EXXON MOBIL RELOCATION SAGA: HOW MINISTER OF EDUCATION BLOCKED AKS FROM HAVING A FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

Anam Emem

A. 1 At the creation of AKWA Ibom State from the erstwhile Cross River State in September, 1987, the Federal Government of Nigeria promptly shared the assets of the former State between the two new States, except two major assets – the defunct Calabar Polytechnic in Calabar and the defunct University of Cross River State (UNICROSS) in Uyo. These two Educational Institutions remained co -owned till 1991, when the Polytechnic, in Calabar, was finally given to Cross River State and UNCROSS, in Uyo given to Akwa Ibom State, as their respective shares.

The Polytechnic (which was originally given to Cross River State) metamorphosed into the present Cross River State University of Technology ( owned by Cross River State Government ) while UNICROSS ( which was originally given to Akwa Ibom State) metamorphosed into the present University of Uyo ( owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria ). See the picture?

I began my academic career as a young Graduate Assistant ( then, we were called Teaching Assistants ) in the defunct UNICROSS, in January, 1986.
A. 2 The then self styled Military President of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Badimosi Babangida ( IBB) paid an official visit to Akwa Ibom State in 1991 during his Military Regime. IBB was given a tumultuous welcome by Akwa Ibom people who poured into Uyo ( the Capital City of the State) from every part of the State, which IBB himself created, to welcome him.

A. 3 At a State Banquet organised by the Government and people of Akwa Ibom State in honour of President Babangida and his entourage in Ibom Hall, along Babangida Avenue in Uyo, the President and Head of the Federal Government of Nigeria, among other things, publicly announced that the Federal Government of Nigeria was going to establish a new Federal University of Technology in Akwa Ibom State, as the State had no such Federal Institution ( University, Polytechnic or College of Education ). The President explained that the action was to create and provide more opportunities for University Education for Nigerians in these parts of the country. IBB made the pronouncement at about 11pm that night. I remember that the whole of Uyo broke into a very joyous jubilation that night because of Presidential pronouncement.

A. 4 That joy was, however, very short lived. The shocker came in just a matter of days following the President’s pronouncement, that Akwa Ibom State was to have a Federal University of Technology. IBB’s Minister of Education subsequently told the world that Akwa Ibom State was not qualified to have two Universities – a Federal University of Technology and a State University. He indicated that the Federal Government would take over and convert UNICROSS in Uyo ( which was given to Akwa Ibom State as its share of the assets of the erstwhile Cross River State, just as the Polytechnic in Calabar was given to the new Cross River State ) into a Conventional Federal University. He insisted that the Federal University of Technology pronounced by the President would not be created.

A. 5 A young Lecturer at the time, I remember the principled struggles and protests the late Professor I. I. Ukpong led us through over the matter. I remember the series of meetings we had with the late Dr Clement Nyong Isong, the late Ntisong Sebastian Umoren and many other Elders of the State, to seek their blessings for our stated cause concerning Akwa Ibom State. I remember all the strenuous efforts and energy we exerted to prevail on the Honourable Minister of Education to change his mind on the matter, all to no avail. Professor George Sylvester Ibe-Bassey and Dr. Edet Peter Akpan of the University of Uyo cannot easily forget that experience, as we were all together in the forefront of the struggle.

A. 6 The Honourable Minister stamped his feet and successfully blocked the establishment of a Federal University of Technology in Akwa Ibom State, as publicly announced by his boss, the President. The Minister of Education who dealt this blow on Akwa Ibom State was a renowned Professor from South- West Nigeria. According to the Minister, Akwa Ibom State was not good enough to have two Universities, when virtually all the States in the Minister’s South -West enclave had couples of such public Universities, in addition to public Polytechnics,etc. Some of those States now have upwards of 9 – 12 Universities.

In the case of Akwa Ibom State, the Federal Government took over UNICROSS with all its assets ( land, buildings, vehicles and machines, equipment, furniture, etc., annexed the defunct Akwa Ibom School of Arts and Science, Uyo ) and renamed all, University of Uyo. No compensation was paid to Akwa Ibom State. Conversely, the sister Cross River State converted its Calabar Polytechnic into a State University of Technology, and kept this, in addition with the Federal University of Calabar.

