By Collins Edomaruse and Ahamefula Ogbu in Port Harcourt, 07.26.2009
Fresh facts are now emerging over how the Federal Government took a decision which may deprive the Niger Delta of the siting of the Petroleum University in the region. The new decision will reverse the earlier one by the Obasanjo government to upgrade the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) Effurun to a university. The university would be relocated to Kaduna with the PTI retained in its present location.
THISDAY gathered that when Minister of Petroleum Resources, Alhaji Rilwanu Lukman, made a presentation at one of the weekly meetings of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the proposal to move the Petroleum University to Kaduna, none of the ministers from the oil producing areas opposed him.
FEC meetings offer a chance for ministers to influence policy decisions as they can present their arguments for or against the issue.
However, when Lukman was presenting his position that the PTI, which was expected to produce lower and middle level manpower for the oil industry should be retained in Effurun, while another part of the country, preferably Kaduna State in the North should host the institution for production of manpower on graduate and post-graduate studies, he was supported by Mr. Godsday Orubebe, Minister of State in the Ministry of Niger Delta. Other ministers from the zone, who were expected to have argued against the policy kept mum, thereby allowing the policy to relocate the university to Kaduna to scale through unchallenged.
Other ministers from states in the Niger Delta include Maj-Gen. Godwin Abbe (rtd), Obong Ufot Ekaette, Odein Ajumo-gobia, Grace Ekpiwhre, Diezani Allison-Madueke and John Odey.
The position of the ministers from the zone on the council decision on Lukman’s proposal has now left the protest over the relocation of the petroleum university to their governors who last Thursday threatened to withdraw their support for the peace initiatives of the Yar’Adua administration in the Niger Delta.
The decision of the Niger Delta ministers was criticised by people who believe that their action seemed to indicate an endorsement of the submission that the Niger Delta is only suitable for the production of low and middle level officers in the oil industry while the training of management and high level officers in the industry would be better handled in Kaduna.
Meanwhile, Ajumogobia yesterday defended the decision of the Federal Government on the relocation of the petroleum university. Speaking at the commissioning of Masters Energy Oil and Gas in Rumuolumeni, River State, the Minister of State said: “The issue of the location of various institutions is a separate issue and I think in this country the beauty of democracy is we have an opportunity to air our views and have an accommodation of all those conflicting views. Everybody can’t be pleased and if there is any section of the country that feels dissatisfied with any decision that has been taken, the beauty of our democracy is that we can talk about it.
“There is a misunderstanding.
Let me clear that misunderstanding. I was privy and party to that decision to focus on middle level manpower in terms of the development of the PTI at Efurun because the oil and gas industry today in terms of local content policy. I hope the petroleum Industry Bill when passed and the Local content Bill when that is also passed by the National Assembly will ensure there is greater participation of Nigerians in the petroleum industry.
“Now, for the time being and the foreseeable future the greatest level of manpower that is going to access our policy of local content will be the low and middle level manpower which is located in Efurun. The graduate and post graduate activities, I am not sure that it really matters where that is located because the key of the industry is going to be in the Niger Delta”, he explained.
Former President Obasanjo’s administration promised to upgrade the PTI to a university. The promise inspired the Delta State Government to donate N250 million as take-off grant to the university.
Should we just sit down and watch these injustice been done to us go on and for how long.........