Sonny Echono at TETFund: Hundred Days of Consolidation, Steady Progress, by Rahma Oladosu
Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes, the very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision and it has to be a vision you articulate clearly on every occasion. Indeed Arc. Sonny Echono has proven these words to be true.
The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund ) having been under the watch of Professor Sulaiman Elias Bogoro for five years, on the 4th of march, 2022 received a boost with the approval of Arc. Sonny Echono as the new executive secretary of the Fund.
Echono, a seasoned architect, civil servant and technocrat has made tremendous achievements within 100 days of assuming office. On receiving a deluge of suggestions, complaints on various areas of concern by stakeholders, the new TETFUND boss had to chart a course for progress.
Not long after taking over the affairs of TETFund, Echono assured that his administration would build on the solid foundation that has already been laid, especially in the area of promoting Research and Development (R&D).
One hundred days later, Echono has delivered with a range of achievements that build on his vision to drive the nation’s economy through industry-academia relationship.
Just like his predecessor, Echono stressed the need to build a symbiotic relationship between the industry and academia to ensure seamless production of manpower needed to drive the nation’s economy and even produce in excess for export to other countries.
During his inauguration, Echono laid emphasis on the fact that his administration would focus on curriculum delivery in tertiary institutions in Nigeria to make sure the nation’s graduates more relevant and not just employable but creators of wealth. To accomplish this, he led the Fund to partner with the Innovation Start Ups Centre of Excellence, otherwise known as Innov8 Hub, in Abuja for practical training and mentorship for Nigerian youth with a view to producing employable graduates.
He promised to focus on capacity building and staff development and effective service delivery. To keep to his promise, in March this year, Echono received the Governing Council of the Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo, led by the Vice Chancellor, Mallam Abdullahi Abba, calling on higher institutions in the country to prioritise specific programmes and boost the human capacity development components in their TETFUND allotted funds.
In consonance with its statutory role of managing education tax funds in supporting projects and capacity building for public tertiary institutions, TETFUND under Echono sponsored a research on the newly designed Smart Climate Information Services for Early Warning on Climate Change for farmers with about one thousand five hundred farmers from seventy villages across six states receiving training on the innovation.
Another remarkable thing Echono ensured was the disbursement of direct intervention funds ranging from 300 billion naira to 600 billion naira approved by the Presidency for public Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education in the country. This was done without regards to the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).The agency also ensured the establishment of the Federal Polytechnic, Ogo-Oluwa in Oyo State, which is really a major development.
In its bid to put a total end to plagiarism in tertiary institutions, Ochono also endorsed the Anti-Plagiarism Test developed by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU).
Determined to bring the needed transformation in the nation’s Agricultural sector, TETFund has formed a partnership with the Government of Brazil and Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) to achieve the objective. The deal was sealed at the First Agricultural Research and Innovation Fellowship for Africa (ARIFA) Symposium, held at Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil, with the theme “Pedagogic Retooling Strategy for Africa’s Agricultural Research and Innovation System: Lessons from Brazil.”
To show support and to help push the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063 to success, the Fund revealed its readiness to forge a partnership with the Pan African University to promote unity among young researchers in terms of beliefs, language and culture. This is the real idea of Pan Africanism, a step forward towards realising Agenda 2063.
After 16 years of abandonment, the National Library Headquarters Complex, Abuja received a boost with the approval of 15 Billion Naira by TETFund under Architect Ochono as first tranche for the completion of the project.
Also, as part of efforts towards promoting a knowledge economy, TETFund approved the setting up of a Coordinating Secretariat to operationalise the partnership between government, private sector and academia.
However, all these achievements and reforms at TETFUND have not come without some accusations. The executive secretary has been accused of turning the Fund into a personal fiefdom where contract splitting and padding are the order of the day.
Reacting to the allegations recently, Abdulmumin Oniyangi, the Ag director, public affairs, TETFund, said Echono was appointed as Executive Secretary of TETFund by President Muhammadu Buhari based on his track record as an astute administrator.
To justify the President’s trust, Echono has worked to enthrone transparency and accountability in handling the finances of TETFund. According to Oniyangi, Ochono has in the last hundred days of being in office frozen, cancelled or suspended programmes and consultancies that are judged to be wasteful or extravagant.
To this end, Echono is also committed to the completion of on-going projects rather than starting new ones, and has taken steps in that direction. He interacted and secured the buy-in of Management and Staff of the Fund for the reforms, which have received widespread support of stakeholders.
Events of the last one hundred days in office of Echono have proven that TETFund is moving in the right direction under his watch. The face of tertiary education will no longer be the same by the time all the policy ideas and reforms enumerated above come to full fruition.
Rahma Olamide Oladosu is a Staff Writer with the Economic Confidential