By ETIM ETIM
It is telling commendable that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has modified and relaunched its 12-year-old scholarship scheme for postgraduate studies in foreign universities to accommodate students in Nigerian institutions. It is a departure from the past when the programme was exclusively reserved for only Nigerian students in foreign universities. By extending the scheme this year to include students in Nigerian institutions (public and private), the commission will take a huge financial burden off many parents and contribute handsomely to the funding of our tertiary institutions. The commission is therefore one of the handful of public agencies that provide scholarships to Nigerian students. I commend the NDDC for this gesture.
For this year, the scholarship scheme covers the following areas: engineering, including Software/Aeronautic Space/Aeronautic Engineering, Medical Sciences/Medicine and Surgery, Computer Science Technology, Information Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Hospitality Management, Law, Architecture, Robotic Engineering and Mathematics/Sciences. The core objectives of the scheme, according to the commission, is to boost human resource development in the Niger Delta region, equip our young people with necessary training and skills and prepare them to compete globally in their chosen fields. Application details are available on the commission’s website.
Announcing the launch of the scholarship scheme earlier this month, NDDC’s Interim Administrator/Chief Executice, Dr. Efiong Akwa said that applicants must come from the Niger Delta region and should possess five Credits at not more than two sittings, and students they are expected to have First Class Degree or Second-Class Upper Division to benefit from the Scholarship. The NDDC boss stressed that the online application was free and that shortlisted candidates would undergo a Computer Based Test (CBT) to be conducted in each State of the Niger Delta by Consultants to test their I.Q proficiency in English, Mathematics and General Paper.
Said Mr. Akwa: ‘’Quality education is at the heart of the development of any nation. We in the NDDC will continue to support our youths in the Niger Delta region to acquire the needed education and skills so that they can contribute meaningfully to the development of Nigeria’’.
The NDDC scholarship scheme has trained about 2,000 young people from the Niger Delta in in foreign institutions and in various technical skills since its inception in 2010, and I am personally proud of these scholars for their sterling academic achievements. The pleasant stories coming from some of the beneficiaries of the programme justify the huge resource the commission has invested in them. They are, indeed, a source of motivation for new generations of NDDC scholars.
Take Miss Cynthia Ebimiere Farka for example. She studied oil and gas engineering at Coventry University in the United Kingdom. She’s a proud ambassador of the NDDC programme. According to her, the programme is a capacity builder that equips the youths to join in developing the Niger Delta. “I pray that the NDDC will continue with this laudable programme which has helped many youths in the region. The commission should also extend the scholarship to other students at the undergraduate level as well as increase the number of beneficiaries.”
Another scholar, Miss Francisca Chiedu, who studied Information Engineering and Network Management at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, in the United Kingdom, was elected as President of the United Kingdom University Student Union during her days in the school. That demonstrated that Nigerian youths could lead innovative changes within and outside the country. Her success was indeed a vindication for the NDDC. It is a testimony of the capability of the new generation of Nigerians to be the change they seek and champion worthy causes. Mr Ubong Peters, a Ph.D student in Australia, was another worthy ambassador of the NDDC foreign post-graduate scholarship. He was celebrated for winning a three- minute thesis competition in his university.
Other outstanding scholars like Mr Augustine Osarogiagbon, who studied at Memorial University, UK, was so brilliant that he completed his Ph.D. in less than the stipulated time and has been offered a dual Ph.D. programme with two graduate assistants to work with him with a post-doctoral fellowship lined up. The exceptional contributions of Mr Charles Igwe, a Ph.D. scholar in Construction Engineering at Concordia University, Canada, are also noteworthy. His unique design saved the Montreal Area Municipality over $1 billion. Igwe achieved the feat by redesigning the TURCOT interchange road construction project costing $3.67 billion.
A total of 1,411 students have received scholarships since 2010, of which 1,066 were supported in M.Sc and 345 in Ph.D programmes. Five of the M.Sc students graduated with distinction from Coventry University, England and one from Aberdeen University. These positive results show the depth of talent within the Niger Delta and the positive contributions of NDDC to talent development and in the country. The scholarship scheme has indeed empowered citizens of the Niger Delta by building their capacity, especially in the oil and gas sector. The objective is to equip the people so that they can compete favourably with others in terms of employment in the oil industry and also in entrepreneurship in the region.
It is also important to note that the new Minister of the Niger Delta, Mr Umana Okon Umana is equally very supportive of the commission’s scholarship programme. In a discussion with this writer in his office in Abuja, Mr. Umana noted that the scheme is one of the outstanding achievements of NDDC and he would support it in his capacity as the supervising minister. My personal recommendation is that the scholarship programme should not only continue, but should even be expanded to cover undergraduate studies.