ON Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari rejected the bill for the establishment of Maritime University of Nigeria, Okerenkoko, sponsored in 2016 to establish a higher educational institution in Delta State.
In a letter sent to the Senate, the president explained that his decision not to sign it into law is as a result of the excessive source of funding proposed for the university.
“I am declining my assent to the bill because the funding provisions are grossly excessive and will disrupt the operation of a number of government agencies and institutions,” he said.
However, The ICIR observes that the Maritime University already has been accredited by the National University Commission (NUC) since 2018 and has been in operation. Former president Goodluck Jonathan had commissioned the project in 2014.
In January 2018, the vice chancellor, Ongoebi Etebu, disclosed that the NUC approved three faculties for the institution: Marine Transport, Engineering, and Environmental Management. The professor said it was also given the go-ahead to admit Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination candidates.
A statement by the senior special assistant on media and publicity to the vice president, Laolu Akande, released months later revealed that 196 students were accepted to commence lectures in April.
“The Delta State government has also donated two 500KVA generators to the University,” the statement said. “The Maritime University was recently granted approval in January by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to commence undergraduate degree programmes effective from the 2017/2018 academic session.
“The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) had listed the University in its Central Admissions Processing System in January 24, 2018, while interviews for academic staff positions were conducted between 1st and 2nd of March, 2018.”
According to the 2018 budget, the national assembly approved a take-off grant of N3.4 billion for the university as part of the education ministry’s projects.
In spite of the accreditation and funding, however, the university’s website is not up yet. “A new WordPress site, coming soon,” is the message on its home page as of writing this report.
Among other things, the bill to establish the maritime university also makes provisions for its constitution and functions. Sections 2 and 8, as well as the first schedule, provide for the vice chancellor office; and section 10 provides for the admission of students.
But, especially with the president’s latest decision not to pass it, it remains unclear under what laws the university is currently operating.
The Ijaw Youth Council, in November, lamented that the school is on “the verge of collapse”, “in a sorry state” and has been “completely abandoned”.
“As we speak now, majority of the staff have deserted the school as the institution is unable to pay its staff for many months, while the Vice Chancellor of the institution is moving round the country sourcing for funds,” the president, Roland Pereotubo Oweilaemi, said in a statement.
“What we found out on our visit is an eyesore. The generating plant that has been supplying power to the institution is not working as the management has no finance to buy diesel. Students and the staff are living in hell in the school building because there is no light. Water supply to the school has stopped because there is no light to pump water.
“President Buhari should, as a matter of urgency, release funds for the school. We will vehemently resist any move to scrap the Institution through starving it of funds. People of goodwill should prevail on the government to do the needful before things get out of control. We cannot guarantee that the existing peace in the region will be sustained if the Federal Government keeps on maintaining its cynical stand on the school. A stitch in time they say saves nine.”
Last year, President Buhari also refused to sign the bill establishing the Federal University, Wukari in Taraba State, citing the wrong use of words in the instrument. The institution has however existed since as far back as 2011, and has consistently received subventions from the federal government.