A Nigerian student, who is on the Niger Delta Development Commission-funded scholarship in the United Kingdom, has given an insight into the harrowing experience she and other Nigerians are going through in the United Kingdom because of the alleged refusal of the NDDC to remit funds to them.
Maryleen Ndubuaku, an M.Sc. student, studying Embedded Microelectronics and Wireless Systems, at the Coventry University, United Kingdom, narrated her ordeals in an email she sent to PREMIUM TIMES, Friday.
Ms. Ndubuaku said in the email that she and several others categorised as NDDC 2015 scholars were yet to receive their complete money from the NDDC for 10 months now.
The NDDC, she said, wasn’t forthcoming with “any convincing reason as to the cause of this neglect”.
In the whole, those affected are said to be 15 masters’ degree students and 40 Ph.D. students. Some of them are schooling in other parts of the world, outside the U.K.
The NDDC international scholarship is worth about $30,000 annually. Those doing Masters’ degree are expected to spend only one year on it, while the Ph.D. is expected to last for three years.
The commission usually pays the tuition fees directly into the accounts of the schools, even though a source within the commission said that there were instances in the past where money meant for the schools were “mysteriously” paid into the account of the students.
There are some Ph.D. students who haven’t received money for both tuition and their upkeep from the NDDC for more than one year now, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
“For me, they had paid for my tuition, but they are yet to pay for my upkeep which is £8,000 only,” Ms. Ndubuaku said, adding that it was becoming very challenging for her to cope with her studies.
She said, “I am expected to graduate with excellent grades to help me actualise the goal of this scheme which is to contribute to building our great nation.
“This is really difficult considering that I have to think of how to survive and pay my bills; the thought of which constantly distracts my focus from my daily academic duties.”
Ms. Ndubuaku hopes that if her story is published in the media it could help put pressure on the NDDC to release the necessary funds for the payment of her rent and also for her upkeep, as well as for the other students.
“From the trend, it seems that only after there has been a threat, protest or public embarrassment does the Commission rise up to her responsibility to disburse funds to their scholars to save their public image,” she said in her email to the paper.
“It happened in 2016 when majority of the 2015 scholars were paid a week after their protest in Nigeria Embassy in London.
“Again after facing pressure from unpaid scholars, the Commission was very prompt to pay the first set of 2016 scholars (32 in number) claiming, in a press statement, that these were the only scholars that submitted their account details. However, these scholars all came from 2016 set, and the 2015 scholars had submitted their details long before them,” she said.
Before now, Ms. Ndubuaku had written several letters to NDDC officials, including the Managing Director, Nsima Ekere, without getting the desired result. She has written three times to Mr. Ekere, she told PREMIUM TIMES.
Also, she had to resort to pushing an official of the Coventry University, Ryan Bennett-Barlow, who is the Sponsor Recruitment and Admission Manager, to put pressure on the NDDC. But that too didn’t yield any result.
When she sent an email to the NDDC MD, Mr. Ekere, on April 26, Ms. Ndubuaku apologised for contacting him directly, without the following protocol.
But she, however, explained to Mr. Ekere that she had to reach out directly to him because of the hardship she and other Nigerian students were passing through in the U.K, despite being on the NDDC Scholarship.
Ms. Ndubuaku, from Imo State, told Mr. Ekere that she was from a middle-income family and that her dad was recuperating from a brain surgery. Her mom, she said, was a pensioner who for two years now hasn’t received any money from the Imo State government which she had worked for as a civil servant before her retirement.
“How do I ask them to send me upkeep of 400 pounds that amounts to about N160, 000 monthly?” she cried out.
“I have resorted to borrowing countless times because I cannot effectively combine my studies with part-time job as my course is very demanding.
“As I write to you, my exams are commencing next week but I cannot help but think about how to pay my rent for the month of May; because it is she who has shelter and food that thinks of writing exams.”
Mr. Ekere responded to Ms. Ndubuaku’s email the next day. “I understand your situation,” the NDDC MD said in his reply. “And I have asked (that) the processes be fast tracked.”
Two months after Mr. Ekere’s mail, Ms. Ndubuaku and others are still yet to get money from the NDDC.
The NDDC, about two months ago, remitted money to clear the backlog of funds meant for 32 of its scholars. Two weeks ago, the commission released more money to clear a new batch of 80 scholars, with the exemption of the 2015 scholars.
Ms. Ndubuaku is aware that she and others within her batch aren’t going to benefit from the latest remittance.
Ms. Ndubuaku, in her mail to PREMIUM TIMES, however, exonerates Mr. Ekere from their travails.
She said they found out from their personal investigations that the NDDC MD, Mr. Ekere, had approved the payment of the outstanding money meant for the 2015 scholars, but that the Executive Director of Finance and Administration, Mene Derek, was the one stalling it.
“Mr. Mene Derek has refused to append his signature to the payment,” she said.
“To think that our payment was not being delayed by CBN process, as was earlier told us, but rather by the signature of one man is really disturbing!
“As if to further exacerbate issues, the NDDC has now called for application for the 2017 postgraduate scholarship scheme when they have not paid a backlog of scholars dating back to 2015. What then is the rationale behind calling for fresh application?
“To subject more Nigerians to the pains and struggles of living and studying in foreign lands without support from their sponsors? To further ridicule the image of our beloved country by forcing scholars to work odd jobs at odd hours just to survive? Or is this designed to push the unsuspecting citizen into some form of slavery or negative vices?”
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the Director of Corporate Affairs in the NDDC, Ibitoye Abosede, on the matter, he dismissed it as being a non-issue.
“The NDDC had set up a committee to look into the issue more than three weeks ago, the money has been paid,” Mr. Abosede told PREMIUM TIMES, Saturday. “The MD gave a directive that the money should be paid immediately. Anybody who is yet to receive it, maybe the problem is with the transfer process”.
A source within the NDDC, however, corroborated Ms. Ndubuaku’s claim that the 2015 scholars aren’t accommodated in the latest release of funds by the commission.
The source who didn’t want his name mentioned in this report because he wasn’t authorised to speak on the matter also corroborated Ms. Ndubuaku’s claim that the Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Mr. Derek, was the one blocking the 2015 scholars from getting their payment.
“This man (Mr. Derek) is raising a mountain of issues (about payment for the 2015 scholars),” the source said.
So, for Ms. Ndubuaku and co, the endless wait continues.
“(So) we (will) continue to live like beggars and orphans, with no one to turn to,” Ms. Ndubuaku said in her email to PREMIUM TIMES.