Years after graduation, beneficiaries in endless wait for ITF allowance – Punch Newspapers

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BLESSING AFOLABI writes about the plights of students and graduates denied the Industrial Training Fund allowance upon completion of the Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme
In Nigeria, undergraduates of tertiary institutions must undergo a compulsory four to six months (or one year) Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme otherwise known as Industrial Training and get a stipend upon completion of the programme. But many of them have yet to receive the payment even after graduating from their institutions.
One of the affected graduates, a music artiste and father-of-two, Mr Olugbenga Oluwayomi, about nine years ago, combed the city of Ibadan, Oyo State, to get a placement for his SIWES.
He visited many firms in the city, pleaded, and struggled prior to getting attached to a company for the duration of four months after which he returned to campus. He walked miles to submit his documents in school and at the ITF office during the first two weeks after the commencement and conclusion of the training.

Oluwayomi hoped that once he completed his training and reported to his school, he would get a credit alert on his phone, indicating payment of the long-awaited allowance which he had planned to use for a savings scheme. He stated that his senior colleagues advised them not to place their hope on the payment because it may not materialise.

He told Sunday PUNCH that he studied music education from The Polytechnic Ibadan, Oyo State, adding that he graduated in 2015 and since then he had not received the stipend for the programme.
“I did SIWES and also embarked on a one-year industrial training after the National Diploma programme. I filled several forms during and after the training. We also submitted our bank details and I remembered vividly that it was an account I had with a bank with a new name that I submitted. The Fund didn’t pay anyone and we were about 21 people in my class then that went for the programme.
“Our seniors told us not to bother about the payment since they were not paid too. Those who eventually got paid were paid in their finals and were three years ahead of us. They don chop our allowances,” he said.
ITF funding
The SIWES is to prepare students of universities, polytechnics, colleges of agriculture, education, and technology for the work situation they are likely to face after leaving school.

On its website, it stated that ITF was established in 1971 and it is a grade ‘A’ parastatal operating under the aegis of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment. It has been operating for 50 years as a specialist agency that promotes and encourages the acquisition of industrial and commercial skills required for national economic development.
The main thrust of the ITF programmes and services is to stimulate human performance, improve productivity, and induce value-added production in industry and commerce. Through its SIWES and Vocational and Apprentice Training Programmes, the Fund also builds capacity for graduates and youth self-employment, in the context of Small Scale Industrialisation, in the economy.
There are over 48,000 ITF compiled employers registered on the ITF website and the Act required every employer with five employees or more or an annual turnover of N50m and above, to contribute one per cent of their annual payroll to the Fund.
Payment data
There are basic requirements for one to qualify for the payment of the stipend. The student must have completed the training for the stipulated period and submitted several documents which include; a log book, training forms (SPE 1 form, form 8, master and placement list forms), bank details; bank account, sort code, and bank name.

The students will travel to the closest ITF office from their places of industrial attachment where they will submit some of the forms. Upon returning to their various institutions, they will submit their logbooks, bank details, and Form 8.
A sum of N2,500 monthly is paid to an IT student from any university, polytechnic, college of education, agriculture, or technology upon completion of the training. This indicates that N15,000 is payable to each student on a six-months internship while those of four-months training gets N10,000 each. In a university, if a class has an average of 10 students and is not paid, then a total of N150,000 is not accounted for.
In some institutions, the whole class was not paid with each set in a department having an average of 20 students. Some of the affected students were from many higher institutions in the country including the 2016 set of Biochemistry graduates of Madonna University and The Polytechnic Ibadan.
In 2017, the House of Representatives resolved to probe the ITF for alleged non-payment of SIWES allowance to students. The issue was addressed during a plenary session but after five years, there has been no progress on the issue.
Also in 2021, Director-General, ITF, Mr Joseph Ari, said that the Fund paid more than $1bn to 87,537 students as training allowances in 2021. But some students who participated in the scheme at the time had yet to receive their allowance.

