From Scholastica Hir, Makurdi

Kinsmen of the Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Arc Sonny Echono, who are Special Advisers to the paramount ruler of Otukpo Kingdom in Benue state, has condemned “recent unwarranted attacks on his leadership.

The Advisers understand the auspices of Aojoko K’Otukpo and urged those fighting an ethnic war against the TETFUND boss to allow him do the work he has been given by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the good of the educational sector of the country.

The group were responding to what they described as “frivolous accusations” brought against Echono in the course of doing his work recently.

In a brief titled “TETFUND and the Enemies of Progress: let Arc Sonny Echono Breathe,” made available to newsmen in Makurdi on Sunday, Aojoko K’Otukpo said it was worrisome that at a crucial time when the best of hands are needed to push President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, some very unpatriotic Nigerians are still cultivating ethnic sentiments for their selfish pursuits.

The group said “Arc Echono is a man internally and globally respected as being of undisputable integrity, unequalled innovative tendencies, and a detribalized patriotic Nigerian who has always devoted his time and energy to ventures towards elevating the Nigerian spirit.

“It was for these qualities, and more, that former President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him to his new position after serving the nation most meritoriously throughout his 35 years in the civil service.”

They said the lot of Arc Sonny Echono unfortunately, but understandably, started with his style of administering the TETFUND upon resumption.

According to them, “It was in his avowed posture to make the place a better-performing organ that he stepped on the enemies that have since then been bent on making sure that he is either removed or made permanently uncomfortable in the performance of his work.

“Upon resumption at TETFUND, Arc Sonny Echono identified and sacked non-performing contractors; closed down or reduced the sizes of some departments for optimum performance; streamlined the administration to block financial leakages and save costs; and gave marching orders to underperforming departments.

“All these were aimed at fighting corruption. And, in the Nigerian context, corruption has been fighting back ever since. A manifestation of this was the frivolous accusations brought against Echono by an amorphous group of so-called lawyers who threatened brimstone and thunder if the Executive Secretary did not resign within a week.

“However, they ended up shamelessly retracting their virulent media vituperations after confessing that they were fed with wrong information.

“It is not surprising that another round of falsehood is being orchestrated against the ever-pragmatic Arc Echono. Corruption never gives up.

“The present altercation is no different. Some people who have been sour that the ES cut off their corruption-laden means are fighting back. Others who feel, rightly or wrongly, intimidated by the ever-rising profile of the former Permanent Secretary are also fighting back.

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“And those who feel that Echono is sitting on billions which should be looted, instead of being deployed for the betterment of our Tertiary institutions as he is doing now, are seeking to remove him.

“How should anyone think of removing an ES whom the Arewa Youths Association has held responsible for the unprecedented upliftment of education in Northern Nigeria through an unparalleled remarkable shift?

“Is it a man who has been roundly applauded by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) for the excellent job TETFUND is presently doing in the Universities that you seek his removal?

“Ask Prof Emmanuel Osodeke and Prof Yakubu Ochefu of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities.”

The group while insisting that TETFUND boss, Echono constitutes a winning team aligned with the assertion of the Peoples Development Network that TETFUND is under siege by desperate office seekers.

They said the attacks are not only deliberate but also nepotic in nature and must be resisted.

They said an ethnic agenda to replace Echono, who has been tested and a known performer, with an unknown Professor of South Western extraction, on very malicious and unscrupulous allegations, must never be allowed as it can only deepen ethnic distrust and fan the embers of disunity.

In their argument,”The present allegations against Arc Sonny Echono, which border on his awarding a job order in the absence of a Board, raises some pertinent questions: should an organisation standstill simply because there is no Board? In the absence of a Board, is there no institutional laid down rule?; were such rules not followed?

They stated that Echono should be left alone to continue advancing the horizons of educational development by rejuvenating dilapidated facilities and infrastructure in tertiary institutions, for which he is already being applauded.

They called on all well-intentioned patriotic Nigerians to rise up against the pull-him-down syndrome masquerading in frivolous allegations against a respected performer, a man who has rightly been described as a Progressive Innovator by the President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina.

They also called on the Minister of Education to protect the future of the tertiary institutions as well as President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to disregard these ethnic-based attempts to rubbish his Renewed Hope Agenda epitomized in the workings of the present TETFUND, especially its Executive Secretary, Arc Sonny Echono.

The statement has 15 signatories including Ojoko Dave Ekwo, Chairman, Ojoko Adeyi Odaudu, Secretary, Ojoko Maj. Gen Harrison Adoga(rtd), Ojoko Prof Idris Amali, Ojoko Prof Ediga Agbo, Ojoko Prof Okwoli Amali, Ojoko Aloga Ogbogo, Ojoko Omochi Onche.

Others are Ojoko Emmanuel Ogwuche, Ojoko Dan Ogale, Ojoko Godwin Ewaoche Iyoko, Ojoko Sam Ochekwu Onobe, Ojoko Odeh Okpe, Ojoko Adams Oklakwu and Ojoko Steve Anyebe.