Vehicular traffic was disrupted for several hours at the ever busy Onitsha –Owerri highway yesterday as students of the National Metallurgical Training Institute, NMTI, protested an alleged plan by the federal government to scrap the institution or merge it with another one yet to be named.
Displaying placards with inscriptions that read; “President Jonathan the proposed plan to scrap NMTI is counter productive”, Those calling for scrapping/merging of NMTI are enemies of the state and youths”, “You cannot talk about technological development and at the same time be scraping the intuitions that promote the manpower.
“Orasanya committee goofed and government should disregard it” and “Where are the children of those calling for scrapping of NMTI”.
Tension has been mounting in the institution since the Orasanya committee that looked into the structure of government recommended the scraping or merging of the institution, as students of the institution expressed worry about what would be their fate should the institute be scrapped by the federal government.
President of the Students Union Government of the institute, Mr. Emmanuel Nwora, said the students decided to protest against the plan to prevail on government not to implement the Orosanya recommendation as it concerns the institution.
He said: “The federal government has over the years, been marginalizing us and treating us as mere slaves. We are protesting against the recent report by one Orosanya committee which had advised the federal government to scrap NMTI or merge it with other institution. We are also using this medium to appeal to Federal government to look into the institution with a view to upgrading it to a degree awarding institution.
“They say we are craftsmen, but we are not craftsmen. We are students of a tertiary institution and that is why we want the institute to be upgraded to a degree- awarding institute”
They also said that they were not comfortable with the certificate awarded to the graduates of the institution, adding that they are not recognized in the labour market.
Reacting on the action of the students, the director of the institute, Mr. Joseph Ajamolaye said the protest was unnecessary because there is no official statement or any circular yet to the effect that the federal government was planning to scrap NMTI, Onitsha.
His words: “We just read these things on the pages of the newspapers. The committee has made its recommendations, but the government has not carried it out. So, we want the students to calm down because their agitations are being looked into”.
He however explained that the institute was not initially meant to admit students, but as a training institute for the staff and workers from the steel industries, noting that the admission of youths became imperative when the fortunes of the steel industries started going down.