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NMU OKERENKOKO: Gbaramatu Chiefs Sends Strong Warning to President Buhari

OPEN LETTER TO MR PRESIDENT

His Excellency,

Muhammadu Buhari, GCON,

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,

Aso Rock,

Abuja.

Mr. President,

SPANNERS THROWN AT KICK-OFF WORKS OF THE NIGERIAN MARITIME UNIVERSITY, OKERENKOKO AND ALLEGED PLANS TO RELOCATE ITS SHIP DOCKYARD: CALL ON MR. PRESIDENT TO AVERT FURTHER CRISES IN THE NIGER-DELTA

A: INTRODUCTION

Your Excellency, your determination to address issues of legitimate agitations in the Niger Delta appeared to find full expression when you detailed the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, who recently embarked on a fact-finding mission to the Niger Delta. We appreciate. You will recall, Your Excellency, that the visits by the Vice President were against the spectre of Oil Facility vandalism that brought the fortunes of our oil-based national economy to worrisome low.

The Vice President’s fact-finding visits availed the people of the Niger Delta an opportunity to voice developmental concerns for which the region had been restive with dire consequences for the national economy and unity of Nigeria. Indeed, the visits of the Vice President built, nay rekindled, the confidence of the Niger Delta people on President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowed determination to address issues of the Niger Delta region. One of the major issues laid before the Vice President by several stakeholders including the Chief E. K. Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, in its 16-point demand, was the take-off of academic activities at the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU), Okerenkoko. After visiting Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, and satisfied with structures he inspected in the temporary site at Kurutie also in Gbaramatu Kingdom of Warri South-West Local Government Area, Prof. Osinbajo made a Presidential declaration, emphasizing that “the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU), Okerenkoko was a done deal”. Among other things, this declaration occasioned relative peace that has not only improved the image of the Niger Delta region but shot up oil production capacity that is already going in the direction of ameliorating Nigeria’s challenging economic times.

B: SPANNERS THROWN AT KICK-OFF WORKS OF NMU, OKERENKOKO

Against the Presidential peace initiative of declaring NMU, Okerenkoko a done deal, the Ijaw nation, especially the Gbaramatu Ijaw people had envisaged the commencement of academic activities in September/October 2017. There is presently, however, palpable apprehension that hopes of a take-off of academic activities in 2017 may not be realized over alleged positions in some quarters that the National Assembly was yet to pass the enabling bill of the institution to law, among other claims.

We were aware and hence see, in the foregoing scenario, the handiwork of anti-progressive forces in Mr. President’s cabinet in collaboration with some wizardry centrifugal forces which we had ignored but who were all the while interested in the ‘death’ of the NMU, Okerenkoko! Otherwise, there is no basis for people to pursue halting the take-off of the NMU, Okerenkoko which had long secured approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and was indeed established pursuant to a subsisting Act of the National Assembly, the NIMASA Act 2007. In the specific enabling law for the institution, the bill is already at the Committee stage. At the Public Hearing organized by the Committee on January 31st, 2017, the Senate leadership voiced its determination to leave no stone unturned in ensuring the bill for the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, is passed to law. Indeed, the Senate’s resolve appear bolstered by the fact that while some countries like Norway, Sweden and especially the Philippines have scores of Maritime Institutions including several universities, Nigeria with vast water resources, was only now contemplating the take-off of one Maritime University!

Your Excellency, driven by your determination to change the fortunes of the Niger Delta, we trust you will ensure the kick-off of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, which already enjoys the approval of FEC with a Vice Chancellor and other principal officers already appointed. While there are several examples of institutions in similar circumstance of Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko which His Excellency is aware of, for the general public, let us cite an example: The Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE), like NMU, Okerenkoko, is a specialized University the first of its kind in Nigeria, 6th of its type in the world! FUPRE had FEC approval in 2007 and by 2008, it had its first matriculation ceremony! In March 13 – 14, 2017, FUPRE had its first convocation ceremony/10th year anniversary combining several sets of graduates! Its enabling Act from the National Assembly came only recently in November 2016 and is yet to have Presidential assent!

Your Excellency, it is against this background that we urge you to ensure the kick-off of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko in September/October 2017.

