The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) has said that the new focus in providing grants for research and development activities in universities and other tertiary institutions is to encourage academic researchers to come up with solutions to the contemporary challenges confronting the nation.
The intervention agency expressed worries about too much concentration on publication of research outcomes rather than focusing on addressing myriad challenges staring the country in the face.
Accordingly, the Agency held a week-long capacity building workshop in Dubai, United Arab Emirate (UAE) for researchers drawn from selected universities in Nigeria, especially against the backdrop of a story in one of the online platform, which alleged that lecturers were misappropriating research funds to buy cars, build houses and other frivolities.
TETFund’s Director of Research and Development, Dr Salihu Bakari, while making clarifications said the story was blown out of proportion and it had no basis on the issues at stake.
He admitted that there were little infractions, saying the idea was to advise academicians on the appropriate use of the funds and to create a paradigm shift from the old way of thinking to applied research.
He said, “I won’t call it diversion, there is nothing like diversion anywhere because TETFund by law is supposed to disburse and administer Funds, so there are always guidelines.
“So if there are guidelines for the application of monies, anytime we find misapplication or infractions, TETFund will pause further disbursement and ask the recipient to account for the monies given before, TETFund has done much by producing thousands of PhD holders including sponsoring so many industrial based researches”.
While stressing the importance of the workshop, Bakari, said academics are meant to use their knowledge in bridging gaps hindering developmental initiatives as it concerns all strata of the Nigerian society.
He said there are many misconceptions regarding the functions of TETFund, as an intervention agency.
“This workshop is meant to set the tone for a paradigm shift, TETFund is now moving towards content-based intervention in the area of research and development, for too long we have been emphasising teaching at the expense of research.
“For so long, universities have been carrying out research for publication and not for development and now government is investing monies in applied research because research should be problem-solving, in other words, lecturers should be seen at the forefront in diversifying the economy, making sure that the economy is knowledge-based, solving our problems through research not with oil alone, “he stated.
Former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Olufemi Bamiro who debunked claims of misappropriation within the academic community, said few isolated cases where some academics have been found wanting cannot pass for a fair judgement, to say that researchers generally fleece grants given to them.
He corroborated Dr Bakari, saying issuance of grants to academic researchers follows guidelines and due processes before funds can be released one hundred per cent.
His words, “Well I think it’s unfortunate because, really, at least the National Research Fund NGF, where I have been the Chairman, we don’t just give money then close our eyes, first of all, any grant given is released in three tranches, the first tranche, you will get 60% to enable you kick-off, as soon as you get that, somewhere down the line, you get what we call monitoring and evaluation.
“It is a panel or group of about four or five people who will visit you and will have a copy of what your research is all about, that is your proposal and budget estimates, it is only when we are satisfied that the research is moving in the right direction and that you have budget discipline, and confirming that the budget is being spent accordingly and that you are also having results as expected, it is after such conditions are meant, that we can approve that the second tranche should be given to you.
“So globally, if you look at it, I will say yes we may have problem in one or two cases but by and large, most of the research grants are well spent, you cannot say because of one or two cases, you now use it to colour every person, that is quite unfortunate, by and large, researchers have been using the grants very well”.