Over 2000 Niger Delta youths in universities abroad on amnesty scholarship
ABOUT 2000 students drawn from the seven littoral states of the Niger Delta area of Nigeria are currently studying in various universities abroad in a massive human capacity development programme of the Federal Government to raise the socio-economic indices of the hitherto volatile region.
The initiative, which also has about the same number of students studying various courses in universities located within the country is the main thrust of the Amnesty Programme, which aimed among others, to engage the restive youths in productive ventures and discourage armed militancy in Nigeria’s economic underbelly.
The idea, according to the blueprint of the programme, is to create a pool of highly-competent personnel through provision of high level academic training and cutting-edge technological knowledge from the body of youths who have mainly been indulging in anti-social activities in the creeks of the delta.
Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs and Chairman of the Amnesty Programme, Kingsley Kuku, who disclosed this in Akure, Ondo State capital, said the programme has already created a great hope of development for the people of the area.
Kuku, who spoke at a forum organized by the Ondo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) where he delivered a lecture on the efforts of the Federal Government to change the fortunes of the region, said the beneficiary students are scattered all over the world.
Giving the breakdown of the figures, Kuku, who expressed optimism that the human resources of the Niger Delta region are being developed to impact positively on Nigeria’s growth, disclosed that 800 of the students are studying in 36 universities across the United Kingdom (UK) while over 200 of them are in the United States of America (USA) with many at Ivy League universities.
Kuku who hails from the riverrine community of Arogbo-Ibe in the Ijaw-speaking part of Ese-Odo local council of Ondo State where he once represented at the State House of Assembly, disclosed further that over 200 of the students are studying in universities in Dubai and the Middle East while the rest are scattered in other countries including Ghana, South Africa, the Far East as well as other European countries.
Within Nigeria, Kuku disclosed that over 500 of the students are enrolled at Igbinedion University, Edo State, 127 at Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti while the bulk of the about 2000 internal students are in other universities like the Universities of Ibadan, Oyo State, the University of Petroleum Studies, Efurrum, Delta State and many others.
Apart from the huge investment in the university education and professional training for these youths, many have also being enrolled in other technical aspects of human development putting the total figure of the beneficiaries, according to Kuku, at some 19,000.
Although the programme at inception during the administration of late President Umar Yar’Adua was billed to terminate by December 31st, 2015, Kuku disclosed at the forum that with the magnitude of the workload, the high number of beneficiaries and the fact that many of the youths who embraced the programme have not benefitted, the 2015 date could no longer be realistic.
He also added that the programme has to be extended because by the time of the initial terminal date, many hundreds of the students would still be in school and government cannot abandon them at the middle of their studies.
According to him, “over 10000 youths accepted the amnesty proposal and surrendered their arms to end the insurgency in the creeks. Many of them are yet to benefit from the training programme even though we closed the gate on others who didn’t come on board at the initial stage.
“The way we are going, in the next couple of years, the Niger Delta region would be in possession of all the personnel needs required for running a first class society. That is the gain of amnesty and the beauty of the programme. Our youths have dropped the weapons and are now ready to contribute to the growth of this country in a very positive manner.”