After arriving in Barbados three months ago to participate in a study programme that has been dogged by controversy, a group of Nigerian students who refused to obey their government’s instructions to leave, is finally about to be flown home by charter.
Investigations by Barbados TODAY revealed that arrangements were expected to be completed in another few days to fly out 13 of the more than 80 students who came here in December to pursue a nine-month study course in tourism and agriculture at the Barbados Community College (BCC).
The Nigeria Delta State Youth Empowerment Programme never got started after immediately running into a snag when a group of the students created a public stink by complaining of poor accommodation at the Casa Grande Hotel at Oldbury, St Philip, bad food and a lack of water.
In February, the Nigerian authorities decided to pull the plug on the programme in Barbados. However, in addition to the repatriation of those students who were deemed an embarrassment to the State due to their conduct, there has been another twist.
Following intense behind-the-scenes discussions with Barbados officials, the programme has been rescued. Informed sources told Barbados TODAY that the Delta State Youth Empowerment Programme will now go ahead, but not at the BCC.
”The students will start next week at a different school in Barbados. We are now finalizing the paper work, crossing our Ts and dotting our Is. Once that is completed, we will be able to provide details including the name of the school,” the source added.
An official close to the US$4.5 million programme said those who have been ordered back home, including the one who went the day he was ordered to do so, were begging for the opportunity to take part.
In the midst of the ongoing public controversy, a small group of the students subsequently apologized to local and Nigerian authorities for the conduct of their colleagues, saying that some of the complaints were fabricated and asking that the programme be maintained.
Before that development, Delta State officials had indicated that they would not only keep the programme, but expand it.
“It is the wish of the people and Government of Barbados as well as the wish of the people and Government of Delta State to strengthen this initial step, make it a success and build upon it and scale up our lines of cooperation,” Deputy Governor of Delta State Professor Amos Agbe Utuama told Barbados TODAY when he travelled to Barbados last month.
The Delta State Empowerment Programme also has a Trinidad and Tobago leg for which US$5.5 million was allocated. Students in the twin-island republic are pursuing oil-related courses and that project is reported to be doing well.