Since the new minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi announced the cancellation of the Maritime University located in Okerenkoko in Delta State, the people of the Niger Delta have been vocal in condemning the move which they see as an attempt to “punish” the region for not voting for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 elections.
The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), a leading group in the region has written an open letter to President Buhari on the matter.
When Rotimi Amaechi announced the cancellation of the project. He claimed that it was at feasibility study phase. However, pictured of the university buildings under construction exposed the lie of the Federal Government.
Read the full letter below which was signed by the president of IYC, Udengs Eradiri and the spokesman for the association, Eric Omare.
January 22, 2016.
Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR,
President and Commander in Chief,
Federal Republic of Nigeria,
Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
Your Excellency Sir,
PROPOSED CANCELLATION OF MARITIME UNIVERSITY, OKERENKOKO, DELTA STATE
Your Excellency, we write to protest against the ‘proposed cancellation’ of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State as announced by the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi while briefing the Senate Committee on Marine Transport about the activities of his Ministry on Tuesday, the 19th of January, 2016.
According to the Minister: ‘We are not going ahead with the university project proposed by NIMASA because we have an institution in Oron, we have Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology, Zaria, and we have the Nigerian College of Aviation in Zaria, which we could upgrade to a University status and NIMASA is proposing to build a new one’.
Mr. Amaechi is not finished yet, he went further to state: ‘Who will attend the University? How many parent will allow their children to go to such place where it propose to site the University?…’
Mr. President, the reasons advanced by your Minister of Transportation are not only weak, mischievous and misleading, but also highly provocative and inciting. If there is any statement or action that has painted your administration in negative light in Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta region, it is this statement.
Beyond the fact that the university would greatly contribute to the development of high class manpower in the maritime sector in the light of your administration’s efforts to diversify the nation’s economy beyond oil; it would also go a long way to address the aged long marginalization suffered by the people of the Niger Delta Region. The university would no doubt open up the area where it is sited which is in the hinterland of the Niger Delta and help in positively impacting on the life of the people of the area concerned, especially the youths. We cannot be talking of addressing problems of militancy and other associated challenges in the Niger Delta region without giving the people education.
The Maritime University, Okerenkoko is part of the post amnesty development plan of the Niger Delta region. The reasons advanced by the Minister for wishing to cancel the university are not tenable. The fact that there are maritime institutes in Zaria and Oron should not be used as excuse to cancel the university at Okerenkoko. The existing institutes in Zaria and Oron and the university in Okerenkoko have their different roles to play in the development of the very rich but underdeveloped maritime sector in Nigeria. The institutes in Oron and Zaria are meant to train medium class manpower in the maritime sector while the Maritime University, Okerenkoko would train world class technical and managerial manpower.
This would obviously address the problems of capital flight in Nigeria where Nigerians are sent to universities in countries like Philippines, Romania, Egypt and other countries to train at great cost to the country. The existing institutes and university are expected to play complimentary roles in the development of the maritime sector. If this was not the case, then Polytechnics would not have being existing side by side with universities in Nigeria and most importantly, the Petroleum Training Institute, Efffurun, Delta State would no longer exist for the training of medium class manpower in the oil and gas sector with the establishment of the University of Petroleum Resources, Ugbomro, Delta State.
Mr. President, the most ridiculous reason advanced by the Minister is the assertion that parents would not send their children to school at Okerenkoko because of the terrain. This comment is not only ridiculous but also highly provocative and inciting. It would interest your Excellency to note that Okerenkoko Community, Gbaramatu Clan, Delta State is surrounded by several oil installations and platforms such as Egwa 1 Flow station owned by NPDC, Abiteye owned by Chevron, Makarava, Odidi 1 & 11 owned by NPDC, the Chevron Escravos Terminal and several other oil installations. And these oil installations and platforms have several oil workers including foreign expatriates who have been working for several years in that environment even during the period of hostilities in the Niger Delta region. The question is, if oil workers can go to this same environment to explore and exploit oil, why can’t the same place play host to a university that would develop the people and environment?
Contrary to Mr. Amaechi’s assertion, the Okerenkoko environment is a natural location for a maritime university. It is ridiculous for the Minister to suggest that one of the Maritime institutes in Zaria be upgraded to a maritime university.
Is Mr. Rotimi Amaechi saying that the Niger Delta environment is only good for oil exploration and exploitation but not good enough for education and infrastructural development? Is Amaechi saying that the people in the creeks of the Niger Delta region unlike other Nigerians have no right to acquire education and live a decent life? Whose interest is Mr. Amaechi serving or promoting?
Mr. President, Mr. Amaechi is obviously not promoting the interest of your government! He has only succeeded in painting your government as an anti-Niger Delta administration. We of the IYC are shocked that a suggestion not to build a university in the hinterland of the Niger Delta is coming from Mr. Amaechi who is from the same region. We wish to also point out that if allegations of alleged corruption are one of the reasons for the decision, such issues be handled in accordance with the law. It should not be a reason for cancellation of a laudable project.
Mr. Amaechi also stated that the only thing on ground in the Maritime University, Okerenkoko is the feasibility studies and that no work has been done. This is obviously very far from the truth. Apart from the temporary site at Kurutie Community with completed structures, a lot of work has been done at the permanent site of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko.
We hereby attach pictures of work done so far (see pictures on right side of this page). Pictures do not lie and these facts are verifiable and we call on you to set up an independent team comprising of different stakeholders to verify these facts.
The tragedy of this nation has been facilitated and often repeated by politicians driven by sectional, ethnic and other primordial sentiments. The policies and decisions needed in the march to greatness have been sacrificed on the altar of personal, narcissistic and egoistic indulgence to the detriment of the greater good of the nation. We should realize that the elections are long over and it is now time for nation building.
Mr. President, we call on you to reject the proposed decision of the Ministry of Transportation to cancel the Maritime University, Okerenkoko. If it is decision that already has your blessing, we appeal for the reversion of the decision. It is not in the interest of the country and your administration. The decision would only provide justification for hostility in the Niger Delta region towards your administration.
Signed for the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Worldwide:
Eric Omare, Esq.,