Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has spent N492 million on its Niger Delta Post Graduate Scholarship award to 30 beneficiaries, an official said.
The company’s Managing Director/Country Chair, Mr Mutiu Sunmonu, told the on Wednesday that the company spent N164 million annually on every batch of 10 beneficiaries.
He explained that the company had so far run the scheme for three years, starting from 2010/2011 batch.
He said the scholarship enabled the beneficiaries to obtain second degrees in top rate universities in the UK.
Sunmonu named the institutions as Imperial College, London; University College, London, and the University of Leeds, which were in partnership with Shell.
Sunmonu said that the amount spent on the scheme was not too much of a burden to the company compared to the amount spent on its other scholarships that had run for many years.
”It is something we will continue to do very gladly because we believe that the results are showing.
”We are happy to see young graduates, coming from the Niger Delta, being able to play key roles in the oil and gas industry in the country,” he said.
Sunmonu said that the beneficiaries were selected purely on merit within the states in which the company operated in the Niger Delta region, namely, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers.
”We don’t want to send them to some tiered second universities; that is not the idea, that is not best for them and that’s why we targeted those universities.”
Sunmonu explained that the concept behind the scheme was deeply rooted in the company’s desire to help develop capacity in the Niger Delta.
He said the story following the Niger Delta region had been that there were not enough people from the region in the oil and gas industry, especially at the senior level.
Sunmonu said that this prompted the company to tackle the situation ”not by some funny affirmative action, not by doing some kind of quota system” but through a credible scheme.
”We believe that everybody has talent.
”So, what we are trying to do is to help develop talent such that everybody, no matter where you come from, you can compete effectively with any other person from other regions in the country,” he said.
The 2012/2013 batch was hosted to a dinner on Tuesday by the company during which the beneficiaries were received back to Nigeria and they bid farewell to the scheme.
Sunmonu congratulated the beneficiaries, who were the third batch, for successfully completing their Master of Science degree programmes.
He said that the dinner was to recognise their efforts and demonstrate the company’s continued support for government efforts to build the capacity of Niger Delta people to participate in the oil and gas industry.
Out of the 10 beneficiaries, six are from Delta, three from Rivers and one from Bayelsa.
The beneficiaries thanked the company for the gesture, saying that the opportunity exposed them to rigorous academic work and equipped them better to participate in the oil and gas industry.
Miss Omolara Duvbiama, one of the two female beneficiaries, said the scholarship was a turning point in her life as it had made her learn a lot about time management and work life balance.