Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Former President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday eulogised the premium Governor Seriake Dickson placed on education where he noted that the huge investment in that sector surpassed expectations from leaders of the state.
Jonathan made the assessment at the formal launch of the Bayelsa Education Development Trust Fund (EDTF) also brought together political bigwigs and billionaires from the private sector in Yenagoa as almost all the aspirants in the coming governorship election in November met under one roof for the first time.
He said that the governor’s decision to deploy the tool of education to the development and emancipation of the society was the right way to go.
The former president said the efforts of the present administration was in line with his educational policy in his time, to wrest the Bayelsa child from the claws of illiteracy when he was governor in 2006.
He noted that Education Development Trust would drastically change the story of Bayelsa as a state that was once listed among disadvantaged states.
“We all know that the only way you liberate and uplift a people is through education. From where I started as a child, if I didn’t go to school nobody would have known me outside my village but today l am known all over the world because I was able to go to school. So supporting education is key.
“Governor Dickson has done much higher than I projected in 2006 in terms of expansion of educational work. Today, let me also thank Governor Dickson for this initiative because most problems we have in governance is not scarcity of good ideas but how will that endure?
“By setting up a board established by law has made the Education Development Trust Fund endure beyond his eight years in office and that really has made me very happy and my foundation will continue to partner with this board,” he said.
Jonathan promised to use his influence to garner support for the fund which is backed by law and has renown prof. Turner Isoun as the Chairman of the board, assuring that as ‘chief collector’ he would make sure all those who made pledges pay up soon .
Aside Jonathan, others prominent personalities present were Mr. Keniebi Okoko, who donated N60 million to the fund, former Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, who donated N90 million, Reuben Okoya, a representative of AITEO, Victor Okoronkwo, who donated N500 million on behalf of the company and several royal fathers.
Others were External Relations Manager, SPDC, Mr. Evans Krukrubo, representative of NCDMB, Mr. Daziba Patrick Obah, business mogul, Elder Ephraim Faloughi-Spiff, Prof Lawrence Ekpebu, Prof. Ebiegberi Joe-Alagoa Amb. Godknows Igali, among others.
In his remarks, Dickson said his administration viewed investment in the education sector not as a burden but as a responsibility because of its far reaching impact on society.
While recounting some of his achievements in the sector, Governor Dickson called on the private sector and all people of goodwill to support the education trust fund stressing that education must be seen as a collective responsibility of all.
The Governor who stressed that lack of education was at the root of instability, militancy and insurgency urged multinational oil companies to emulate the Nigerian Army by adopting secondary schools already built by the state government.
He said that the State Government had committed N80 billion to the development of educational infrastructure in Bayelsa aside from salaries in pursuit of the vision to create access to education in the state.
According to him, the state has 13 functional model secondary schools with about many young Bayelsans enjoying free education in quality boarding secondary school.
The Governor also called on the multinational oil firms and stakeholders in the private sector to support the Bayelsa State Tertiary Education Loan Board designed to create access to indigent students to acquire tertiary education in the state.
According to him, the State under his leadership had committed five percent of its IGR to fund the board.
He said that the government had also constituted a board for landmark programme which had made it easy for prospective applicants to access the funds to pursuer higher education in the state.
Governor Dickson said that the administration was giving priority to educational development because that was the only way to equip the people to demand for their rights and fight oppression.
Also, Chairman of the occasion, Prof. John Pepper Clark praised Governor Dickson for charting a new course in the development of human capital in Bayelsa and Ijaw nation as a whole.
Prof. Clark described Governor Dickson’s efforts as a transformational leader, saying that he was proud of the Ijaw National Academy and other boarding secondary schools built and funded by the government.
In his welcome address, Chairman of the Education Development Trust Fund, Prof. T Isoun, assured donors of the judicious use of the funds as the books of the board were open to external auditing.
Isoun said the proceeds from the launch would be utilised for the provision of high quality and sustainable development of education
Dickson also presented a N250 million cheque to the Education Development Trust Fund, while the oil companies promised to reach out privately in support of the fund.