted,” he disclosed in the interview.

What could have led to Baffa – who was once a special adviser to the minister – falling out with his former boss?
He explained: “On Saturday night, I received a call that the president has given a directive for my removal from office. I asked the person what my crime was that was reported to the president that warranted my removal. He said the minister reported to the president that I was inaccessible.  (He also accused me of) insubordination and (that) I was granting press conferences without his consent.

“The issue that I was inaccessible, he – the minister – was the one that knows better I’m the easiest person for him to see because even my colleagues at the TETFund accused me that I spent more time in the ministry with the minister than in my office. All the time I have been with him in the ministry, I’m doing my work at the TETFund and doing his work at the ministry.”

The former TETFund boss admitted that he and the education minister have had some difficult times and that he was willing to discuss the issues with him. Yet, Baffa felt Adamu crossed his line at a point.

“If you received a directive from your superior, you must do (what he has asked you to do). But if your superior asks you to do something that is not within the premise of the law and or is breaking the law, I will not do it because that will amount to subversion. I have no regret refusing that order because I will not betray the trust bestowed on me by Nigerians and the president,” he revealed matter-of-factly.

Then, Baffa added to prove his truthfulness: “You can go and ask him. Eight months ago, Adamu Adamu sent his biggest contractor to me and the contractor told me that the minister is angry with me on three things. He mentioned one and two issues and the third issue: he said that I shared over N200 billion to tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Even if I am collecting 10m from the institutions I could not have collected over N20 billion.

“Where is the money? Let me tell you, since I began this job I did not collect not even 10, one or even N1 from any institution. If there’s any school that I requested a percentage of the money I disbursed to them, I will be willing to accept a death penalty.”

Analysts have since expressed fears at the rate Baffa was going before his eventual ack. He was accused of “arrogance,” as well as lack of “proper cooperation” with the minister.

Another angle to Baffa’s crisis was the fact that he enmeshed himself in Kano politics to the extent that he was not always available for the TETFund job. His aggressive politicking also made the minister to be unhappy with Baffa,” the source added.

The former TETFund chief recently established a support group named ‘One 2 Tell 10’, in support of President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election.

He also recently announced a donation of N2 million on behalf of the group and another N3 million donated by friends of the President Buhari’s government to victims of Kano fire incidents.

Bogoro was first appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan; following his alleged nomination by Adamu Muazu, who then was the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was, however, removed in February 2016 by Buhari, on the allegation of the agency’s donation to Jonathan’s campaign in 2015.

But, Bogoro was later proved innocent. It remains to be seen if in the future Baffa would also get a reprieve like Bogoro.

Between 1994 and 1999, Mallam Tijani Abdulkadir led TETFund; between 1999 and 2007, Mallam Mustapha Jaji was the agency’s executive secretary; others were Prof. Mahmood Yakubu (2007 – 2012); and Mallam Aliyu Na’iya (2012 – 2016 in capacity).

Prior to his reinstatement, Bogoro served as TETFund executive secretary between April 2014 and February 2016 and was kicked out of office by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. He and 25 other directors-general’s appointments were terminated having spent less than two years in office – then Baffa took over in August 2016 only to be removed this January.

Though disconcerted about his current predicament, Baffa said he had helped TETFund to achieve a 93.5 percent improvement in how tertiary institutions access fund from the agency.

This was possible, according to him, as a result of the introduction of the Access Clinic and Budget Defence sessions that opened up processes pertaining to the fund. For a while, it had not been easy to access the fund.

TETFund was established as an intervention agency under the TETFund Act. It is charged with the responsibility of managing, disbursing and monitoring the education tax to public tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

To achieve the above objectives, TETFund Act, 2011 imposes a two percent education tax on the assessable profit of all registered companies in Nigeria. The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) is empowered by the Act to assess and collect education tax.

The fund administers the tax imposed by the Act and disburses the amount to tertiary educational institutions at federal and state levels. It also monitors the projects executed with the funds allocated to the beneficiary institutions, specifically for the provision and maintenance of essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning; instructional material and equipment; research and publication; academic staff training and development.

It also caters for any other need, which in the opinion of the Board of Trustees is critical and essential for the improvement of quality and maintenance of standards in the higher educational institutions.

It will appear that the crisis of leadership in the agency is a transplant of a political tussle between the PDP and elements of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

There are media reports that by replacing Baffa with Bogoro, the Presidency intended to break the ranks of the speaker’s constituency and stop his return to the national assembly.
There are also reports that Baffa was fired for opposing the candidacy and re-election of Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.

Yet, the pleasant reactions at TETFund that greeted the second coming of Bogoro might have suggested that he is the man for the job and was unjustly removed at the time.

Bogoro was a former lecturer with the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU). Following his removal as TETFund boss in 2016, Bogoro went back to ATBU and continued with his teaching job until his reinstatement. He hails from Bogoro local government area.

“Although some people may give the appointment a political undertone because it is the political season, to me his appointment has to do with his track records during his first tenure as TETFund chief.  He is my colleague at ATBU and I know the kind of person he is,” said Simon Yalams, an associate of Bogoro.

While commending the sack of Baffa, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to go after the erstwhile TETFund boss.

“NANS sees this action as a long overdue one, in the interest of the nation’s integrity, as NANS and some civil society groups had long protested and demanded  the sack of the TETFUND executive secretary months ago. NANS calls on the EFCC to immediately arrest and subject the sacked executive secretary to detailed probe on his activities through his days in office,” the student body said in a statement.

Adamu, a polyglot – being fluent in Arabic, Persina, Fulfulde, Hausa and French  – has, however, kept Nigerians, especially stakeholders in the education sector guessing what led to the termination of appointment of Baffa and the reinstatement of Bogoro.

In all, observers of the sector believe that the government has once again allowed politics to triumph over progress and development.


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