In February 2022, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Accounts ordered the probing of the ITF over the operation of the agency’s budgets between 2018 and 2021 without the approval of the National Assembly. The ITF, in its written submission to the committee, said it spent N37,592,730,753 in 2018; N43,133,753,661 in 2019; N43,468,030,400 in 2020; and N43,947,801,437 in 2021. The committee discovered the extra-budgetary spending while grilling the management of the ITF, which was placed on status inquiry by the committee.
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Another graduate affected, Taiwo Jaiyeola, studied industrial chemistry at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, and participated in SIWES during the lockdown in 2020 for six months. She noted that in the group created for them by their school, a Google form document was sent for each student to fill in their details.
“My school ensured we did the IT despite the lockdown though it was hard to get a place for the attachment. We filled in our names, course of study, account number, sort code, and branch. It was a detailed form. Our lecturers threatened that if we didn’t observe the SIWES and submit the necessary details we wouldn’t be paid the N15,000. We did all of this but didn’t see anything. I don’t think anyone in my set got paid,” she said dejectedly.
She stated that after the compulsory training, they submitted their logbook and the students gave a detailed report in a paper and defended it before a panel of lecturers where they asked them several questions concerning the experiences and lessons learnt throughout the attachment.

She noted that she got information that they usually got paid after graduating, adding that an alumnus told her he got paid during his mandatory, one-year National Youth Service Corps scheme.
Jaiyeola said, “The money doesn’t go round. In the long run, not everyone is paid. I had the IT at the Water Corporation, Eleyele, Ibadan, and I wasn’t paid anything. We worked hard in the company. I spent a lot on transport fares. Some of my friends rented an apartment where they got placement even though they weren’t being paid by the company and ITF.”
She added that a friend of hers at the University of Osun, Osun State, got paid and it made her conclude that the money didn’t get to everyone.
She said, “Getting paid for SIWES shouldn’t be a thing of luck. As long as one meets the requirements for IT and submitted the necessary documents, then one should be paid. It would be a different case if there were 200 students in a class and 190 got it. The remaining 10 will be asked what they did wrongly. That will show that the money is judiciously disbursed.
“Is it ITF that is withholding the money or is it the institutions that are not submitting details of the students to ITF? Those in charge of ITF in schools should be interrogated. The money should be accounted for and paid promptly. Why will one do IT in a year and wait for over two years to receive the payment? It is unfair for them to keep the money.”

For over 10 years, a civil engineering graduate-cum-bank worker from the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, Opeyemi Elijah, had yet to receive his IT stipend. Sharing his experience with our correspondent, he said that some of his course mates got the payment, adding that he and several others didn’t receive payment despite the various forms they submitted.
He said, “The payments came unexpectedly to some of us but many of us didn’t get paid. I think one person for ministry don chop am. I went to the ITF office and submitted my log book and other details. I think that was my first time entering the elevator.”
Elijah stated that he could barely remember the exact year he did the IT due to several strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, guessing it could be sometime in 2011. He added that there were some speculations that they didn’t use the full-time required and made it seem the students were at fault.
Asked if he and his colleagues complained at the ITF office in his school, he said, “Who will go and why?”
He, however, stated that some students affirmed that they were paid N15,000 each on days they didn’t expect it.

Narrating her experience, a graduate of Madonna University, Elele, Rivers State, Roselyn Jire, described the situation of non-payment of ITF allowance as one that needed urgent attention. She hoped to get the allowance because she underwent the rigours of the industrial training and didn’t miss a day at work during the period of attachment in 2015 from April to September.
She said, “My place of attachment was Central Science Laboratory, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. Ile-Ife didn’t have an ITF office hence I travelled to Ibadan twice to submit the commencement form and other forms after completion.
“When we returned to school, a list was brought to us to fill in our personal information and bank details which we did. To my utmost surprise six years after graduation, I have yet to receive any alert from the ITF. No graduate of Biochemistry from Madonna University in 2016 received the stipend.”
Jire noted that if the NYSC could promptly pay corps members, it was incumbent on the ITF to do the same.
The biochemist stated that after graduating, they got the news that the 2016 set of the Department of Microbiology got paid and they wondered what they did differently.

In his account, an electrical electronics engineering graduate, Elijah Joseph, said he undertook the six-month industrial training in 2015 but he gave up on the allowance when he wasn’t paid in spite of efforts made. He added that though his course mates received payments, he didn’t.
He further stated that after completing the training and submitting his details, he complained at the ITF office in his school but nothing was done about it.
Joseph said, “I graduated from the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, in 2017 and reported to my school’s ITF office when I didn’t get paid. They promised to resolve it but didn’t. If there’s a means to recover the funds I will be glad.”

