By Emmanuel Edukugho
The Federal Governmentâ€™s decision to reverse the upgrading of Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) Effurun, near Warri, to Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE) and relocate it to Kaduna where an existing National College of Petroleum Studies will be transformed to an institution of higher learning (presumably university) has incurred the anger and wrath of Niger Delta people.
The Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE) Effurun, Delta State, was established in March, 2007, in the twilight of President Olusegun Obasanjoâ€™s administration, under a Federal Government initiative to build a specialised university which will produce unique high level manpower and relevant expertise for the oil and gas sector in Nigeria and worldwide.
Envisaged to be the first of its kind in Africa and pace setter globally with state-of-the-art facilities to provide the petroleum and allied sectors, world-class education, training, research, consultancy and extension services.
Now entering its second academic session, with several students admitted for programmes in different departments FUPRE has colleges which include Technology, Science, Engineering, and others.
But suddenly, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its meeting recently presided over by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, approved N14.5 billion for the upgrade of the National College of Petroleum Studies, Kaduna, lifting it up as â€œinstitution of higher learning.â€ It will be responsible for training of management manpower needed in the industry and reversing upgrade of PTI which will now train low level junior cadre manpower required in oil/gas sector.
Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, an indigene of Kaduna State, who heinously masterminded the plot in connivance with President Yarâ€™Adua and the northern political oligarchy was arrogant and nepotic to the hilt, declaring that, â€œthe Kaduna College will train managers, will have a high standard and people will come from all over the Africa and be trained while PTI will be training people from Angola, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, but bulk of this intake must be Nigerians.â€
So far, angry reactions have trailed the decision to upgrade Kaduna College at the expense of PTI.
South-South governors have kicked against the purported relocation of Federal University of Petroleum Resources from Effurun, Delta State, to Kaduna, accusing Rilwanu Lukman as being â€œanti-South-Southâ€. They said the decision was against the interest of the Niger Delta.
Governors Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Godswill Obot Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Liyel Imoke (Cross River) Timpre Sylva (Bayelsa) and Adams Oshiomhole (Edo) have rejected the Federal Government decision.
Students of Delta State origin protested against the relocation of FUPRE, issuing a 7-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to rescind the decision.
The students, drawn from several tertiary institutions, organised a peaceful protest at the Effurun Roundabout, disrupting flow of traffic into and from Warri, Effurun and Port Harcourt.
The National Association of Delta State students and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), said that the relocation plan â€œhas placed a big question mark on the sincerity of Yarâ€™Adua on the all-important issue of amnesty to the freedom fighters in the Niger Delta.â€
National President of Delta State Students was reported saying that the students would have no option â€œthan to mobilise against the provocative plan of the Federal Government, if at the end of the one week ultimatum, it fails to do the right thing by rescinding the decision to take the petroleum university to Kaduna.â€
South-south leaders and Elders Forum, comprised of former governors, retired military officers, legislators, religious leaders, and traditional rulers have condemned the relocation.
Ijaw leader and Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark is disgusted with the reversal particularly the statement credited to Dr. Rilwanu Lukeman, saying the petroleum minister was provocative, arrogant and inflammatory.
Supporting the South-South governorsâ€™ declaration at the Asaba meeting, he said elders and leaders in the region will meet and take a decision on the matter.
Also a militant group which styled itself Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), flayed the relocation and the approval of N14.5 billion for the Kaduna College, while the people of the Niger Delta are suffering, describing the decision as â€œevil wicked, condemnable and a representation of the demented, quality of leadership over the contraption called Nigeria.â€
According to JRC, the move to site the petroleum university in Kaduna was â€œan unrepentant move by the Northern cabal to perpetually put the Niger Delta region down and ensure that they represent a symbol of poverty and lack.â€
The group threatened to attack the petroleum college in Kaduna â€œat the appointed time.â€
In another development ailing leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, (MEND), recently released under an amnesty by the Federal Government, Mr. Henry Okah, in a reaction asked, where were the governors and the ministers when the relocation of the petroleum university was being discussed?
There had been no comments or reactions from ministers who hailed from Niger Delta as they were part of the meetings of the Federal Executive Council which took the decision.
There is no federal tertiary institution whatsoever in Delta State. After many years of educational marginalisation and agitation by the people of the state for a higher institution, the last administration decided to locate a petroleum university in Effurun, near Warri, the hub of the down stream oil industry. Said Mr Stephen Temisan, an engineer who hails from Warri:
â€œPolicy inconsistency and lack of continuity in government decisions have become detrimental to nation building. Every succeeding government dismantling structures put down by previous government due to selfish, ethics, sectional and parochial considerations.â€