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Senate President Orders Probe into Financial Hardships of Nigerian Students Abroad

The Senate summoned education Minister Mamman to explain delayed payments to Nigerian students abroad, urging immediate resolution and accountability.

In response to growing concerns over the financial hardships faced by Nigerian students studying abroad, Senate President Godswill Akpabio has directed a probe into the issue.

This move comes after reports highlighted the struggles of these students, many of whom have not received their stipends for up to 11 months.

The financial hardships have forced students to take on jobs, borrow from fellow African students, and seek assistance from family members back home.

However, the declining value of the naira and foreign exchange fluctuations have made these contributions insufficient. In some cases, students have resorted to selling personal belongings to cover basic expenses.

During Tuesday’s plenary session, the Senate called on the federal government to hold accountable those officials responsible for the delays.

The motion was raised by Salihu Mustapha, representing Kwara Central Senatorial District, who underscored the importance of the scholarships as part of a broader initiative to promote specialised education through international partnerships.

Mustapha highlighted the plight of Nigerian students in countries such as Algeria, China, Morocco, Russia, and the United Kingdom, where non-payment of tuition and living stipends has led to negative media coverage and national embarrassment, emphasising that these recurring issues point to systemic failures, despite previous interventions by the Senate.

“The federal government’s failure to meet its financial commitments under these international agreements for over 10 months will jeopardize the welfare and academic progress of the affected students. This failure not only undermines our national reputation but also poses significant diplomatic concerns and risks, pushing our students towards unlawful activities to sustain their livelihood abroad.” Mustapha said

In its resolution, the Senate summoned Tahir Mamman, the Minister of Education, and the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB) to explain the delay in payments. Lawmakers asked Mamman to provide a detailed report on the status of all Nigerian students under international scholarship programs, including an analysis of their unpaid entitlements.

The Senate has tasked Akpabio with conducting a comprehensive investigation into the matter and ensuring necessary measures are taken to resolve the situation. Relevant committees have also been directed to probe the issue.

Nigeria has bilateral education agreements with several countries in Africa, Europe, North America, and Asia, including Russia, China, Hungary, Morocco, Venezuela, and Algeria. These agreements typically cover tuition and accommodation for Nigerian students, with Nigeria responsible for a yearly allowance for health insurance, medicals, and a monthly stipend for living expenses.

Despite these arrangements, the FSB has struggled to meet its financial obligations, often delaying disbursements for months. The latest lapse has lasted 12 months, severely affecting the students, many of whom come from low-income backgrounds. These students have had to work long hours in low-paying jobs, squat with foreign nationals, beg for alms, face eviction, and ration food.

In 2023, Nigeria had 1,532 active BEA beneficiaries, with a budget of N6.8 billion for 2024 at an FX benchmark of N800/USD 1. Government sources have cited a lack of funds as the reason for the unpaid stipends, with embassies in destination countries running out of options. The education ministry is reportedly addressing the issue with the finance ministry, and the House of Representatives is also considering a probe into the matter.

Chioma Kalu

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