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Some of us don’t have transportation fare to leave Abuja, say victims of CCECC scholarships ‘hijacked’ by government officials

Some of us don’t have transportation fare to leave Abuja, say victims of CCECC scholarships ‘hijacked’ by government officials
June 24
17:31 2018
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Some meters away from the main gate of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), Chidera Uli laid on the bare floor, with his backpack sitting just beside him. It’s 4:10pm but Uli had been in that position since morning.

Alongside applicants from different parts of the country, Uli had gone to Abuja to apply for a foreign scholarship programme by the company. But they were allegedly “shut out” of the programme since they are not connected to top people in government who reportedly hijacked the process.

HOW THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS TURNED FRAUDULENT

CCECC, a Chinese firm that has had several contracts executed in Nigeria, introduced the scholarship to sponsor some youth on railway engineering course in China. But rather than throw the opportunity open, the ministry of transportation allegedly made it exclusive for top government officials.

TheCable gathered that some of the officials were informed about the opportunity and asked to forward names of choice applicants. The selected applicants were asked to come to Abuja for an interview scheduled between June 21 and June 23.

They were asked to come along with: their curriculum vitae, Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) result, birth certificate, application letter, international passport, recommendation letter and medical report – and the “most important one”, a nomination letter from the top official.

Caught up in the frenzy that followed, the two ministries were forced to deny knowledge of the scholarship programme exist.

The transportation ministry, in a statement signed by Sabiu Zakari, the permanent secretary, said no such programme exists and that any applicant who gets involved with any one regarding the programme “does so at his or her own detriment.”

“The ministry never placed any advertisement on sponsorship of candidates to China for railway engineering course in the media,” the statement seen by TheCable read.

On the other hand, applicants who said they visited the ministry of trade and investment quoted the ministry officials as also saying the ministry is not aware of such programme. TheCable could not get the minister’s reaction to this as calls made and text messages sent during the weekend to the phone of Constance Ikokwu, his spokesman, were not replied as of the time this report was filed.

CCECC confirmed the scholarship is actually in place

When TheCable visited CCECC head office in Abuja on Friday, a good number of youth were seen waiting at the entrance of the company. Some had come the previous day – the first scheduled date for the interview. Among them was Uli who said he was already making plans on how to return to Onitsha in Anambra state where he had come from.

“I came with night bus from Onitsha yesterday and arrived early this morning. But I heard all those who were not referred by a governor or any top government official were not attended to. Those that came with letter from any governor or maybe senator, they did not even do any serious interview for them. This thing is not transparent at all,” he told TheCable.

INTERVIEW – AND HOPE – SUSPENDED ‘TILL FURTHER NOTICE’

Following the large turnout of applicants, CCECC paused the programme abruptly. The company placed a notice on their gate on Friday morning.

Efforts made by TheCable to speak with CCECC representatives on why the interview was suspended, failed as access into the premises was restricted. However, two of the applicants attributed the suspension to the “unexpected” turnout for the exercise.

“I think it is because of the number that came. They weren’t expecting many people. Yesterday, from the cars that brought the few persons who went in for the interview, you will see they were sent by very powerful politicians. I was here but I don’t know any minister or governor so they did not let me enter,” an applicant who identified himself as Taiwo said.

“There was a list they had at the gate. Either you had the nomination letter or your name is on that list which we heard was sent from the ministry of transportation.”

His counterpart who gave his name as Ahmed lamented how “frustrating” the exercise turned out to be.

“Can you imagine? People from far places just wasted their money and came here. Some don’t even have money to go back to where they came from. What kind of life is this?” he asked, adding: “Even if na exam, make we write make una fail us. At least let’s do something.

“The sad thing is, this is happening under Buhari (government); someone who promised change. Even if he is not aware, those around him should know. He should do something about this.”

WHAT THE LETTER LOOKS LIKE

One of the applicants – Sunday Idare (not real name) – got the an “identification letter” from the governor’s office but luck ran out of him at the last minute. According to him, he came for the interview without knowing the letter was not in his bag.

He told TheCable: “I got the letter from the governor’s office, and the recommendation letter from JAMB office here in Abuja. If I had that letter yesterday, I would have concluded mine. I still got everything that was requested – my passport, and every document. It was just that letter that I did not bring.”

TheCable sent an inquiry to CCECC on the scholarship programme but the company had not responded as of the time this report was filed.

It is not yet clear when the company would resume the interview for the scholarship programme but while the wait is still on, stranded applicants have called for the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari.

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