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Saraki Wades Into FG’s N2.4bn Debt Owed Scholars Abroad

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The Director in-charge of Scholarship at the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB), Fatima Ahmad has said that the sum of N2.4billion is owed Nigerian scholars abroad by the board due to inadequate or lack of budgetary provisions.
Ahmad said there was an outstanding scholarship allowance to the tune of N799.8 million in 2015 and 2016, out of which N444.2million has been paid, leaving a balance of N355.6million.
The director made the disclosure at a special meeting held between the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and representatives of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) responsible for the welfare of Nigerian students on scholarships abroad.
The students are now stranded due to non-payment of their living allowances and tuition fees by relevant government agencies.
The Senate in plenary had mandated Saraki to intervene and know why Nigerian students on scholarships in foreign countries were yet to be paid their scholarship funds.
Saraki at the meeting, last Wednesday, which was attended by the Senate leader, deputy Senate leader, chairman of Senate Committees on Tertiary Education and TETFUND and other senators directed the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB) to urgently present a comprehensive report of all Nigerian students on scholarship abroad and their outstanding entitlements to the relevant committees of the Senate to enable the Senate make appropriations for their settlement.
While saying that the Senate committees, after due consideration of the reports, would make recommendations to the Senate on how to clear the backlog through appropriation, he called for a comprehensive review of scholarship policies in the country so as to save the nation from future embarrassment.
According to Saraki, the meeting was called to enable the leadership of the Senate and heads of relevant agencies put heads together on a matter of pressing concern, which is the welfare of Nigerian students on scholarships who are stranded abroad due to the inability to fulfill the country’s responsibilities to the students, and meet their needs.
“As some of you may know, I was in Russia last month to participate at the 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), and I heard first-hand the plight of our students for whom the expected scholarship funding has dried up,” Saraki said.
“The overwhelming feeling on the part of these students is one of abandonment by their motherland.”
He said that the outstanding students’ allowances needed to be settled urgently to save them from untold hardship.
“This feeling of abandonment is one that we must move quickly to dissipate, by working urgently to alleviate the difficulties faced by these students,” Saraki stated.
“We must look for ways to re-establish the pipelines and remove the bottlenecks, so that our students who went abroad with the promise and assurance of scholarship funding, will get their stipends as and when due.”
He lamented that several brilliant Nigerian students on federal scholarships were languishing abroad due to the inability of the Federal Government to pay its counterpart funding of the scholarships awarded under bilateral agreements with foreign governments.
“Under the Bilateral Education Agreement (BEA) entered into by Nigeria and several foreign governments, some of the host countries have responsibility for part of the upkeep of Nigerian students – while Nigeria must necessarily fulfill her own part,” Saraki said.
“There is a need for the MDAs to look at our responsibility to our students in the different countries, and devise ways of making good on our part of such agreements.”
He added: “We must recognise that these students scattered that are currently in dire conditions all over the world, represent a sizable component of the future of Nigeria – her dreams of progress and development.
“This is another kind of brain drain. The worst part is, this is a brain drain that benefits no one, not even foreign countries. We are not even losing the best of these students to foreign lands – we are in danger of losing them, period. If we don’t rectify this situation – let me put it bluntly – we would be sacrificing their future; and that, is unthinkable.”
The Senate president directed the FSB to prepare a comprehensive report on the outstanding allowances and tuition and submit to the education committees to enable the Senate make provision for its settlement in the budget.
He, however, enjoined the FSB to imbibe the spirit of transparency and federal character in the award of all scholarships.

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Rivers’ll Ensure Safe, Secure Environment For Economic Growth -Wike .

