Delta State Student Leaders Say They Were Attacked For Questioning Bursary Scam

Orhe Erhiga
By SaharaReporters, New York

Several student leaders in Delta State have accused officials of the Delta State Scholarship Board, including the board’s current head, Hope Eghagha, of threatening them and instigating physical attacks on them after they opposed ongoing fraud in the board’s disbursement of bursaries.

One of the student leaders, Orhe Erhiga, showed a citizen reporter affiliated with  SaharaReporters bruises on his body from what he described as a severe assault. Mr. Erhiga, a senator in the Delta State Students’ Union, said he faced an attempt on his life. He insisted that the attack on him arose from the resolute stand he took against the perpetration of fraud by the scholarship board.

Mr. Erhiga accused the current National President of the National Association of Delta State Students Union [NADESSTU), Godwin Ovuomaraini, of conniving with members of the scholarship board in their illicit activities. Mr. Erhiga said Mr. Ovuomaraini physically assaulted him on May 11, 2012. One eyewitness said Mr. Ovuomaraini used broken bottles in a vicious attack on Mr. Erhiga.

He accused Mr. Ovuomaraini of doing the board’s bidding, including complicity in siphoning bursary funds released by the state to Delta State students at various institutions of higher learning across the country.

Several other critics of the scholarship board also fingered Mr. Ovuomaraini as the mastermind of the threats and assaults on them. “The board and its chairman, Professor Hope Eghagha, are using Godwin to attack us,” said one of the targeted student leaders.

A former president of the student union, Ambrose Ezenweani, also revealed that he was lucky to escape an attack organized by the same Mr. Ovuomaraini. Mr. Ezenweani said his offense was that he set out to investigate and expose irregularities in a list released by the board around the period he was completing his tenure and was about to hand over.

In a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ezenweani detailed how the board officials, since the emergence of Mr. Eghagha as its chairman, inserted fake names into the list of students for bursary. He asserted that the insertion of fake names was a scam to enable board officials to siphon funds even as many genuine students were denied bursaries. The petition accused officials of the board as the architects of a hoax to use fake names to embezzle public funds. He stated that members of the scholarship board, including Mr. Eghagha who is also the Commissioner for Higher Education, were deeply involved in the scam. He said they were determined to foreclose access to anybody who wants to investigate their nefarious activities. He said he escaped an attempt to attack him after he severely criticized ongoing fraud in the board.

SaharaReporters also learnt that another student senator, Odebe Zino, had been threatened by the same Godwin Ovuomaraini. A source disclosed that Mr. Ovuomaraini ordered Mr. Zino to immediately discontinue his investigation into fraud in the scholarship board. “The students’ union Senate body had asked Odebe to investigate the matter, but Ovuomaraini demanded that he should stop – or face serious consequences,” a student source disclosed. Odebe Zino is the president of students union at Auchi Polytechnic. His appointment as chairman of an ad hoc committee set up by the students’ Senate body to investigate allegations of fraud in the board followed the board’s release of a spurious final list of beneficiaries of the Delta State scholarship fund.

Mr. Erhiga revealed that the list was dominated by names of non-existing students. He said corrupt members of the board would have embezzled the non-existent students’ scholarships were the fraud not detected.

Numerous students told SaharaReporters that they decided to fight back and expose the board’s corruption because the award of scholarships to fake, non-existent students was working to the detriment of real students. “When the bursary goes to unknown names, inserted by officials of the Delta State Scholarship Board to siphon the fund, then genuine students are denied the benefit.”

Mr. Ezenweani said he had been victimized by members of the board for opposing their practice of using fake names to siphon the scholarship funds. He alleged that the board created and approved payment for twenty-three thousand (23,000) fake students’ names at various institutions to pocket scholarship funds for themselves even as genuine students were shut off. He accused the board of showing apathy after the students pointed out the extensive errors in the list. He added that he and other students then found out that the inclusion of fake names was not an innocent mistake but a deliberate scam. He stated that board officials ignored their calls and further blocked all efforts to trace the source of the fake names.

Student leaders said they discovered that the controversial list contained names associated with bank accounts that have strange bank sort codes. Following their investigation and protests, the students said the board had stopped publishing names of bursary beneficiaries as a way to ward off investigations. They also accused the board of dragging its feet, stating that the payment of bursary, which was usually concluded within three months, had yet to be concluded since June of last year.

In addition to indicting the Commissioner for Higher Education, Mr. Eghagha, Ezenweani’s petition to the EFCC also identified the board’s secretary, Peter  Amromanoh, and a new unidentified IT firm as culprits who connived in the fraudulent schemes.

Our sources said that, once the irregularities were exposed, the board claimed that it had returned the saved funds to the state government’s coffers.

