New York, USA — About 90 youths under Nigeria’s Delta State Youth Empowerment Programme (YEP) program, who were flown from Nigeria for vocational training to Trinidad and Barbados last month, are now coming out to report neglect on the part of state governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Though the program advertised itself as one that would train students on agriculture, tourism, hospitality, and culinary arts, students now claim the entire program is a “scam.”
Narrating their predicament from their Trinidad and Barbados training bases, students accused the state deputy governor, Prof. Amos Utuama, and a woman alleged to be his mistress, a Barbadian identified as Donna St Hill, of pocketing program funding.
“Information made available to us reveals that the budget for the program was slashed with the extra funds pocketed by Delta State deputy governor, Prof. Amos Utuama, Ms Donna St Hill, and some individuals. This has affected our accommodation and feeding,” a student said.
An overwhelming majority of the students’ sharply criticized the role of St Hill, Delta State consultant in charge of the program, who they allege has been working with Delta State officials to perpetuate the scheme.
“Ms Donna St Hill is a Barbadian, residing in South Africa. [She] has an office in Wuse II, Abuja and she is the Delta State consultant in charge of the program, working hand in hand with Delta state deputy governor, Prof. Amos Utuama, to [hurt] us here in Trinidad and Barbados,” a student said.
Among the chief complaints leveled against St Hill is her booking student accommodation in Barbados in hurricane-prone locations. A student told Sahara Reporters, “Ms Donna booked our accommodation at a sub-standard hotel known as Casa Grande Hotel located in a hurricane-prone location, against the earlier-procured place at Infinity Hotel we were supposed to stay.”
“When we asked her why the change, she told us that the earlier-booked hotel is now fully booked, this was followed by her threatening to [send] us back to Nigeria if we [rejected the accommodations]. We have sent Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan mail and up ‘til now he hasn’t replied us,” the student added.
“Ms Donna has sent a series of messages lying against us to Governor Uduaghan, whereas we are only agitating for our entitlements as we were informed of by some of the staff of the Ministry of Higher Education in Asaba, the ministry overseeing this program,” students alleged.
“As I’m talking to you now we cannot take our baths because there is no water, some of us had to start fetching water from the pool. Do you know that we almost lost one of us yesterday due to food poisoning as we were told by the doctors? The issue of food is nothing to write home about. I repeat, we have sent a series of messages to the State Governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, to come to our aid, but ‘til date we are yet to get a reply from him,” a student told Sahara Reporters.
“We do not have access to water even to take our baths, we have resorted to fetching water from a pool,” a student said.
Reacting to the development in response to a Sahara Reporters inquiry, Commissioner for Higher Education in Delta State, Prof. Hope Eghagha, debunked allegations that the program was a scam.
However, Eghagha did confirm that the students in Barbados are having some accommodation challenges.
“The training in Trinidad is going on well at NESC. The students of the program in Barbados have challenges with their accommodation. We are talking to the consultant to improve living conditions or possibly move them to a better hotel. We’ve appealed to the students to exercise some patience while we sort things out,” Eghagha explained.
As at the time of filing this report, several calls and messages sent to the Delta State deputy governor, Amos Utuama, and his media assistant, Austin Awode, went unanswered.