A group of lawyers, Lawyers United Against Corruption (LUAC) has issued a five-day ultimatum to the Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Mr. Sonny Echono to resign over his alleged complicity in massive corruption, contract fraud, procurement racketeering and abuse of office.
SaharaReporters in 2022 reported that Echono turned the fund into a fiefdom where contract splitting and padding to favour his cronies and fronts were the order of the day.
However, the Lawyers United Against Corruption in a letter to Echono dated July 11, 2023 obtained by SaharaReporters on Sunday claimed that the Executive Secretary recently bribed the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) with a Toyota Coastal Bus to stop them from probing further into his illegal activities.
LUAC alleged that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) under the leadership of Sonny Echono as Executive Secretary has become a conduit for high level contract fraud, procurement racketeering and other forms of corrupt practices.
In the letter signed by James Oladunjoye Esq., National Provost of LUAC, the group decried how Echono is allegedly leveraging his former position as Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education to influence most of the Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities into doing his bidding when they apply for funds or projects.
The letter reads in part, “We gather that your antics is insisting that most TETFUND projects are executed by firms recommended by yourself in blatant abuse of due process and all known extant laws and financial regulations.
“There is a list of anointed firms that must execute projects. In some instances, these firms are not qualified and what happens is that they end up engaging firms with capacity but for a lesser fee.
“One of the Federal Universities in the Southern part of the country was a case where TETFUND released the sum of N250 Million for constructing twin lecture theatres. The firm that was awarded the contract later engaged another firm for the same project at the sum of N150 Million.”
It further said, “Our private investigation reveals that but for your close relationship with the former Education Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) would have since arrested and commenced your prosecution for complicity in many of these unwholesome activities.
“The good news is that Mallam Adamu Adamu has gone with the previous administration and your tracks have been fully uncovered for the world to see.
“The foregoing ugly revelations prompted the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to write you Freedom of Information (FoI) letters demanding an account of your stewardship at TETFUND.
“The Students Body followed its letter up by threats of dragging you before the anti-graft agencies as well as leading street protest to press your removal from office. In a bid to influence NANS and suppress the allegations against you, the Management of TETFUND were directed to meet with stakeholders of NANS on 18th May, 2023 whereupon a truce was entered.
“Suddenly, the National Secretary of NANS, Comrade Usman Baba Kankia who was at the forefront of the struggle to remove you from office signed a letter dated 31st May, 2023 titled “APPEAL FOR EMERGENCY SUPPORT FOR THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN STUDENTS, NANS.”
The group said due to the pressure, Echono “quickly donated a brand new Toyota Coastal bus with huge cash sum to NANS officials”.
“No doubt, the impromptu donation was meant to induce NANS into jettisoning the already planned consistent attack on your office. As a matter of fact, the donation was made illegally and outside the mandate of TETFUND as contained in Section 3 of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment, Etc) Act No. 16 of 2011 which provides, among other things that the Fund is established ‘for the rehabilitation, restoration and consolidation of tertiary education in Nigeria,'” it said.
It continued, “Granted, you may have succeeded in buying the NANS over to avoid being exposed to arrest and prosecution by anti-graft agencies. We wish to however let you know that we are deliberate and dogged in our resolve to stamp out corruption from the educational sector no matter whose ox is gored.
“We hereby DEMAND that you resign your said position within 5 (Five) working days from the date this letter is delivered to you. This is to enable Mr. President replace you with another competent, qualified and upright person who can take TETFUND to the enviable height it ought to be as the major interventionist Agency for Nigerian tertiary institutions.”
The group warned the embattled Executive Secretary that if he does not resign before the expiry of the ultimatum, “we shall not hesitate to throw the infractions you have committed as stated in this letter to the Court of Public Opinion. Also, we shall author another letter to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR calling for your Immediate sack and prosecution”.