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…in a society where you can destroy a street light with zero consequences because you are a big man, you can also steal N200 billion meant for special intervention in Universities without consequences…


PREMIUM TIMES reports that due to rampant abuse and corruption, President Buhari has ordered the scrapping of special intervention funds for tertiary institutions in 2017. Special intervention funds – a discretionary palliative disbursement which allows Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) to address areas where a particular University may be in the intensive care unit.

In 2015 alone, for instance, whereas TETFUND disbursed just N50 billion as statutory intervention fund to higher institutions, N200 billion was disbursed as special intervention funds. The president and TETFUND are claiming that the N200 billion was mainly stolen or misappropriated. Universities have largely treated it the way state governors treat bailout funds, hence the decision to scrap it.

The cancellation of the special intervention fund by the president and TETFUND is a good idea but only on the surface. On the surface, it at least blocks another source of slush funds and easy money in the system.

However, scratch deeper and that approach speaks to much deeper issues about Nigeria: our unwillingness – inability? refusal? – to agree on a society where actions have consequences. I have been writing about this for a long time. We have no discipline and punishment and will never belong in civilisation until we do so.

The bulk of the special intervention funds was stolen in 2015 and 2016. The president scraps it in 2017 to plug that hole. That is always our approach to things. That is our philosophy. That is our core: cowardice to evolve towards consequences. Cowardice to evolve towards a society of discipline and punishment.

We abolish potentially good ideas altogether, rather than investigate, indict, arrest, and prosecute to the full extent of the law. Where is the full scale national investigation into how tertiary institutions stole or misappropriated the funds in 2015 and 2016? Where is the investigation? Where are the indictments? How many vice chancellors, provosts, directors, registrars, and bursars in tertiary institutions are in jail or facing prosecution?

In that chain of stealing, how many senior civil servants in the Federal Ministry of Education and the NUC are under investigation? Universities cannot just steal the funds without paying tithes to these guys. What about the leadership of TETFUND? What about the minister of Education? If they were fired by the president – as they should – I did not receive the memo.

If we are saying that a crime has been committed and two years of special intervention funds have been stolen, where is the consequence? Where is the repercussion?

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We don’t do that in Nigeria.

We would just get up and scrap even good ideas with a potential for massive positive impact altogether rather than muscle the willpower to punish those who abuse and derail such ideas.

Footnote:

Two years ago, Godswill Akpabio’s convoy was doing the usual thing they do in Nigeria – disobeying traffic regulations because they are big men. Predictably, there was an accident and public property was destroyed as some cars in Akpabio’s convoy rammed street light poles. Akpabio rushed to London for medicals.

I wrote that he had broken the law at the time of the accident and destroyed public property in the process. I said I was more worried about the destroyed street lights than Akpabio because the street lights are useful to the Nigerian people and Akpabio isn’t. There are consequences to recklessly destroying public property – especially while breaking the law – in civilisation.

It’s been nearly two years. What happened with the public property that Akpabio destroyed? He just returned from the hospital in London to his life in Nigeria as a big man. No consequences whatsover.

Lesson: in a society where you can destroy a street light with zero consequences because you are a big man, you can also steal N200 billion meant for special intervention in Universities without consequences…

Let it be on record that there is at least one Nigerian who said that Apkabio should have been made to pay the full cost of the replacement of the street lights and given 200 hours of community service – preferably helping with the laundry of IDPs in Abuja.

In big and small things – we must evolve towards a society of consequences.

Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada.