FEATURE ARTICLE

Temple Chima UbochiMonday, October 25, 2010
ubochit@yahoo.com
Bonn, Germany

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AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. PRESIDENT:
PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT TRUST FUND (PTDF)’S SCHOLARSHIPS ARE NOT OPEN TO ALL QUALIFIED NIGERIANS

Equal rights for all, special privileges for none (Thomas Jefferson)

The control of the production of wealth is the control of human life itself (Hilaire Belloc)

Usurpation, the exercise of power not granted, is not legitimized by repetition (Raoul Berger)

We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. It is time now to write the next chapter-and to write it in the books of law (Lyndon B. Johnson)

The government being the people's business, it necessarily follows that its operations should be at all times open to the public view. Publicity is therefore as essential to honest administration as freedom of speech is to representative government. "Equal rights to all and special privileges to none" is the maxim which should control in all departments of government (William Jennings)


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our Excellency, this column apologises upfront for taking some of your precious time. Sir, you will agree with this column that your predecessor’s government was dominated by a section of the nation, in that he northernised power in a country that is supposed to be a Federal Republic. He selected most of his key aides from the North. Governance is about sourcing for the best hands no matter their origin, but, your predecessor threw that maxim to the wind and appointed mediocre to positions of authority simply because they were from the north. Even the oil sector was not spared and that made some operators in the industry then to express fear over the possible implications of a seeming northernisation of it (the oil and gas industry), noting that it could spark further attacks by militants on facilities, and would lead to increase in the shut-in volume. One director (in the industry) even pointed out then that the appointments made in the energy sector by Yar’Adua “stinks of ethnic irredentism which held sway under military rule”. He recalled then that, Alhaji Abubakar Lawal Yar’Adua was appointed acting Group Managing Director of the NNPC ( before he was replaced by Mohammed Barkindo); Aliyu Sabonbiri was appointed the acting Director of the Directorate of Petroleum Resources; Professor Sambo, was appointed the Director of the Energy Commission of Nigeria; Mustapha Rabe Darma was appointed the Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF); and Engineer Bello Suleiman was appointed the Chairman of the Transition Board of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). To make matter worse, there was an inexplicable imbalance then as the ministers of finance, agriculture, petroleum, national planning, chief economic adviser, national security adviser, as well as heads of the Education Trust Fund (ETF), Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC), SUBEC, CBN, and many others, all came from the North.

Mr. President, as you know, the littoral states (oil producing states) are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers. But the indigenes of these states are not gaining much from the oil while the northerners are reaping most of the rewards (associated with oil), because, your predecessor and many of the rulers before him hijacked all major appointments in the oil and gas sector for the northerners. Yours truly is from Abia, an oil producing state, but neither I nor anybody else I know, from the state, has benefited in any way from oil. Nigeria couldn’t even offer me meal subsidy when I was at the university (UNN) in the 1980s, as the year I gained admission was the year the federal government stopped it (meal subsidy). I was forced to “suffer” through the university as I had to sponsor myself, because, there was no one there for me; my father died in 1972 and my uncles couldn’t afford to sponsor me. All my life, Nigeria has not been there for me, but, I’m not worried or angry as I‘ve since sacrificed myself and my safety (for Nigeria). My love for Nigeria hasn’t diminished and will never die; I‘ve been giving my time, money and energy for the love of it (Nigeria) and will continue to help fellow compatriots, in my own little way, whenever I can.

The point here is that the indigenes of the oil producing states are not saying that they should be the only ones to benefit from oil, afterall, all Nigerians have the right of benefit from oil, but, it’s condemnable when the indigenes of the oil producing states are short-changed while those from non-oil producing states get all the appointments in the (oil) sector. Also, it’s wrong when the youths of non-oil producing states benefit more from oil than those from the oil states; the injustice is unacceptable and should be redressed.

Mr. President, one of my readers, a PHD student in United Kingdom, asked me to bring to your notice the injustice going on at the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) and Educational Trust Fund (ETF). Sir, before proceeding, let’s read the mail I received:

“Hello Brother,

How are you doing?

