• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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London protests: Verification details of NDDC foreign scholarships in UK emerge

London protests: Verification details of NDDC foreign scholarships in UK emerge

The game seems up for racketeers in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) foreign scholarship scheme for postgraduate studies as the much-delayed verification got off in the UK with Coventry University.

BusinessDay gathered that three officials left Nigeria last week after months of obstacles put on the way as many interested persons were said to be eager to scuttle the verification exercise.

Eyebrows were raised when the NDDC said they released $5.9 million but still harvested crisis of non-payment whereas the commission paid a mere $900,000 some years back to sort out the entire bill. The bill later rose to $3 million and now almost $9 million. This prompted them to want to verify the scheme, but the pressure and threats took over, the officials said.

BusinessDay gathered that at last, a team led by the executive director (projects), Cairo Ojougboh, including an assistant director in education, health and social Services, Idara Akpabio; and the managing director of Marg Education International Limited, the commission’s consultants, Godson Ideozu, left for London.

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The team first invited all available scholars and claimants to the London office of Clearpoint Communications, the NDDC’s communications consulting firm, where a headcount first took place and steps of the verifications made clear. This was after persons had daily protested at the Nigerian House in London, saying they were neglected and made destitute. All they wanted to hear was the sound of bank alerts for peace to reign.

The NDDC interim management committee led by a professor of virology, Daniel Pondei, and fired by the likes of Ojougboh, stuck to their guns, insisting on verification, suspecting that huge racket was going on.

Early check, it was gathered, indicated that at least 50 awardees from the last batch, 2019 alone, did not even bother to leave Nigeria, but maybe staying back in Nigeria waiting for alert in foreign currency to do other things with their collaborators. That alone could account for over $1.5 million.

Now, after the physical count at one place, the team has begun school by school visits to meet with each university’s authorities. The first so far is said to be Coventry University.

There, Ojougboh said that the visit was necessary to verify the number of scholars, examine their performance and check on their wellbeing, especially in the light of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

He explained that the NDDC needed to verify the scholarship awards because of discrepancies in the number of students and the fact that some of those awarded the scholarships in 2019 did not leave Nigeria for studies in the UK. Ojoughoh assured that the commission would pay all outstanding fees and claims once the verification exercise was concluded.