Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state.
Hon. Sunny Orishedere, Executive Secretary, Delta State Scholarship Board.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has scored a major upset against the rot that hitherto existed in the disbursement of bursaries to students of Delta State origin through a sanitization mechanism that has saved the state about N1.3billion.
The Executive Secretary of the Delta State Scholarship Board, Hon. Sunny Orishedere made this known in an interview with Editors of banneronlinenews.com and cshowcasenews.com, when he also disclosed that the Board has saved the state about N400million this year alone because the strategies adopted were able to block the loopholes that students who are non indigenes of the state explore and exploit to make false declarations thereby increasing the number of the applicants astronomically.
The Board has also evolved a database for the students of the state origin attending institutions of higher learning.
“Past challenges included a situation where students who are not from Delta State even benefit more. In other words, it meant that those who are not supposed to benefit were the ones benefiting,” Hon. Orishedere said.
Recalling that the policy directive of Governor Okowa to the Board at inauguration in 2016 was that the rot in the scholarship and bursary schemes should be addressed and cleared to bring in sanity into the system, Orishedere said: “Today, we are up to date. We have cleared all the backlogs of unpaid bursaries. We do not owe any backlog.”
He announced that the state government runs a number of scholarship schemes serviced by the Board. The executive Secretary said: “We have facility for best overall graduating student; scholarship for physically challenged persons; scholarship for children of deceased civil servants. They are civil servants who died in service.” Here Hon. Orishedere explained that the Board is very critical in disbursing funds because they want to ensure that such children actually get the benefit, and so that the payment is not in any way misused to the detriment of the children who truly deserve to use the scholarship fund for.
He also announced that the Board has scholarship provision for Deltans who are engaged in the aviation industry.
“We discovered that aviation study is very expensive, so we introduced the scheme to be able to help such student. This is besides scholarship schemes granted to Deltans who are engaged in specific courses,” he stated.
Answering a question, Hon. Sunny Orishedere expressed appreciation to the students for their peaceful dispositions. “It has been very peaceful, and I want to urge them to continue in this stead. I also want to encourage the students to continue to do well because, as it is said, ”anything worth doing at all should be properly done,”
Find below excerpts from the interview with the Executive Secretary, Hon. Sunny Orishedere.
Can we know your sir?
I am from Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State, precisely from Otiugbo, and by the grace of God, the Executive Secretary, Delta State Bursary and Scholarship Board.
Tell us what has been happening at the Delta State Bursary and Scholarship Board since youn came on bord.
It all started, if I am to give you details of what has been happening in Delta State Scholarship Board, I must make reference to where we actually started.
To be specific, it all started in 2016, February 29 when the last board was inaugurated and at the inauguration of that board, I was a member, and His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa made a very clear policy statement that the Delta State scholarship Board as it was than is rotten, and he directed us to go and clean up the place. It was a policy statement that he made.
So when we came in, we went into action and we actually discovered that indeed, there were a lot of challenges, and that a lot of things needed to be put in place.
Most of the challenges in the past included, a situation where students who are not from Delta State origin were benefitting more than those from the State. We have issues like that, which means that those who are not supposed to benefit are benefitting.
The first thing we did was to see how we can put measures in place to be able to curtail that situation, because that greatly increased the number of applications and the state was finding it difficult to even make payment because, first the numbers have become too much and the resources are not there.
The first thing I did then, being an ICT consultant, was to deploy a website whereby all applicants, all student of Delta State origin, wherever you are, across the globe, you can register online. That is one, because most of them cannot asses the website, because it is not manual. So the information was not even there.
The website is not just a website; it was deploying in a way that a lot of field or requirement was involve. For instance, we went ahead to secure partnership with the National Identification Card Management Commission. We also met with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. The purpose was for us to see how we can integrate with their database with a view to ensuring that those who are not from Delta state cannot in any way access or register.
So we indeed linked to NICMS Database, and of course, during registrations for National ID card, a lot of students who register, they register including their names, where they come from, the community, local government area, State and so on. Even though they were doing those sharp practices in Delta state, there is no way they would register for their National ID card and say they are from Delta State when they are not. So, that we were able to do.
What it means is that, if you are applying online, by the time you get to the test block where you are required to key in for your State of origin, when you say state, it will link the database. If you are not from Delta State, you cannot in any other way register. It is automatic and that is one aspect of it.
We also got to their inters witch agency, because, in the process of registration, we do require your BVN as well as your bank account number. There are two ways, if you put in your BVN, it will link your account and inside that your account, you have your details and if you are not from Delta State, it will not work.
In fact that actually helped us a lot in reducing the number of applications.
When we came in, the population was tumbling between 35,000 to 45,000 students every session, but with these measures, coupled with the physical verification strategy that we also put in place, we were able to drastically reduce the number. It is now tumbling between 15 to 16 thousand students as against 35 and 45 students every session. So, to God we give all the glory that we were able to achieve that.
You know that the students are very sharp, they are very, very sharp; as you are planning, they are also planning because most of them, their arm or purpose is always to beat whatever the Board is doing and how they can defraud the State Government.
Even before now, the Board made payment to the students through their umbrella body, National Association of Delta State Students’ Union (NADESTU). Take for instance, 1,000 students applied from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, you just raise the cheque and give it to the Executives of NADESTU. They are the ones to go and cash the money and disabuse to the students. What they do is that they just raise the cheque in their favour, they withdraw the money and share among themselves, and they report that students from that university have received their bursaries.
But when we came in, on our own, what we did was that as you register, your account number is there, so after registration and verification, we pay direct into individual student’s bank account. Once you get your money, you do not need to pass through anybody.
The reason we adopted the issue of verification is because, one of the criteria is that your CGPA must be above 2.2, and you must be in 200 level and must be a full time student.
Now, those students who are medical students in most cases, they do not access their CGPA yearly. What happens is that those who are medical students, the Board, don’t access them with their CGPA. So what they do is that ones you register as a medical student they go ahead and pay you and the school will confirm.
We found out that most of them don’t verify students who are medical students. You discover that on the process of registration, they just put medical student all through that is one. Secondly, you found out that some of the students who have graduated still come back and register. Again those who are not qualified, who are in 100 levels, some of them will go and register when they are not supposed to.
Meanwhile, Hon. Orishedere has congratulated Governor Okowa on his victory at the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, stating that the victory was well deserved.
His said of the judgment: “I had started rejoicing before the day of judgment. The reason for it is that the political trend in this state is that, as Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and as a state, the very well done elections had been the 2015 and 2019 elections; so I never had any fear.
“I started rejoicing long before the judgment day. So, I give glory to God,” he declared, pointing out that Okowa becoming a governor is a mystery, and divine.”
Mystery in the sense that nobody gave him a chance, he was not reckoned with, yet by divine intervention, he became a governor.
Orishedere said that the achievements that Governor Okowa has recorded in this state in the past four years are wonderful. “The budget for projects is always community driven.”