Some beneficiaries of the Niger Delta Development Commission’s postgraduate foreign scholarship programme have accused the agency of abandoning them while studying abroad. The beneficiaries alleged that the commission had refused to pay their tuition, adding that the grants awarded to them when embarking on their various programmes abroad were also not paid.
According to them, the NDDC is making living and studying abroad difficult for them, adding that the agency awarded them scholarship only to neglect them when they got to their respective countries of study. One of the beneficiaries, who identified herself simply as Gloria, said her studies were under threat due to the NDDC’s refusal to pay her tuition and grant, adding that she had to work overnight for a company in order to earn money to survive.
She stated, “My tuition has not been paid; my N500, 000 travel grant, which was supposed to be given to me before I left Nigeria, has also not been paid. Other scholars were paid, but some of us were told that our payment bounced and we have yet to get any notification to that effect. At a point, the commission asked us to send our account numbers, which we did, but no response came afterwards. Our schools have been threatening us because of the tuition and we have received letters indicating that the debts have been transferred to us. I have been de-registered from my study because I owed beyond the tolerable limit.
“About five months into the programme, my school contacted the NDDC, because funds hadn’t been received, but the commission never responded. When we got back to the commission in August, we got a mail from the NDDC consultant asking us to update our details, which we did but got no response. We don’t know what crime we have committed; our landlords have booted us out of homes and I am currently staying with another student. I have been living from hand to mouth; I have tried to make ends meet by running machines overnight at a factory, which has been affecting my studies. We are appealing to the commission to do the needful.”
Another beneficiary, identified simply as Anthony, said he had to secure a loan to pay the debt that was transferred to him when the NDDC reneged on paying his tuition and that efforts to get the commission to refund him so that he could offset the loan had proved abortive.
He stated, “I completed my programme in April 2017 and I have since returned to Nigeria. However, out of the total award sum of £30,000, only £3,953 was paid to me while studying in the United Kingdom. The NDDC still owes me the balance, but when the commission refused to pay my tuition, my situation worsened and my parents had to secure a loan to enable me to graduate. I have yet to get a refund from the NDDC to repay the loan and the interest has grown outrageously. Since I returned, I have been fighting to get my scholarship award sum paid to me. I have been to the NDDC headquarters more than 20 times and I have written to the directors but got no response. I am begging the management to make the necessary arrangement to pay me and the other affected scholars.”
Another scholar, who identified herself simply as Oby, said, “The commission is used to abandoning the beneficiaries of its foreign scholarship, so we have resolved to put out our story to the public, because we are tired and facing serious hardship.”
When contacted, the Directorate of Education, NDDC, said the names and amounts awarded for the tuition and the grant to the affected scholars had been sent to the Managing Director of the commission, Joy Nunieh, who had yet to act on them.
An official of the directorate said, “A lot of changes has been going on at the commission, but we have done everything that needs to be done; we have prepared everything that needs to be prepared as regards the scholars and their payment; it is left for the MD to act on it. At the directorate level, we have sent the names and the amounts for their tuition to the MD. So, it is not in our hands anymore. It is now left for the MD to handle whatever it is that has been handed over to her. There is a shift in authority and everyone is trying to acclimatise to the fact that we have a new MD and she, in turn, needs to sit down and know what is going on and keep abreast of what is happening.”
Efforts by our correspondent to get the acting MD to respond to the issues proved abortive as several calls made to her mobile phone rang out. She had also yet to reply to a text message sent to her number on the agitation of the stranded scholars.