Nigerian Students in Romania Cry Out Over Unpaid Allowances - DAILY TRUST
By Chidimma C. Okeke, and, Chris Agabi
Nigerian students who were recently sent on scholarship programme under the federal government's Bilateral Education Agreement (BEA) to Romania have cried out over the failure of the Nigerian government to send them their allowances since their departure from the country.
The students who left over nine months ago said they were suffering and unable to meet up with the provision of their needs following the high cost of living in Romania and failure of the federal government to pay their entitlements.
Daily Trust gathered that the BEA scholarship offers supplementation allowance of $500 per month for upkeep and books; postgraduate research grant of $1,000 per annum and warm clothing allowance of $250 per annum.
Others are take-off grant of N100,000 and one-way ticket to the country of study.
The students said only the take-off grant and one-way ticket were given to them and that not even a kobo from the other entitlements had been paid to them since they arrived Romania.
One of the parents who does not want to be mentioned told Daily Trust that the students left Nigeria during the partial lockdown and that up till now they had not received any money as promised.
The parent who suspects that there is likely to be a foul play in the whole process, said the students' offer letters were only given to them when they were boarding the aircraft.
She explained that, "When they were boarding, someone from the scholarship board went to the terminal as they were about to check-in to give them the offer letters. This was something they should have had two weeks before the trip."
The parent also noted that they were to be given a certain amount of money which was supposed to be in dollars but that they were given in naira and thus suspected that the money given to the students was not up to the approved amount.
Another parent said they gathered that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) gave the money in dollars while the scholarship board officials changed the money to naira, adding that it was not up to the said amount.
The parent said, "Our children collected the money because they were not aware of what was due to them.
"After the children got their offers, they were supposed to be getting a $500 stipend every month through the BEA, but since the students left for over nine months, not one penny has been given to them, and life over there is very expensive," adding that, "Nobody prepared the mind of the parents that the government will not pay."
While lamenting that the parents were finding it difficult to meet up with the demands of their children, he appealed to the government to meet its responsibility to the students to help ease their condition.
He added that, "The latest information from Romania is that Nigerian students wishing to stay on campus during the three-month vacation will have to pay. From where do they get the money to pay for the accommodation when the Nigerian government has refused to pay their entitlements? The burden is becoming unbearable on us parents."
He, however, said they had been in touch with the scholarship board which said it had written to CBN through the Ministry of Education and that it was yet to get the money to disburse to the students.
While noting that the scholarship board's letter to the CBN was written since December through the Minister of Education, he said the scholarship was on merit for students who had first class, but that no matter how intelligent a student was, when there was no money to feed, it would affect their performance.
"The students are really suffering as they cannot get help from anywhere; they said bottled water is about 3,000 when converted to naira. This is very embarrassing to the nation."
When our reporter contacted CBN, a source who spoke under anonymity, said it was unlikely the CBN had not disbursed the funds if the ministry indeed applied for it.
He explained that, "If indeed the ministry applied, CBN can't deny them the funds. If the CBN can ask banks to sell Basic Travel Allowances (BTA) and Personal Travel Allowances (PTA) to those travelling, it can't hold back school fees and allowances of students abroad."
He said if the students were being owed, then the ministry had to check its status very well as CBN did not usually delay on those requests, but that in this extant case, he noted that he was not in that department to be able to confirm.
When contacted, the Director of Press and Public Relations at the Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Bem Goong, said the delay was not from the ministry as there were processes from other relevant ministries.
Goong said, "Yes, we understand that we have to be sending this money to the students as at when due, but the process does not start and end with us; it is a process that goes through the system, and we are institutions that have processes.
"We are very conscious of the fact that they are in a foreign land without their parents, but they should have communicated to us; and the process is not just the Ministry of Education. For us, we have appropriated, and if there is an omission in the appropriation, then the office of the Accountant General and Ministry of Finance must also do their processes and release money to us to send to the students."
The director frowned at the students for going to the media, saying, "What the students have done is the height of ingratitude; it is extremely irritating. The students we are paying their fees have not communicated to us to even know their problems and they took us to the media; it is uncalled for."