Some 28 protesters at the Nigerian office in London early in the week failed to show up during a recent screening in some London universities to show proof of being foreign scholars under the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) sponsorship, the commission has said.
This is as the embattled interim management committee (IMC) managing the Commission says it did not even send any batch (2020) to London and could not be pressed into paying out over additional $3m after it had paid almost $6m.
The Commission wondered why it would be verifying the lists but some persons who ought to be keen to get screened would rather choose to go for protests on the streets of London while screening was going on in the universities.
In a statement signed by Charles Odili, the director, public affairs, the NDDC said there is huge need to verify the additional claims because the yearly amounts have shot up astronomically from a mere $900,000 a few years back.
The statement said: “The IMC finds it necessary to make clarifications on the recent protest of some students, who claimed to be beneficiaries of the Commission’s 2018 scholarship programme, at the Nigerian Embassy in London.
“We observe that the students were driven by mischief, otherwise they had the opportunity to present their case to the NDDC Acting Executive Director Projects (EDP), Cairo Ojougboh, who was in London on Thursday, September 17, 2020, with relevant officers of the Commission, to carry out physical verification of legitimate students on the scholarship programme.
“The NDDC team was scheduled to verify the unexplained discrepancies in the Commission’s foreign postgraduate scholarship programme and ascertain the true beneficiaries. Their brief included visiting the universities where the students are enrolled for various post-graduate degree programmes.
“Recall that recently, the NDDC IMC released $5,910,000 million through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to offset all the verified outstanding foreign scholarship obligations, despite the non-passage of NDDC 2020 budget by the National Assembly.
“Curiously, after this payment, a demand for an additional payment of $3million (Three Million Dollars) surfaced, with the claim that some students were not captured. This inexplicable increase made it imperative to verify and authenticate the real beneficiaries of the scholarship programme which started in 2010.
The NDDC said it is still committed to the Post Graduate Foreign Scholarship Scheme, recognizing that it represents the future manpower and professionals that we are building to help transform the Niger Delta region.
“We have always said that beyond physical infrastructure, the NDDC, as an interventionist agency, has a duty to also develop the human capital that will ensure sustainable livelihoods to the people of the Niger Delta region.
“We, therefore, urge our scholars not to allow themselves to be used as tools by those sponsoring devious campaigns to discredit the on-going forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari. As should be expected, the verification of NDDC projects and programmes will not leave out the Foreign Postgraduate Scholarship.”