Our correspondent reached out to some undergraduates of public schools who did their industrial training in 2021 and have not been paid. One of them is a 500-level student of Estate Management at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, John Okoh, who had yet to receive payment despite the funds disbursed that year.
He said, “I confirmed from reliable sources and was told it affected my school generally, not just me or my department. I submitted my details including a logbook indicating the duration of my internship.”

A pharmacist and graduate of Madonna University, Elele, Rivers State, Chinedu Udorah, told our correspondent that he hadn’t been paid since 2014 when he undertook compulsory six-month industrial training. He noted, however, that some of his colleagues from other schools got paid.
Udorah added that his institution was expected to forward the payment details of the students to ITF but it seemed they didn’t submit it.
He said, “I guess my institution was to send our details but they usually cared less about those things. They might look at N15, 000 as a ‘peanut.’ My HOD then didn’t pay attention to those details. I speculate that my school didn’t follow it up because most private schools assume that our parents are wealthy and that amount is inconsequential to us.”
Udorah further stated that he worked vigorously during his IT programme but wasn’t paid by the company and didn’t get the stipend he hoped to receive at the end of the training despite travelling a long distance to the office.
“I believe the Federal Government disburses the allowance to cover for transportation expenses. I think those in charge of paying the allowance will be enjoying the money some private schools didn’t receive,” he said.

Also commenting on the development, a mechanical engineer, Drey Oyelakin, told Sunday PUNCH that he graduated in 2019 from The Polytechnic Ibadan, Oyo State, after undertaking SIWES and IT where he was meant to be paid N15,000 for the duration.
“We weren’t bothered about the money before we left school because it’s a norm not to receive it. Who are we to hold accountable for the funds? I did SIWES in 2015 and IT in 2017. I completed the training and submitted the required documents but there was no payment of any sort. I have a friend who attended another institution and he wasn’t paid too,” he said angrily.
A 2020 graduate identified only as Samson who studied computer engineering from the Lagos State University, Ojo, also said he hadn’t received payment after his IT in Lagos in 2018. He said that his institution told them they would not be paid without giving a reason and they ignored the money.
He added that there was an office in his school dedicated to industrial training where they submitted forms and details in a box taken to Abuja.
Samson said, “I feel they dispose of the box in the waste bin in the long run just like it is done for project materials.”

Stakeholders weigh in
Speaking on the issue, a lawyer, Mr Akin Dosumu said that students, who underwent the industrial training, submitted their forms and did what was necessary deserved payment.
He said, “It is ITF that can state or justify why it’s withholding the fund or if the funds are unavailable. Companies pay the ITF so I wonder why they are struggling to pay the students.”
A former director of SIWES at the University of Uyo, Prof. Anwuzie Egun, noted that he coordinated SIWES in his institution at a time but left the position over 10 years ago and wasn’t abreast of the current situation because many things had changed.
He said, “When I was there, some were paid while others weren’t. Those who are there currently can comment appropriately.”

Our correspondent contacted the lecturer in charge of collating students’ data for the ITF office in the department of Industrial Chemistry at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Dr Segun Ogundare, who said he only collated for his department and submitted it to the ITF office in the school and unaware of subsequent processing for the payment of the allowance.
He said, “I don’t know anything about the funds. All I do is to submit their forms to the appropriate quarters.”
Efforts to get reaction from the ITF Public Relations Office were abortive as the mobile on the Fund’s website was unreachable.
But a SIWES official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak with the press stated that the SIWES was designed specifically for six months (University) and four months (Polytechnic and colleges of Education). He added that students who did one-year industrial training were not included in the SIWES paid programme.
He explained that the reasons for non-payment of some students could include non-submission of placement list to the regulatory agency by the institution, delay in submission of vetted placement list by regulatory agencies, non-verification of students’ logbooks by ITF, and students not returning completed logbooks to the institution’s SIWES unit for verification.

He added that when the above conditions were met there was usually prompt verification of students’ logbooks and payment after the verification.
The SIWES official said, “The major thing impeding prompt payment of the stipend is irregular funding and dwindling. We are working on ensuring prompt payment by visiting regulatory agencies to fast-track prompt submission of vetted placement lists. The Fund also needs to visit institutions to ensure prompt generation and submission of master and placement lists.”
Also, a senior employee with the ITF who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation said that students who partook in the industrial attachments were usually paid in arrears after they must have completed the training which largely depended on the Federal Government budget for the Fund.
The senior official disclosed that the Federal Government was responsible for funding the SIWES, stating that the ITF only disbursed the allocated allowance to those qualified.
He noted that inadequate funding and documentation were the major reason for non-payment of the affected students, adding that the Fund covers courses in the sciences, technology, engineering, and some accredited management courses.

