NIGERIAN students in the UK studying under the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) foreign scholarship scheme have started another round of protests over the inability of the agency to pay their tuition fees.
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. In a letter to the minister of Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio, she said some of the affected students had complained that they had been suspended by their schools over the non-payment of tuition and other fees.
Responding to this plea, President Buhari has ordered the NDDC to ensure that all arrears were cleared. However, it appears that the payments have not been made and as a result, 94 post-graduate students began another round of protests in front of the Nigerian High Commission in London to express their displeasure.
Negba Goodness, the president of the Niger Delta Students’ Union Government, said the development was a continuous embarrassment to the country. He called on the NDDC to pay up the fees in order to save the country from further international embarrassment.
Mr Goodness said: “We are surprised that the NDDC has refused to pay the remaining 94 students on its scholarship even after verification. We knew that the verification was an excuse to escape the payment.
“Unfortunately, those scholars have decided to protest again at the High Commission in London from today. This is a continuous embarrassment to the nation and deceit to the collective sensibilities of all Niger Deltans, who know that the funds are there to settle these students.
“As a union, we will not watch our students being stranded because of deliberate efforts of individuals, whose greed have overshadowed their conscience. We will resist all attempts to sweep these issues under the carpet.”
However, the interim management committee of the NDDC said that it would pay the outstanding scholars’ claims within a week. NDDC spokesman Charles Odili, said the acting executive director projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, was in London on September 17 to carry out physical verification, monitoring and evaluation of legitimate students on the scholarship.
He added: “Having concluded the verification, which involved the registration of all scholars and the confirmation of their claims with the various universities, payment of the outstanding fees are to commence immediately.”