From Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
The Federal Government in 2006 under the leadership of former President Olusegun Obasanjo approved the upgrading of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) Effurun into a degree awarding institution. With the approval, it became the first Nigeria Petroleum Engineering University with the former PTI operating as one of its faculties.
It therefore was a case of a major dream coming to fruition for the member representing Opke/Sapele/Uvwie Federal Constituency of Delta State, Evelyn Oboro, when President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law, the bill establishing the Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE) Effurun, Delta State.
With the signing of the bill into law, the stage is set for the establishment of the specialised university in the Niger Delta, charged with training and research in petroleum technologies. In this interview, the lawmaker, who sponsored the bill speaks on the impact it will make in her state and region.
You raised a point of order, calling for commendation for President Buhari for signing the FUPRE bill into law during plenary; and you also thanked your colleagues in the National Assembly over same bill. Why was that intervention important to you?
I had to make that intervention because I am full of gratitude over the signing of the pivotal legislation into law. I am grateful to God because He made it possible for us in the Niger-Delta to achieve this long held dream. He gave me the opportunity, first by getting me into the 7th assembly. I first presented the bill in the 7the assembly, where it went through all the necessary stages and it was passed. But unfortunately, it wasn’t signed by the former president. God again ensured that I made it into the 8th assembly and I re-introduced the bill in the House, it was debated by my colleagues, it was presented to the committee of the whole, it was passed and sent to the Senate for concurrence. As widely reported, President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the bill into law. I am so happy over this. The Urhobo nation, the indigenes of Delta State and the entire Niger-Delta region are happy over the signing of the bill. Of course, now, students of the university can flaunt their certificates anywhere in the world. I foresee not only Niger-Delta students, but young people from across the country and beyond, applying for admission into the Petroleum University. And when you have more brilliant and talented young people competing for space in the university, the host community will benefit from dynamic individuals spending part of their productive years among us.
Now that you have a university in your constituency, how do you think your people can assist it making the project a success? What are your expectations in terms of federal government investing in the university to take it up to standard?
Well, even before now, the federal government through the relevant agencies has been investing in providing infrastructure in the school. Now that the bill has been signed into law, I believe that the federal government and the state government will channel more attention to it, with regard to improved funding and putting in place needed infrastructure. What we hope for as we move forward is targeted investment that would provide a good learning environment for the students and make teaching even more fulfilling to the lecturers. For us, we have high expectations as the host community and we are ready to show that we understand what it means for such impactful kind of development to be brought right to our doorsteps. There are examples of towns that have been turned around because of the location of higher institutions in their domain. There are many people who never dream of getting a university degree, who were suddenly inspired to try because a school was established near or in their hometown. Some parents might not have money to pay their ward’s transportation, feeding, tuition and accommodation at a university in Lagos, Abuja or even a nearby state. But when the university is within their area, the child can stay home and still get an education at much lower cost. So, you can imagine our excitement on FUPRE and why we are thanking the president for making our dream a reality.
Are you disappointed that a president from the Niger Delta didn’t sign the bill into law, while one from the north did?
The fact is, the former president wasn’t necessarily averse to signing the bill into law. If you remember, the bill was among those that were passed towards the end of his tenure. You know, towards the end of tenure, so much goes on in government. At that point in time, there were a number of bills sent by the National Assembly to the president. So, it wasn’t a case of his singling out the Petroleum University Bill and refusing to sign it into law. We are just grateful to God that after that first disappointment, the second time around, the conditions were just right and President Buhari signed the bill into law. For my constituency and all of us in Delta State, the bill just being signed doesn’t diminish our joy. I have been getting calls from royal fathers in my constituency, they are proud of what I have been able to do. I had their support all the way. The youths in my constituency have expressed tremendous joy on the signing of the bill and I can tell you that we grateful to God for making this possible. I am a person of faith, so I believe that without God, I wouldn’t have been able to start and finish the process of getting the bill passed and today, we talking of the president, having signed it into law.