By Codratus Godson
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has at last moved to rescue its foreign students.
The sufferings of foreign scholars sponsored by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) may begin to reduce as the Commission says it has disbursed $5.91m to 197 students so far.
The Commission however said it is still processing payment for 94 others, saying the recent death of its execute director (finance and administration) was the main reason for the crisis.
The foreign scholarship scheme started in 2010, with the objective to bridge the gap in the management cadre of the oil and gas sector of the Niger Delta region and address the dearth of qualified professionals in the sector.
There have however been outcries, protests and accusations from the foreign students in the past months following non-release of their allowances.
Now, the Commission said in keeping with their commitment to funding the foreign scholarship programme, the Interim Management Committee (IMC) has paid $5.91m to 197 scholarship beneficiaries of 2019, while payment processes for 94 beneficiaries of 2018 are ongoing.
According to a statement by Charles Odili, director, corporate affairs, among the 197 beneficiaries are 43 scholars for Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) comprising 12 for 2016 and 31 for 2019. This category got $30,000 each, amounting to $1,290,000.
The Masters category has 154 MSC beneficiaries of 2019, who were paid $30,000 each, amounting to $4, 420,000. The payment processes for 94 beneficiaries of 2018; 40 for Ph.D. and 54 for MSC, are ongoing.
“We salute the doggedness of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, who got approval from the Presidency for the payments.
“We wish to state again that the delay in the remittance of the fees was caused by the sudden death of Chief Ibanga Etang, the then Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, EDFA.
“Under the Commission’s finance protocol, only the Executive Director (Finance) and the Executive Director (Projects) can sign for the release of funds from the Commission’s domiciliary accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“The NDDC foreign scholars represent the future manpower and professionals that we are building to help transform the Niger Delta region.
They are the people whose professional competences and exposure will fill the gaps in the oil and gas industry; as well as in infrastructure development.
“We have always said that beyond physical infrastructure, we have a duty to also develop the human capital that will ensure sustainable livelihoods to the people of the Niger Delta.”