Lagos — The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Director, Education, Health and Social Services, Dr George Uzonwanne, has described the Foreign Post-Graduate Scholarship Programme of the NDDC as a strategic intervention for the training of quality manpower to ensure the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.
Uzonwanne said this in an interview at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt, noting that the scholarship scheme was aimed at preparing a new set of scientists from the Niger Delta region, especially with the inclusion of Artificial Intelligence as one of the areas of study.
He dispelled fears that some of the foreign scholarship beneficiaries may use the programme as a springboard to emigrate, rather than return after their studies to apply their knowledge to the service of the country.
The NNDC director said: “Our scholarship award letter has a clause that says you are expected to return to Nigeria on completion of your studies. Bear in mind that this programme is not just about sending people overseas. We are sending out people who are willing to come back to develop the Niger Delta and that is one of the things we have done over the past 12 years.”
Uzonwanne stressed that the Foreign Post-Graduate Scholarship Scheme, which was started in 2010, was meant to equip Niger Delta youths with relevant training and skills.
According to him, there was a need to position young graduates from the region to compete globally in various professional fields, noting that before now, the oil and gas industry had discriminated against the fresh graduates from the region, whom they dismissed as not possessing requisite qualifications.
He stressed that the foreign scholarship scheme was designed to expose the graduates to other developed environments outside the country. “We believe that the skills they acquire will add value to the development of the Niger Delta. So far, we have been proved right as those that benefited from the programme in the previous years have justified the need for the advanced training programme,” he said.
He acknowledged the outstanding performance of some of the beneficiaries who studied in the United Kingdom, noting that one of the brilliant scholars, Dr. Mustapha Abdullahi, was recently appointed as the Director General of the Energy Commission of Nigeria.
Uzonwanne expressed optimism that the programme would continue to produce outstanding scholars given the transparent process adopted in selecting them.
He said: “The competition for the scholarship programme was intense, as the Commission had to select from over 25,000 online applicants. Out of this number, 5,000 wrote the Computer Based Test at Rivers State University. As you finish writing the test, at the click of a button, you get your score. So, there is no question of they changed my scores, or I passed and they failed me.”
According to Uzonwanne, about 1,987 were invited for the oral interview, where a panel of examiners, made up of lecturers and professors from different universities across the country, recommended the 189 candidates who got the 2023/2024 post-graduate scholarship. The panel had five judges in the fields of Engineering, Medicine, Management, Geology and IT.