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THE PLACE OF OKERENKOKO IN GBARAMATU KINGDOM

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The Nigerian Maritime University, is located in Okerenkoko community, in Gbaramatu kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, Nigeria. Gbaramatu Kingdom is an Ijaw speaking area in the Escravos River.

The Escravos River is virtually known for its shipping, oil and gas and inland water-borne transportation in Nigeria.  Gbaramatu kingdom is made up of several communities one of which is Okerenkoko community. Okerenkoko community is  sufficiently proximate to the famous Escravos Tank Farm and Terminal, operated by NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture, and the Atlantic Ocean, which is about 35 nautical miles from Warri, the nearest urban centre. Indeed, it will take about forty-five minutes by speed boat and less than ten minutes by helicopter from Warri to the University site.

It may be interesting to quickly observe here that Okerenkoko community in Gbaramatu cingdom by its unique location opens into the Atlantic Ocean, through the Escravos River is a route for ocean going vessels engaged in the oil and gas industry which has been the mainstay of the Nigerian economy.

It needs to be stated that, though by this day, the popular means of accessing Okerenkoko is by Water Transportation, this may not be for long when the ongoing Warri to Escravos road scheme, which is the Omadino –Okerenkoko- Escravos Tank Farm Road Project, is successfully executed. The road project is being undertaken by the Federal Government through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and when completed, will make Okerenkoko Community, and indeed, Gbaramatu Kingdom, accessible by road, from Warri in a matter of minutes.

Gbaramatu Kingdom is rich in Crude oil and gas resources. This is evidenced by the presence of several integrated and adjoining crude oil fields, being operated by both the national and multinational companies, with combined daily crude oil production capacity that runs into several hundreds of thousands.  These Oil Fields/Stations include:  Abiteye, Utonana, Makaraba, Dibi, operated by Chevron Nigeria Limited, as well as Jones Creek, Odidi I & II, Egwa I & II, all operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) but has recently been taken over by the state owned Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC). Also, Opumami and Okpoko fields operated by Elf but now Con oil.

We want to place it on record that Gbaramatu Kingdom plays host to all offshore operations of Chevron Nigeria Limited in the River Escravos offshore. Therefore, we state without any equivocation whatsoever that, the Gbaramatu-Escravos area has been increasingly reputed as a global business centre that has contributed immensely, and is still contributing to the wealth of this nation, even before the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria. We have no doubt that it has the potential of continuing into the future.

The economic potential of this area as well as its strategic maritime endowments was never lost on the government of Nigeria hence the giant stride taken by the Tafawa Balewa government, in the first Republic (1960-1966) to dredge the Escravos River estuary at a cost of about 2.47 million Pounds. The contract for the dredging was awarded to a foreign firm named Constain . The scope of this project was reported to have included the construction of a nine-kilometre long mole from the mainland and another island mole of a kilometre in length, to keep the entrance of the Escravos River perpetually navigable to provide enabling operational environment for commerce in the Delta, and to provide access for Warri, Burutu, Sapele and Koko Ports, as well as thoroughfare for oil and gas facilities.

It is in furtherance of this development that the Federal Government, under the leadership of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR decided to site the nation’s pioneer maritime university, the Nigerian Maritime University, at Okerenkoko. The Federal Government approved the establishment of the University at its Executive Meeting held on May 9th, 2015. Thereafter, the management of the University were appointed, with a view to commencing academic activities in the 2015/2016 academic session, at a take-off campus located in Kurutie, Gbaramatu Kingdom. This take-off campus, it must be mentioned, has been developed, with world class facilities and infrastructure, to serve this purpose. The pictorial view of the facilities and infrastructure are hereby attached as annexures.

The choice of location and subsequent establishment of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, we are aware, followed a thorough and rigorous process in accordance with extant laws and regulations on the subject matter.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), as part of its remit for the establishment of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, empanelled, a team of world class academics, professionals and Industry experts, to develop the Academic Brief and Curriculum for the University. This assignment which was completed within record time, gave rise to the formal ground-breaking ceremony performed by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR on May 10, 2014, and eventual approval by the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) on May 9, 2015.

RELEVANCE OF THE NIGERIAN MARITIME UNIVERSITY AT OKERENKOKO

(i) The establishment of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, should be seen as one of the measures being taken by the Federal Government in addressing the nation’s yawning gaps in the development of professional, human capital and technical resources in the globally competitive maritime industry. This should be seen from the prism of the Nation’s deficit in the world’s maritime economy. According to industry sources Nigeria needs not less than 150,000 personnel to service the nation’s maritime industry as opposed to the current figure of about 1000 qualified personnel. This   places Nigeria on a dependency scale for foreign nationals and operators who dominate the system. Need we mention that the dominance of our marine environment by foreign nationals have serious security implication for Nigeria, the Gulf of Guinea and the West African sub-region.

