By Yinka Ajayi
…We may soon be deported without completing our courses after three years in university’
…CBN, Finance Ministry blocked payments – NIMASA
About 295 Nigerian students undergoing specialised courses in maritime in Romania say they are in distress.
Reason: They are under the threat of losing their studentship and deported back to Nigeria on the grounds of non-payment of school fees.
The students, studying maritime navigation and maritime engineering at Constanta Maritime University, Romania under the Nigeria Seafearers Development Programme, are being sponsored by the Nigeria Maritime Safety Agency (NIMASA).
128 of the students are in their third year in the university while the rest are in final year.
“Our school fees and welfare payment have been due since October 2016 as it marked the beginning of a new session”, the students said in a save-our-soul (SOS) message to Sunday Vanguard.
“Currently, the Romania Immigration is concerned about the lack of funds to cater for our basic needs as students which include accommodation, feeding, utilities, textbooks/ educational materials and other logistics which they interpret as living below the required standard as international students, and if this issue is not addressed immediately, we may be expelled from the school and deported back to Nigeria. With this, the vision of boosting manpower in the maritime sector in Nigeria will be defeated. Most of the students have been ejected from their apartments, thus making them homeless. Going to school has been suspended because we can’t attend lectures on empty stomach and no money for transportation anymore”, the students wrote.
They pleaded with NIMASA, the Federal Ministry of Transport, the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Assembly to help them out of their predicament.
Meanwhile, Sunday Vanguard learnt, at the weekend, that payments to the students by NIMASA had been delayed by the lack of approval by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Ministry of Finance.
The students said: “ We were opportune to play host to the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Peterside Dakuku, and the Senate Committee on Maritime on the 9th of November 2016 during their fact-finding visit to Romania. “We used the opportunity to plead with the DG to consider remitting our school fees and welfare allowance to avoid what happened earlier last year as the delay and threat of possible expulsion and deportation were a reoccurring decimal since 2015”.
“In his response to our plea, he assured that he had initiated all payments and what was left was for the money to reflect in the school’s account.
“Since they left here, we have been patiently waiting for the money to reflect and it usually takes three working days, but in this case that has not come to reality.
“Presently, we are in a very unfortunate situation here since the Immigration Service of Romania has become knowledgeable of the fact that our bank accounts are reading far below the limits expected of foreign students studying in Romania.
“Right now, some of us have been evicted by our landlords. We are made to walk in shame and this is disgraceful to our identities as Nigerians and to the image of our country”.
Responding on the matter, a source at NIMASA blamed the students’ plight on lack of approval to remit the fees by the CBN and the Ministry of Finance.
The source said, “Truly for like à year now, NIMASA has been unable to meet its obligations to our students in Romania. The payment delay was not intentional but because the CBN and Ministry of Finance blocked our accounts. So we could not meet the obligations”.
“Luckily, on Thursday, the CBN and the Ministry of Finance gave approval and we have since commenced payments into the accounts of the students in Romania and I am sure by now they would have started receiving the money”.