PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has given the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) one week to pay the school fees and allowances of its scholars stranded in the UK who are now living like destitutes.
Established by former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000, the NDDC was tasked with both developing the Niger Delta and with enhancing manpower development. Under this plan, the commission sent thousands of students abroad to be trained, especially in marine-related disciplines like engineering and fisheries.
Britain is home to a lot of these students but with the current turmoil within the NDDC, the commission has failed to pay their tuition and monthly allowances. As a result, many of the students face the risk of being kicked out of school and to make matters worse, they are living like beggars as they have no money to maintain themselves.
Last month, the chair of the Nigeria Diaspora Commission, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa called on the NDDC to resolve the plight of these students. In a letter to the minister of Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio, she said some of the affected students had complained that they had been suspended by their schools over the non-payment of tuition and other fees.
Responding to this plea, President Buhari has ordered the NDDC to ensure that all arrears are cleared this week. NDDC spokesman Charles Odili, promised that the students will be paid by the end of the week following the order by President Buhari.
He said the delay in the remittance of the fees was caused by the sudden death of Ibanga Etang, the former NDDC acting executive director, finance and administration, who passed on in May. He added that a replacement will be named shortly and this person will make the payments to the students.
Mr Odili said: “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. With the death of Chief Etang, the remittance has to await the appointment of a new executive director finance and administration.
“Senator Akpabio, the honourable minister, said President Buhari who has been briefed on the protest by students at the Nigerian high commission in London, has ordered that all stops be pulled to pay the students by the end of this week. We expect a new executive director finance and administration to be appointed this week and as soon as that is done, they would all be paid.”
On the list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the National Assembly, Mr Odili said the one submitted by Senator Akpabio was not compiled by the minister but came from the files in the commission. He added that the list submitted to the National Assembly was actually compiled by the then management of the commission in 2018.