A leading African medical student in Russia who is an indigene of Sokoto State, Yahaya Usman Gada, is facing deportation over unpaid tuition fees.
Gada who is a final-year student of Irkutsk State Medical University, Russia, was a leading African student with 5.2 GP before his suspension from the university.
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He is currently at the immigration detention centre after he was ejected out of his residence for not paying his annual rent.
He was said to have made two appearances in court over Visa and Study Residency violations which, if found guilty, he could risk a two-year jail term and eventual deportation.
He was initially sponsored to study medicine at a newly established university in Sudan in 2014 but was not satisfied with their academic activities. He, therefore, requested a study transfer to a Russian university which was approved by Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
The Sokoto State Scholarship Board then wrote a letter to the Russian university which granted him admission, conveying the approval of the state government to sponsor his study.
The letter dated July 18, 2017 was signed by the Director, International Students Affairs of the Sokoto State Scholarship Board, Kabiru J. Labaran. In the letter, addressed to the Rector of Irkustk University, the state government promised to pay his annual tuition fees and living expenses throughout his study period in Russia.
Gada, who spoke to our reporter on phone, said the Sokoto State government had so far spent N50 million on his study and these include tuition fees and upkeep allowances.
He said he required $ 25,350 to complete his studies and failure to pay it within the next 20 days would lead to his expulsion from the school. According to his letter of suspension, he was given a two-month grace to pay or risk expulsion.
The breakdown of the money, as he explained, includes $16,950 tuition fees, $ 3,500 to register for the final-year Russia medical qualifying examination and $ 4,900 as upkeep allowance.
“As I am talking to you, I have only 20 days to pay the money or risk expulsion. I have been in the immigration facility for 40 days now,” he said.
A document seen by Daily Trust showed that before suspending Gada, the school had written several letters to the Sokoto State government seeking renewal of his tuition fees to enable him to participate in the exams but the government failed to respond.
The student had also written letters to the scholarship board, the Nigerian Embassy in Moscow and even petitioned the Attorney General of the Federation over his plight.
Responding to his letter, the Nigerian Ambassador to Russia wrote to the school on May 5, 2022, pleading with its management to renew Gada’s registration. Similarly, the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, while acknowledging the receipt of his complaint, promised to contact the Sokoto State government on his behalf.
The student however appealed to the well-meaning Nigerians to come to his aid, saying he is currently left to his fate.
“I don’t have money to buy food, and because of that, I was diagnosed with ulcer and put on treatment and the medical bill was paid by my Russian friends,” he said.
When contacted, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who spoke through his Media aide, Muhammad Bello, said government was aware of the case, adding that the student has over-stayed in Russia.
“He is in Russia for eight years as against the six years required by his programme,” he said.
Responding to this, Gada explained that the governor was misled by the scholarship board.
“I discovered that after leaving Sudan, some people at the board had continued collecting my tuition fees and upkeep allowance for two years as a student in Sudan. That is why the governor was saying that.
“But if you look at their letter approving my transfer to Russia, it was dated 2017 and from 2017 to date, it is only five years and I am now in my sixth and final year.
“I came to Russia around December 2015 and did a one-year preparatory course (to learn Russian language) from January to December 2016 but I sponsored myself.
“It was on July 18, 2017 that Governor Tambuwal approved my transfer to Russia,” he said.
Also speaking on the matter, the Permanent Secretary in charge of the scholarship board, Bello Isa, said he was not aware of any of their students detained over tuition fees but he was aware that one of their sponsored students was said to be detained for some immigration offences.
“Sometime during the corona era, we received a letter from one of our students in Russia that he had some financial obligations which had not been settled regarding accommodation, school utilities and health issues; that he was on admission in the hospital and $10,000 was required to pay for his bill which the state government approved and the money was paid into the account of somebody said to be a staff member of the hospital.
“We equally paid for all liability against him, including overstay fees, immigration penalties and a return ticket that he should come back to Nigeria and request for extension but he failed to come back to Nigeria.
“From our record and our correspondences between the board and the student, he was supposed to complete his study three years ago because he was awarded scholarship in 2014 to study medicine in Sudan, but somewhere along the line, he had an issue with the school and the Sudanese government because his wife was said to be a hepatitis carrier which, according to health authorities, he should not be allowed to stay in Sudan.
“And being a student leader at the college at the time, he facilitated computer loans to students which were given by the college authority, but he failed to pay back.
“The board had to pay the loans, and as a result of that, he requested a transfer of study after spending one and a half years in Sudan. The then Commissioner for Higher Education approved his transfer but on condition that there will be no additional cost to the state government.
“So he was supposed to finish his study by 2019 and the board gave him an extension of one year which expired in 2020. So for him to claim otherwise is unbecoming,” Isa explained.
On whether there is a remedy to his problem, the Permanent Secretary said, “There are a lot of correspondences between us, the school and him. But unfortunately for him, scholarship is a privilege; not a right.
“And we are not assessing our students based on academic performance alone; we also check to see if they are good in character and learning.
“By this action, he is trying to prove that he is morally questionable. He is not worthy in character because you cannot take your parent to a public court.
“Government is magnanimous to him. He was awarded a scholarship out of millions of Sokoto students and millions of naira spent on him. We ask his school to provide the government with his academic scripts to know what position he is.
“In the last letter we sent to him, we said even if he had not finished his studies, the board could only give him a one-year extension. After that, he has to come back and request for additional year which only the governor can approve.
“The governor has been very kind and friendly to him. He has been a problem to the board, society and the government because what he is doing now can reflect on the image of the government.
“So what we are telling him is to come back home. We will sit with him and if his problems are genuine, the board will make a request to his Excellency and I am sure he will grant him.
“So it is not good for him going around, tarnishing the image of the government,” the Permanent Secretary said.
However, Gada denied all the allegations.
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