(ii) Another dimension to the predominance of foreign nationals on our shores is the massive capital flight arising from the engagement of foreign shipping facilities, agencies, and personnel, which ultimately, may impede the full realization of the benefits of the Nigeria’s Cabotage Regime. It is our humble view that the establishment of the University is an appropriate and timely remedy for the nation’s deficit in the maritime industry.

(iii) It must also be placed on record that the global maritime economy has become increasingly knowledge-driven, necessitating the production of local high-level professionals imbued with requisite dosage of nationalism and patriotism. Nigeria has over 140 Universities; none is a Maritime University. This lopsided state of affairs in our educational system contrast sharply with what is obtainable in less endowed maritime nations of the World. For instance, Philippines have 44 Maritime Universities; India, 26; United Kingdom, 16; and Bangladesh, 14.

(iv) The location of the Nigerian Maritime University at Okerenkoko, in Gbaramatu Kingdom, on the Escravos River, the epicentre of the country’s economic heartbeat of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, will bring honour, pride, and national prestige to the entire country, and peace, development and a sense of belonging to the downtrodden peoples of the Niger Delta Region, who contribute to the bulk of the resources of this country but gets little or nothing in return. The Mission of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, as a citadel of technical and engineering knowledge, it is hoped, is to transform the maritime resources into renewable and inexhaustible wealth, create jobs and enterprises and fortify Nigeria’s international trade and national sovereignty.

(v) The prospects of academic development and expansion of the University is assured in the uniqueness of the institution as the premier citadel of learning in the globally competitive and economically buoyant maritime industry. As has already been pointed out, the maritime sector of the Nigerian economy is grossly underdeveloped and under-sourced. Accordingly, the products of the University have a huge market and employment opportunities awaiting them. This is a major incentive that will attract students and staff.

(vi) The establishment of the Nigerian Maritime University will promote education among the indigenes of Niger Delta. The Nigerian Maritime sector has huge potentials requiring high level skills to drive it, and it is our firm belief that the University would improve Nigeria’s capacity and manpower in the sector. The Institution would bring development to the oil and gas communities in the Niger Delta, and curb youth restiveness, by creating employment for youths in the region, and Nigeria, at large. This institution will also encourage advancement in learning, offer academic and professional programmes leading to the attainment of world class diplomas, degrees and other professional certifications.

LITIGATIONS BETWEEN ITSEKIRIS AND GBARAMATU IJAWS

We cannot end this presentation, without drawing the attention of the distinguished Senators  to the cases between Gbaramatu Ijaws and her Itsekiri neighbours relating to ownership of communal lands. There is need to give clarification to this matter in view of the penchant of the Itsekiris to bandy these cases when issues relating to the development of these areas are raised.

The Itsekiris have repeatedly referred to and relied on judgments they had obtained in cases they instituted against the people of Gbaramatu kingdom in the past. Recently they relied on the judgment in Suit No SC/294/70 between James Uluba & Ors v. Chief E. E. Sillo & Ors an appeal that arose from the judgment of Hon. Justice Obaseki of the High Court, Warri, Midwestern State of Nigeria in Suit No W/29/1951. However, the Itsekiris relitigated this case at the High Court Warri in Suit No W/143/84 between Mr. Thomas E. Ugbameta & Ors (for themselves and on behalf of Omadino Community) v. James Uluba & 2 Ors (for themselves and on behalf of Okerenkoko). The outcome of this suit was that the trial high court presided by Onurhorho J. dismissed the claim of the Omadino people and also dismissed the counter claim of the Okerenkoko people. This legal outcome leaves the contending parties in the status quo ante belum.

But to put the records straight, the Itsekiris, particularly, the Ugborodo people went to court again in Suit No W/124/76 wherein they claimed certain declaratory and injunctive reliefs, relying on their trumped up history of “first settlement”. They claimed that all Gbaramatu Towns and villages are on their land. They relied on a survey plan covering the entire Escravos area without reflecting the said Gbaramatu Towns and Villages in this bogus litigation plan. Judgment was once again obtained by the Itsekiris and that judgment gave birth to four different appeals at the Court of Appeal, Benin City. These appeals were consolidated by the Court of Appeal as Appeals No: CA/B/228/79; CA/B/228A/79; CA/B/228B and CA/B/228C. It may interest the distinguished Senators to know that Gbaramatu people were not part and parcel of the trial of the Ugborodo claims at the High Court as they were not made parties by the Ugborodo people even when the land presently occupied by the Gbaramatu people was at stake. 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 and the judgment obtained by Ugborodo people was consequently set aside and the case remitted back to the High Court for trial de novo.

It is not out of place to state here that the judgment of the Court of Appeal has been appealed by the Ugborodo people to the Supreme Court in Suit No SC/612/2015. Along with Ugborodo people two other appeals have been lodged by aggrieved parties to the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Suits No: SC/358/2015 and SC/476/2015 respectively.

