THE Federal Ministry of Transportation, headed by Rotimi Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers State, has hijacked a foreign scholarship opportunity meant for young Nigerians, and has allotted same to top nominees of top government officials.
The scholarship opportunity, being offered by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), will see the selected candidates – who must be between the ages of 17 to 20 years – travel to China to study railway engineering.
CCECC is the company handling the double-track standard gauge railway from Lagos to Kano, and is offering the scholarship opportunity as part of its corporate social responsibility.
But instead of making the offer public, officials of the Ministry of Transport wrote to top government officials, including ministers, permanent secretaries, presidency officials and select lawmakers, asking them to nominate candidates that would benefit from the scholarship.
However, somehow, the information managed to leak and has since gone viral on the social media. Consequently, many interested candidates thronged the premises of the ministry of transportation on Wednesday to submit their applications, but they were turned back at the gate.Officials of the ministry told them that there was nothing like a foreign scholarship opportunity and that what they saw on the social media was a scam, but the candidates would not be fooled.
The youths then began to protest, forcing the Permanent Secretary at the transport ministry, Sabiu Zakari, to issue a statement saying that the information on the social media was a scam.
“The ministry never placed any advert on sponsorship of candidates to China for Railway Engineering course in the media,” Zakari stated. “The ministry is not receiving any application for such training from the general public. Therefore the general public is advised to disregard any information being circulated for submission of such applications to the Ministry or any other person.”
However, a top official of the Ministry of Transport, who pleaded to remain anonymous, told Premium Times that the Permanent Secretary was not telling the truth .
“The facts are that CCECC, which is building a double-track standard gauge railway from Lagos in Southern Nigeria to Kano in the North, had approached the transportation ministry informing it of its plan to sponsor a number of young Nigerians to study for bachelor degrees in railway engineering in China,” Premium Times quoted the source as saying.
“But rather than advertise the opportunities to request applications from interested Nigerian youths, the ministry simply contacted top government officials to nominate candidates for the slots.”
Premium Times also obtained a copy of a letter addressed to the Minister of Trade, Investment & Industry, Okechukwu Enelamah, urging him to nominate a candidate for the scholarship opportunity.
When contacted, spokesperson of the Ministry of Transport , Yetunde Sonaike, declined to comment, while efforts to contact Zakari, the Permanent Secretary, were futile as he refused to pick calls or reply text messages sent to him.