At the FSB, pay N.3m, get a slot
Board denies responsibility for non-payment of scholars
Something shady seems to be incubating at the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB). Our source said most staffers and management know what that shady act is and possibly incubate the deal in their nests.
Some Nigerians, who could not secure an offer with the Board in the 2012 and 2013 scholarship programme, fire accusations at the agency for unlawfully extorting money from applicants. According to one of the applicants, who pleaded to be addressed as Ngozi, Nigerians, who were granted scholarships to study in various countries last year, paid between N300,000 and N400,000.
Ngozi revealed that the payments were made through proxies of staffers of the board. She revealed that the inability of some intending scholars to pay such monies actually influenced their rejection for the offer.
“There are certain people, who front for some senior staffers of the board,” Ngozi alleged. “The person I had encounter with revealed that the money she demanded from me was not her decision but that of the members of the Board, who have made it a rule that for one to get the scholarship, such payment must be made. She also explained that the money was not hers but she just stood to get some cut from the deal. She did not, however, reveal how much would accrue to her if I paid. In some instances, the people that relate with the applicants don’t work with the Board but act just as middlemen for the workers.”
“The people that front for staffers of the board in turn remit part of the loot to them. I can authoritatively say tmore than half of the beneficiaries of the scheme have paid such monies to be short-listed.
“Some people, who couldn’t afford the amount dropped out. The sad news is that, the same thing will repeat itself this year unless the government puts in a workable measure to stop it. What they’re doing at that scholarship board is unlawful because it is supposed to be based on merit. They now sell the scholarships to the highest bidders,” Ngozi further alleged.
Although a lot of controversies trailed the administration of the scholarship scheme when Hajia Hindatu Abdullahi took over in 2010, many keen observers believe the scheme has been seriously abused. For instance, it has been alleged that most of the beneficiaries of the scheme don’t usually go through the rigours of writing the examination. Many of them are alleged to be close relatives of serving and former government officials who impose their candidates on the board.
Abuja Metro reliably gathered that the federal character principle upon which the selection of students for the scholarship programme is rooted has been bastardized and abused since 2010. In 2012 for instance, more than 80 percent of the beneficiaries hail from the north. Some students who have alleged that they were covertly schemed out of the scholarship programme have attributed the new practice to the immediate past director whom they accused of playing the ethnic card.
“I can authoritatively tell you that almost all the students that went to Russia last year are from the North, except for some very few ones, who have close relatives in top government positions. Some of us raised the alarm then but no one listened. The same thing repeated this year and no one is talking,” Ngozi alleged.
We also gathered that some of the applicants for the scholarship programme claim nativity of states they do not hail from. This practice is to be prevalent among applicants from the southern part of the country. In one instance, two siblings who are desperate to secure the scholarship claimed nativity of Benue and Cross River States. This practice didn’t however start this year as there have been series of instances since the inception of the scheme.
To make the problem worse, Nigerian students studying in Russia under the federal government scholarship are threatening to protest the non-payment of their monthly stipends by the board, even after the intervention of the National Assembly.
One of them who spoke on phone to Abuja Metro said: “We have not been paid our stipends for more than six months. Some have received their stipends while many of us are yet to receive ours. We are not allowed to work and that compounds our problem. We are almost living like beggars here in Russia. I don’t know why the government should abandon us here.”
Responding to the allegations, the former chief executive, Hajia Abdullahi said: “Regarding the issue of favouring the north, the list of scholars can speak for itself. You can see those from the south and those from the north. The names are there. I served my God because I know I will answer for what I do.”
The new director of the board, Mrs. Ifeoma Agunwah however refused to comment on some of the issues raised. She hinted that she is not authorized to speak to the press without the authorization from the Minister of Education, Hajia Ruqayyatu Rufa’i. She didn’t however deny some of the allegations.
The Board speaks
However, a deputy director in the Federal Ministry of Education, who spoke to Abuja Metro on condition that her name wouldn’t be mentioned, gave a glimpse to some of the issues raised. “These allegations are weighty. We are aware that certain intending scholars impersonate and claim to come from states where they don’t hail from. We are not responsible for the issuance of local government of origin certificate and there is nothing we can do about that unless we have proof that such claims are wrong.
“Regarding the non-payment of the students’ monthly stipends, delay in the passage of the 2013 budget is responsible. Moreover, we are not responsible for that payment. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) handles it. All we do here is just to submit the list to them. In turn, they disburse the money to Nigerian embassies in the countries where Nigerians are studying. I don’t know whether they have all been paid. I don’t work with the CBN,” the deputy director added.
On the alleged payment of N300,000 by prospective scholars, she distanced herself, but refused to explicitly deny the claims. “I can’t really say if such monies are paid. I have never benefited or mandated anyone to do that. This is Nigeria and desperate students can do anything to secure admissions. I am sure such money might be paid to touts, who might not be staffers of the board. I have to be careful in commenting on that since I am not very sure whether or not such a thing is really happening.”