Foreign Scholarship And Organised Fraud


Studies in the mechanism of organised frauds in developing countries show that main sources of financial crimes include contracts for constructions and other development projects; international trades involving import and export deals, allocation of oil blocks, foreign scholarships and transfer of money connected therewith, etc.
After the Nigerian civil war, it was understandable why overseas scholarship programmes became necessary, for obvious reasons. During that period, foreign exchange rate was two dollars for 1 naira, but today, it is over 360 naira for one dollar. The process for foreign scholarship awards in the 1970s was transparent, with federal and state scholarship boards responsible for handling such matters, even though there were lapses.
Despite the competitive nature of the process then, what was frowned at was the squandering of funds by managers of scholarship programmes. Whenever Nigerian managers of foreign scholarships arrived in the U.K., USA and other countries where Nigerian students were under-going various programmes, they usually spent money like “drunken sailors.”
It was profitable for foreign universities to encourage Nigerians to study abroad and everything was done to make entry visa process easy. But with a continued decline of the Nigerian economy, there was also a decline in foreign scholarship programme.
The situation was such that in the 1990s, the decline in the number of Nigerian students abroad forced some foreign universities to embark upon a “scramble for Nigerian students.”
This was how an association of British Universities committed to widening participation in higher education entered into an understanding with some state governments in Nigeria. Known as HIPACT, that programme was launched in Rivers State in May 2001, with such dignitaries as former governors of Rivers and Ebonyi State, Dr Peter Odili and Dr Sam Egwu respectively, in attendance.
Representatives of the participating British universities in the HIPACT programme took up residence in Nigeria and even had offices in some states’ Ministry of Education. The International Programme Developer, a British lady, Ms Lucky Hicks, said that the emphasis was on Masters and P.HD programmes for university academic staff. Ms Hicks left Rivers State disappointed, expressing shock at “shenanigans” which she could not understand or take.
The HIPACT programme became a “hide-and-seek” affair, which, rather than focus on areas of scarcity of manpower and for academic staff who had served for a minimum of eight years in their institutions, degenerated into an orgnaised fraud.
Without giving away what Ms Hicks said in confidence, one can say that the “shenanigans” of the HIPACT programme probably repeated itself in subsequent foreign scholarship programmes.
Without condemning the HIPACT programme in its totality, it was delightful that its implementation in Ebonyi State was successful, with one Dr Elias Igwe emerging as over-all best medical student in the Imperial College, the United Kingdom. Bayelsa State also had some level of transparency in the selection of candidates for the progrmame. In Rivers State, university lecturers listed for Ph.D programme under HIPACT agreement, waited for several years, as politicians did what they knew best, by turning the progrmame into a fraud.
Currently, there are shameful tales about Nigerian students abroad, supposedly on state scholarship, being stranded and exposed to various dangers. This is a reminder of the HIPACT programme of 2001, now under a different name, but with similar duplicity and “shenanigans.”
Developed nations now placed emphasis on functional vocational skills, apprenticeship and life-long learning programmes, not academic learning. Here in Nigeria, university education is expanding fast, with emphasis on certificate glorification. The result is that foreign universities depend largely on the patronage of students from developing countries.
It is necessary to suggest that there should be a probe on overseas scholarship programmes in the past 15 years and also a ban on such award, in view of the costs, the state of the economy and the abuses of the processes.

Amirize is a retired lecturer, Rivers State University.


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Bura-Bari Nwilo lives in Port Harcourt, in Nigeria. He is the author of A Tiny Place Called Happiness – a book of stories.

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