(Front page comment)
PRESIDENT UmaruÂ Yarâ€™Adua has embarked on a silent, but steady northernisation of the nationâ€™s oil and gas industry when a drop of crude is yet to be found in the North.
Last Wednesdayâ€™s decision by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), to reverse the upgrading of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Warri, to a university is another instance of the arrogant, insensitive, insulting and inciting manners in which this administration has told the oil-producing parts of Nigeria they are inconsequential.
The Obasanjo administration had proposed the upgrading of PTI to a university. President Yarâ€™Adua cancelled it, but approved N14.5 billion on June 3, to upgrade the 15-year-old National College of Petroleum Studies, Kaduna, to an institution of higher learning. The Kaduna College would train management manpower for the industry while the older PTI, Warri, would train the junior cadre.
South-South governors have belatedly reacted angrily to these moves that the Yarâ€™Adua administration started instituting from inception, threatening to pull out of the amnesty deal with militants.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, defended the assault on the sensibilities of the hurting peoples of the Niger Delta. He said upgrading the PTI to a university was unnecessary, but justified the same status for the Kaduna College. What insensitivity, what double standards!
â€œThe mistake which we have made is to convert the polytechnics we need for the training of the manpower in our oil industry to universities, everybody wants to obtain a university degree.
â€œThe PTIÂ will train people that we need. Our oil industries are suffering because we do not have the right manpower. 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 do not need. I studied at the Imperial 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,â€ he said.
His argument is at best nebulous. Why build Kaduna College at the expense of PTI? Was Lukmanâ€™s school in London built with oil money from Aberdeen at the expense of Scotland? Would government have sited a petroleum college in Effurun, Warri, if the oil was produced in the North?
â€œThe Petroleum College in Kaduna will train managers, and without prejudice, it will have a high standard and people will come from all over Africa and be trained. The PTI, Warri, is training people from Angola, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe, but the bulk of this intake must be Nigerians.â€
Rilwanu confirmed that higher standards and better facilities were good for a school in Kaduna to be built with resources from the Niger Delta, but the school in Effurun, Warri, in the Niger Delta, is unsuitable for higher standards and good facilities.
The arrogance is more insulting than other reasons for the skewed policies that ensure oil-producing areas get leftovers while the resources from their areas are used in building world-class facilities in Abuja and Kaduna.
This indefensible insult must stop â€” it is another guise for the unabated despoliation of the Niger Delta.