The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has rejected ongoing pressure to pay additional N1.5bn ($3m) to some scholarship students abroad, who said they were not covered by the commission’s initial payment.
While it was gathered that the aggrieved students were planning to stage a protest in London over the omission, the NDDC in a statement signed by its Director, Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, said it would not pay additional money without proper verification.
Odili said the planned protest in the United Kingdom, “by certain individuals and hirelings, most of whom are masquerading as the commission’s scholars, over nonpayment of the scholarship fund,” was part of an ongoing campaign, orchestrated by powerful individuals he described as part of the systemic corruption uncovered by the IMC, in the administration of the Foreign Postgraduate Scholarship.
He explained that in 2018, the commission paid $900,000 to its scholars adding that in 2019, the amount paid by the NDDC rose to $3.5million.
He said recently, the IMC paid $5.99m to cover all the verified obligations to the scholars wondering why “there is a demand for an additional payment of $3million bringing the total to “an alarming $9million”.
He insisted that the motive of the planned protest was dubious, mischievous, underhand and potentially criminal.
He said: “Some of the important questions everyone must ask are: why is the amount paid to cover our obligations to this foreign scholarship programme rising astronomically? Where are all these demands coming from? What do they cover? Who are behind them? It is important to note that since the establishment of the IMC, no scholarship has been awarded, due to the ongoing forensic audit. So why is the IMC being blackmailed, threatened, cajoled and intimidated to make these payments, without verification?
“Since the institution of the forensic audit by President Muhammadu Buhari, the IMC has uncovered a culture of rampant corruption and abuse in the commission. Many very powerful individuals who benefited from the years of sleaze have been on the attack.
“Their unfortunate mission, which is against the directives of President Buhari and the dream and expectations of the people of the Niger Delta region, of a Commission that can finally and efficiently address their long years of neglect and poverty, is simple: to frustrate, scuttle and undermine the forensic audit, as well as cause the disbandment of the IMC.
“These frightened elements are fighting to ensure that the Federal Government is not able to unearth the culture of wanton abuse and corruption that necessitated the forensic audit. They are waging a failing battle to stop the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, as well as the IMC, from uncovering the massive abuse of the commission that has made it impossible for this interventionist agency to meet its mandate to the Niger Delta region.
“Their looting of the commonwealth of the Niger Delta region has further impoverished the people, making the region littered with abandoned or poorly executed projects and programmes, and a graveyard of the people’s dreams.”
He, however, said that no amount of blackmail and intimidation would stop the IMC from getting to the roots of the looting and corruption in the commission.
He said: “The IMC wishes to restate that no amount of blackmail, threats, personal, political and media intimidation, as well as the unwholesome machinations of these characters and their paid allies on the backstreets of London will stop the IMC from getting to the roots of the looting and corruption.
“Consequently, and as part of its investigations, the IMC and relevant officers of the Commission will undertake a long-planned and approved trip to United Kingdom this September, to verify these obvious and unexplained discrepancies in the commission’s foreign postgraduate scholarship programme.
“During this trip, which was planned to happen earlier in April, 2020, the commission’s team will visit the universities where our scholars are studying for various Masters and Doctorate degrees.
“We strongly believe that these planned protest aims to scare the Commission from undertaking this very necessary and vital verification. The Commission will not be intimidated or cowed.
“It is the objective of the Federal Government to stop unscrupulous characters, no matter how powerful they are, from reaping where they did not sow, and undermining the capacity and moral authority of the Commission to fulfil its mandate of regional sustainable development.”