Some Nigerian students of Rivers State origin studying in the UK protested on Monday in London against the Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike.
The students who have been on the Rivers government scholarship are said to be stranded abroad because of the refusal of the state government to fund the scholarship.
A handful of the protesters, with placards, gathered in front of the Chatham House, London, where Mr. Wike was delivering a speech on his administration’s performance in Rivers State.
A short video posted some hours ago on Twitter by Sahara Reporters captured the governor’s encounter with the protesters.
“You think if you do this, you’ll win anybody’s sympathy?” Mr. Wike said to the protesters immediately he sighted them as he stepped out from the Chatham House.
Mr. Wike, who wore a blue suit and was accompanied by a few aides, appeared perturbed.
“I have passed this stage,” the governor said in an angry tone to the protesters. “By the time you do this, you won’t get whatever you want.”
One of the protesters interrupted Mr. Wike; he tried to explain their situation to the governor.
“Hey, keep quiet,” the governor responded quickly. “Somebody has spoken on your behalf there (apparently referring to what may have transpired inside the Chatham House).
The governor directed the protesters to meet with the person who he said spoke on their behalf inside the Chatham House and that the fellow would tell them how to go about their request.
“Your Excellency, you can tell us what to do!” one of the protesters told Mr. Wike.
Another man from the crowd cut in: “No, no, no, governor, that’s not how to do it. Can you tell them how to get to you, please?
“This is the most important thing to do.
“I am not with them,” the man said. “It’s difficult to get to you. Just tell them how to get to you.”
The governor is seen in the video walking away from the protesters.
He moved towards a small friendly crowd of people who apparently were waiting outside to see him.
He exchanged pleasantries with people whose faces he seemed to recognize. “Aaah, you are here in London?” the governor is heard telling a lady in the crowd.
The protesters still followed Mr. Wike who then began shouting, “What’s the problem? What’s the problem? Is that how you are taught in school? You don’t respect people?
One of the protesters calmingly told the governor: “A lot of us here have already graduated, but we can’t have our certificates and we can’t work.”
The state scholarship scheme, initiated by the previous administration of Rotimi Amaechi, had students from Rivers State doing their post-graduate studies in different fields – including medicine – at various universities in Europe, America, and the Caribbean.
Citing lack of funds as a problem, Mr. Wike discontinued the scheme when he assumed office as governor in 2015. He asked all the students, except those who were in their final year, to return home and continue their studies in Nigeria.
The final year students, said to be 159 in number, have gone through hardship, with some of them reportedly doing menial jobs to survive, because they weren’t getting money for their tuition and allowances since 2014, despite several promises by the state government.
Some of the students have completed their studies through personal struggles, but their certificates are said to be withheld because of their debts to the schools. Most of them have also been thrown out of residential accommodation for failing to pay their rents, PREMIUM TIMES gathered.
Governor Wike, during his speech at the Chatham House, accused his predecessor, Mr. Amaechi, of not doing enough to bring development to the state.
The governor explained to his audience what he was doing to lift education in the state.
“We increased public spending on education from 4.2 per cent to about 10 per cent on the average and deployed substantial resources for the renovation and equipping of over 180 basic education and secondary schools across the state to improve the quality of education at that level.
“We have constructed, upgraded and rehabilitated several faculty buildings, lecture halls, workshops, staff offices as well as student hostels in all the tertiary institutions.
“These interventions have expanded access, improved quality and placed our tertiary institutions on the path to producing the skillful and innovative graduates that we need to drive the development of the State and the nation,” Mr. Wike said.
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