More than 137 students sponsored abroad by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund have absconded, the Executive Secretary of the Fund, Sonny Echono said.
Echono confirmed this development on Tuesday when he appeared before the House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee investigating the alleged mismanagement of N2.3tn tertiary education tax by TETFund, The Punch reports.
On the students absconding, he said that the scholars who were sponsored by TETFund for “higher education” abroad refused to return to the country after completing their programmes.
“Some of the scholars that have been sponsored, unpatriotically when they go, they enjoy our scholarship, acquire a higher degree, then refuse to come back, it has become a major crisis.
“The scholarship requires that you will come back. It is required that you have a guarantor and, in many cases, the guarantor has suffered undue hardship because when you disappear, we hold the guarantor to pay all the money expended on your behalf but that has not been effective,” the Executive Secretary said.
Speaking further, Echono said TETFund is working with stakeholders for “stringent and effective measures” to be taken against those who refuse to return to the country for Nigerians to benefit from their expertise.
“We believe that in a system where we work with our embassies and the institutions, we can enforce the repayment for those who insist they will not come back” he added.
He also stated that if the scholars who don’t want to return to the country refuse to repay the money expended on their programmes, they will be declared persona non grata.
In his words, “We will write to the embassies and they will make it available to those countries and they will not be able to get jobs. They will be seen as fugitives of law from their countries.
“We may have to take that hard stand because the numbers are alarming. We just checked about 40 institutions and over 137 absconders and the review is ongoing.
“It is a huge number that we cannot afford and so we will be seeking your support to strengthen some of the existing regulations to ensure that those who benefit from this programme must come back.
“We are not against people looking for greener pastures but do so on your own, not through our scholarship or our sponsorship.”