Scholarship Recipients of Cross River State in Russia Allege Abandonment by State Government.
Indigenes of Cross River State studying for higher degrees in Russian Universities have alleged that they have been abandoned by the Cross River State government, their sponsors. They claim that whereas the Cross River State government gave them the impression at the outset that they were beneficiaries of a scholarship that was an outcome of a bilateral agreement with the government of Russia, they later found out on their arrival in Russia that “it was a big lie”. One of them has been in Nigeria since March 2017, making futile attempts to raise money for continuation of his Doctorate degree course in a Russian University. He craved anonymity, when he shared his plight with LinCornellah’s blog.
Please read details of what he disclosed.
Background of Plight
“In 2011, Cross River State government sent twenty-four (24) Cross Riverians to Russia and some to some other countries for studies, from Masters to PhD level. That was during Liyel Imoke’s administration. Throughout Imoke’s tenure, the scholarship was funded, but since his tenure ended, the scholarship has been abandoned. No fund has been sent to any of the students outside. The last grant students received was in 2014/2015 academic session. Since then nothing has been sent. Nobody has responded to our pleas for assistance. If you call the scholarship board, they will say they are handicapped; they don’t have anything to tell you. Even the Commissioner of Education has nothing positive to say. The question now is, if the Cross River State government is no longer interested in funding the scholarship, why not say so and recall the students? What is so difficult in recalling the students or making funds available?”
Would the students abandon their studies if they are recalled?
“Yes, let it become an official matter. As a student, if you cannot fund your studies by yourself and you have no money to stay there, you have no money to come back, it means that you are abandoned.”
How have you been surviving in Russia?
“Those who have well wishers and maybe other sources of revenue are straining to survive. You cannot work in Russia. If you are a student in Russia, you are a student. You cannot do any other thing. Now, if you don’t have any source of revenue, I think the best option is to return home. It means the program is abandoned. All the resources and time put into it is wasted. So far, there is no official position taken by the state government on this issue.”
What was the duration of this scholarship award?
“There was no duration specified. Before we left, we were told it was a bilateral agreement between Cross River State government and Russian government. But when we got there we discovered it was not true. The arrangement was faulty from the beginning. Before we left, we demanded to know what we were entitled to per year. They refused to tell us. They said they will respond according to the need at any particular time. We realised that it is a fully-sponsored scholarship from the government of Cross River State. The Russian government has no hand in it. There in Russia, we are called ‘contract students’. It means you are paying everything to the last kobo by yourself. It is like an individual going there all by himself.
Those who went under Federal government of Nigeria’s scholarship have bilateral agreement with the Russian government. The Russian government pay such students some stipend. So even when the Federal government delay, they get some stipend from the Russian government. Why is Cross River State’s case different? Bayelsa State sent students there. They delayed but responded later on and took care of their students. Rivers State sent 100 students there before we got there. They were all trained and returned to serve that state.”
What efforts have you made to get a response from the Scholarship Board to ensure that this is resolved?
“Well, if you follow due process, that means you have to go through the Ministry of Education and the Scholarship Board. We have been to them over and over and over. In fact they are tired. They don’t want to tell us anything again. They are still waiting for approval. The last time we went there, based on the reaction of the Governor when he visited CRUTECH (Cross River University of Technology), ASUU leadership of the University asked the Governor what he is doing about us. The Governor responded that we should channel our needs through the Commissioner of Education. So, when we went there, we asked the Commissioner about it, and he said he has done his best. I think it is beyond the Commissioner. If the Commissioner says he doesn’t know what to do again, it shows it is beyond him.”
What is your future in Russia like?
“I am stuck! My fees cannot be paid. If nobody comes to my rescue, it means my course has being abandoned. I was supposed to graduate next year, but because of this I cannot move ahead. Just like what is happening in CRUTECH, students who have not paid school fees, their examination answer scripts are not being marked. It means that the students would spend a minimum of one extra year.
My regret now is that I have been abandoned. The time I wasted there is my regret. I abandoned my family thinking I would go and bring better result from there for them and for the general public. Personally, I have committed so much finance, which I took as a loan. That loan is wasted.
If there is anybody who is supposed to have done anything and has not done it, my appeal is that the person should act on our behalf. In Russia, you renew your visa every year. If you have not paid your school fees, you cannot renew it. Therefore, if you cannot renew it, you become an illegal immigrant. You will be hiding.
My school advised me that if I am not sure of money coming, I should go home and source for money because they are not going to renew my visa. That is why I have been here since March.”
LinCornellah’s blog reached out through a Facebook Messenger chat, to another beneficiary of that Scholarship who relocated from Russia to Cyprus. He also sought anonymity and said: “Sorry sir. Please I will not like to discuss this issue. I almost lost my mind in Russia. Painful memories. I am exhausted with the issue. Everything was a huge lie.” He claimed that Professor Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State, allegedly used uncomplimentary language in his response to their plight, when they tried to publicise it through the press.
When LinCornellah’s blog called Reverend Michael Oku, a Director at Cross River State Scholarship Board to respond to this allegation of abandonment, he asked this Reporter to get in touch with the Director General of the Board. This was not possible, at the time of filing this report.
Most beneficiaries of that scholarship are Lecturers at Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH).
- Cornelius Ellah