The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has promised to pay all outstanding fees due to its scholarship beneficiaries studying abroad.
The agency’s Executive Director, Projects, Cairo Ojougboh, told representatives of the scholars during a meeting on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 that all outstanding foreign scholarship claims will be verified and paid within the next few weeks.
Dozens of scholars had initially protested at the Nigerian High Commission in London early in August 2020 over the failure of the NDDC to pay their fees spanning months and years.
The protests prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the agency, dogged by corruption probes, to pay the students.
197 scholarship beneficiaries of the 2019 batch were paid weeks later, according to the agency’s spokesperson, Charles Odili, who also said payment for 94 scholarship beneficiaries of the 2018 batch was ongoing.
However, over two weeks after his announcement, scholars of the 2018 batch returned to the High Commission in London on September 16 to accuse the agency of failing to pay their fees.
Odili, days before the protest, accused the scholars of being frauds hired by powerful individuals who are part of systemic corruption uncovered by the NDDC’s interim management committee.
He said the $900,000 paid by the NDDC as obligation to its scholars in 2018 has suspiciously risen to $5.99 million recently, with an additional demand for $3 million.
He said the agency was being blackmailed and intimidated to make payments without verification of scholars on its payroll.
In a statement released on Monday, Odili said a new verification exercise will involve the registration of all scholars on a new portal which is custom built for the agency, and the confirmation of scholars’ claims with their universities of study.
During Monday’s meeting with the scholars’ representatives, Ojougboh, according to Odili’s statement, said there are obvious discrepancies that must be eliminated.
The NDDC, for most of this year, has been dogged by controversies over the misappropriation of billions of naira.