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11 Nigerian PhD students Jonathan awarded scholarship stranded abroad, 90 others frustrated

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A group of scholars who were awarded scholarship by former President Goodluck Jonathan have raised the alarm that about 11 PhD students were currently stranded abroad because of failure of government to meet its side of the bargain.

National Association of Presidents’ NYSC Honour Awardees (NAPNHA), Monday, decried the abandonment of 11 PhD awardees in foreign universities, while 90 others are struggling in frustration over silence by relevant authorities.

President of NAPNHA, Suzanne Jegede who spoke to Ripples Nigeria in Abuja, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in order to avert the embarrassment the issue has caused the nation in the international community.

“Mr President should order the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, Prof. Abdulrasheed Abubakar to pay all outstanding fees of stranded students abroad.

“Mr President should direct the appropriate MDAs to resolve the uncertainties surrounding the fundings of Masters and PhDs of the other awardees whose scholarships have been approved by the present administration.”

She added that the Chairman, Senate Committee on Youths and Sports, Obinna Ogba, had directed the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB) to submit a budget draft to the National Assembly to work on, so as to clear all categories of the awardees, but, regretted that the Director of FSB only worked on the budget of 2010/2011 affected scholars and refused to submit those of 2012, 2013, and 2014 awardees.

“We believe that the refusal by the Director to carry out the president’s mandate and that of the Senate President is a calculated attempt to thwart the process.

“The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and the Petroleum Development Training Fund (PTDF) were to provide funds for this scholarship scheme while the National Universities commission (NUC) was to act as the clearing house for the scholars under TETFund, ” she said.

Jegede also revealed that three main groups of awardees exist and they share similar experiences of abandonment under desperate conditions and at different stages.

“In first group, we have NYSC scholars who resumed their PhD programmes at universities in the United Kingdom and the United States of America in 2014 .

“Reports show that despite the full remittance of their funds to the National Universities Commission by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), covering their tuition, living expenses and travel fees for four years, it is unfortunate that these scholars are currently stranded abroad with a backlog of unpaid tuitions and living expenses ranging from 1 to 2 year.”

In March, 2015, former President Goodluck Jonathan conferred the prestigious presidential honour award on 164 ex-corps members selected from the 2012, 2013 and 2014 service years for distinguishing themselves through their sterling and outstanding performances in the course of their national service.

Our correspondent learnt that the ex-corps members initiated and implemented community development projects that positively transformed their communities of primary assignments during the one year compulsory service.

As part of the package, the awardees were offered automatic employments and scholarship for postgraduate studies abroad up to PhD. But regrettably, the Federal Ministry of Education through the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) allegedly sponsored some selected 74 awardees for Masters’ Degree programme in September 2015, leaving 90 others behind.

The affected 90 awardees who were also beneficiaries of same scholarship for Masters’ Degree programme and beyond were abandoned while their colleagues had completed their Masters’ and proceeded to do Ph.D programmes.

The abandoned and aggrieved awardees have appealed for presidential intervention, noting that the refusal of the Federal Ministry of Education and other concerned agencies to offer them sponsorship letters has not only disrupted their academic timetable but was an indictment on the government since there seemed to be ethnic bias in selecting those already mobilised.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has appealed to the ex-NYSC members selected for presidential honour awards, but yet to be mobilized for overseas studies that plans were underway to activate their mobilization.

Government attributed the delay to paucity of funds which had interrupted the smooth process of awarding the scholarships, resulting in backlog of interventions particularly among the 2012, 2013 and 2014 beneficiaries.

Giving clarifications to the lingering issue, spokesperson of the Federal Ministry of Education, Mrs. Priscilla Ihuoma informed that budgetary provisions were not made for the Federal Scholarship Board to sponsor the foreign studies of the affected students in 2017, but confirmed that adequate consultations and approvals had been secured for its inclusion in the 2018 budget.

She said, “Federal Ministry of Education is requesting for N56 billion in the 2018 budget for this purpose and we are hopeful that it would be provided.”

She however denied that the Ministry of Education and other concerned agencies blatantly disregarded the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to issue sponsorship letters to beneficiaries, attributing the delay to the aforementioned challenge.

“The Presidential directive was that National Universities Commission (NUC) should handover the affairs of the Presidential Scholarships to Federal Scholarship Board because NUC and other funding agencies like the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) have no legal backing to fund the scheme,” Ihuoma explained.

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