Just to let you know that in UK now there are a lot of PhD scholars from the northern part of our country studying with different Nigerian scholarships from the petroleum trust development fund (PTDF) and Educational trust fund (ETF). The PTDF amazed me, because I was the only one short listed in the whole of Anioma area of Delta State. After spending money to come to Nigeria for the interview with three letters from a Norwegian university, a Swedish University and the University of Aberdeen and in collaboration with Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka with the aim to set up a wireless sensor network centre which is a Center that monitors oil spillage and vandalization, I was rejected. The board did not take me because they claimed I was not a lecturer. With three master’s degrees that I have, one from Awka, and two from abroad, I was shocked I was not taken.

The quota is now more of northern indigenes who never even appeared for interviews but are seen everywhere in the UK. In my school alone, we have 6 of them who came last year and more are trooping in this year. What is our country turning up to be? The Secretary of PTDF is from Katsina. President Jonathan is there talking about re-election, but the major issues including our oil and who benefits from it and the country as a whole are being taken hostage by the northern people. A whole sensor network contract that could stop oil leakage was given to northern guys while people like me from where the oil is actually leaking with better experience and more qualification were denied the contract.

After this, I got annoyed and applied for Swedish citizenship which I am due. Now my school fees have dropped from 12,075 pounds to 3,400 pounds. In addition, the Swedish government is paying me 13,000 pounds yearly.

Now the opportunity I created for Awka (the collaboration would have offered an opportunity for lecturers and students exchange between Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka and the three European universities) is suspended. It is time our people knows what is going on with Nigeria’s money and opportunities meant for the south or the oil producing states are now hijacked by the northern people in-charge.

Regards”

Mr. President, you have read it first hand. This column has written on this issue earlier this year, many months before this student wrote this letter. We’re aware that the time you became the acting president, you made some changes in the oil and gas sector by dropping the then petroleum minister; Lukman, and replacing him with Ms. Allison-Madueke. You also sacked the NNPC Group Managing Director, Barkindo, and replaced him with Austen Oniwon. But the PTDF escaped the hammer and is still operating with the same parochial tendencies it was known for during the Yar’Adua’s era. Infact, when your predecessor died, this column wrote on his legacy and pointed out how he northernised the oil and gas sector in particular and Nigerian government in general. Excerpts from the article I wrote then are as follows:

“He (Yar’Adua) will be remembered as the president who northernised the federal government and its agencies. Ministers and heads of agencies did despicable things under his watch and he failed to call them to order. The Sun Newspapers once wrote in 2009 (when Yar’Adua was still alive) that:

“Dr. Rilwan Lukman, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, is responsible for the mass replacement of qualified senior officials from the south of Nigeria in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), with new officials being recruited from the states in the north. Recently, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources was redeployed for protesting the appointment of Dr. Mohammed Barkindo, Group Managing Director of NNPC, as the governor of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).This position, in the past, was consistently occupied by Permanent Secretary of the Petroleum Ministry and Head of Petroleum Inspectorate Division, now Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), since Nigeria joined OPEC.

A senior official of the Petroleum Ministry disclosed that Lukman then consistently frustrated other board members of NNPC from bringing an end to the recruitment of mainly top officials from the north and their taking over from qualified southern officials. This backdoor recruitment, started by Barkindo, it was gathered, involved placing new officials from the north as general managers, managers and deputy managers above those already in service without promotion for several years. The implementation of the northernisation project, an official said, was enhanced by major changes made by President Yar’Adua in NNPC whereby 67 top senior management staff were redeployed in July 2009. In the changes approved by Yar’Adua during the period, 13 senior officials (southerners) of the corporation were retired.

