By Abdullahi Alhassan, Kaduna
Angry traditional Chiefs/Elders in Delta state have written to president Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to express their disappointment on the call to rename Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State which was contained in a petition written to Mr president by Itsekiri people.
The angry leaders and stakeholders, however described the petition as provocative and misleading.
In a press statement signed by Chief Charles Torusin, Chief Clement Sokoto, Chief Victor Odu, and Chief Ebi Bebenimibo which a copy was sent to Congress correspondent in Kaduna urged the president to ignore the baseless and self-servicing petition and immediately assent to the bill of an act of establishing the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko without further delay.
The statement reads, “Sir, the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko in Gbaramatu kingdom of Warri South West LGA was established amongst other Universities in the twilight of former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.Professor (Mrs.) Ongoebi Maureen Etebu and Mr. Anho Nathaniel Esoghene Lucky were appointed as Vice Chancellor and Registrar respectively through a letter referenced HME/FME/41/X/139, and signed by the then minister for Education, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau in May, 2015.
The statement further explained that “No sooner than former president Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on 29th May, 2015, and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi sworn in as minister for Transportation on 11th November, 2015,was the start of the beginning of what one would term a whirlwind of conspiratorial gang-up headed by Mr.Rotimi Amaechi and his ilks using at some point the Itsekiri Omadino as canon fodder to close-down or halt the funding of the University.
“It may be very relevant to quote Mr, Rotimi Amaechi statements in the above regard on the 19th January, 2016,when he appeared before the Senate committee on Marine transport, headed by Senator Ahmed Sani.
‘’We are not going ahead with the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko project proposed by the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) because we have an institute in Oron, we have Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology, Zaria and we have Nigeria College of Aviation in Zaria, which we could upgrade into a University status and MIMASA is proposing to build a new one’’
He further stated; ‘’Who will attend the university? How many parents will allow their children to go to such a place where it proposes to site the university? I don’t think we are proceeding with the University proposed by NIMASA because it is a waste of resources’’Interestingly, in spite of these vitriolic attacks and condemnations of the establishment of the university, the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko is developing by ‘’leaps and bounds’’.
“The granduants of the institution are already serving in the mandatory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) and the University having had its maiden convocation ceremony.
“At this juncture, one ordinarily would have thought that the unwarranted calls to close down the University would have been abated, which is not the case as evidenced in the Itsekiri Omadino calling on the office of Mr.President to halt the funding of the university.
“According to the petitioner, the university is wrongfully and illegally named as Nigeria Maritime University Okerenkoko. That the lex situs of the University and the larger Okerenkoko lands belongs to the petitioner by virtue of court judgements.
“Furthermore, that they the petitioners have caused EFCC to investigate the dramatis personae (name withheld) for the fraudulent sales and overbloated price of Okerenkoko land and the said dramatis personae is not only moving freely but is also being contractually patronised by the government even as he threatens the Nigeria state and its military with his secessionist agenda.
“The petitioners went further to state that the former Attorney General of the Federation had earlier sent his legal opinion to the National Assembly to rename the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko in accordance with the petitioners prayers to avert ethnic crisis.
And that Mr. President should demonstrate the NADECO spirit in him to halt funding of the University.
Without much ado, there is no- law that turns a man to become a woman vice versa.
“The aboriginal Okerenkoko peoples and their land have always been Okerenkoko from generations past and would always remain Okerenkoko and no foreign name can be foisted on Okerenkoko and her institutions. Okerenkoko Primary school founded in 1955, Okerenkoko Secondary School as well as the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko would continually go by the name Okerenkoko and no other.
“The purportedly obtained fraudulent judgements are pari materia with some other cases that are sub-judice for which the Supreme Court had frowned at judgements obtained against the weight of evidence.
“Furthermore, it suffices to say that there was complete compliance with the procurement Act and law in the acquisition of the twin land for the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko measuring 100.045 hectares and the land for the Ship Building and Ship Repairs measuring 50,280 hectares.
These acquisitions have since been gazetted; Delta state of Nigeria Gazette No.38 Asaba -19th September, 2013 Vol 23 and No.39 Asaba – 26th September, 2013, Vol 23 respectively.
“It is important to state that the procurement/acquisition of the lands, the petitioners seek to rename was consummated over a decade ago and due compensations paid to the people of Okerenkoko for damages of farmlands, Shrines, Fish Ponds etc. One wonders where the petitioners were then.
“Sir, “we are not aware of any dramatis personae whose name(s) is withheld, that is associated with fraudulent sales of Okerenkoko land with overbloated price. For which the petitioners have caused EFCC to investigate the dramatis personae who according to the petitioners, is moving freely around and being contractually patronized by the government even as he threatens the Nigeria state and the military with his secessionist agenda.
“Furthermore, we consider it mischievous and strange for the petitioners to call on Mr.President to demonstrate the NADECO spirit in him,in a case that is clearly driven by reckless ethnic chauvinism.
“We respectfully call on the Federal and State governments and all critical stakeholders to call the petitioners and their known sponsors to order as the Urhobo, Ijaw and Itsekiri natives of Warri territory are an indivisible people.
“As we cannot afford history to repeat itself as in the unreasonable, wasteful and destructive Warri ethnic bloodbath of 1997 and 2003 respectively”.