As a way of further strengthening their good relationship with Nigeria and its people, the Lebanese community in Nigeria has instituted an endowment programme for Nigerian graduates who are qualified and interested in studying Master of Business Administration degree programme at the American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon.
The Lebanese community announced the scholarship, instituted on the platform of Lebanese Nigeria Initiative (LNI), which is a non-profit-making organisation, on Tuesday, in Lagos, at a media presentation of the first beneficiary of the programme, Mr Ajibola Olubando, at the country’s Consulate Office in Victoria Island.
Presenting Olubando, who is a 2012 graduate of Petroleum and Gas Engineering from the University of Lagos, Akoka, to newsmen, the Consul General of Lebanon in Nigeria, Mr. Elias Nicolas, said two Nigerians would benefit every year on the one year- duration scholarship programme both to the tune of $1.5 million (which is about N542 million) yearly.
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He explained that the scholarship scheme, which he said would be sustained for life and with one beneficiary for a start, is aimed at further strengthening the existing friendly relations between Nigeria and Lebanon and that the Lebanese community in Nigeria has always seen itself as part of the social fabric of Nigeria.
So, the current programme, he added, is a sign of Lebanese commitment towards the educational advancement of young Nigerians.
While thanking the Chairman of LNI, Mr Faysal El Khalil and other members of the Board of Trustees for what he called their huge efforts in birthing the project, he said beneficiaries of the programme are expected to return to Nigeria after graduation and contribute their own quota and meaningfully to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
He said the American University of Beirut was chosen for the programme because of what he called its high profile reference in higher education globally and that it would really equip Nigerian students for global relevance.
In his own remarks at the event, NLI’s Vice-Chairman, Mr Ali Safieddine, explained that the endowment was conceived to identify young Nigerians who can acquire requisite knowledge and skills from the partnering university and then come back home to invest same in Nigeria for the benefit of the country.
Mr Safieddine, who said he was born in Nigeria and lived all his life with his family in the country, however, thanked Nigeria for giving the Lebanese an opportunity to live and do business peacefully in various Nigeria’s communities.
He said such spirit of unity was part of what contributed to the institution of the endowment fund for Nigerians at the American University of Beirut.
He said the beneficiaries while at the university would be ambassadors of Nigeria in Lebanon and vice versa when returned to Nigeria after graduation.
Speaking on the criteria for selection, Mr. Safieddine said even though the application was free and voluntary, the 27-year-old Olubando emerged winner out of 50 applicants who qualified for admission at AUB.
The selection process, he stressed, was rigorous and transparent as all the applicants were subjected to scrutiny from both the panel raised by LNI locally and admission officers at the university in Lebanon.
He said Mr Olubando, who has been billed to leave Nigeria for Lebanon on Friday this week would enjoy full scholarship while his studies lasted in the Asiatic country.
Also speaking, the scholarship beneficiary, Mr Olubando, from Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, thanked the sponsors for the opportunity and promised not to disappoint them as well as Nigeria and its people either in Lebanon or after his return.
He said he was so optimistic that the knowledge and skills expected to acquire in the university would in no small measure help him back home to impact positively on Nigerian society and the world by extension.