Thursday, November 19, 2015

Buhari led Government Stops Presidential Scholarship Scheme for Innovations and Development

There are strong indications that the Federal Government may have jettisoned the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovations and Development (PRESSID).The development is linked to the dearth of funds to run the project which was initiated by the immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Government sources disclosed to The AUTHORITY that the scheme is not listed among the priorities of President Muhammadu Buhari's administration.It was learnt that because of the poor disposition of the government to the scholarship scheme, the PRESSID Implementation Committee has not called for applications for the next edition.The AUTHORITY also learnt that over 102 candidates who the last administration selected for the scheme were yet to be placed in any foreign university.

This has fuelled speculations that the government had caved in to pressure from some politicians, who called for the scrapping of the project because their zones could not meet the merit criterion for selecting beneficiaries.The scholarship scheme, under which Nigerian graduates with First Class honours degrees are sponsored to any of the top 100 universities in the world, was established in January 2012 and has awarded a total of 307 scholarships under three editions.Checks by The AUTHORITY revealed that entries for ap­plications which normally open in September are yet to com­mence, even as the website for the scheme, appear to be dormant.

Attempts to speak with the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, who doubles as PRESSID Implementation Committee chairman, were not successful as the commission's Director of Information, Mallam Ibrahim Yakasai was evasive. He also failed to answer calls or text messages sent to his phone.However, an official of the NUC, who craved anonymity, expressed doubt if applications for this year's edition would be opened.The official said the Federal Government was still having challenges in placing some of the successful candidates from the last edition into the relevant universities abroad.

The official said: "We have not opened applications for this year's PRESSID and I don't know when that will be because there are some issues on ground. We are still having some issues with the last beneficiaries.

"So, anytime we hear from the Presidency on this year's PRESSID, we will open applica­tions. For now we are waiting for the Presidency."
The list of the 102 successful candidates for the last edition of PRESSID, who emerged through a Computer Based Test (CBT), was released in the twilight of former President Goodluck Jonathan's administration.The uncertainty over the presidential scholarship comes on the heels of the recent review of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) overseas scholarship scheme, due to a change in the policy direction, that include a partial or outright domestication of the scheme in Nigeria in line with the Local Content Policy of the Nigerian government.The PRESSID scheme pro­vides tuition fees, accommodation, transportation, living expenses and local travels to benefiting students and also offer them opportunities to pursue different courses of study up to PhD level in top universities abroad.

Some of the beneficiaries of the first edition of the scheme, who are mainly from the southern part of the country, had recently rounded off their studies while the fate of the recent graduates to benefit from the programme now hangs in the balance.

The Federal Government instituted PRESSID as part of efforts to develop a critical mass of professionals who would serve as catalysts of change and agents of scientific and technological advancement, as well as sustainable economic development.

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