Opinions

Christie Obiaruko Ndukwe: NDDC Scholarship Funds over bloated

Citizens Quest's Obiaruko Christie Ndukwe

The stories making the rounds, that the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) cannot pay their Foreign Scholarship students due to the absence of an Executive Director of Finance and Administration (EDFA), following the death of Mr. Etang Ibanga, the former EDFA has been discovered to not have emanated from the NDDC.

This discovery was made by the Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative, an accountability advocacy Civil Society Organization. The Citizens Quest, upon inquiry, both at the Headquarters of the NDDC and from the Central Bank of Nigeria found out, authoritatively, that unlike other contracts or projects at the NDDC, the foreign scholarship is paid from foreign currency denominated Domiciliary account, with the Executive Director Finance and Administration (EDFA) and the Executive Director Projects (EDP) as the authorized signatories.

Sources at the NDDC headquarters informed the Citizens Quest that the inability of the IMC to meet up with foreign scholarship obligation is not unconnected to the bloated figures they met, when they assumed office, earlier this year. According to the source, the IMC is worried that the number of scholarship students appears to increase with a new Management, giving the impression that the students don’t ever graduate from the scheme. A situation where the figures rose from $1.9m in 2018 to over $7m in 2019 is indeed worrisome and scary, indicating the padding of the records with ghost names.

The present Management under the Interim Management Committee, IMC, has not awarded any scholarships, as such, it is worrisome that the figures for the students are on the increase in spite of payments of about $1.9m and $3.4m paid by the two previous Boards.

The Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative further learnt that the NDDC, upon this discovery decided to suspend payment, until the identities of the ghost names are unmasked, through the various bank details attached to those names.

The source at NDDC also hinted that sustained scholarship related protests is geared towards forcing the IMC to pay those ghost names, under pressure. This explains why the protest is getting dedicated media attention, being bankrolled by the scholarship payroll cabal, who are mostly from the National Assembly, past and present.

An increase from $1.9m to $7m is almost 400% and such bleeding of the commonwealth should not be allowed to continue, under any guise. This is why, despite the Presidential directive to pay, and with available funds, at the CBN, the IMC is yet constrained to endorse the continued rape of the region, through such approval for payments that end up in private pockets. The IMC had, sequel to the Presidential directive, gone to the CBN to make a payment of $5m, to clear all outstanding entitlement of the students, only to discover that the figure had risen to a whopping $7m.

It is sad that the innocent students on  scholarship have to endure hardship, occasioned by corruption in the system, but it is in the overall interest of the country that the scholarship scheme be sanitized, to weed out ghost names from the payroll and pave way for a hitch free payment of the verified students.

The group therefore calls on those behind the spate of protests by just a handful of students to put a stop to this unbecoming attitude which is only aimed at railroading the good intentions of the present Government under President Muhammadu Buhari for the people of the Niger Delta.

Those who have also constituted themselves into a group whose only stock in trade is to dish out falsehood backed by alarming figures aimed at pitting the Management of the Commission against the Nigerian people should retrace their steps by taking measures to verify whatever information at their disposal in order to avoid heating up the polity with the fake news syndrome.

Christie Obiaruko Ndukwe

President, Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative

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