Monday, 4 January 2016

Why I Halted Rivers Foreign Scholarships – Wike

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BEVERLY HILLS, January 03, (THEWILL) – Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has given reasons why he stopped the age-long foreign scholarships undertaken by the Rivers State government, for some of its young students, who performed exceptionally well academically.

The scheme places the students on foreign scholarships to different countries of the world, especially based on their various courses of study. While some are sent to pursue first-degree programmes, others pursue higher degrees, especially in science and technology.

Earlier in his tenure, the Chibuike Amaechi administration set up the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), to among other things, oversee the placement of the state’s students on the foreign scholarships scheme as well as see to payment of their tuitions, accommodation and upkeep costs.

But few months after assuming office on May 29, 2015, Governor Wike announced that there were huge unpaid debts by the RSSDA from the foreign scholarships, claiming he paid an initial N720 million to offset outstanding fees. More payments followed, until total money came up to about N1.5 billion, he said.

Wike, while addressing a cross-section of Rivers people at the state’s New Year banquet in Government House, Port Harcourt, on Friday night, blamed the immediate administration of Chibuike Amaechi, for taking the scholarship policy out of proportion, until it went beyond the capacity of the state government, especially given the state’s present economic situation.

The governor said: “Though my administration has paid N1.5 billion for the foreign scholarships, we could not continue to fund it because the previous government of Rotimi Amaechi had incurred a debt of N3.5 billion for 2013 – 2014 and 2014 – 2015 sessions.

“The decision to stop the (foreign scholarships) was taken in the overall interest of the state, in view of dwindling finances.”

THEWILL recalls that last September, about 100 Rivers students studying in different United Kingdom universities were deported back to the state due to the state government’s failure to defray their tuitions and accommodation costs.

Weeks before their deportation, most of the students who had been abandoned by the RSSDA for about two years, had gathered at the Nigerian High Commission in London to protest the non-payment of their school fees and entitlements, and to solicit the High Commission’s intervention. But all that yielded nothing, as things later turned out.