By Emmanuel Aziken
The Niger Delta Women Forum (NDWF) has charged the National Assembly to put aside the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in its present form until the inputs of stakeholders from the oil producing region of the country were built in.
The forum in a statement signed by its National President, Dr. Esther Uduehi, and National Secretary, Lady Chief Mary Nkese Idehen, while lauding South-South governors on their stance on the bill, also condemned the reversal of the upgrade of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) to a university awarding institution.
Expressing their anger at the utterances of the Petroleum Minister, Rilwanu Lukman, that the Federal Governmentâ€™s decision on the reversal was irrevocable, the women called for punitive sanctions on the minister for his alleged lack of tact on the affair.
The women in a communiquÃ© after a meeting in Benin, Edo State, at the weekend, also deplored the domination of the leadership of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) by northerners.
They claimed that it was such domination that gave rise to the lack of sensitivity of the interests of the oil producing South-South in the top leadership of the nationâ€™s petroleum sector.
In their communiquÃ©, the women said:
*Call on the federal government to show sincere and serious commitment and political will towards resolving the problems of the region.
*Commend the governors of the South-South States for their present stand on the some burning issues in the region and urged them to remain united in their resolve.
*Condemn the insensitivity of the federal government for its rather provocative stance and utterances concerning the relocation of the Petroleum University to Kaduna as quoted on page 5 of Vanguard Newspaper of Thursday 23, 2009 to the effect thatâ€¦ â€œ 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 decisionâ€. (underlining ours)
*Demand unreserved apology and punishment for whoever made the provocative statement that wounds the integrity and sensibility of the people of the Niger-Delta.
*Call on the National Assembly to put away the Petroleum Bill in its submitted form and rather go round the communities of the region to seek their first hand input for any meaningful Bill.
*Note with great concern that since the establishment of the PTDF, no person from the region where oil is produced has ever headed it rather it has always been headed by persons from the North.
We believe that it is because the PTDF and the Ministry and indeed the entire petroleum sector are headed by northerners that has generated the desire of the federal government to move the PTI to Kaduna from its natural environment where it has enhanced meaningful teaching and learning of the subject. We therefore demand that the management of the PTDF be removed from Northerners to persons from the region.
*Call on the federal government NOT to move or DUPLICATE the PTI but to leave it where it has been located all this while and to upgrade and expand it in its present location.