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that his administration would continue to support security agencies in the state to ensure a safe and secure environment for the economic prosperity of citizens.
He said the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps, the Operation Sting and the revitalised C4i security outfits were set up to help provide security to stimulate growth and prosperity of all in Rivers State.
The governor spoke through the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, at the 2021 Conference/Annual General meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Rivers State chapter, in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
“This administration has embarked on aggressive infrastructural development and a very deliberate urban renewal efforts around the capital to attract local and foreign investors to stimulate our economy.
“We have also opened up local governments through quality road networks. Upgrade of various social and recreational facilities in various local government areas,” he said.
He commended the state chapter of the NIPR for the choice of the theme of the conference: “Nigeria’s Security Situation: A Factor in Reputation and National Development”, adding that stakeholders must begin to act in a very different, drastic and positive strategy to remedy the already battered reputation of Nigeria.
He urged the NIPR to use its expertise and experience to thrive to galvanise and stimulate the populace and government at various levels for the resuscitation of citizens sense of pride and responsibility of whatever was left of the nation’s image and reputation.
“All hands must be on deck, especially reputation managers to call on government at all levels to begin to act in ways and manner that will help to revive the battered image of this country,” he added.
Welcoming guests and participants to the conference, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who is also the state chairman of NIPR, commended the cordial relationship existing between the institute and the state government under the leadership of Governor Wike who is a honorary fellow of the institute.
“Governor Wike has been very supportive of all the activities of the Institute. That is what you also get from a visionary leader who has changed the landscape of Rivers State with infrastructure, with various developmental projects that touch the lives of the ordinary man,” he said.
Nsirim said the state chapter of NIPR was proud to associate with Governor Wike for the giant strides he has recorded and would continue to record until the end of his tenure in 2023.
“As a chapter that is responsive to the development of Nigeria, we have chosen the theme for this year’s conference as our own way of contributing to the national discourse,” he said.
He said the conference would produce a blueprint that would guide national discourse and urged participants to contribute robustly to the conversation.
“It is expected that the fallout of the conference will re-engineer national security and national development with the aim to put our country on the path of rapid growth,” he said.
In his speech, the President and Chairman of Governing Council of NIPR, Malam Mukhtar Sirajo, emphasised on the need for all Nigerians to collaborate to fight insecurity currently confronting the country’s economic and political stability.
He welcomed the theme of the conference, saying that it was coming at the time the institute had gotten sufficient worry about national security, peace and economic development.
In his keynote address, Dr. Ike Neliaku, chronicled the increasing violent crimes that had claimed thousands of lives in the various parts of Nigeria, and submitted that the rising insecurity situation in the country had impacted and would continue to impact negatively on corporate and national reputation.
He said the worrisome development would have concomitant consequence on individual and national development.
Chairman of the conference, Chief Felix Otuwarikpo, said the conference was put together to dissect the current carnage affecting the Nigerian nation.
“As an institute, we will leverage on the conference to proffer solutions to the security challenges affecting the nation,” he said.
The conference also featured the presentation of awards for good public relations and community development to some distinguished members and organisations.

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Church Of Nigeria Honours Wike, Sanwo-Olu, Akeredolu, Others

