Some students sponsored to Europe for post-graduate studies by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) are reportedly stranded abroad because of the alleged lack of funding from the commission.
The students this month sent a letter to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, complaining that life for them abroad has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic which has prevented them from even engaging in menial jobs for survival.
“While we had survived with working as bar attendants, warehouse assistants and even care workers during these nine months of being sent overseas without upkeep, this ‘assistive’ source of income has been lost due to the COVID19 pandemic,” said about 25 students who signed the letter to Mr Lawan on behalf of the “2019 NDDC scholars”.
“With the pandemic, scholars are unable to meet up with their basic obligations like rent and feeding and are living on the constant threat of ejection by their landlords in different parts of the world.”
Some of the 210 students who were ‘fortunate’ to win the NDDC scholarship were unable to leave Nigeria for their studies because the commission did not even give them N500,000 take-off grant for their visa processing and flight cost, the students said.
The students said the NDDC also failed to pay the US$30,000 to cover tuition and upkeep for all the other students who were able to leave Nigeria for their respective schools in the U.K.
“Mr President Sir, the tuition fee and maintenance cost of US$30,000,00 ought to have been paid immediately on resumption and arrival of students in respective countries of study.
“For clarity sir, scholars resumed in September 2019 while others resumed in January 2020. Till date, no one has received the payments. Not only are the universities tired of writing to the commission without any form of acknowledgment, the universities have now locked out majority of students from their online portal, meaning students who resumed in September 2019 can no longer continue to work on their dissertation for Masters students, and students who resumed in January cannot register for their next semester courses and PhD students can no longer access university services for their research.
“In addition to this, universities have now transferred the tuition debt to scholars and have given scholars tight deadlines to make payments, otherwise they would be reported to the respective immigration offices for eventual deportation. This is nine months of the lives of some of the brightest Nigerian students about to be thrown in the refuse bin of history.”
The NDDC was established 20 years ago as an intervention agency to fast-track development in the troubled Niger Delta region. But many feel the impact of the commission, which is frequently entangled in corruption scandal, is yet to be felt.
Other Nigerian students who benefited from the NDDC scholarship in the past had complained of being abandoned in a similar manner by the commission.
The NDDC is being supervised by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
The then Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani, suspended the scholarship programme in 2017 until the commission cleared the backlog of payment meant for the old beneficiaries.
PREMIUM TIMES could not immediately confirm if the NDDC cleared the backlog and could not get its response to the latest complaints.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, did not respond to calls and text message to his phone line.
The new management of the NDDC is currently being probed by the House of Representatives over alleged N40 billion spent in two months without due regard to the Fiscal Responsibility Act.