Nigeria Sues Alabama University Over Scholarship
The Nigerian government has sued a university in the United States, the Alabama State University, for allegedly mishandling the scholarship meant for students’ rent, books and food.
The motion, filed in Aug. 2016, listed the Nigerian government as a defendant, a decision Julian McPhillips, attorney for the students, said was a formality at the time.
The lawsuit claims that throughout the students’ expected four-year tenure, ASU erroneously charged the students’ accounts for services they were not using and did not allow the students access to excess funds meant to allow the students to pay rent and buy books and groceries.
In some cases, students claim they were charged for semesters they did not attend classes and for dorms they did not live in.
McPhillips and Birmingham-based attorney Anthony Ifediba, a co-counsel for the plaintiffs (pictured left above), currently estimate ASU withheld $800,000 from the students.
“I hope it will sober Alabama State University up, and its new president, to realize that what these students are talking about is very serious and it’s having an adverse effect on them legally and I’d imagine public relations-wise,” McPhillips said of the latest motion at a press conference held outside of the federal courthouse in Montgomery Monday.
“ASU seeks to attract students from all over the world, certainly from Africa but maybe from other parts of the world. If it shows Nigerian students are not being treated right, others are going to raise their eyebrows and say, ‘Maybe we should go to Tuskegee or Auburn.'”
But the university has denied the allegation, telling local media it had “adhered to and complied with every instruction and direction given to the university by the Nigerian government regarding that agreement.”
It admitted that the Nigerian government was owed $202,000, saying it had been deposited into an account.
But Anthony Ifediba, who represents the students, said they believed the university might have withheld as much as $800,000.
He told the Montgomery Advertiser that the Nigerian government had paid Alabama State University about $5m, which was meant to cover tuition and living costs for all the students.
He said, “I hope it will sober the Alabama State University up, and its new president, to realise that what these students are talking about is very serious and it’s having an adverse effect on them legally and I’d imagine public relations-wise.”
In 2013, the Nigerian government sponsored 41 Nigerian students to study at ASU, a historically black university.
Student Kehinde Batife previously told the Montgomery Advertiser the students received $32,000 each, and Ifediba said Nigeria paid ASU about $5 million total to cover tuition and student expenses.
However, the students claim that they were denied access to the funds leftover after tuition was paid.