Federal government sponsored doctoral students in Russia have called on Nigerian government to come to the aid of its citizens sent to foreign countries to study on scholarship.
In a strongly worded letter sent to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President of the Association, Engineer Godwin Ezinkwo, warned of the terrible danger Nigerian scholarship students in Russia, Cuba, China, Morocco, Algeria, Ukraine, etc will be exposed to if nothing is done to release the monthly bursary to enable them fend for themselves and face their studies.
“Over 250 Nigerian scholarship students are abandoned to starve to death in far away countries and are fast becoming illegal immigrants. Students who have finished their courses of study are being thrown out of their hostels with nowhere to go and may face deportation if they are unable to purchase their tickets back home by the end of July 2015.
“To make their case worse, the laws in some of these countries prohibit them from working and making money, which could have helped them to meet their needs.
“Nigerian Scholarship students in Russia, especially wish to use this medium to reach out to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Senate President – Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara to come to our aid as students sent on scholarship by the Federal scholarship board are abandoned to starve continuously in foreign lands every year for up to 8 months without their monthly remunerations (stipends)”, he lamented.
The students’ body decried the humiliation they face on daily basis because of government’s failure to honour its words concerning scholarship scheme awarded to students with exceptional academic prowess on an agreement with the host country to cater for its citizens while the Bilateral Education Agreement, BEA, lasts.
“The whole thing now looks like a source of torture on those who have not committed any crime by accepting bilateral scholarship to study in countries like Russia, China, Cuba, Morocco, Algeria, Ukraine etc., thereby making them vulnerable to all sorts of vices and exposing them to danger in these countries.
“It is a shame that every year Nigerian students resort to begging their counterparts from other African countries to survive. Several attempts had been made through the National Assembly and the Media to resolve the issue of delay of students’ stipends by authorities of Nigerian responsible for ensuring that students get their allowances without delay.
“Unfortunately, this has not yielded any results. Whereas students from other African countries receive their stipends every month, their Nigerian counterparts have to wait for a minimum of 6 months to be paid for the purpose of survival and study in the same host country.
“Despite the interventions of the former Nigerian Ambassador to Russia, the House committee on Diaspora, House Committee on Education of the 7th Assembly and even the Nigerian Media, this recurring annual embarrassment is yet to be tackled by those responsible for the administration of the scholarship scheme, on the excuses that the budget is usually released and signed late by the government. In fact, the elections and late budget are used this year as excuses”, the students complained.
Ezinkwo, on behalf of his fellow students, appealed to the Muhammadu Buhari administration to tackle the question of basing the BEA scholarship scheme on annual budget as a way of permanently solving the problem of making Nigerian students objects of ridicule in their host countries.
“It is grossly erroneous for the Ministry of Education and the Federal scholarship board to administer overseas scholarships relying on the budget thereby starving students for months. How long does the Director of the federal scholarship board wait for her salary? How long do the workers in Nigeria wait for their salaries despite the delay in release of budget?
“If they do not wait, why then are students sent to far away countries to study allowed to starve and get involved in activities that denigrate human dignity while they wait in vain for their monthly stipends. If other countries have gotten it right, why can’t these officials take a cue from them and learn to do things right?
“We are suggesting the creation of a Bilateral Scholarship Agreement fund that will cater for the needs of students on this scheme. The Petroleum Technology Development Fund, a PTDF scholarship fund and the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC overseas scholarship schemes are good examples that can be copied and adapted”, Ezinkwo stated.
He called on the Senate and House Committees on Education to urgently look into their plight in order to stop the menace and proffer permanent solution to reasons for the ugly development, adding that the removal of administrative bottleneck created by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is worst culprit in the plight of Nigerian scholarship students abroad.