Students studying abroad under the Niger Delta Development Commission’s (NDDC) scholarship programme have been abandoned in various universities across Europe and Canada.
Nigerian Tribune, on Tuesday, gathered that most of the students now survive by engaging in odd jobs and begging alms from individuals to make ends meet.
One of the scholars (names withheld), who reached out to Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday through the Internet, said the hardship being faced in Canada where he studies was becoming unbearable.
The scholar, who is an Oil and Gas Engineering graduate student of the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, said “Personally, I have to work two jobs to survive and with this I have to meet up weekly assessments, lectures and exams which is really taking a lot from me.
“As we speak, the NDDC had advertised for 2016 scholarship programme while they have outstanding obligations to 2015 scholars and from the feedback from previous scholars, they have passed through same hardships and it has become the status quo which I personally believe has to stop,” he lamented.
Another scholar (names withheld), who is studying at Coventry University, United Kingdom, said most of his colleagues are now homeless after being unable to pay their accommodation bills.
He said even when their money was being paid, the commission usually short-changed some of them by not paying their maintenance fee and each time they complained, the agency will threaten to withdraw them from the scholarship.
“They pay us our school fees and the package for our maintenance ether usually withhold. Someone is sitting on the money. Each time we planned to protest, they’ll quickly pacify us with spurious promises,” the postgraduate student noted.
He added: “I am one of over 200 NDDC scholarship awardees sponsored by the Niger Delta Development Commission for postgraduate studies abroad. A large number of us (up to 88%) are in the United Kingdom.
“The scholarship award cover tuition fees payment and a welfare package (maintenance fee). Surprisingly, after almost a year since some of us left Nigeria to study, we have not received payment for our welfare.
“I personally resumed schooling since January, some of us since last year December. As I speak, most of us are homeless as we cannot afford to pay rent.
“Very few of us who are lucky have accrued so much debt that people would not lend us anymore. Most of us are from very humble background, so there is no help coming from home.
“The main reason why we came here, our studies, is suffering as we have to pick up all manner of jobs (which are not readily available) to earn peanuts just to keep body and soul together.
“Sir, kindly find it in your heart to help our plight Sir. You cannot begin to imagine how we are fairing here Sir. We are barely surviving,” he pleaded.
Speaking with another postgraduate students on phone, he said: “I have to do odd jobs to survive if not, I will be thrown out on the streets and go hungry.
“I work all night, come home at 7:00a.m and still have a four-hour lecture to attend from 9:00a.m that same morning (Night shifts fit in more for most of us since we either have lectures or do research for our course works during the day).
“Sometimes, I go from work to the examination hall. I do not have enough time to study. Studying requires maximum concentration and we are full time students.
“My mind is not at rest when I am calculating how to pay my rent for the next month and survive because, here, no one cares about what you are going through.”
Nigerian Tribune further gathered that most of the scholars are also owed travel expenses and even tuition fees.
“It is important to note here that the only promise the commission has kept, after about 4 months, is the remittance of the #500,000 travel allowance (used to payback loans taken by most of us to fund our visa applications and flight tickets) promised us before leaving Nigeria (regrettably, not all of us have received the travel allowance till date) and tuition fees.
“No welfare/maintenance money has been remitted to us (January starters) up till now (7 months),” one of the students revealed.
Meanwhile, Nigerian Tribune gathered on Tuesday that while the scholars in UK varsities were planning to stage a peaceful protest, the Directorate of Education, Health and Social Services (EHSS) of NDDC, has apologized to the affected students in a letter mailed to each in the UK on Tuesday.
The letter, signed by Director of EHSS, Seigha Victor Glasgow, said the delay was as a result of the new policy that all payments and transactions be done through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“We sincerely apologize over the delay in remittance of your living expenses. This is due to the new Federal Government Regulation that all payments and foreign transactions of Government agencies must be done via the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“We will like to state that we are committed in paying your tuition fees, balance of your living expenses and this payment will be done very soon.
“We are now done with all the required documentation, so you should all be getting paid soon.
“Please bear with us because this is a new process, need proper study and understanding, takes time to it get right.
“Once again, we do apologize over the delayed payment,” the statement read.
However, Nigerian Tribune has gathered from the abandoned NDDC scholars in UK and Canada, that their colleagues sponsored by the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) have been receiving their tuition fees and stipends till date through the same CBN without any hindrance wondering why the case of NDDC was different.