Members of the House of Representatives Committee on Education have queried the National Universities Commission (NUC) over the criteria used in selecting 100 graduates for the presidential scholarships awards.

Yesterday, the Aminu Sulaiman-led committee summoned Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof. Julius Okojie, to explain why his outfit failed to comply with the Provision of Sections 14 and 17 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which stipulates the need to adhere to the federal character, equity and fair play principle for the citizenry.

Sulaiman wondered why a scholarships scheme meant for first-class graduates in Medicine, Economics, Engineering and Molecular Biology completely left out candidates from the North-West and North-East geo-political zones of the country.

A look into the recently publicised list of the successful applicants indicates that the key beneficiary states got as follows: Ogun (17), Osun (15), Ekiti (five), Anambra (seven), Edo (four), Enugu (seven), Delta (9), Imo (seven), Lagos (five), Ondo (five), Oyo (seven) Rivers (four), and Kogi (three) while states like Kano, Gombe, Jigawa, Yobe, Sokoto, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Niger, Taraba, Borno, Adamawa and Plateau failed to produce successful candidates.

But Okojie absolved the NUC of blame, saying the selection process handled by a team of professors, spread across the six geo-political zones, picked successful applicants purely on merit irrespective of their states of origin.

Insisting that he complied with the presidential directive on the selection processes, Okijie also noted that the scholarships scheme was not meant to be determined by quota and even distribution, since it was special one aimed at promoting innovation and development.

However, members of the committee insist that Okojie’s explanations were not convincing enough since there were first-class degree graduates who are under 30 years of age spread across the country to merit the consideration of the selection panel constituted by the NUC.

Members of the committee took turns to fault Okojie’s explanations, before ordering that the scheme be put on hold pending the outcome of investigations.

Suleiman, who represents Fagge Federal Constituency of Kano State, noted: “Prof., it is not correct, absolutely not correct that the presidential directive is to the effect that you should negate the provision of the constitution. You should have discharged your responsibilities as an agent of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a duty you were supposed to exercise on behalf of the government. And does that activity give you the license not to respect the provision of the constitution?

“When you talk of merit, are you telling me that of the 18 states in the North, nobody merited? Are also telling me that in the whole of Cross River, nobody merited? And what are the criteria in arriving at the so-called merit? We would request you to provide all the details of the application upon which you arrived at your merited decisions and to place before the House the score of each participant. We would also scrutinise your panel to see whether they are the best in Nigeria.”

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