A source said further: “To strengthen the recruitment of northern candidates into key positions in the corporation, key officials from the north were approved for the replacement of officials affected by the changes at the group human resources of NNPC.” The new appointees then included Dr. Attahiru Yusuf, Group Executive Director (GED) Corporate Services; Mr. Auwalu Abubakar, (GGM) of Group Human Resources; Hajia M. Sanni, General Manager of Human Resources Division and Malam I.M Bawa, General Manager, Admin Services. “From the top positions being occupied by officials from the north, it was clear that it will take only a year before NNPC was eventually dominated mainly by northerners because the recruitment organ of NNPC is manned only by northerners.” The source added that several northerners have been employed by the NNPC through the backdoor without following due process of employment and input of other board members. He added that these young northerners were placed in management positions, whereas there are several qualified staff of the corporation who are in positions of chief officers for several years without promotion.”

The Sun of Sunday, April 4, 2010 also wrote: “Employees of the PTDF are accusing the Executive Secretary (ES), Engr Muttaqha Rabe Darma, of using PTDF fund to promote the interest of his kinsmen in Katsina State and systematically ‘northernising’ the organization.

The PTDF was established to assist students with bias for oil and gas technology to acquire requisite foreign and local knowledge to assist the industry. But PTDF staffers are accusing Darma of recruiting 11 employees within two weeks without recourse to due process or laid down rules and regulations.

The aggrieved staff, in a petition titled “PTDF in the Dark age”, also alleged that 200 of the 550 students that got foreign scholarships during the 2009/2010 sessions are from Katsina. They further claimed that the 200 Katsina beneficiaries did not sit for the aptitude test that should have qualified them for the award.

According to the petitioners, the Executive Secretary carried out “extremely secret recruitment of 11 new employees of northern origin without the full knowledge of other members of staff, or potential candidates that recruitment is taking place in the Fund except for a few members of staff he considered as panel members who have been secretly sitting late into the night to conduct interviews of only selected eleven candidates they expected to recruit.” They listed the panel members as Miss Jacqueline Guyil, Mrs Rabi Waziri, Mr Nasir Ahmed, and Mr Alhassan Lukman. The petitioners added that the ES, who himself was a former Commissioner for Youth Development in Katsina during the Yar’Adua governorship, employed one Abubakar Sadiq Bello, an indigene of Katsina, “while the employment of the new eleven are being fast tracked without following due process”. They contended that the recruitment was “against the PTDF condition of service that requires placement of advert, federal character principle and due process.”

Sir, your predecessor sacrificed meritocracy, for mediocrity, on the altar of ethnicity. He northernised the Nigerian Army, the State Security Services (SSS), Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG), the National Salaries and Wages Commission, Federal Medical Centre, Gusau, Federal Medical Centre Birnin-Kebbi, the Nigeria Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) and the Petroleum Technology Development Trust Fund (PTDF). Thank God that you have redressed some of the injustice here, but, a lot is still to be done.

Your Excellency, your predecessor’s patterns of appointment created a situation where the Joint Intelligence Board, which co-ordinated information sharing between the security agencies would meet and there were no non-northern face. This column has it on good authority that the SSS’s ability to gather intelligence and prevent crimes was compromised, because, your predecessor appointed northerners, who have little or no knowledge about intelligence gathering and analyses, as leaders of the organisation. The Abuja independence bomb blasts was a clear example that the intelligence outfit is not up to its job, because, after getting the information in good time, from foreign intelligence outfits, it (SSS) still failed to prevent the bomb blasts. Not only that, your predecessor appointed his in-law, Abdullahi Inde Dikko, as the Customs Comptroller General, even when he was not qualified for the job. Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko, who has an unresolved case of certificate forgery hanging on his neck, has been named in a fresh allegation of obtaining millions of naira from an Abuja-based businessman under a false pretence. According to SR: “in a petition addressed to you (President Goodluck Jonathan), dated August 30, 2010, a businessman, Omelu Charles Chinweuba, said through his lawyer, Festus Keyamo, that Dikko’s proxy received approximately N7 million from him purportedly as payment for abandoned containers the Customs was about to auction, but, failed to deliver the containers as he promised. Further investigations equally revealed that the duo of Amobi Nzelu and Alhaji Abdullahi Inde Dikko have defrauded so many Nigerians of their money using the same means.”

