Not less than 210 Nigerian, who are beneficiaries of the Niger Delta Development Commission 2019 Scholarship programme, are at risk of deportation as the Nigerian Government has refused to make payment for their tuition fees.
In July 2019, the NDDC under the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, announced its annual scholarship scheme calling for applications from all Niger Deltans.
“As part of our Human Resource Development initiatives, NDDC is embarking on Post Graduate Foreign Scholarship Programme to equip Niger Deltans with relevant training and skills for effective participation in the Local Content programme of the current Administration as well as compete globally in various professional fields,” the notice read.
The successful persons were selected after a Computer Based Test and sent to different schools abroad with many in the United Kingdom.
They were invited for a briefing where an award letter was given to them.
Little did they know that they would be left stranded by the commission and ministry, the same fate suffered by beneficiaries of past years.
SaharaReporters had in July 2019 exclusively reported how two persons from the 2018 scholarship programme were deported and over 100 at risk of deportation due to the non-payment of their tuition fees.
After SaharaReporters’ story, the commission swiftly paid the fees of some selected persons while others were abandoned.
Months after the 2019 election, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Akpabio as NDDC Minister and ordered a forensic audit of the account of the commission due to various corrupt activities.
Akpabio, on his part, vowed to change the situation in the NDDC but since that period nothing significant had been seen.
Also, the scholarship scheme is also heading the usual way as the agency has again abandoned and left beneficiaries stranded in different countries.
Some of the affected persons, who spoke with SaharaReporters, disclosed that the NDDC was yet to make any payment to them, eight months after winning the scholarship.
While many of them travelled on their own expenses with an assurance of getting refund but the commission has failed to fulfill that promise.
“The 2019 scholarship was awarded in July 2019. Till date, over 210 students are in schools all over the world and the NDDC has not paid a dime of the school fees or even the living cost.
“We can't work where we are, we have no funds at all and the government that sent us here is ignoring us. It is getting dire and NDDC is saying they are closing.
“They haven't even paid the N10,000 thank you for coming to the briefing, the N500,000 pre-departure fee has not been paid and the registration fees into the universities.
“It's been eight months of being in the UK for most people without a dime,” one of the beneficiaries of the 2019 scholarship programme said.
Some letters sighted by our correspondent revealed that some of the universities where the beneficiaries are learning are beginning to terminate their programme while others have also began processes to have them deported.
Currently, some beneficiaries have been logged out of their school portal.
“I am emailing to inform you that your sponsorship for Niger Delta has been removed, we have not received any replies from chasing them and no payment, you are now responsible for the fees of £175,000, you will receive a statement in the post next week.
“This is a reminder that you have not yet completed the registration process with the university. This should have been completed within the first four weeks of your start date.
“The impact of the removal of the scholarship is that if the scholar doesn't pay within 30 days, the scholar's access to school facilities would be terminated and in another 30 days may be reported to the home office for action, including deportation,” some of the letters sent to the beneficiaries read.
The affected persons have now expressed fear of being deported any moment from now and urged government to swiftly begin payment process.
A few days ago, the NDDC announced the immediate closure of its operation due to the outbreak of Coronavirus in Nigeria.
The NDDC also said it will be committing over N1bn to assist the nine states of the Niger Delta region in the fight against the pandemic.
Meanwhile, in a recent interview, Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, pledged the commitment of the commission to the terms and conditions of its post-graduate foreign scholarship programme, saying it would meet all obligations to beneficiaries.
He said, “We are obliged to meet all the terms of the scholarship because we cannot send people out of the country and not pay their fees.”