HUNDREDS of Nigerian students studying abroad are now facing the prospect of having to terminate their studies after the interim management committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has refused to pay out an additional sum of $3m.
Established by former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000, the NDDC was tasked with both developing the Niger Delta and with enhancing manpower development. Under this plan, the commission sent thousands of students abroad to be trained, especially in marine-related disciplines like engineering and fisheries.
Britain is home to a lot of these students but with the current turmoil within the NDDC, the commission has failed to pay their tuition and monthly allowances. As a result, many of the students face the risk of being kicked out of school and to make matters worse, they are living like beggars as they have no money to maintain themselves.
In July, the chair of the Nigeria Diaspora Commission, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa called on the NDDC to resolve the plight of these students. Consequently, last month, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the NDDC to ensure that all arrears are cleared immediately, so the students could resume their studies.
However, a fresh crisis appears to have broken out as the NDDC has rejected pressure to pay out an additional $3m to some scholarship students abroad, who said they were not covered by its initial payment. These aggrieved students are now planning to stage a protest in London over the omission.
NDDC spokesman Charles Odili, said, however, that the commission would not pay out additional money without proper verification. He added that the planned protest in the UK by certain individuals and hirelings, most of whom are masquerading as the commission’s scholars, was part of an ongoing campaign, orchestrated by powerful individuals he described as part of the systemic corruption uncovered by the NDDC in the administration of the foreign postgraduate scholarship.
Mr Odili explained that in 2018, the commission paid $900,000 to its scholars adding that in 2019, the amount paid by the NDDC rose to $3.5m. He said recently, the NDDC paid $5.99m to cover all the verified obligations to the scholars wondering why there is a demand for an additional payment of $3m bringing the total to an alarming $9m.
“Some of the important questions everyone must ask are why is the amount paid to cover our obligations to this foreign scholarship programme rising astronomically? Where are all these demands coming from? What do they cover? Who are behind them?
“It is important to note that since the establishment of the interim management committee, no scholarship has been awarded, due to the ongoing forensic audit. So why is the committee being blackmailed, threatened, cajoled and intimidated to make these payments, without verification?
“Since the institution of the forensic audit by President Muhammadu Buhari, the committee has uncovered a culture of rampant corruption and abuse in the commission. Many very powerful individuals who benefited from the years of sleaze have been on the attack,” Mr Odili added.
He, however, said that no amount of blackmail and intimidation would stop the interim management committee from getting to the roots of the looting and corruption in the commission. Mr Odili added that the commission will undertake a long-planned and approved trip to United Kingdom this September, to verify these obvious and unexplained discrepancies in the commission’s foreign postgraduate scholarship programme.