Jan 28, 2015 – Nigerian First Class Graduates, Students On Presidential Scholarship Stranded In London UK, How FG Refuses To Pay Their Tuition Fees
Presidential Scholars or Suffering Scholars?
Some years ago, the Goodluck Administration started the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development (PRESSID), targeted at First Class Nigerian graduates. The idea was to provide full sponsorship for all awardees, to some top universities in the world. My nephew won this scholarship (which covers both MSc and PhD degrees) and I was very happy for him. He embarked on his MSc (2013-2014) in a prestigious UK university, and funding was handled by National Universities Commission (NUC), as designated by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Trouble started brewing when my nephew and his fellow scholars were denied some allowances they were promised before leaving Nigeria, based on some flimsy reasons from NUC. Besides, they ended up being paid only a fraction of what was clearly stated on their sponsorship letters, no thanks to the so-called ‘Nigerian factor’ plaguing all sectors in Nigeria. Their complaints to NUC yielded no fruit.
As a result, my nephew was sceptical about embarking on his PhD when he concluded his MSc, despite having received an offer of admission into a PhD programme. Once bitten, twice shy, the saying goes. I encouraged him to proceed and stay optimistic. Little did I know his foreboding was accurate, ab initio.
He returned to Nigeria in September 2014 to complete some paperwork at NUC Secretariat in Abuja. There, he was informed that he and other scholars had been reassigned to Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) respectively. He happened to be among the scholars assigned to PTDF, that is, PTDF is responsible for his funding. He completed all required paperwork at PTDF office, and collected their phone number and email address. Before leaving Abuja, he was assured that he would be paid soon, and that he could return to the UK to immediately commence his PhD programme.
My nephew thus borrowed money to book his flight to return to the United Kingdom (UK). On arriving the UK, he borrowed more money to pay for his accommodation, upkeep and visa application fee. As his closest uncle here in the UK, I also did my best to assist him financially.
Weeks ran into months, and PTDF is yet to pay one naira. My nephew and his colleagues have placed many phone calls to no avail. According to him, PTDF staff even ignore calls most times. They also seldom reply emails. Occasionally when they do, they give false hopes. He also told me that NUC and Nigeria High Commission in London is aware of the situation, but all they tell the affected scholars is to be patient. Then I wonder, till when? Till they become homeless? Or till they starve? No way!
Recently, he told me that he regretted taking the PhD scholarship. I felt a pang of guilt, because I was the one that encouraged him to proceed, despite the ominous signs during his MSc. Now he finds it hard to focus on his research, no thanks to PTDF and FG.
The straw that broke the camel’s back came when he informed me that other PTDF scholars (different from PRESSID stream) had received two quarterly instalments since September 2014, while he and his colleagues, that were originally with NUC, have received none. As a barrister-at-law, I stand for truth and justice, and I hereby challenge the Executive Secretary of PTDF, Mr. Femi Ajayi, to explain what is going on.
Every month, I support my nephew financially, despite the fact that he is a presidential scholar on full scholarship. But then, I wonder what happens to scholars that do not have uncles that can support them.
This is a big shame on PTDF and the Federal Government of Nigeria. By neglecting her scholars, I am of the opinion that the Federal Government is killing patriotism, and encouraging brain drain. Suffering scholars will most likely not wish to return to Nigeria after their studies, especially considering the fact that many opportunities abound for them here in the UK. I have a ten year old daughter that was born in Nigeria, before we came to the UK. If she ever tells me she got a presidential scholarship from Nigeria, I will tell her to reject it. This is because I cannot bear to see her go through presidential torture.
By Diepreye George