Nigerians students sponsored abroad for further studies by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) are holding a protest in front of the Nigerian High Commission in London over the non-release of funds for their scholarship.
The protesting students, about 25 of them, represent several students on Batch 2018 of the NDDC foreign scholarship programme who are yet to receive money for their tuition, despite the claims by the NDDC that it has recently released over $5.9 million (about N2.28 billion) for the programme.
The students gathered around 9 am in front of the High Commission, with placards.
The students, in their statement to PREMIUM TIMES a few days ago, said the NDDC management deliberately excluded them from the latest payment for the scholarship programme.
“The NDDC selectively handpicked those it paid without any defined criteria and is refusing to pay fees, grants, and upkeep of 2018 scholars for no justifiable reason whatsoever,” the students said in the statement.
“This came as a rude shock to us because historically, the NDDC had always paid the fees and upkeep of scholars in the order in which they were incurred, that is, from the earliest to the latest.”
The students said their exclusion may have been to punish them for protesting against the delay in the release of funds for the scholarship.
The NDDC management said, without substantiating it, that the students were “hirelings masquerading as the Commission’s scholars”.
A statement by the NDDC spokesperson, Charles Odili said the students were part of “powerful individuals who are part of the systemic corruption uncovered” by the commission’s interim management.
“In 2018, the Commission paid a total of $900,000.00 (Nine hundred Thousand Dollars) only to cover the Commission’s obligations to its scholars.
“In 2019, the amount paid rose to a total of $3.5million (Three million, Five Hundred Thousand Dollars) only. Recently, the IMC paid out a total of $5.99m (Five Million, Nine Hundred and Ninety Thousand Dollars) to cover all the verified obligations to our scholars.
“Now, there is a demand for an additional payment of $3million (Three Million Dollars), bringing the total to an alarming $9million (Nine Million Dollars),” Mr Odili said in the statement.
He added, “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?”
NDDC was set up in 2000 by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo to fast-track development in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.
The region, 20 years after, still remains backwards in terms of infrastructure and standard of living, despite the huge amount of money made from oil-exploitation in the area.
The commission, with several of its abandoned projects littered around the region, has been involved in corruption scandals, which led to its recent probe by the National Assembly.