The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has paid over $5.910 million (about N2.28 billion) for tuition and stipends owed stranded scholarship students in the United Kingdom.
Mr Charles Odili, NDDC Director of Corporate Affairs, said in a statement in Port Harcourt on Monday that the commission disbursed the sum to 197 scholarship beneficiaries of 2019.
He added that the commission had also begun processes for the payment of school fees owed 94 scholarship beneficiaries for 2018 batch.
“Among the 197 beneficiaries are 43 scholars for Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), comprising 12 for 2016 and 31 for 2019.
“The beneficiaries under this category got $30,000 (N11.56 million) each, amounting to $1.29 million (N496.65 million).
“In the Master of Science (MSc) category, 154 beneficiaries of 2019 were paid $30,000 each, amounting to $4.42 million (N1.702 billion).
“In addition, the payment processes for 94 beneficiaries of 2018: 40 for Ph.D. and 54 MSc beneficiaries are ongoing,” Odili stated.
Odili said the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC commended the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio for facilitating the payment of the students.
The NDDC spokesman blamed the delay on the disruption caused by the death of its finance chief Ibanga Etang, the former acting Executive Director of Finance and Administration (EDFA) of NDDC, who died in May.
“Under NDDC finance protocol, only the EDFA and the Executive Director of Projects can sign for the release of funds from the commission’s domiciliary accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“The NDDC foreign scholars represent the future manpower and professionals that we are building to help transform the Niger Delta region.
“The foreign scholarship scheme started in 2010, with objective to address the dearth of qualified professionals in the oil and gas sector,” he said.
Some beneficiaries of the NDDC-sponsored scholarship recently staged a protest in the United Kingdom over the non-payment of their fees and stipends. On August 5, President Muhammadu Buhari instructed the NDDC to clear the backlog of the fees owed by the students.