I have noted in consternation, an online publication by Premium Times of Tuesday, 11th February 2020 with the headline “Nigerian lecturers spend research grants on cars, houses” which attributed the statement to the Director of Research and Development and Centres of Excellence of TETFund, which happens to be the position I occupy in the Fund, in an acting capacity, courtesy of the Executive Secretary of the Fund, Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro.
Let me unequivocally say that the Premium Times reporter who was at the conference misrepresented me completely, thereby potentially sowing discontent between lecturers of public tertiary institutions in particular (and the academic community in general) and my organization, the TETFund.
I wish to emphasise that the purported statement was a complete misrepresentation of what transpired at the workshop organized for Directors of Research of public universities and members of the TETFund National Research Fund Screening and Monitoring Committee. It is, therefore, necessary for me to issue this clarification in view of the adverse effect of the publicity to my organisation and my personal aversion to it.
The main issue in the said online publication is whether or not the caption of the report titled “Nigerian lecturers spend research grants on cars, houses” was a true reflection of what was said at the workshop. The answer is, NO. The issues were misrepresented. This is verifiable from the workshop proceedings and from the participants, including prominent members of ASUU, Vice-Chancellors (serving and former), Deputy Vice-Chancellors in charge of Research and Development and Directors of Research of Federal and State Universities. The Premium Times also did a follow-up story on 14th February 2020 which attempted to correct the impression created by the headlines of its initial story.
The fact, in its proper context, is that the issue of infractions of TETFund intervention guidelines was discussed at an interactive session of the workshop after a presentation on the Fund’s intervention lines by a Panel led by me. In response to an observation by a participant that the Fund’s conditions for accessing Conference Attendance grants were “too stringent”, I cited global best practices of performance-based disbursement of grants to support the Fund’s guidelines, which were described as “too stringent”. Examples of non-compliance with TETFund guidelines that led to non-attendance of international conferences by some lecturers that were investigated by the ICPC and EFCC and recoveries made were also cited to justify the safety valves in the Fund’s guidelines aimed at protecting public funds. These were, unfortunately, what the Premium Times report misrepresented. The infractions referred to were not any different from the few misapplications of international Conference Attendance grants investigated by the anti-corruption agencies and reported by the media in the past. It is in view of this development that the Board of Trustees of the Fund suspended the funding of international Conference Attendance intervention pending further investigations and strategic overhaul of the conference intervention line by the Fund.
This refutation is not about joining issues. Rather, it seeks to put the issues in their proper perspective for the public and particularly our stakeholders to be properly informed.
It is our conviction that discussions at academic workshops organized by the Fund are usually free because they are just like the extension of the classroom discussions where issues are discussed freely with a view to finding solutions. The issues of interest, as well as those of concerns at the workshop, may not, however, necessarily be clearly understood outside the boundaries of the Fund and the academia when taken out of context. The public would have been better served if such reports came at the end of the workshop based on a Communique.
In view of the above, I urge all our beneficiary institutions, our stakeholders, the academia and the general public to disregard the out-of-context, generalized, sensationalized and misrepresented reports on diversion of research grants by lecturers because at no time, at the Workshop in Dubai or another location, did I mention that research grants were misapplied or diverted.
I hope my position will correct the inappropriate public perception created on account of the misquoted headline, please.
– Dr. Girei is Ag. Director, R&D/CE, TETFund.