About 60 stranded beneficiaries of the Niger Delta Development Commission Scholarship scheme has called on the newly appointed sole administrator, Effiong Akwa, to prioritise the payment of their tuition fees and allowances.
Akwa, who has been the acting executive director, finance and administration in the NDDC, was appointed the sole administrator following a corruption scandal the NDDC is enmeshed in.
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Some of the stranded scholars are of the 2018 set of the NDDC scholarship undertaking their doctoral degree programme at different universities in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Canada, Malaysia, Australia and South Africa.
Some of the scholars who spoke with SaharaReporters said the NDDC had failed to pay their fees despite the commission sending a delegation to their institution to verify their studentship status.
In September 2020, the Executive Director, Projects of the NDDC, Cairo Ojougboh, in a tweet via his personal handle, said he led a delegate to some tertiary institutions, including Coventry University.
Accusing the NDDC of selective payment, one of the scholars said while some received payment in December 2020, others were omitted.
Representatives of the affected scholars said: “When payment was made in December 2020, 60 scholars comprising 2018 and 2019 PhD scholars were not paid at all. The 2018 PhD scholars are in their third (final) year.
“We lodged a complaint with the commission and the NDDC promised to pay everyone before December ends, but this is February, we have been left stranded and begging to survive.”
The representatives stated that the commission claimed the delay in payment was due to the transition in the NDDC.
They urged the new sole administrator to use his previous office as finance director to facilitate swift payment of their tuition fees.
Recounting their experience while studying, the stranded NDDC scholars said many have been ejected from their homes while some are on the verge of having their academic programmes cancelled, and being deported.
“Due to this delay, some of us were sent out of our accommodations with great humiliation by our landlords. It is very difficult to eat.
“We are constantly under the threats of those that once loaned us some money to settle part of our fees because we can’t pay back.
“The programme undertaken by one of our representatives was terminated by his school because of the default in tuition payments.
“He went through great humiliation before his student status was restored after he wrote an appeal letter and paid a fine of over N30,000 even upon the problem that was caused by NDDC,” the scholars lamented.
The scholars held a series of protests in 2020 picketing the Nigeria High Commission in UK over the non-payment of their tuition fees.
The stranded scholars have threatened to resume the protest if the NDDC fails to initiate the payment of their scholarship benefits from 2018 till date.
SaharaReporters, New York