The Senate on Tuesday said the establishment of a Maritime University of Nigeria in Niger Delta region to provide manpower needed for the maritime industry was not negotiable.
The position of the Senate was made known by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki yesterday during a one-day public hearing on two bills meant to provide a framework for the university.
In his words, “the establishment of the universities would provide the needed manpower services that would be of great help to the maritime industry in Nigeria.” Saraki said.
Speaking further, he asserted that when established, the university would provide massive employment opportunities for the youths and help to save billions of foreign exchange for the country.
He also said the university would serve as the platform to ferry people abroad for maritime related education in addition to other opportunities of higher education for students.
Saraki challenged Nigerians to take advantage of the industry which he said had denied the country valuable revenues which resulted in stagnation of the cabotage industry in the country.
He said: “The eight Senate is sensitive to the plight of the Niger Delta region. It is expected that given this Maritime University, Okerenkoko a full legal backing, some of the sentiments or resentment which some people have haboured in establishing a university in the Niger Delta there would be increased economic activities and accelerated development.”
At the public hearing Chief Fedude Zimughan, who spoke on behalf of other Ijaw leaders, accused Itsekiri representatives of obtaining a ‘black market’ court judgment, even as he stressed that the judgment in question had been set aside by another court as the hearing would come up soon.
He said: “They got a black market judgment and it cannot stand. The judgment has been set aside. We have filed a brief. It will be prejudicial for us to comment. But it is insulting for them to rubbish us when we took the Itsekiri in when they needed help.
“When the Gbaramatu people became aware of the matter at the Court of Appeal, they applied as parties interested and were rightly joined by the Court of Appeal. The contention of the Gbaramatu people on appeal was upheld by the Court of Appeal. The judgment obtained by Ugborodo people was consequently set aside and the case remitted back to the High Court for trial de novo.”
Mr Edward Ekpoko who spoke on behalf of Itsekiri leaders of Omadino Community, said though they support the establishment of the university, he said the current must however be changed, in line with a court judgment which was given in their favour.
He said: “The Itsekiri people are not opposed to the establishment of the Maritime University. There are three issues that brought us here. The first is the issue of the land. The land is owned by Itsekiri people and supervised by the Olu of Warri. A judgement was given in favour of the Itsekiri.
“This issue has been settled by the judiciary. It was first settled in 1951. In 1975, they appealed the case and it was dismissed by the Supreme Court. We must follow the law. We cannot see the law and do the opposite. The name of the place should be changed to Okerenghigho and not Okerenkoko.”
Registrar of the University, Mr Nathaniel Anho, who stood in for the Vice Chancellor, took sides with Ijaw leaders and urged the Senate not to relocate the institution.
In his intervention, the Senate Committee chairman on Tertiary Education, Senator Barau, said lawmakers will do the right thing and find a way to resolve the lingering differences.
Barau said: “We will do the right thing. We will get the best judgment to this issue. No one is against the establishment of this school. The bone of contention is the location of the school and the issue will be adequately addressed by the Senate.”