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The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has bestowed awards for exemplary leadership qualities in a challenging economy and dedication in the service of God and humanity on the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, and Ogun State Governor, Adedapo Abiodun.
Also honoured is the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Emmanuel Abayomi, with an award for quality and equitable healthcare delivery.
The awardees were honoured at the standing committee meeting of the Church of Nigeria, at the Diocese of Lagos, Archbishop Adebola and Oluranti Ademowo Resource Centre, Faith Plaza, Bariga, Lagos State.
The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, who conferred the awards on the recipients, said the political leaders were considered for the award for their outstanding role, courageous leadership, and standing firm in defense of Nigerians against insecurity, provision of basic infrastructure to the citizenry and the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.
Addressing the congregation on the state of the nation and the role of the church, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, admonished the leadership of the church to encourage its members to be part of the governance process in the country.
The governor noted that a situation whereby Christians leave governance for politicians alone is no longer obtainable.
According to Wike, the effect of bad leadership will also affect the church if they remain passive to the issue of governance.
“You must be part of choosing leadership. Don’t say you have no role, you have a role. When you don’t participate, bad leaders will emerge and when bad leadership emerges, you are part of it.
“You must encourage your people to be part of leadership. I didn’t go to any school to study leadership.
“So, nobody should say that as a Christian you cannot be a governor, no. The head of SUBEB in my state is a priest and you can see the leadership he has given to that agency today. You will feel proud about it. That used to be the most corrupt agency, but today it is headed by a priest and you can see the difference.”
Wike decried the inherent injustice that has characterised the Nigerian State, and urged the church to speak against socio-political issues adversely affecting the progress of the country.
“We say we are all one Nigeria. We went to World Bank to borrow money to do specific projects. One of the states that make up Nigeria I hear is Rivers State. And I also know in paying this money back to World Bank, money that comes from the resources of my state will be used in paying back this money. But my state was denied to have projects from that loan.”
The Rivers State governor said a situation where states depend on the Federal Government to survive can no longer be tenable, and insisted that states must be allowed to collect revenues such as Value Added Tax (VAT) to enable them improve the welfare of their people.
“You have gone to take loan and I am one of those states that will pay back those loan and you deny me to benefit from the projects that that money will be used for. I have no problem with that.
“Allow me the one (VAT) the Constitution says I am entitled to, let me collect that one and develop my state.”
He regretted that some governors in Nigeria have refused to think out of the box on how to boost economic activities in their states.
“There is flood in my state, it requires N200millon, I will go to Abuja to beg. Even as a governor, I will knee down before a DG of an agency of government. You will knee down for a director just because of N300million. That is the status of some of the governors of some states.”
In his remarks, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, commended the church for its support, and announced the waiver of N2billion for land acquired by the Church of Nigeria in Lagos State.
The governor stated that Nigeria and the rest of the world are going through difficult times amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and used the occasion to canvass for mass vaccination of the citizens.
The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, while speaking on the theme of the conference: “Abiding in Christ: God’s Panacea in an Unstable World”, lamented that Nigeria was fast becoming a land flowing with tears and blood because of the impact of terror, banditry, herdsman attacks on communities and kidnapping.
He said a situation in which communities that are predominantly Christians are targeted one after another in some parts of Kaduna State and North-Central of Nigeria was unacceptable.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to brand the bandits and herders attackers as terrorists and let them be treated as such.”
The Primate urged Nigerians to avail themselves the opportunity 2023 general election offer to exercise their right to choose new leaders.
He appealed to the Federal Government to urgently address the free fall in the value of the country’s currency because of the attendant impact on the store of value and confidence of investors.

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Rivers Begins Process To Check Flooding

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The Rivers State Government has said that it was working with relevant agencies to roll out the process that would check perennial flooding in the state.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, disclosed this at a media briefing in Port Harcourt, last Wednesday.
Nsirim, therefore, called on those living and doing business in the state to play their part in line with the programme that would be executed by government to address the problem of flooding.
He frowned at the situation where residents of Port Harcourt had turned the drainage systems into refuse bins, and warned that “that is not what it should be.
“The present administration under Governor Nyesom Wike is desirous to make Rivers State a destination of choice and that is why the government has embarked on massive infrastructural development in line with its urban renewal programme.
“So, what is expected of those living and doing business in Rivers State now, is to co-operate with government to ensure that the urban renewal programme and the plan by government to make this state a destination of choice is realised,” he said.
He noted that the state government could not do it alone as it required the support of corporate organisations, civil society groups, religious organisations and the media to enlighten their publics on the need to behave as responsible citizens.
He called on the media to embark on massive enlightenment programmes along the line of the roles of citizens in checking flooding in the state.
“We believe that if the citizens cooperate with government, as government is out to ensure that everyone living and doing business in the state does so in a healthy environment, we believe that in the next few days or weeks we will find a solution to this (flooding),” he said.
Nsirim also announced the names of entrants selected for the essay competition on the title, “Our State Our Responsibility” introduced under the second phase of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign of the ministry launched at the beginning of this month.
He said those shortlisted were expected to be at the conference room of the ministry by 11am on Monday, September 27, 2021, for a physical test to ascertain their original ownership.
Those shortlisted are: Jessica Hart, Samuel William, Amarachi Chimezie, Jasper Dorcas, Jaja Tamunoimiegba Christian, Sophia Oyibo, Blessing Pepple, Anyiam kelechukwu, Deborah Adegbami, Gift Samuel, Okiche Golden, Okiche Miracle, Orovwigwo Deborah, Otuka Goodluck and Ziga Paago.

By: Beemene Taneh

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