Over 300 Nigerians currently studying in Constanta Maritime University, Romania, on the scholarship of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, are facing threat of expulsion from the institution over the alleged refusal of the agency to pay their school fees and other sundry allowances.
Investigation showed that the young Nigerians have not been able to offset their fees thereby drawing the anger of the officials of the institution who have repeatedly threatened to send them back to Nigeria.
Each of the students, who are studying engineering, navigation and naval transport, pays a total of €5,720 (N1.23m by international exchange rate of €216).
The break down shows that each of them pays €4,500 as school fees; €300 as feeding allowance; €400 Euros for accommodation; €220 as stipends and €300 as winter allowance.
While the feeding, accommodation and stipends are paid monthly, the school fees and winter allowance are paid once a year.
The affected students are in their first, second and third year in the university.
One of the students, who pleaded anonymity for fear of being victimized, told this newspaper that the school authorities have threatened to send them back to Nigeria if NIMASA does not pay the fees and allowances by January 31.
“We are stranded, confused and cannot concentrate on our studies based on the unfortunate news of expulsion unleashed to them by the school,” he said.
“The school has said that if by 30th of January the school fees are not paid it has no option than to return us back home.”
He said the institution’s officials have been trying to contact NIMASA to resolve the matter “but no positive response from the agency concerning the future of the students in the school”.
He pleaded with the Federal Ministries of Transport and Education as well as the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Transport to intervene “for the sake of these young Nigerians who are eager to contribute their quarter towards national development”.
Efforts by this newspaper to reach the institution by mail and telephone were not successful.
When contacted, the NIMASA spokesperson, Lamin Tumaka, declined comments, saying she was yet to be briefed on such matter.
However, a senior official of NIMASA, who refused to speak officially because she was not authorized to do so, attributed the delay in paying the fees and allowances to the challenges the agency was facing.
The official however assured that the matter was being addressed and that the students would be paid soon.
“I’m sure you know the challenges NIMASA is facing; we are trying to sort things out,” she told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday.
“We have an acting director general and you know other issues like the TSA (Treasury Single Account) and others. But we have commenced processing of their payment.”
NIMASA had sent over 2,500 young Nigerians on scholarship to reputable institutions in the United Kingdom, Egypt, Romania, India and The Philippines to study marine engineering, naval architecture and nautical sciences under the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme.
In 2015, hundreds of the youth studying in Philippines were sent out of their classrooms over the alleged inability of the agency to pay their tuition fees and other sundry payments for their upkeep.
However, the then Director General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, had denied the reports of the student’s ordeal.
He said, “The students are studying to become marine engineers, naval architects and nautical scientists. This has gone on successfully. We were taken aback by the recent media publications on nonpayment of the students’ fees, which we believe may have been sponsored.
“For the avoidance of doubts, no student of the NSDP programme has been sent out of school for fees and none will be sent out because all fees have been paid by NIMASA till date.”
The former DG, who is currently facing trial for alleged corruption, said in the next five years, Nigeria would have produced a sizeable number of qualified seafarers, “satisfying local demands and also earning scarce foreign exchange from working on board foreign ships”.