A total of 528 new scholars of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund participated in an induction programme organised by the Fund between the 18th and 21st of July, 2016. The four-day induction programme was to expose the lucky beneficiaries of PTDF 2016/2017 scholarship to the Fund’s mandate, visa application process, life as a PTDF sponsored student in the United Kingdom, Brazil, France and Germany- the major countries of study for the scholars, the Masters degree process and the PhD methodology as well as the financing of the scholarship.

Of the 528 new scholars, 273 will study in Nigerian Universities at both Masters and Doctorate degrees under the Local Scholarship Scheme, while 255 will undergo their M.Sc and PhD degree study programmes in universities abroad under the Overseas Scholarship Scheme.

The Acting Executive Secretary, Petroleum Technology Development Fund, Ahmed Galadima Aminu who flagged off the induction programme, raised two fundamental issues affecting the management of the scholarship scheme henceforth. These are bonding of beneficiaries of PTDF Overseas Scholarship, and the expansion of the countries where PTDF Scholars are sent for their studies beyond the traditional universities in the United Kingdom.”

“To ensure quality training, PTDF scholars are trained mainly in the best universities in the United Kingdom (UK). The choice of UK was informed by the successes of UK, in particular Scotland in Oil and Gas Education related programmes and the fact that many of the major oil and gas operating companies domiciled in Nigeria, Shell, Chevron, and others have a lot of bias for the graduates. However, from this year onwards, based on the economic situation of the country and bearing in mind the fact that when you look at the character of the oil industry today you have other companies from other jurisdictions like France, Norway, USA, Germany, the Fund has now decided to expand its areas of activities to include education institutions in Brazil, France and Germany. This shows how diverse and vibrant the Fund’s approach is becoming. A memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has already been signed with Brazil and France on the 12th of May, 2016 and July 30th, 2016 respectively to that effect. On the other hand, an MoU is expected to be signed later this year (September)”

On the mandatory bonding of all beneficiaries of PTDF Overseas Scholarship Scheme, the Acting Executive Secretary said “This year, the Fund has introduced a bond form attached to the award letter wherein scholars are expected to fill and return to the Fund. This is to provide guarantee that they will come back to serve Nigeria after concluding their respective programmes”

Elaborating on the issue of bonding of PTDF scholars, the Head, Legal Division, PTDF, Tanimu Ahmed said it is in response to a recent Federal Government circular to the effect that any Nigerian going for a study programme outside the country lasting up to six months, that person must sign a bond. He also addressed some anxieties expressed by scholars about fulfilling the stringent conditions of the bond. This was during his presentation at the induction ceremony.

“Two fundamental issues raised by scholars concerning the bond relate to eligibility to sign as guarantor. At the time of framing the provisions of the bond, we tried as much as possible to expand the eligibility of people who are going to sign. The second area where the scholars have expressed apprehension is the aspect of refund if they are unable to complete their studies within the stipulated period. On the issue of eligibility, I took it as a feedback which will be relayed to PTDF management to see the possibility of further expanding the scope of eligibility” he said.

The Central Bank of Nigeria on its part assured beneficiaries of PTDF Overseas Scholarships that their Foreign Exchange requirements for up keep and tuition will be met on a sustainable basis by the Bank. According to Austin Asemota, International Payments Division of Central Bank of Nigeria, the scholarship programme of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund is fully backed by the Federal Government “So FOREX is readily made available to take care of their allowances, school fees and any other expenses due to them. We at CBN, we do not really have a challenge meeting that obligation because it is fully backed by CBN and the Federal Government Policy on building capacity for the Petroleum sector”. Mr. Austin Asemota presented a paper on payment modules for PTDF scholars at the induction ceremony.

The Head, Finance and Accounts Department, PTDF, Mr. Armiyau Umaru Baba, also addressed the new scholars on payment processes prior to their departure for studies and after settling in their country of study. Commenting on the challenges of securing Foreign Exchange and the likely impact on the scholarship programme, Mr. Armiyau Baba said “Funding is an issue that every MDA grapples with in Nigeria, especially with low oil revenues coming into government coffers. What I can assure you is that PTDF still has the capacity to pay the scholars as at when due and the Acting Executive Secretary is making moves to ensure that PTDF is adequately funded to take care of its responsibilities. At the moment we do not have an issue where we cannot take care of our responsibilities and we hope that this will continue with the funding that we are expecting from the government”.

For the 2016/2017 scholarship year, a total of 1, 305 applications were received for the overseas scholarship, out of which 706 candidates were shortlisted for aptitude test and oral interviews. 196 applied for the Local Scholarship Scheme, out of which 133 were shortlisted, while for the split-Site segment, 14 candidates were shortlisted out of a total of 28 that applied. Altogether 1, 529 applications were received for the 2016/17 PTDF scholarship out of which 853 were shortlisted and 528 awarded the scholarship.

Kalu Otisi Esq.

Head, Press and External Relations, PTDF,

July 22, 2016