The Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Nsima Ekere, has pledged to sustain the funding of its foreign scholarship programme which started seven years ago.
Mr Ekere, who made the promise in an interview with newsmen in his office at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt, stated that NDDC would not abandon any of the scholars properly enrolled into the scholarship scheme.
He affirmed that over 80 per cent of the disbursements have been made, adding that all genuine NDDC scholars would definitely receive their due disbursements. “It might take time and we regret the delay and hardships, but we are doing everything possible to ensure that we release the funds to them as soon as possible,” Ekere assured.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer regretted that some people were using the NDDC scholarship scheme to defraud the government because it was being paid in foreign currency. According to him, “they pretend to be NDDC scholars, when indeed they are not. So this is the problem that we have had and that is why some of the scholars didn’t get their money in time.”
Mr Ekere sympathized with the honest scholars who were caught up in the delays, assuring that where genuine cases were identified, they would be treated immediately. “We understand what they are going through and the hardships they have had to face and we also seek their understanding because a lot of people abused the scholarship scheme,” he said.
The NDDC boss said: “We discovered that there were a lot of discrepancies in the way the scholarship program was being administered. We award scholarships for studies abroad but you find out that money were paid to people who were still in Nigeria. We didn’t see why that should happen.
“There were other cases where people got admission for a certain courses in a certain schools and then along the line, because there is a fixed amount that is paid to every scholar, some of them will go to a different university for a different program other than what the scholarship is for, just because maybe the school is cheaper. So in our records here, we may see that the scholar is probably in the University of Aberdeen, meanwhile we are getting an invoice from a university in Canada.”
Mr Ekere noted that the scholarship scheme was borne of the need to bridge the huge manpower deficit in the Niger Delta region, especially in Engineering, Science and Technology, EST, the fields that drive the oil industry. He added: “We have certain areas we want to concentrate on because we want to develop professional manpower. We discover that some of them have gone for other courses different from what the scholarship was for. So these are some of the areas and we set up a committee to look at and try to resolve.”
He said that within two weeks of setting up a committee to address the challenge, the first set of disbursement were made for those people that had no issues. Shortly after, he said, another set of release were made. “What is remaining is just a very negligible number which we are still working and will soon resolve,” he said.