As it were, the legal battle is ongoing and it would be clearly prejudicial to comment on these cases as to their merit or otherwise. But suffice to say that it will be out of place for the Itsekiris and/or anybody to rely on these cases to lay claim to exclusive ownership of the land in question and/or label others as ‘impostors’ with respect to dealings on the land.

We want to place it on record that the entire land area acquired by the Federal Government of Nigeria for the permanent site of the University Campus and other facilities thereto at Okerenkoko, were legally acquired and due process observed. The whole process was very transparent in that the land was surveyed in the open, advertised for acquisition, the owners were identified, field inspection undertaken before compensation was paid to the rightful owners being the Okerenkoko Community in Gbaramatu Kingdom.

We are humbly of the view that what is important at the moment is for the concerned Deltans particularly the Ijaws, Itsekiris, Urhobos, Isokos, Ndokwas, Ikas, Oshimilis/Aniochas and Ukwanis to collaborate in peace building efforts and development of the Niger Delta for the betterment of its people as the establishment of this unique university will serve the greater interest of the entire Niger Delta, Nigeria and beyond.

 SUMMARY/CONCLUSION

We want to humbly crave the indulgence of distinguished Senators to conclude and to say unequivocally that we give our firm support to the bill for the establishment of Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko in that-

(i). The idea of establishing a tertiary educational institution in Gbaramatu Kingdom was adopted by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration as a critical component in the road map to sustainable development of the Niger Delta Region.

(ii) The establishment of Nigeria Maritime University Okerenkoko is in line with global best practices by countries who are endowed with maritime resources such as Nigeria.

(iii). The establishment of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, was facilitated by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

(iv).May 10, 2014: President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, performed the Ground-breaking Ceremony for the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko.

(v). May 13, 2015: The Federal Executive Council, under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, approved the establishment of the NMU at Okerenkoko, with Take-off campus at Kurutie, Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West LGA, Delta State, having satisfied the extant requirements of NUC and the Federal Ministry of Education.

(vi). May 22 and 26, 2015: Four Principal Officers of the NMU, namely, Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Bursar and Librarian were appointed as primary management team of the University.

(vii). June 6, 2015: The management team of the University was given a rousing welcome by the Gbaramatu Kingdom, first, at Oporoza, the Headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, and subsequently,  resumed duty at the Take-off Campus of the University at Kurutie.

(viii). NUC Listing: The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko was listed as the 41st Federal University in Nigeria, in the NUC monthly bulletin 2015.

(ix). Budgetary Provision for NMU: The 2015 Appropriation for NIMASA had a provision of N2Billion for the take-off of the NMU.

(x). Benefits of NMU include:

a. building capacity of Nigerians in the maritime industry;

b. arresting capital flight in sending Nigerians abroad for maritime education;

c. attracting foreign direct investment as earlier mentioned;

d. playing critical role in re-integration phase of the Presidential Amnesty Programme; and 

e. Providing employment for youth of the Niger Delta, and Nigerians as a whole.

(xi). Road Link to Okerenkoko: The NDDC is currently implementing the Omadino – Okerenkoko – Escravos Tank Farm  Road Project, which, when completed, will provide road access from Warri to Okerenkoko, in a matter of minutes.

(xii). Take-off Campus: Take-off Campus has been fully developed to support the immediate take-off of NMU.

Thank You.

A MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED TO THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS AND TETFUND, IN SUPPORT OF A BILL FOR AN ACT TO ESTABLISH THE NIGERIAN MARITIME UNIVERSITY, OKERENKOKO AND FOR OTHER MATTERS CONNECTED THERETO 2016 (SB.295) BY THE GBARAMATU KINGDOM, WARRI SOUTH WEST LGA, DELTA STATE, ON TUESDAY JANUARY 31, 2017.

FOR AND ON BEHALF OF GBARAMATU KINGDOM, WARRI SOUTH WEST LGA. DELTA STATE OF NIGERIA.

SIGNED:

  1.  CHIEF WELLINGTON OKIRIKA

(BOLOUWEI OF GBARAMATU KINGDOM)

  1. CHIEF GOD’S POWER GBENEKAMA

(BENIMOWEI OF GBARAMATU KINGDOM)

  1.  CHIEF BARR. EBIKEME BOSIN

( DIGBOLOMOWEI OF GBARAMATU KINGDOM)

  1.  COMRADE PAUL BEBENIMIBO
  1.  CHIEF DAN EKPEBIDE

(IBAKUROWEI OF GBARAMATU KINGDOM)

  1. CHIEF JAMES TAMGBUWEI

(CHAIRMAN OF OKERENKOKO FEDERATED COMMUNITIES)

  1.  CHIEF DENNIS OTUARO

(IBE-UYADONWEI OF GBARAMATU KINGDOM)

  1. CHIEF VERO TAMGBUWEI

(IBE-UYADONERE OF GBARAMATU KINGDOM)

  1. CHIEF WILLIAM ITIMA
  1. ALFRED MULADE
  1. EMMANUEL IMELEYE

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