Nigerian President and presidential candidate of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) Goodluck Jonathan (C) sits among party leaders during a rally in Maiduguri on January 24, 2015. Boko Haram fighters have killed 15 villagers near Maiduguri, t ~ TUNJI OMIRIN
Abuja - Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Education, Representative Aminu Suleiman, has called for the Presidential Scholarship Scheme to be put on hold forthwith.
Suleiman made the call at a meeting of the committee with the National Universities Commission (NUC) in Abuja on Thursday.
Suleiman said that the call became necessary because the process of selecting candidates for the scheme lacked due process.
He stressed that the scheme should be put on hold until the commission complied with the directive on due process in the selection of candidates.
According to the committee chairman, NUC is requested to furnish the committee with the advertisement for the scholarship and the time it takes Nigerians to respond.
Suleiman added that the committee requested the commission to submit the list of all the applicants for the scheme and the board members of the commission that screened them.
He said that the commission had not responded to the requests.
"The commission was not able to get back to us when we requested for this information.
"We asked for it in our last meeting in 2014 but only saw the ceremony on television where the NUC was giving out awards to beneficiaries.
"It is our belief that there is no state in this federation where you cannot find a first class candidate.
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"The committee is of the opinion that somebody somewhere sat in his office, drew up a list and submitted to the commission.
"The exercise must be halted until a full detail of selection process is supplied to the committee," he said.
The Executive Secretary of NUC, Professor Julius Okojie, said the scholarship committee was an agency of the presidency, adding that all first class graduates were eligible to sit for the examination, irrespective of state of origin.
"I feel deeply pained that you insinuate that there was no transparency in the exercise.
"The exercise is a process, criteria were set, we advertised and it ran for six weeks.
"I will never be a party to shortchanging anybody or get somebody disadvantaged.
"When you set criteria, it is easy to implement but to say that the criteria are unfair is another thing," Okojie said.
He, however, advised against scrapping the programme, adding that it was a process of selecting candidates purely on merit.
"Scrapping the programme is not advisable, it is a system that is playing out and we are still studying the programme.
"Beneficiaries are from all the geo-political zones in the country and the criteria are for first class honours graduates who sit for examinations as part of the selection process."