The ministers and other top officials who allegedly hijacked a scholarship scheme for young Nigerians put in place by Chinese firm, CCECC, have been identified.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how an undergraduate scholarship scheme by the Chinese construction firm, CCECC, for young Nigerians was cornered for ministers and other top public officials.
The top officials who benefitted were identified in a document used by the construction firm, CCECC, to permit selected candidates to participate in the scholarship interview.
Only the persons whose names were on the document were allowed for the interview at the firms’ office in Abuja. Each of the names were typed close to the top officials who nominated them as seen by PREMIUM TIMES. Several other candidates who showed up for the interview without being on the ‘special’ list from the officials were stopped at the gate.
This newspaper was able to get a peek at the list of the candidates selected for the interview. The government officials who nominated them were listed beside the candidates’ names.
Some of the government officials who made nominations, as seen on the CCECC list, are:
**Minister of State for Education (HMS Ed.), Anthony Onwuka;
**Minister of Youth and Sports Development (HM Y&SD), Solomon Dalung;
**Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing (HMS PWH), Suleiman Hassan;
**Jigawa State Governor (Gov. Jigawa), Badaru Abubakar;
**Minister of Transportation (HMT), Rotimi Amaechi;
**Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (HM AR&D); Audu Ogbeh;
**Deputy Chief of Staff at the Presidential Villa (DCOS Villa), Ade Ipaye;
**Minister of State for Aviation (HMS(Av), Hadi Sirika;
**Minister of State for Trade and Investment (HMS (T&Inv), Aisha Abubakar;
**Minister of Niger Delta Affairs (HM NDA), Usani Usani;
**Minister of Communication Technology (HM CT), Adebayo Shittu; and
**Minister of Budget and National Planning (HM B&NP), Udo Udoma.
When contacted on why their principals made such nominations for scholarships meant for all Nigerians, many of the spokespersons denied knowledge of the nominations while others referred questions to the transport ministry which asked for the nominations.
The spokesperson to Mr Ogbeh, Olukayode Oyeleye, and that of works and housing ministry, Eno Olotu, said they were not aware of the scholarships or the nominations by their principals.
Akpandem James, spokesperson to Mr Udoma, refused to speak on the subject and referred our reporter back to the Ministry of Transportation.
“If it is official, it is official so it is not something that I want to go into, except it is something that has to do with our ministry and it is official and if it is our activity.
“If it is something that is from another ministry, that ministry should be able to give whatever information required regarding what they are doing,” he said.
Ade Ipaye, the Chief of Staff to the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, was not reachable as his number was unavailable.
Bolaji Kareem, the spokesperson for Mr Shittu, said he was also unaware of the situation but would try to verify before he responds. He has since not responded to a text message sent to him and did not return calls.
When contacted, the man who told the ministers to make nominations simply stood his ground on his earlier statement.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Sabiu Zakari, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transportation, claimed there was no such scholarship for the public.
“The ministry is not receiving any application for such training from the general public,” Mr. Zakari said in that statement. “Therefore the general public is advised to disregard any information being circulated for submission of such applications to the Ministry or any other person.”
This newspaper also revealed how Mr Zakari wrote to some ministers to nominate beneficiaries for the scholarship scheme not available to the “general public”
When contacted on Friday, Mr Zakari simply said, “I have issued a rebuttal about all those issues and that is the only thing I would say.”
He added that he would speak further on the issue on Monday at his ministry.
Apparently irked by the public criticism of the scholarship scheme, the Chinese firm which gave the scholarship on Friday temporarily suspended the interviews for the special applicants.
The firm, which is enjoying a lot of construction contracts from the federal government including major railway projects, had indicated the scholarship was for undergraduates interested in studying railway engineering in China.
At its office in Abuja, the firm initially put up a notice of suspension of the interview. That notice was later removed, even as officials declined comment.
At about 3.30 p.m., the crowd of young Nigerians in front of the building had reduced to less than 20, perhaps based on the notice that the interview had been suspended.
Officials at the CCECC, however, declined comment when contacted.
Earlier on Thursday when many of the young persons gathered for the interview, those whose names were not on the list were asked to get letters from a minister or permanent secretary of any ministry to participate.
Many could not.
The co-founder of BudgiT, a civic rights organisation committed to transparency and accountability, Seun Onigbinde, told PREMIUM TIMES that what transpired was “an act of corruption”
”What the government is doing is an act of corruption because there is an opportunity to give our best minds and talent to revolutionise our trade industries and we are being offered this capacity by the Chinese. This process should have been marketed to our technical colleges, university, polytechnics. It should be given to our youth,” he said.
”This issue has to be taken up to the level of the ICPC and the EFCC and whoever is involved in this needs to be prosecuted,” he added.
For Hamzat Lawal of Connected Development (CODE), the action of the public officials “has actually made Nigeria look very bad.”
”It is quite hard and unfortunate that our political elite and people that we have entrusted with the helm of affairs of our country are now shortchanging ordinary Nigerians,” he said.