By Leke Adeseri, News Editor, Emma Amaize, Chris Ochayi & Oscarline Onwuemenyi
IKEJA â€” THE Governors of the South-South remain adamant on their readiness to pull out of the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty for militants in the Niger Delta since the Government is not adopting measures that would ensure its success.
They spoke on their way to Abuja yesterday after a crucial meeting in Lagos.
The Governors were, last night, locked in a crucial meeting with National Assembly members from the region to lobby against the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill.
According to the Chairman of the South-South Governors, Gov. Liyel Imoke of Cross River state, for them to work for the amnesty scheme, there must be a comprehensive, well-thought out and sustainable policy which they could buy into.
He said that the amnesty must not fail, warning that there could be dire consequences if it did.
â€˜Yar’Adua could bag Nobel Prize over amnestyâ€™
Imoke said President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua could be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize if the amnesty deal succeeded, adding that they had no wish to play politics with the issue.
â€œWe are not trying to politicise it. We have no option but to make it succeed, thatâ€™s why we are passionate about it,â€™â€™ he said.
Imoke regretted that the Niger Delta was the only oil-producing region in the world which had no benefits to show for its resource, noting that in Alaska and Texas, individuals earned royalties.
Amnesty will work â€”Akpabio
Also speaking, Gov. Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom said: â€œamnesty should work; amnesty must work; amnesty will workâ€™â€™
He contended that after announcing the amnesty package for the militants, the next logical step was for the Federal Government to evolve modalities that would guarantee its sustainability.
According to him, their job is to join the President in fine-tuning the programme to ensure that it succeeds.
â€œWe are not fighting the Federal Government, only confronting the issues. It is important to understand the issues,â€™â€™ Akpabio said.
Govs not anti-amnesty â€”Uduaghan
Gov. Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta said they were not against the amnesty, but noted that it could be difficult to persuade the militants to drop their guns if their observations were ignored.
He said there was no point relocating the Petroleum University to Kaduna as the decision to situate it in Effurun was taken by the previous administration.
â€˜N250m set aside for PTI, Effurunâ€™
Uduaghan added that a Vice Chancellor had already been appointed for the university with N250 million earmarked to give it a good start.
â€œThis country belongs to all of us; if all Nigerians believe that what has been done is wrong, the university will come back,â€™â€™ he said.
Uduaghan said that it was untrue that the Federal Government had set aside N50 billion to resettle the repentant militants.
Akpabio said they were not interested in the Federal Governmentâ€™s money but were willing to augment whatever amount it provided.
President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua announced the amnesty deal on June 25, 2009
No plan to relocate PTI â€” PTDF
Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Engr. Muttaqha Rabe Darma, says the furore over the upgrading of the National College of Petroleum Studies, Kaduna, was generated by â€œmisconceptions, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation of the facts by misguided politicians who want to heat up the polity.â€
Addressing a press briefing in Abuja, Darma said that the Fund was committed to the upgrade of the PTI, in Effurun, to enhance its training of lower and middle level manpower for the industry, adding that there were no plans to replicate the institution in Kaduna.
He also noted that the Federal University of Petroleum Studies located in Effurun, Warri, Delta State, still remained in its present location and there were no plans to relocate or undermine the status of the institution.
On the allegation of a Northernisation agenda of the oil and gas industry driven by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Darma, said he was not privy to any information on the purported reform of the petroleum industry.
He said, â€œI am not in a position to comment on the reform bill or anything going on in the ministry, but what I am in a position to tell you is that the upgrade of the PTI, in Effurun, Warri, is aimed at bringing it at par with similar institutions anywhere in the world, and that is what OPEC wants to see for an institution like the PTI.â€
Darma observed that the PTDF has so far spent about N17 billion in the educational, organisational and infrastructural upgrade of the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, Warri for enhanced training of middle-level manpower for the industry.
PTI remains degree-awarding
He said, â€œThe institute is both an educational and a training institution. There is no truth in the claim that we are moving the degree component of the institution to another place or institute.
Kaduna school just an Institute, can’t award degrees
â€œThe upgrade of the National College of Petroleum Studies in Kaduna by the PTDF is to make it more effective to train senior management personnel in the entire oil and gas industry. It remains just a training institution and not an educational institution, and so cannot award degrees. And there are no plans to transform it into a university.â€
It should be noted that the Federal Government last month approved the sum of about N15 billion for the upgrade of facilities at the 14-year old National College of Petroleum Studies, in Kaduna .
According to the executive secretary, the institute would represent to the industry what the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies is to the public service and the National Defence College to the military, even as a target of 97 weeks was set for the completion of the upgrade.
Delta state elders may join militants
Some members of the Delta State Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, among them retired military officers, yesterday, threatened to join the freedom fighters in the creeks if the Federal Government does not review its recent anti-South-South policies and actions.
The group, led by the former Federal Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark at a meeting in Kiagbodo rejected the amnesty programme for militants by the Federal Government, saying the government in collaboration with the Northern oligarchy has a hidden agenda.
They particularly frowned at the statement credited to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman on the relocation of the Federal University of Petroleum and over the Petroleum Industry Bill.
Almost all the leaders who spoke at the meeting accused the Northern elite of being very deceptive, unreliable and that apart from supporting the South-South Governorsâ€™ decision on the amnesty to militants, they may go to the creeks and support the militants in their armed struggle.
The emergency meeting was convened by Chief Clark to deliberate on the statement credited to Alhaji Lukman on the decision to the downgrade the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Warri as well as what they described as obnoxious executive Petroleum Industry Bill.
Govs wonâ€™t pull out â€” Ekaette
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Ufot Ekaette had assured that the South South governors will not pull out of the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty package for the militants, saying the amnesty remains the beautiful concept that would restore permanent peace in the region.
Obong Ekaette who stated this in Abuja yesterday, said the governors are still part of the amnesty deal.
He explained the contentious issue of relocation of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) from Effurun in Delta State to Kaduna State has been resolved.
He said â€œwe are looking for peace in the Niger Delta region to pave the way for the place and its people to experience development, so I donâ€™t think the governors who themselves are agents of peace would pull out of the amnestyâ€.
According to him, â€œthe PTI still remained in Effurun, Delta State and the government has no intention or has taken any decision to downgrade the instituteâ€. He added that, â€œwe should not bring politics into this amnesty package; it is the best thing that has happened in the regionâ€.