The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) says President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered that the beneficiaries of the commission’s scholarship be paid by the end of the week.
Charles Odili, NDDC director of corporate affairs, broke the news after delivering the NDDC management’s invitation to the president to inaugurate the 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road in Bayelsa state.
The beneficiaries of the commission’s scholarship in the United Kingdom protested over the non-payment of their tuition fees on Monday.
The students converged on the Nigerian high commission in London to express displeasure over “negligence of their welfare”.
The scholars lamented that they have been stranded since the NDDC stopped paying their tuition and allowances one year after they were awarded the scholarship.
In a statement, Odili said scholars of the commission “who are facing hardships abroad” because of the non-remittance of their fees and stipends would be paid by the end of the week following the order of Buhari.
He said the delay in the remittance of the fees was caused by the sudden death of Ibanga Etang, NDDC former acting executive director, finance and administration, in May.
“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,” he said.
“With the death of Chief Etang, the remittance has to await the appointment of a new EDFA.
“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 EDFA to be appointed this week. As soon as that is done, they would all be paid.”
On the list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the national assembly, Odili said the one submitted by Akpabio was not compiled by the minister but came from the files in the commission.
The NDDC spokesperson said the list submitted to the national assembly was actually compiled by the then management of the commission in 2018.
He said there was another set of lists for emergency project contracts awarded in 2017 and 2019 but these were not submitted to the national assembly.
“The Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the commission stands by the list, which came from files already in the possession of the forensic auditors. It is not an Akpabio list but the NDDC’s list. The list is part of the volume of 8,000 documents already handed over to the forensic auditors,” he said.
Odili asked prominent indigenes of the Niger Delta whose names were on the list not to panic as the commission is aware “that people used the names of prominent persons in the region to secure contracts”, and that the ongoing forensic audit would unearth those behind the contracts.
The spokesperson said the intention of the list was to expose committee chairmen in the national assembly who used fronts to collect contracts from the commission, some of which were never executed.
He added that the list did not include the unique case of 250 contracts which were signed for and collected in one day by one person ostensibly for members of the national assembly.