Nigerian Students Sue Alabama State Uni. for Pocketing $500,000 from their Scholarship Funds Paid by Nigeria Gov
About 40 Nigerian students are taking legal action against their school management, Alabama State University for taking about $500,000 from their scholarship fund paid by Nigeria Government.
The students are parts of Nigerians studying in United State of America on Federal Government of Nigeria Scholar which covers their tuition fees, health insurance, accommodations, feeding and other costs.
Kehinde Batife who is leading the students’ efforts to claim back their money, revealed that each of them is given $32,000 per annum by Nigeria government. However, the fund is paid directly to the school.
The students said that not all of them used the complete fund meant for them every year and instead of them getting the refund, ASU allegedly kept the remaining money.
On May 29, 2016, the students filed a complaint asking the court to order ASU to pay them back the used unused fund.
The University is also indicted of charging the students for utilities they are not using.
A good instance, is the case of Success Jumbo, one of the complainants, who said he has been living off campus since 2014 when he got married, but the university management continues taking money out of his scholar fund for on-campus housing.
“I’ve suffered a lot,” Jumbo said. “I got married May 2014. I’ve approached ASU on several occasions, I even took my wife and my baby to them and said, ‘Look, I no longer live on campus. I believe you guys understand the importance of being married. I need to get this money so I can use it to pay for my housing elsewhere.’”
Till now Jumbo never received a refund.
Batife said other students were billed for summer tuition when they didn’t take any summer courses.Batife calculated that the university has held back about half a million dollars from the Nigerian students over a period of three years.
Alabama State University is also accused of not being transparent with the use of the students. Scholarship funds.
Philip Mezeh said, “We discovered that our financial statement were not made public, this is not right. I want to see a breakdown of the finances.”
Meanwhile, the ASU counsel, Mr. Kenneth Thomas, stated that there is no agreement between the students and Alabama State University. Because of this, any refunds should be paid to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Julian McPhillips, the legal council to the students, said neither the Nigerian government nor the students have been refunded by ASU despite the fact that two letters were sent to ASU by the Nigerian officials in charge requesting the refunds to be paid directly to the students.
On the contrary, the university stated that two separate letter were sent to them at different time, the first directed them to pay the remaining money back to the students. This was about a year ago. But a week after the students filed the case, that it was May 2016, the second letter got to them from Nigeria government ordering them to hold on to the funds until directives are given on the process of refunds. The second letter was by new Nigerian officials who took over from the ones that wrote the first letter.
Based on this, ASU says it has no disagreement with the Nigerian government, and the students have no legal grounds to challenge the instructions given to her by a body which is funding their studies.
Alabama State University has made a motion to dismiss the case saying that they will be in financial riddle if it has to pay over refunds to the students after it has been given directives by a current Nigerian government official to hold on to the fund until further notice.
But a letter from a different Nigerian office, on April 2016, stated that ASU’s “unwilling attitude” would be reported to Nigerian office in U.S. because the university allegedly did not send papers relating to the students’ financial expenses.
Late February 2017, ASU made a legal move to get the case dismissed but a federal judge has declined to dismiss their claims. Though the court has preliminarily declined to dismiss the case, his opinion noted that the contract between Nigeria and ASU hasn’t been submitted for review, meaning that the case’s trajectory could shift if that contract comes to light.
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