Over 300 Nigerians on Federal Government Bilateral Agreement Education Scholarship Scheme abroad have petitioned the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, demanding the full payment of their 2015 stipends, including their allowances and return tickets for graduating students.
The students, under the aegis of “Ph.D and Senior Postgraduate Students on BEA Scholarship,” said they did not receive their entitlements between January and December 2015 thereby causing them hardship.
The scheme is a bilateral agreement between the Nigerian government, through the ministry of education and the federal scholarship board, and other countries to train students in various fields while the home government takes care of their upkeep during their stay in the host countries.
It is the largest federal government scholarship scheme with students in Russia, China, Ukraine, Cuba, Hungary, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria.
In the letter dated January 3, 2016 and signed by their president, O.G Ezinkwo, the students, numbering 375, told the minister that they and 600 other beneficiaries around the world had been abandoned for 11 months with no source of livelihood due to the inability of the government to promptly release their stipends.
They said the development had exposing them to very dangerous and pernicious situation in foreign lands.
They claimed that every year Nigerian scholarship students always had to be evicted from their accommodation due to inability to pay, visas and passports get expired with no funds to renew them.
They also stated that in the process some of the students became sick and could not be treated due to the lack of the mandatory health insurance and were always being threatened with expulsion on an annual basis.
“Nigerian students are popularly known as giant mendicants among even lower African countries because they have to resort to begging for at least six months before their stipends are paid with this year being the worst with a waiting period of 11 months and counting,” they said.
“In June 2015, some students graduated and could not purchase tickets to go home due to lack of funds from the government. The consequence is that visas got expired and laws of other people’s land were violated and some were on the verge of being deported.
“In December 2015, a number of PhD students are graduating and will possibly be confronted with the same fate as there is no proper arrangement for their return tickets and may likewise face deportation upon graduation.
“In 2013 when this matter first got to the seventh national assembly students were subjected to starvation for six (6) months. In 2014, students were abandoned for eight (8) months and 2015 – eleven (11) months. By the numbers stated above, which can also be corroborated by the national dailies of respective years; it has clearly become an exacerbating reoccurring decimal.”
Mr. Adamu could not be reached for his response.
In a separate letter to the Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Nigeria, Nikolay Nikolayevich, the students pleaded with the Russian government to temporarily suspend the BEA owing to the failure of the Nigerian government to meet her obligation towards the beneficiary of the scheme in Russia.
The students also requested Mr. Nikolayevich to raise the issue with the Nigerian government as a set of PhD students are graduating in February/March and would possibly be confronted with the same fate as there is no proper arrangement for their return tickets and may likewise face deportation after graduation if nothing is done to avert the infraction of the immigration laws of the Russian federation.
They also asked the Russian Ministry of Education and Foreign Affairs to prevail on the Nigerian Ministry of Education and Federal Scholarship Board to seek for a permanent solution to this perpetual problem as students can no longer study properly due to perpetual hardship, starvation and hunger amidst the global economic crises.
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