Nineteen postgraduate students granted scholarships by the presidential amnesty programme say they have been abandoned.
The students, who are currently in their final year at the People’s Friendship University of Russia, alleged that Paul Boroh, sacked coordinator of the presidential amnesty programme, stopped sending funds to them in June 2016.
President Muhammadu Buhari had sacked Boroh on March 13 and ordered anti-graft agencies to probe the amnesty programme.
Charles Dokubo, a professor, was subsequently appointed to replace him.
In a statement sent to TheCable, Abilo Franz, leader of the beneficiaries of the scholarship, said a delegation of the students met with Boroh on September 6, 2016 in his Abuja office.
He said some senior staff of the agency, including Asari Udem, head of offshore education, were part of the meeting.
Franz said after hours of “serious deliberations”, Boroh told them to go back and continue with their education, while assuring them of continued sponsorship.
He, however, said a circular was sent to them two months later, asking them to return home.
“We met with the SA (Boroh) and but the SA gave us his final words to go and continue with our studies. Hopefully, we returned to Russia and disclosed the good news to our colleagues,” Franz said in a statement.
“I was in constant contact with the SA by telephone conversation and email for about two months, on the 10th of November 2016 we received a secular from the SA asking us to return home that the Presidential Amnesty office does not have the resources to finance our ambition to further education, barely a week of assuring us by mail that our tuition will be paid.
“It was a shock as everyone had spent his saving to make first quarter payment of tuition and we were at the peak of the first semester of the first academic year.”
Franz added that all efforts to reach Boroh, even before he was sacked, proved futile.
He explained that the students had been left to fend for themselves since then, adding that five of them who could not cope with the financial burden had to return home, while one, alleged to have been involved in crime, is in detention.
“From that moment on, we have made several attempts to get through to the SA, through direct email, phone calls, SMS and the Nigerian embassy here in Moscow but all attempts were ignored, we kept pleading because we had expended all what we had to secure our admission,” he said.
“Up till when He was sacked, we were left without any financial support. We have been living without proper medical care, accommodation since August 2016. No fund to finance our final year project.
“We, the abandoned students are appealing to the new SA, Prof Charles Quakers Dokubo (NIIA) to come to our aid.”
One of the returnees was quoted to have said: “I will not be graduating with my colleagues because I can’t pay tuition for the final semester after l have come this far. One of the students is also in detention awaiting court trial for 5 months now.”
Enenimibo-Ofori Briggs, the pioneer president of the students, told TheCable that their plight had been heightened by the scarcity of jobs for foreigners in Russia.
Briggs, who is in his final semester for his master of science (MSc), said they tried to contact Dokubo to no avail.
Asked the fate of the students who have returned to Nigeria, Briggs said “they can start afresh” when they have the fund.
“Some even left their personal money they deposited with the school pending when amnesty will pay,” Briggs said.
“The tuition is between $5000 to $2000 depending on department. We have written several times to the new SA but no response. We don’t have his direct email, writing through the guys in charge of foreign students but no response.
“They are catering for only 3 PhD students in Russia while the remaining 17 MSc students are stranded. Meanwhile, we all left Nigeria the same day to Russia under the same programme.
“Boroh deliberately refused to pay us, he preferred agriculture to education. We haven’t had any engagement with the new SA.”
A spokesman to Boroh declined comments on the issue, saying all complaints should be directed to Dokubo.
When TheCable contacted the amnesty office through some phone numbers on its website, a call representative claimed the delay in the passage of the 2018 appropriation bill is responsible for the withheld funds.
He, however, said the complaints would be forwarded to Dokubo.
“There is a process for the matter to get to him. We will forward the complaint to the management and it will get to the SA eventually,” he said.
“What they told us is that the senate has not approved the budget of 2018 so because of that, we have not received all the money that we received. When they sign the budget, they will be able to have money to send to all these people that have not received their stipend. Some of us workers have not even received our salary here.
“Since the new SA has been here, we have been trying to put our house in order. All the complaints get to the SA.
“There are so many beneficiaries that we have to provide for. They are over 30, 000 that is why there are some delays in some people’s fund.”
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