A school, Cambridge College, Ikeja, Lagos, has sued the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency over an unpaid N17m debt.
Our correspondent gathered that the sum is the balance of tuition meant for 16 indigent students of the state who had their A level/Foundational Class at the college last year.
It was learnt that the college is one of selected Lagos schools being owed tuition under the scholarship scheme introduced by the Rivers State Government for its indigent but brilliant pupils.
Others are the Supreme Education Foundation, Magodo; Chrisland Schools, Ikeja, and Edgewood International School.
In a statement of claim filed before an Ikeja High Court and obtained by our correspondent on Thursday, the college authorities asked the RSSDA to pay the balance as well as N1m damages for breach of contract.
The suit, which also joined the Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice as a defendant, also sought “interests at the prevailing Central Bank rate of 25 per cent per annum till the liquidation of the judgment.’’
The Punch had reported last year that some students studying abroad under the scholarship scheme had resorted to washing toilets to make ends meet. The affected students, domiciled in some countries in Europe, Asia and the United States, recently protested over unpaid school fees, allowances and rents.
More than 2,000 secondary and post-secondary students reportedly benefited from the initiative inaugurated by former Governor Chibuike Amaechi in 2008.
The acting Executive Director, RSSDA, Mr. Godwin Poi, had said that Governor Nyesom Wike, had authorised the payment of the tuition, especially for the final year students.
The state, Poi also said, had written to the schools to show its commitment to paying the backlog.
Meanwhile, the Director, Cambridge College, Mr. Wale Odunlami, who spoke to our correspondent,said the institution had no choice but to seek a legal redress.
The educationist said, “The tuition has been outstanding since January 2015 and I expected the state government to have paid up by now because government is a continuum. Initially they were apologetic but things changed immediately after the Supreme Court judgment, which affirmed Governor Nyesom Wike.
“I wonder why the state government is reneging on this contract. This money is for services rendered. This was a good legacy of the former administration and I believe that you inherit both liabilities and assets as a government. The state government could afford to spend money for a thanksgiving service after the Supreme Court judgment.
“That money was enough to pay the tuition for 10 indigent pupils. There was a time a commissioner was put in charge of the RSSDA and I called her but what she said was shocking. She said they did not have any money to pay and that she blamed those who brought the pupils to us without having any money. It was shocking and I expected something more reasonable and conciliatory,” he said.
Attempts by our correspondent to reach out other affected schools were not successful.
A top official of Chrisland schools, who does not want her name mentioned because she was not authorised to speak on the matter, simply said, “The Rivers State Government is not owing us. Yes, they have stopped bringing pupils to us but we are not owed. The former administration paid us.’’
Also, another official of Supreme Education Foundation, who craved anonymity, said, “ I don’t want to speak on the matter, please.”
However, the Manager, Media and Communications, RSSDA, Mr. Kingsley Uranta, denied that the state government had stopped the scholarship scheme.
The state, he said, would endeavour to resolve all outstanding issues with affected schools soonest.
He said in a mail to our correspondent, “We are aware of, and indeed have received correspondence from Cambridge College, Lagos, and we are handling the issues with a view to resolving all the concerns raised therein.
“Our scholarship programme has not been stopped. However, the state government has directed that while those in their final year will continue and complete their studies abroad, all those not in final year will have to return to complete their studies under a special scholarship scheme at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State University of Science and Technology and other partner universities in the country.”