By Funmi Ogundare
Nigerian universities, partnering in the training of students under the Presidential Amnesty Scholarship Programme, have expressed concern over the delay in the payment of students’ tuition and other fees to the universities, by the scheme’s caretaker committee, saying that it is causing untold financial embarrassment for the institutions and affected students in general.
The partnering universities are: Afe Babalola University, Novena University, Lead City University, Elizade University, Benson Idahosa University, Ritman University, University of Africa, Gregory University, Michael and Cecilia Ibru University, Admiralty University, Achievers University, Western Delta University, Edwin Clark University, and Igbinedion University, Edo State.
The Chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Registrars of Private Universities, Professor Timothy Olagbemiro, in a statement made available to journalists, wondered why the students would spend a whole session in school without their tuition and In-training Allowances (ITA) being paid.
He said the universities are self-sustaining and do not receive any subvention from government hence they could not have trained students free of charge, adding that the current situation forced many of the institutions to take bank loans at huge interest rates.
According to the statement which read in parts, “the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Registrars of Private Universities had earlier written to the Chairman, Caretaker Committee on Presidential Amnesty Programme, requesting that the money owed the universities is paid, but nothing has been done despite all the assurances.
“The universities are concerned about the programme because of all the knotty issues associated with the payment of tuition. It is noted that governments all over the world are encouraging education, whereas, in Nigeria, we seem to be creating diversions and ploys to destroy our own.
“It is very sad that after almost one session of universities being owed by the Presidential Amnesty Office, and over four months of non-payment of In-training Allowance (ITA) to the students, the Caretaker Committee is now planning to carry out verification exercise, thereby further postponing our payment.”
Olagbemiro said there is no way the universities could continue to train students, using all modern facilities, including organising online lectures during this pandemic, only for those who are supposed to have made payment now to constitute unnecessary bottlenecks.
“All tertiary institutions are on lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic and a number of students hastily vacated campus, leaving their belongings and vital documents needed for the said verification.
“Even if universities in their magnanimity allow presidential amnesty students to resume on reopening of schools, how do students return and cope with academic activities without payment of ITA owed these students? How do the universities prepare for reopening according to the COVID-19 guidelines for school resumption given the burden of non-payment of school fees for the students by the Presidential Amnesty Office for almost one session?
“Is it guaranteed that the presidential amnesty students whose fees are being owed will be allowed to resume like their counterparts or participate in necessary examinations whether carried out online or physically on reopening of schools?” Olagbemiro who is also the Vice- Chancellor of Edwin Clark University, Delta State asked.
He noted that the partnering universities had submitted their invoices to the Amnesty Office over eight months ago, thinking that payment would have been made long before now.
“The non-settlement of these outstanding payments to students and partnering universities is long overdue and causing excessive hardship to all concerned, he said, adding that the group is no longer comfortable with this present arrangement, and would, therefore, request for quick resolution of the present situation, in line with the spirit and statement of President Muhammadu Buhari, during the inauguration of the present task force which was tasked with ameliorating the erratic problem of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
“We view this programme as quite vital since it directly impacts on the lives of the youths of Niger Delta.”