The management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has come under criticism after several Nigerian students studying in the UK universities under its sponsorship said they are still stranded abroad.
This is despite the commission’s claim that it has remitted money for their tuition and stipend.
In August, the NDDC had stated that it approved over $5.9 million (about N2.28 billion) to 197 students; who are of the 2019 batch on its scholarship programme.
The commission said it had also begun the processes for the payment of school fees owed 94 scholarship beneficiaries for the 2018 batch.
However, some of the students – the 2018 batch – have come out to say that the NDDC deliberately excluded them from the payment.
“The NDDC selectively handpicked those it paid without any defined criteria; and is refusing to pay fees; grants; as well as upkeep of 2018 scholars for no justifiable reason whatsoever,” the students explained.
“This came as a rude shock to us; because historically, the NDDC had always paid the fees as well as upkeep of scholars; in the order in which they were incurred; that is, from the earliest to the latest,” the statement added.
According to the students who refused to reveal their names; their exclusion may have been to punish them for protesting against the delay in the release of funds for the scholarship.
They said there were at least 316 of them whose tuition fees and also stipends were unpaid before the latest release of funds by NDDC; and, therefore, there are likewise over 100 of them who were yet to receive funding for the scholarship.
“The full names; local and foreign addresses; local and foreign phone numbers; school email addresses; local and foreign bank accounts; admission letters; as well as data page of the international passport of all these over 316 scholars are all available on the NDDC scholarship portal accessible by the NDDC and its management.
“It is not true that NDDC has paid all its scholars because as of date; the NDDC has not made payments to any of the outstanding scholars; from the 2018 scholarship cohort (amongst which are masters and Ph.D. Scholars),” the statement said.
The students appealed to the NDDC management to remit the money for their scholarship; in order to save them from further hardship and humiliation.
However, a statement issued by the NDDC spokesperson, Charles Odili, on Friday, September 12, refuted the allegations.
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),” 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 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