By Daniel Idonor
ABUJA – THE Federal Government yesterday reversed the upgrade of the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, Warri to a University status, as approved by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
Also, the government rose in staunch defence of the N14 billion budget for the construction of the Kaduna Petroleum College, saying that those who do not want the project sited in the north should have a re-think as there is absolutely nothing they can do to change governmentâ€™s decision.
The Government had on June 3, this year, at its FEC meeting approved the sum of N14.5 billion for the upgrade of the 15-year-old National College of Petroleum Studies (NCPS), Kaduna, to the status of an institution of higher learning, to enable it meet up with the current human capital challenges in the petroleum industry.
At its weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting yesterday, the Government approved the sum of N10.4 billion for the construction of a permanent headquarters for the controversial Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, within 18 months.
With the approval, the Kaduna College is now to be responsible for the training of management manpower needed in the industry while the older PTI, Effurun, Warri would be responsible for training the junior cadre manpower required in the oil industry.
This development undoubtedly has continued to generate widespread condemnation from a cross section of people of the Niger-Delta region.
Fielding questions on these issues from State House Correspondents after yesterdayâ€™s meeting, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, declared that that the government of President Yarâ€™Adua has since reversed the Obasanjo decision which upgraded the PTI to a University status because it was unnecessary.
He said â€œlook, look, donâ€™t give us that. That is the mistake which we have made, we have gone ahead and converted the polytechnic and the institution we need for the training of the manpower which we need in our oil industry and not only in the oil industry but also to universities. But everybody wants to obtain a university grade, it does not happen that wayâ€.
According to him, â€œthe people who run the economy of a country are not necessarily people with degrees from universities. This is why we give emphasis to the PTI to train people that we need. Our oil industries are suffering because we donâ€™t have the right manpower.
And here you are talking about converting an institute which has been set up precisely to train people that we need into a university that will train people that we donâ€™t need. How? Come onâ€.
Reacting to why the government decided to spend such sum on a fledging college in Kaduna at the expense of the ailing PTI in Warri, the Minister said â€œO, come on. Come on; the place I went to study at the Federal College of Science and Technology in London.
It is the biggest training ground for mining and petroleum engineers, and there is not a drop of oil in London. So the question of the location of the institution to train people is not necessarily a coincidence with where oil resources are.
â€œHaving said thatâ€, he continued, â€œthe Petroleum Training Institute in Warri was set up in the middle of the people, where the bulk of the people who are going to be operating in the oil field come from.
The majority of the people are there, we have also in our local content provision ensure that people from the area where the oil is found are going to be predominate, as a matter of policy, in an employment opportunity.â€
He explained that â€œof course, we cannot say that everybody employed in the oil and gas industry must come from the Niger-Delta region but the majority and the bulk of the people are going to, of course, come to the area. The Petroleum College in Kaduna is not going train everybody in the sector.
It is going to train managers, and without prejudice, it will have a high enough standard and people will from all over Africa will come and be trained. And the PTI Warri is training people from Angola, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe, but the bulk of this intake must be Nigerians. But we will make it possible for other nationals working with us in the industry to bring in studentsâ€.
On the governmentâ€™s wisdom approving N14 billion for the building of a new office for PTDF a week after it approved N3.9 billion for the furnishing of the new office of Foreign affairs ministry, the minister said: â€œtalking about the N14 billion cost for the construction of the PTDF office, if you want to build a three-bedroom flat you know what the price is.
Here you want more people to be trained in the oil gas industry and you donâ€™t want the PTDF to have a befitting office, an agency that trains not only people in the oil and gas industry but for petroleum technology that we need in the oil and gas.
You donâ€™t want them to have suitable office. What do you want to do? You want them to operate from a flatâ€? He queried.