The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has protested the list of qualified candidates for the award of a presidential scholarship for innovation and development, which was recently published by the National Universities Commission (NUC), saying the criteria used for the selection were designed to exclude the North.
The forum in a statement in Kaduna Thursday said the list, which shows a total of 348 candidates from the southern states as against a total of 83 candidates from the northern states, was a negation of the principle of federal character and balance.
The statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, said the attention of the forum had been drawn to the "curious list of qualified candidates" as published in the newspapers this week by the NUC.
According to the ACF, "if the NUC had permitted itself to be guided by the need for balanced development of Nigeria, it would not have nominated a preponderance of candidates for this vital programme from southern states to the near exclusion of the North. Oyo State, for example, has 52 candidates while, Sokoto, Yobe, Cross River and the FCT have no candidates each.
"If it is a mistake, NUC should take immediate steps to correct it. As presently implemented, it is a disservice to the very objective for which the scheme was set up and to our aspirations as a people. The scheme is designed to train and develop young Nigerians to become entrepreneurs capable of creating jobs, wealth and progress.
"However, although the list released by the NUC is on a state by state basis, it is not at all clear that the commission wanted candidates to come from all parts of the country. The criteria used to select the candidates appear designed to exclude those from the northern states.
"It certainly enabled the NUC to ignore the national consensus on inclusiveness and balance of competing demands among groups and areas of the country."
Details of the list shows that Oyo has 52 candidates, Ogun 49, Osun 46, Ondo Anambra 45, Imo 14 and Abia 10, while states like Plateau, Taraba, Kebbi and Borno have one candidates each. Sokoto, Yobe, Cross River and the FCT have no candidates.