*Allegation baseless, mischievous
The Federal Government has denied reports that about 19 postgraduate students of the People’s Friendship University of Russia who were granted scholarships by Presidential Amnesty Programme were abandoned.
Murphy Ganagana, Special Assistant (Media) to SAPND/Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme in a statement signed on Sunday said the report, which purportedly emanated from a statement issued by one Abilo Franz, ‘is not a true picture of the situation, but a mischievous misrepresentation of facts concocted to blackmail the Amnesty Office to take responsibility for an obligation it does not owe them.’
Ganagana further said that: ‘The Amnesty Office originally sponsored 50 students to the People’s Friendship University, Moscow, mainly for Bachelors Degree programmes in March 2011. By June 2016, 24 students were left and 21 among them duly completed and graduated with good grades, for which they were congratulated by the Amnesty Office for their sterling performance.
‘On August 8, 2016, the Amnesty Office formally communicated them via a letter, notifying them that upon the completion of their graduation ceremonies in June 2016, payment of their tuition fees and allowances had ceased with the payment of June/July In-Training Allowances (ITA). They were requested to inform the Office of the Special Adviser within ten (10) days of receipt of the letter, the exact date they intended to return to Nigeria, in order to facilitate the issuance of their flight tickets.
‘Instead of complying with the directive to return home after the successful completion of the Bachelors Degree programmes for which their sponsorship strictly covered, the affected students opted to proceed on postgraduate programmes on their own volition, thereby making financial commitments to the institution in their private capacity, perhaps, with the hope of assistance from the Amnesty Office.
‘That was the situation until May 11, 2018, when they sent an appeal for support via email to the incumbent Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo, through the Head, Offshore Education of the Amnesty Office.
‘It is therefore uncharitable, baseless and unfair for the 19 Nigerian students at the People’s Friendship University, Moscow, who had graduated from their Bachelors Degree programmes for which they were sponsored by the Presidential Amnesty Programme, and were not granted scholarship for postgraduate studies, to allege abandonment by the Amnesty Office, and by extension, the Federal Government of Nigeria in the Vanguard Newspaper edition of Friday, May 18, 2018.
‘While the affected students are at liberty to appeal to the Special Adviser on Niger Delta and Coordinator of PAP for assistance in pursuit of their educational ambition, such should not translate to a demand or tool for blackmail.
‘Their claim to being granted verbal approval of sponsorship by General Boroh, former Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta to continue their postgraduate programmes is unfounded, since public funds are not spent by mere verbal pronouncements. We urge them to show proof of any formal commitment or approval on scholarship grant by the Amnesty Office for their postgraduate studies.
‘This clarification has become necessary in view of the wrong impression the Vanguard publication might have created in the minds of undiscerning members of the Nigerian public and the international community.
‘The Amnesty Office is committed to quality training for beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, including those undergoing educational programmes within the country and offshore. Therefore, the welfare of its delegates in all institutions wherever they are deployed is of topmost priority at all times.’
However, Vanguard had reported that Abilo Franz who claimed to be leader of 19 postgraduate students granted scholarship by the Presidential Amnesty Programme currently in their final year at the People’s Friendship University of Russia, had alleged abandonment by the Federal Government.
Franz alleged that on completion of their Bachelors Degree programmes, the 19 students got verbal assurance of sponsorship from the immediate past Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (retd) to continue with their postgraduate studies at the institution, but the Amnesty Office stopped sending funds to them in June 2016.
He further alleged that after several engagements with the former PAP coordinator by telephone and email, they were asked to return home as the Amnesty Office does not have the resources to finance their ambition to further their education, thus leaving them to fend for themselves.