C: PLANS TO RELOCATE SHIP DOCKYARD COMPONENT OF THE NMU, OKERENKOKO TO DISTANT TERRITORY

Your Excellency, we wish to notify you and the world about plans by the anti-progressive elements in your government to relocate the Ship Dockyard, the Laboratory of sorts to the NMU, Okerenkoko, to Koko distance away in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State! In their unbridled desire to ‘kill’ the institution, they do not mind compromising the national interest! A historical background may help throw light on the folly of this ill-advised move. The concept of a Nigerian Maritime University was mooted in August 2012 at a Presidential Retreat on the maritime sector convened by President Goodluck Jonathan to unlock the potentials of the Maritime sector in the overall development of the economy. A major fallout of the Presidential Retreat was the need to establish a Maritime University for the development of manpower, job and wealth creation opportunities for the Maritime sector. Accordingly, request by the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMT) for a Maritime University vide letter No. TPROC/NIMASA/P/C/653/1/78 of Dec 24, 2013 got anticipatory Presidential approval vide PRES/99/MT/161/81/SGF/-3/578 of 27 Dec 2013. It was in furtherance of this anticipatory approval that NIMASA began efforts towards establishing a degree-awarding Maritime University capable of producing International Maritime Organization (IMO) -recognised professionals in the sector. To meet this need, the Federal Ministry of Transport on 17/1/2014 constituted an inter-Ministerial Agency/Committee with membership drawn from the FMT, NIMASA, Nigerian University Commission (NUC) and other experts. The NMU, Okerenkoko, is thus designed as a multi-institutional complex on a large expanse of land containing the NMU, Okerenkoko and the Ship Dockyard component to perfect learning and make the university meet IMO standards.

Against the backdrop of the concept and goals of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, it is ill-intended, wizardry, evil, demonic, and hence unacceptable for the Ship Dockyard component of the NMU, Okerenkoko, to be relocated to a distant territory on the alleged fallacious claim that the rivers are not deep enough! This is ridiculous against the background that painstaking tests established the area around Okerenkoko in Gbaramatu Kingdom to be deep enough for the Deep Sea Port of the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) project! Mr. President, should it not shock you that the same river proposed as the Deep Sea Port of the EPZ project is the same river held out by the anti-progressive elements in your government as being, at once, too shallow for the Ship Dockyard component of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko?

D: OUR APPEAL

We wish to appeal to Mr. President to issue the appropriate directives so that academic activities can commence in September/October 2017 while the National Assembly expedites action on translating the NMU, Okerenkoko bill to law.

George Santayana, a Spanish American philosopher noted that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (1905) or in a paraphrased version, former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill said: “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it”. The avoidable crisis occasioned by the relocation of the headquarters of Warri South-West Local Government Area (LGA) from Ogbe-Ijoh, an Ijaw area to Ogidigben, an Itsekiri territory 20 years ago remains fresh even though there has been great mileage in living together in mutual respect. Your Excellency, those who seek this relocation of the Ship Dockyard of the NMU, Okerenkoko, have not forgotten the past/history that Santayana is referring to. They remember the crisis that attended the relocation of the headquarters of Warri South-West LGA from Ogbe-Ijoh to Ogidigben but are in deliberate move to repeat similar scenario and cause avoidable crisis just to achieve the ‘death’ of NMU, Okerenkoko, having failed in using other ploys to stop it. In stoking fires, Your Excellency, the anti-progressive elements not only want to give your administration a bad name, they are angling to keep the oil-rich Niger Delta area restive to promote their evil agenda of advancing the economic adversity of Nigeria.

We call on President Muhammadu Buhari, GCON, to urgently consider our concerns and kindly move the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, beyond rhetoric to reality by directing the immediate commencement of academic activities in the institution.

Thank you for your prompt intervention to enable us taste the transforming power of education.

God bless.

Signed:

For Gbaramatu Traditional Council:

Chief J. G. B. Ari, The Puwei of Gbaramatu Kingdom

Chief Godspower Gbenekama, The Ibe-Benemowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom

Chief Nelson Ogelegbanwei, The Tonwei of Gbaramatu Kingdom

Chief Clark Gbenewei, The Tubainghanwei of Gbaramatu Kingdom

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