With Amaechi’s N8 billion treasury left behind, why are RSSDA scholars stranded?
Over 150 students studying under the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) scholarship scheme, sponsored by Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the former governor of Rivers state, could be facing deportation from September 21, 2015. The students might lose their visas due to the large amount of money owed to several universities by the state government. Some of these students have camped in front of the Nigerian embassy, protesting and pleading with the current state government to come to their aid.
RSSDA was established in 2008 under Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s administration, to enhance rural and urban development, create new avenues to wealth and unemployment with special focus to improve human capital in the state. In an arm of this scheme, scholarships are provided to students at undergraduate and post graduate levels to study outside the country.
Under the scholarship scheme, students air fare, feeding, accommodation, tuition and stipends are taken care of by the government and they are given the opportunity to school in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Singapore, India and the Netherlands. Since the scholarship scheme has started in 2008, over 2000 students have benefited from it. It has also been lauded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for being a model for educationally disadvantaged states in Nigeria.
However, it seems to be a different story in 2014 as the Amaechi-led administration refused to release funds for the tuition and upkeep of these scholars until he eventually left office in May 2015. As a result of the delay in payment, many students have been forced to take up menial jobs and depend on the charity of others in a bid to survive. The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) has given the students 60 days to vacate the country.
According to the scholarship recipients, the cost of their school fees, accommodation and upkeep allowance equals to £16,000, an equivalent of N5 million per student, which could hardly be covered by the menial jobs that pay students an average of £6 (N1, 900) per hour.
Recently, Amaechi claimed that he left a total of N8 billion in the treasury in response to Nyesom Wike’s accusation that the former governor left nothing in the state accounts. It is equally noteworthy that within the first 30 days of his administration, Wike took a loan of N30 billion and he was able to pay N712 million to offset some of the debts owed to the RSSDA scholars; even though the debt was incurred by the former administration led by Amaechi.
The question remains- if Amaechi had left N8 billion in the state government account at the end of his tenure, why didn’t he pay the school fees of the students under scholarship for two years?
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