New twist to Nigerian students' saga
Ten Nigerian students, who were among a group of 11 ordered by their government to leave Barbados and return home immediately, have reportedly defied the order, opting instead to remain on the island.
It’s the latest dramatic twist to the unfolding saga involving 87 students, who arrived here last December, under the Delta State Youth Empowerment Programme for Barbados, to pursue a nine-month course of study in agriculture and tourism at the Barbados Community College (BCC).
Investigations by Barbados TODAY have revealed that only one member of the group actually boarded the flight out of the Grantley Adams International Airport this morning and left the island, while the other ten students had refused to board the bus for the airport and return home.
Up to news time the exact whereabouts of the ten could not be ascertained, but the official caretaker of the students, who were being accommodated at the Casa Grande hotel in Oldbury, St Philip, reported that they had left the property earlier in the day with former project manager Sharon Brathwaite and attorney-at-law Douglas Trotman.
In an urgent letter dispatched earlier to the programme’s consultant coordinator Donna St Hill, the caretaker, who goes by the name Dele, also complained that the students had refused to leave Barbados as instructed.
“I am appalled by their behaviour, as the head of the Nigerians living in Barbados. It is damaging the image of Nigerians living in Barbados,” the letter, which has been shared with Barbados TODAY, read in part.
He also raised concern that the students were getting bad advice from the Nigerian High Commission in Trinidad, which he said had also been apprised of the developments.
“[I am] equally appalled to hear from our house parents . . . that they [the 11 students] are listing among their objections, that their return to Nigeria is not approved of by the Acting High Commissioner in Trinidad Adeyemi,” the letter adds.
The Government of Barbados was also informed of the situation, as well as the Governor and other state authorities in Nigeria and the parents of the students.
St Hill, who is reportedly in South Africa, could not be reached for comment today.
Neither could the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence and Security Gabrielle Springer, Chief Immigration Officer Erene Griffith, the Government’s liason officer Deryck Murray or attorney-at-law Trotman.
However, when contacted tonight the former project manager Sharon Brathwaite confirmed that she had seen the students but did not provide any further details.
In the meantime Barbados TODAY has obtained a copy of an official letter dated February 18, 2015, which was dispatched to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, via Minister of Education Ronald Jones. In it, the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice in Nigeria, C.A. Ajuyah, made it clear that his government had never had any contract with Brathwaite, who was recently suspended by St Hill.
“Kindly be advised that the State Government at no time engaged or executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the said Sharon Brathwaite of SRB Management Services to undertake any business for it in the Barbados or elsewhere,” the letter to Prime Minister Stuart said.
However, the Nigerian official said it had come to his government’s attention that Brathwaite had been telling the Barbados Government and its people that she had an MOU with the Nigeria to manage the training programme.
“In the circumstances, I write to request that you discountenance any claim by the said Sharon Brathwaite of SRB Management Services and extend your courtesies to Donna St Hill,” the letter states.
It was copied to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Maxine McClean, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence and Security, the Chief Immigration Officer and Murray, who is the head of the Commission for Pan African Affairs.
In a further development, negotiations were said to be underway to place the remaining 76 students in another school in Barbados so they could pursue their studies. This after a special appeal was made to the Prime Minister earlier this week to intervene on the students’ behalf.
Since coming here, they have been embroiled in controversy, first complaining about the standard of accommodation and the quality of food and lack of water at the hotel.
However, a small group of the students subsequently apologized to local and Nigerian authorities for the conduct of their colleagues, saying that some of the complaints were fabricated. They also asked that the programme be maintained.
But earlier this month, the Director of Finance Paul Ataime sent emails to the students in Barbados, formally notifying them via email, that the programme had been suspended. The email read: “I have been directed to inform you, our trainees in Barbados, that in view of the challenges which you currently face on welfare, the admissions process, coupled with certain acts of rudeness exhibited by some of you, government has decided to suspend the Barbados end of the programme.” That official has since been replaced.