In one of my articles: (The state of the nation: Yar’Adua is not practicing what he preaches), I wrote these excerpts:

“Yar’Adua is only northernizing Nigeria. Why should only the northerners be heading the petroleum ministry and all the agencies and parastatals concerned with petroleum? It is worth noting that since the making of Abuja as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), no individual from the southern part of Nigeria has ever been appointed as the FCT minister. Even when we are made to believe that the FCT is not owned by any particular region, but, a home for all, the actions of the government have suggested otherwise. Safe for Prof. Miriam Ikejani, who was made a Minister of State for FCT (junior minister) by Abacha then, no southerner has ever headed the FCT Ministry. One Nigeria isn’t it?”

Bringing it down to PTDF: The then appointment of Katsina State-born Muttaqha Rabe Darma as the Executive Secretary (ES) of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) raised new concerns over the continuous dominance of the Fund by elements from the same section of the country! He succeeded Alhaji Kabir Mohammed as the fifth northerner in succession to occupy the exalted position. Before him, there had been Alhaji Yusuf Hamisu (Mairago) from Kaduna who was Executive secretary (ES) from 2000 until 2005 when he resigned to contest the governorship of Kaduna State and was succeeded by his kinsman and former local government chairman, Alhaji Mohammed Husaini Jallo, who had a short but controversial tenure. Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri replaced Alhaji Jallo and was in the position until 2006 when the immediate past Executive secretary (ES), Alhaji Mohammed was appointed to take over from him. No indigene from the oil producing states has headed the agency since its establishment in 1973 while it has been headed by five Executive Secretaries/ Chief Executive Officers including the incumbent Executive Secretary (all of northern extraction). The PTDF (Petroleum Technology Development Fund) presently has Engr. Muttaqha Rabe Darma, as the Executive Secretary, Mrs. Habiba A. Wakil as the Assistant General Manager (Training and Nigerian Content) and Mr. Balarabe Z. Ahmad as the Manager (Legal), and these people are all northerners. Think of it, if the oil were to be in the north, do you think that a southerner will ever head the petroleum ministry or any department, agency or parastatal connected with oil? Why this injustice?

The Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC) comprising alliance units of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), The Reformed Niger Delta Volunteer Force and the Martyrs Brigade, on July 24, 2009, wrote this in P.M.:

"The Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) which was set up to close training and skills gaps in the oil industry, has automatically been converted into an agency that caters only for the North providing scholarships for largely students of Northern Nigerian origin for the past eight years. In more recent times, the Fund with headquarters in the Federal Capital Territory, has been selling out its forms in Abuja far away from needy and educationally disadvantaged populace of the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta. How do they expect a poor lad from the creeks to travel all the way to Abuja to pick up a N2000 (two thousand naira) scholarship form”?

Sir, in 2009, your predecessor promoted judges to courts of appeal. Eleven judges across the country, with the exception of South-East, benefited from the exercise. There are 73 judges in the courts of appeal all over the country. Of the 73, only eight are Igbo. The statistics by Hon. C.I.D Maduabum show that the North-West has 16 judges, North-East 14, North-Central 12, South-West 13 and South-South 10. Is that fair?

Mr. President, now you know that your predecessor, Yar’Adua, ‘northernised’ Nigeria as he refused to spread of federal appointments. What he (Yar’Adua) did was ‘condemnable and inexplicable imbalance’, so we need you to review some of the appointments, made by your predecessor, at the federal level. Infact de-northernise the nation, it belongs to all of us. This column remembers the National President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), saying some years ago: “a situation where Kano and Katsina states hold some strategic appointments does not augur well for the unity, peaceful co-existence and stability of this nation. From all indications, the principle of federal character has been abused”.

We have seen where some states are saturated with appointments and are gaining everything, including scholarships, while others do not have/get at all. This is bad. Please, Mr. President, investigate how the PTDF awards scholarships; how ministries, departments and agencies employ their workers; and then redress injustice, wherever it has been perpetrated.

Thanks for your time, Mr. President!

Yours Truly,

Temple Chima Ubochi

THE THANX IS ALL YOURS!!!

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