B. THIS TAKES ME TO MATTER ON HAND – THE RELOCATION OF MOBIL HEADQUARTERS
B. 1 For decades now, Akwa Ibom State has justifiably requested and demanded that Mobil Producing Nigeria ( MPN ) relocates its Headquarters from Lagos, in South – West Nigeria to Akwa Ibom State where MPN takes crude, solely. Akwa Ibom State has made considerable effort in this direction. Our father, His Excellency, Obong Victor Attah even convened and hosted a meeting of the Conference of Mayors over the matter during his tenure as Governor of the State. The relocation of MPN’s Headquarters to Akwa Ibom State has been blocked ever since.

B. 2 During his very recent official visit to Akwa Ibom State on March 2, 2017, the Vice President ( then, Acting President) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, directed the Honourable Minister of Petroleum to engage with International Oil Companies ( in this case, MPN ) with a view to having them relocate their Headquarters to their respective operational Bases.

B. 3 As widely reported in the Media, MPN has, characteristically kicked against the move, insisting that it cannot move its Headquarters from Lagos to Akwa Ibom State. Usual flimsy excuses have been advanced.
B. 4 As far as the standby anti- Akwa Ibom forces in the South- West are concerned, Akwa Ibom State is not qualified to host MPN Headquarters, but (only) qualified to yield crude for MPN operations in Lagos. Just like Akwa Ibom State was not qualified to have two Universities. Just like, according to entranced forces in the South- West, Engr Ita Awak ( an Akwa Ibom man ) is not qualified to be appointed Director, Airworthiness Services in the NCAA. The other time, it was a Military Governor of South- West extraction, posted to Akwa Ibom State on Military Duty, who told us ( right on Akwa Ibom soil ), that Akwa Ibom people were not qualified to work in MPN.

B. 5 For me, the ill treatment MPN is meting out to Akwa Ibom State over this matter is nothing short of a form of modern day slavery and a rape on the dignity of the State and its entire people. Akwa Ibom State and its people cannot continue to suffer this kind of cheating, exploitation, tax revenue diversion and deprivation, injustice and indignity any longer. ENOUGH SHOULD BE ENOUGH.

B. 6 Akwa Ibom State should take full advantage of the recent directive of the Federal Government on the matter, and insist that MPN relocates its Headquarters to the State. Truth be told, the average Akwa Ibom person is very mild in his approach to issues. Widespread experience shows that many others, erroneously, take this for timidity and imbecility. They take undue advantage of this situation in dealing with us as a people. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT MPN AND THE ANTI- AKWA IBOM FORCES IN THE SOUTH- WEST ARE DOING. Shell Petrol Development Company ( SPDC) Headquarters and operations are in Port Harcourt- Warri axis of Rivers and Delta States, not in Lagos.

B. 7 Akwa Ibom State Government ( the Executive and the Legislature, as an Assembly of representatives of the people ) should rise appropriately to the occasion, to get this matter finally settled. We cannot continue to postpone to tomorrow ( and leave for our children ), actions and tasks we should ( and can ), decisively execute today. What is good for Lagos, South- West Nigeria is good for Akwa Ibom, South- South Nigeria.

B. 8 In their respective coveted positions and capacities as the Leaders and Heads of the Executive and Legislative Arms of the Akwa Ibom State Government, I respectfully call the attention of Mr Udom Gabriel Emmanuel and Rt Hon Onofiok Luke to this urgent and critical call to duty. We lost the Federal University of Technology (and indeed, our State University, UNICROSS) because the Government and people of Akwa Ibom State did not act decisively, despite our strenuous efforts in the University to motivate them at our modest levels.

Till date, Akwa Ibom State is still struggling to set up a functional University of its own. If Akwa Ibom State Government and people cannot cause MPN to relocate its Headquarters to Akwa Ibom State, they can occupy MPN facilities in the State and cause MPN to leave the State and completely relocate to Lagos. We are in a democracy, so MPN and forces in the South-West Zone of Nigeria cannot continue to treat Akwa Ibom State in South-South Nigeria with this kind of rude contempt.

B. 9 For who he is, we respectfully urge Professor Yemi Osinbajo to ensure that the directive of the Federal Government of Nigeria on the relocation of IOCs Headquarters which he gave in his capacity as Acting President on March 2, 2017, is carried out, and that, expeditiously. We cannot have genuine and real peace in the Niger Delta Region, particularly in Akwa Ibom State, with the MPN Headquarters in Lagos. Let the sense of justice and fair play prevail, please.

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