But Mr. Ambrose Ezenweani’s petition alleged that the fake 23,000 bursary beneficiaries approved by officials of the scholarship board had been used within two bursary cycles to siphon about N2 billion in public funds. He said student investigators had not been able to locate the fake addresses associated with the fake names. In addition, he asserted that the names did not exist in the list of students at the various institutions they ostensibly attended.

Mr. Orhe Erhiga said the student union drew the attention of the board to the inconsistencies, but that officials of the scholarship board stood behind the hoax. He added that his persistent protests triggered attacks on him and other members of the union who supported the protest.

Some members of the students’ Senate Union said Mr. Ovuomaraini, whose tenure had lapsed, was paid more than N1 million by the scholarship board to
engage in activities that would keep another election from holding. They said the board was buying time to complete another phase of its ongoing scam. The students stated that members of the scholarship board were afraid that another national leader might emerge who may not go along with their shady activities.

SaharaReporters tried to interview Hope Eghagha, the scholarship board’s chairman and Commissioner of Higher Education in Delta State, but his media assistant spoke on his behalf. The aide, who declined to disclose his name, denied the student union leaders’ allegations. He accused the students of being oblivious of the re-organization of the board by Mr. Eghagha, the new chairman.

He confirmed that Mr. Eghagha brought in a new IT firm to process applications for the bursary.

The critics of the board said the name of the IT firm was hidden from them. Mr. Eghagha’s media assistant said he was unable to recall the name of the IT firm as he responded to questions over telephone. But he alleged that the board’s critics were those affected by the re-organization carried out by Mr. Eghagha on his assumption of the position of chairman. He said the commissioner’s re-organization affected those who were planting many names and applying more than once, alleging that the critics were among those. The media aide also stated that the board had saved N80 million the first year and N180 million in the last concluded year after the re-organization.

He also alleged that kidnappers who abducted Mr. Eghagha last year had demanded that the commissioner cancel the list he approved using the new IT firm.

Reacting to the media aide’s claims, the student leaders insisted that the money announced as returned by the board was as a result of their efforts to expose the fraud. One student source asked, “If they claim they are returning some money, why not allow us to trace the source of the fake names and addresses the money was recovered from?” The student leader added that those who used fake names ought to be punished to serve as a deterrent to other like-minded criminals.

A source disclosed that the EFCC was still investigating Mr. Ezenweani’s petition. The source added that the EFCC had in the past detained some members of the scholarship board. The board’s secretary, Mr. Amromanoh, was detained for more than one week and then released on some unspecified conditions. In addition, Mr. Ovuomaraini was reportedly detained at the police headquarter in Abuja after he allegedly boasted that he had the backing of the Delta State governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, and could not be arrested.

Contacted by our correspondent, Mr. Ovuomaraini denied using broken bottles to severely wound Mr. Erhiga. He described what happened as “a scuffle” between him and the student senator. He also denied attempting to attack Mr. Ezenweani.

In a petition to the police, Mr. Ovuomaraini was described as a notorious attacker and cultist. The petition alleged that, in 2010, Mr. Ovuomaraini had attacked Mr. Orerine Bakpa, a former National President of the student association. The victim almost lost his life, according to the petition. It added that other executive members of the association developed a deep fear of holding private
meetings with Mr. Ovuomaraini, especially where he decided the
venue.

Mr. Ovuomaraini, who identified himself as an ND2 student of Delta State Polytechnic, said he has now set up a process to elect a new President, admitting that his tenure had lapsed.

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HOW TO APPLY FOR NADESSTU AND PIECE OF ADVISE

Am a student of OOU.
When is the national national nadesstu form be on sale and how will i get and apply for the form.

To the issue on ground, about the present nadesstu president, please i pledge in the name of our hero's, let us serve our brothers and sisters with charity of heart.
may we try to be fill and not to be seen as it will serve a good example to our upcoming brothers and sisters.
thanks.

outdated issue

This issue happened last year, i wonder why they are bringing it up now. I thought this case had been settled with over 1million naira last year.Com ovuomaraini aka biggestG has already elapsed his tenure as nadesstu pres. Lets talk of beta things.

please let stop d madness

Those holding d constitutional mandate of nadesstu shud b respected; thesame applies to d various delta state students, studying accross d six geo political zones of d nation, the good gesture of our amiable governor, Mr. Emmanuel uduanghan toward improving and uplefting the standard of education in delta state shud not b drag into mud, in d name of infighting among d various nadesstu members, to d extent of killing ourselves. Please let us all respect ourselves in nadesstu...... Formal president of nadesstu.yabatech chapter,lagos.

please let stop d madness

Those holding d constitutional mandate of nadesstu shud b respected; thesame applies to d various delta state students, studying accross d six geo political zones of d nation, the good gesture of our amiable governor, Mr. Emmanuel uduanghan toward improving and uplefting the standard of education in delta state shud not b drag into mud, in d name of infighting among d various nadesstu members, to d extent of killing ourselves. Please let us all respect ourselves in nadesstu...... Formal president of nadesstu.yabatech chapter,lagos.

