A Delta State project yet deep in shadow
Unanswered questions breed speculation, and speculation more often than not results in unnecessary conjecture that does more harm than good; and concretizes confusion. And when authorities appear less than willing to provide the facts, they must be prepared to share the blame for and accept the fallout of resultant rumours.
And so this must be the case for the key players in the local leg of the Nigerian Delta State Youth Empowerment programme.
Last week, word came that the plug had been pulled on the initiative that had led to the arrival of 90 Nigerian students in Barbados in December to pursue a nine-month course of study at the Barbados Community College in tourism and agriculture. The abrupt development only added another layer of drama to the controversy that has dogged the project from the start.
First, there were complaints about the standard of accommodation, the quality of food and the lack of water. Then came an apology from a batch of the students who claimed that some of the very public complaints levelled by their colleagues were fabricated. Added to this, there was a breakdown in the relationship between project manager Donna St Hill and the local project administrator Sharon Brathwaite –– and we can go on and on.
The about-turn is even more puzzling since we were assured by the deputy governor of Delta State, who visited the island last month, that the students’ concerns were being satisfactorily addressed. Today, none can be pleased with the end result.
The programme, which from all reports is being run successfully in other countries, including our CARICOM neighbour Trinidad and Tobago, has been shut down in Barbados –– an embarrassment, to say the least. And Barbados, whose reputation is at stake, should demand answers.
First and foremost, we strongly reject suggestions and rubbish misconceptions that Barbadians were not prepared to welcome Nigerians. And we do empathize with the students who will return home without gaining the skills they came to acquire to enhance their professional and personal development.
In interviews with Barbados TODAY, some students said the opportunity afforded under the programme would allow them to better provide for their families and help to build the fast developing tourism and agricultural sectors in Nigeria. But the students themselves are not guiltless, and may have to assess their own role in the abandonment of the project.
Shocking were the damaging reports and pictures about Barbados and their accommodations at the Casa Grande Hotel posted on the worldwide Web for all to see. Perhaps, with hindsight, the students would agree they were more effective ways to have communicated their concerns to relevant authorities.
The administration of the programme was surely most disappointing. And in the absence of information, minds will wander and tongues will wag. This is hardly the time for the silence.
It’s only fair that Barbadians are told why the programme was scrapped, what were the benefits of hosting the programme and how much the island has lost as a result of the cancellation.
The Government itself cannot escape. We are left to ponder whether the Government was involved with the programme from the very start, given the significant Nigerian financial investment –– $2 million plus. We aver that a programme of that magnitude should not have been left to private hands alone, particularly when, as some suggest, it was such a lucrative arrangement.
Yesterday, in the latest twist, there were calls for the Government to step in and save the programme. Such pleas may have some merit; but the facts and the truth are needed that informed decisions might be made on the way forward.
We can’t afford a repeat of the fiasco, where Nigeria, Barbados, students and the managers of the Delta State Empowerment programme are all losers!