He further stated that paid students included those accredited under the ITF and students who partook in the training for four or six months, saying budgetary shortfalls and non-release of appropriated budget impeded the ITF’s ability to pay promptly and regularly.
The official said, “Those who go on industrial training for one year are not covered under the scheme. We also have accredited courses. These are some of the issues we have and people do not understand. Some courses are not accredited under the scheme. It is only the technical, technology, engineering, and some allied courses that are accredited. The ITF likewise doesn’t pay a one-year attachment.
“We pay based on what the Federal Government allocates to us. The number of students engaging in the scheme is increasing but there is no corresponding increase in the budget or allocation of funds. Also, we pay serially. By this, I mean that those who submit first are paid first because the Fund is not sufficient to go around. For instance, if the total money to be paid as allowance is N2.5bn, the Federal Government might budget N1bn and even with the N1bn budget, there might be a shortage in the release. We might end up getting N600m for the Fund. This causes a continual backlog of people not paid.”
He cited other reasons for non-payment to include delay in submission of required documents by some schools or departments, inadequate paperwork by students, and submission of account details not tallying with their names.
The official added that sensitisation was usually organised for SIWES coordinators in the nation’s higher institutions of learning, noting that they in turn sensitised students to the training details. He urged the universities to educate their students regarding provisions of the scheme to avoid recurring non-payment after undergoing training.

ITF reacts
Sunday PUNCH further reached out to an official of the public affairs department, Mr Tom Ngor, who refused to comment on the matter but promised to get a reaction from the director of public affairs on the issue.
In a statement to our correspondent by Ngor credited to the Director, Public Affairs Department, ITF, Mr Suleyol Fred-Chagu, it stated that there were several parties involved in the SIWES which included the institutions (universities, polytechnic, monotechnics), the National Universities Commission, and the Federal Government.
He was quoted in the statement as saying that the delay in payments of allowances occurred when any of the parties failed to do what was expected of them, adding that some students contributed to the non-payment by non-submission of logbooks, bank details, or provision of wrong bank details and uncompleted compulsory four or six months IT.
Fred-Chagu also said that some institutions engaged in practices that hindered prompt payment of allowances which included exceeding the carrying capacity as provided by regulatory bodies, omitting students’ names in the approved master and placement lists, presenting students of unaccredited disciplines, non-submission or late submission of master and placement lists to the regulatory agencies (NUC, National Board for Technical Education, National Commission for Colleges of Education) for approval.

On the courses covered by the scheme, the director said that the scheme was designed to expose students of tertiary institutions specifically in engineering, technology, natural and environmental sciences, agriculture, technical and business studies to industrial experience. He noted that not all courses and tertiary institutions were SIWES funded.
Explaining the role of the Federal Government on the training, he added that the ITF initiated the scheme in 1973 and solely funded it during its formative years until 1978 when it withdrew from management of the scheme due to financial constraints. This, he said, prompted the Federal Government to hand over the management of the scheme to the NUC and the NBTE in 1979.
Fred-Chagu noted, “In November 1984, the management and implementation of the scheme was again reverted to the ITF with the funding to be solely borne by the Federal Government, which is the case till date. It is noteworthy that as the number of institutions and participants continues to soar, there is no corresponding increment in the budgetary provision for the scheme to accommodate such growing numbers.
“The scheme as earlier mentioned is wholly funded by the Federal Government. Therefore, how promptly participants are paid is dependent on the timely release of funds by the Federal Government and provided that the students and the institutions have duly met all requirements of the scheme including timely submission of students logbooks, provision of student bank details, and the completion of the required four or six months IT among others. It must be stressed that even when all conditions are met, payment of allowances is subject to timely release of appropriations by the Federal Government.
“However, to ensure that all parties involved in the scheme are fully acquainted with its requirements to avoid delay in payments if funds are available, the ITF conducts regular sensitisation visits to institutions to ensure prompt submission of master and placement lists, proper orientation of students before they embark on SIWES and regular stakeholder meetings including the biennial SIWES conference.”

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