Johnson should apologies to

Johnson should apologies to NADESSTU and the Higher Education commissioner for this malicious allegation. Prof. Hope Eghagha is a gentle man to the core ! He has no issues with NADESSTU and shouldn't be linked to this nonsense ! NADESSTU and Johnson should be warned !

What a shame.

Am now afraid if this is how NADESSTU is been run by fellow comrades, what a shame? We do all kind of things just to make money that we can not even eat. The commissioner of higher education is just too nice to be rubbish in this manner, a man that agitate for students rights.

Orhe the Liar!

Orhe or whatever you called yourself, when did you join Nadesstu? The first ¥80million was refunded to the board before you Johnson emerge as senate president and in your so call regime, over a Hundred million was also refunded to the board as a result of the restructuring done by Prof. Hope Eghagha. You should also know that Prof. Hope Eghagha is not the head of scholarship board, it is the restructuring measures been put in place by Prof. Hope Eghagha the honorable commissioner for Higher Education to reduce the fraud you and your collegues are planning to carry out that is making you uncomfortable and it will also interest you to know that the board is not consulting another IT firm instead they are working out modalities to involve JAMB so that bonafide students can get benefit from the scheme not fraudsters like you Orhe Johnson.

What a disgrace.

Erhiga, you are just a disgrace to the students and the comrades community, how can you subject your self to be used by some grounp of people.........you are just a disgrace.

This will not pay you.

I wnt to use this medium to inform us that the 80million that was return to the Delta State Government was not in this administration of God'swill. As a matter of fact you have it wrong this time around.

man inhumanity to man

Only God will save us in Delta State...Festus Keyamo you are welcome to Delta State but i pray you dont become like Mr Hope Eghaga

Commissioner for higher education in not involve.

we should all be aware that the commissioner for higher education is not a member of the scholarship board,and he doe not involve himself in bursary matter. all he doe is to face his business a commissioner for higher education.

WHAT A MESS !

When you keep on doing the same thing, expecting a different result, then you are a BIG FOOL ! It's unfortunate that you guys have turned NADESSTU into a money making venture.Johnson and co, how does it affect the government, when you fight with your president and sustain all manners of injuries? Even at that, you were not written off and over a million naira was given to you, for treatment, you are now making erroneous insinuations, even to Sahara reporters. ...haba ! Nawao. Are you forgetting your many 'cases' ? It's always suitable to go equity with clean hands. Save the image of NADESSTU and stop false accusations, it's not the best for a young man like you.

point of correction

I bakpa orerhime, former National president, was never attacked in any way or at anytime by the current President, comrade ovuomaraini Godwin. I read this newstory with great surprise in its mendacity.
While in office, Delta students celebrated both the increment in bursary and scholarship and greater participation in coverage of students from 2.2 cgpa and above. infact, the aggrieved minority party were those benefitting from the old manual payment system.
Am in the know of the ramified settlements between the President and the Senate president after their fracas that involved a lot a compromise.
In that light i feel this news story has been overtaken by other events. it lacks recency, content and reliability.

Count the commissioner out

The commissioner for higher education is not involve in Delta state students bursary matter, as the board in free from external force.

The commissioner is not involved

Commissioner for higher is not involve in students bursary as the board is saperate from ministry of higher education.

ORHE ERHIGA IS A FRAUDSTER

Why is't that people with questionable characters always expose them selves to the public?
This so call Erhiga has defrauded Delta state student in UNIJOS were he uses the proceed to buy a Honda car. Come to think of it, he is not even a student of any University in Nigeria, now that the governor has appointed a God fearing man to save the board from their dubious activities and check all the excesses of the board, they have no other means than to spread rumors that the commissioner is the one defrauding the board.
The board has experience so much development since Prof. Hope Eghagha emerge as commissioner.
I want to let the world to know that Prof. Hope Eghagha is a God sent to restructure the board so that bonafide Deltans can benefit from the scheme.

Delta and money!!!

wasted generation!!!!

Silencing Tomorrow's Leaders

Who will save us from these wild animals who call themselves government agents? Once you occupy an office in Nigeria, no matter who you used to be, you change into a monster. Why Hope Eghagha, former columnist?

Mr. Ovuomaraini has the

Mr. Ovuomaraini has the requirements to be a good Nigerian politician. Watchout for him for he may become a Governor, House of rep or Senator of the republic in the nearest future.

Much respect for these boys

Much respect for these boys fro standing up to fight these monsters......................... .....having said that it all goes back to corrupt leadership that nigerians voted for............................. anyway we are learning the hard way................ breadth of fresh air indeed.

He deserves that brutal treatment!

A very sympathetic story of brutalities, which one leader of student activism meted out to a fellow student activist, when the latter sought for transparency. It is however sad that after their graduation from school, MOST student activists often are worse than those who they fought.

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