By Daniel Idonor
Abuja – THE Presidency today broke its silence over the lingering controversy on the status of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Delta State, which was upgraded to a degree-awarding institute, by the former President Olusegun Obansanjoâ€™s government; declaring that the Petroleum University remains in Effurun, as â€œthere has been no reversal of any of these programmes by President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€.
Then President Obansanjo was on a State Visit to Delta State, when the people of the state alerted him of the absence of a Federal institution of higher learning in the State, since the creation of the State from the defunct Bendel State.
As a result the people ask the President to site a Federal University in the State, but Obasanjo told them it will be very expensive to site a new university, rather, the then leader promised that the existing PTI will be upgraded to a University.
And upon his return from Delta, the President lived to his promise when the FEC approved the award of several contracts for the upgrade of infrastructures at the PTI; as the first step towards making the university status a reality.
The Minister of Petroleum, Dr Rilwan Lukeman, had recently told State House Correspondent, in a questions and answers session, as part of the post Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that â€œthe decision to upgrade the PTI to a degree awarding institute was unnecessary.
According to him, â€œit is better to allow the institute to train the middle workforce we need than degree holders we do not needâ€; implying that the Yarâ€™Adua government may since reversed the Obasanjo decision.
This comment from Dr Lukeman has since then continued to generate widespread condemnation from Nigerians, especially people of the South-South geo-political zone, with the recent, and more seriously from the Governors of the region.
Why many top government functionaries at the Federal level have continued to deny the claim by Dr Lukeman, saying that the Petroleum expert is on his own, the man in question has refused to comment on the crises, his statement has generated.
The Presidency, in a recent denial of Dr Lukemanâ€™s claim, said â€œnotwithstanding the various clarificationsâ€, from its top official â€œthat there was no decision by President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua to relocate the Petroleum University from Effurum to Kaduna, this needless controversy has persistedâ€.
A statement by Presidential Spokesman, Mr Olusegun Adeniyi, said â€œfor the avoidance of any doubt, the memo approved by the Federal Executive Council on May 25 this year was for the award of contracts for the Nigeria National College of Petroleum Studies, Kaduna which was established in 1995 by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) â€œfor the training of higher level technical and senior management personnel who are transiting to general management level within the Corporation.â€
The memo, according to him, stated further, â€œthe Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) as an agency of government created for capacity building in the Oil and Gas industry was mandated through letter of 2nd January, 2002 to take over and establish a National College of Petroleum Studies in Kaduna, which will serve the entire Oil and Gas industry and when established will be at par with similar institutions in the world, following the recommendations for the way forward.â€
â€œFrom the documents attached to the memo, a programme of action approved by President Olusegun Obasanjo on April 15, 2002 was for the reactivation of the College of Petroleum Studies Kaduna; upgrade of the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurum; establishment of offshore Technology Development Centres; upgrading the curricula and facilities in universities and polytechnics relevant to the PTDF mandate; capacity building and skill acquisition programmes as well as endowment of petroleum technology related chairs in selected universitiesâ€.
He disclosed that â€œthe PTI Effurum is an institution dear to the Presidentâ€™s heart because of its strategic importance to the development of our oil and gas industry and he is ready to dialogue with all the stakeholders not only on how to make it the world class institution it was conceived to be but also to advance the Niger Delta peace process and hasten his developmental agenda for the peopleâ€.
He added that â€œit is noteworthy that, working in concert with the Amnesty Coordinator, AVM Lucky Ararile, President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s Honourary Adviser on Niger Delta, Mr Timi Alaibe, has, in the last two weeks, made tremendous progress with regard to the amnesty process. Result of these efforts will soon become manifest to all Nigeriansâ€.
â€œPresident Yarâ€™Adua therefore enjoins all the critical stakeholders to enlist for the promotion of peace that would create the enabling environment for the rapid development in the Niger Delta for which he is very much committedâ€, he concluded.