The Federal Government has said the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development (PRESSID) which was introduced for the best students in tertiary institutions in Nigeria to study in 25 best universities abroad, was not subject to the Federal Character charter.
It therefore would not take into consideration states of candidates, age, gender or other criteria except for merit.
The Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike said this while speaking against the backdrop of calls for the cancellation of the scheme on grounds that it was lopsided in its selection and did not conform to the principles of Federal Character.
Wike, speaking during a meeting with Heads of parastatals of the Education Ministry and Chairmen of Governing Councils of Federal Tertiary Institutions in Abuja Friday, said the scheme would strictly be based on merit, even if the beneficiaries “are from the same family.”
“Other scholarship schemes may consider the Federal Character, but this one would not. It is a special scheme to encourage the best in our people and help them study abroad,” he said.
Wike also cautioned against what he said was a rising trend in demands that the heads of federal tertiary institutions should be indigenes of the states where the schools were located.
He added that where vacancies exist for the position of Vice Chancellors, Rectors and Provosts, qualified candidates from any part of Nigeria were free to apply and were all eligible as long as they were qualified.
“A candidate from that area must also compete with others. It is wrong to assume that the VC must be from that area based on that consideration alone,” he added.
This trend, Wike added, was causing a lot of challenges for the government, noting that while the government does not interfere in these appointments, but only selects based on recommendations from Councils, it would always insist that the right criteria must be followed at all time.
He lamented that the situation had gotten so bad that even traditional rulers were getting involved and demanding that heads of schools in their communities should be from the community.
“A community cannot decide who heads a Federal school, or decide whether a Rector is performing or not, as is currently happening in Federal Polytechnic, Oko. We encourage merit, we take the best as we must have people who have the capacity to manage institutions. If there is a vacancy in the University of Calabar, you cannot say the VC must come from Cross River, it is not a community school,” he added.