Ijaw youths under the aegis of Ijaw Youth Council(IYC). have appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari over the decision to scrap the Maritime University at Okerenkoko, Delta State.
In a letter to Buhari, the youths argued that the university would address the age-long marginalisation of the Niger Delta region; develop manpower in the maritime sector and help the Federal Government in its efforts to diversify the economy.
According to them they were disturbed by the proposed cancellation of the university by the Minister of Transportation and former Governor of Rivers State, Chief Rotimi Amaechi.
In the letter signed by the President of IYC , Mr. Udengs Eradiri, and the council’s Secretary, Mr. Eric Omare, the youths dismissed the reasons for the cancellation of the university by Amaechi.
They pointed out that the reasons which Amaechi gave when he briefed the Senate Committee on Marine were weak, mischievous, misleading, highly provocative and inciting.
The youths noted that scrapping the university would portray Buhari’s government in negative light and provide justification for fresh militancy in the region.
The letter read in part “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.”
IYC said Amaechi’s position that the country already had similar institutions in Zaria and Oron was not tenable adding that the university in Okerenkoko was designed to play different roles in the sector.
The youths further posited that instead of relying on allegations of corruption to cancel the university project, such allegations should be investigated and resolved in line with the rule of law.
The letter read further “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.
“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.”
They added: “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”.
The youths argued that it was not true that there was no work done at the permanent site of the university apart from the feasibility studies.