…Workers panic as FG implements reform
by Isaac Anumihe
Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State, is in the news again for the wrong reasons. Following a myriad of problems that have dogged the academy in recent times, more interests and attentions are being generated on how the academy is managed.
Close watchers of the academy believe that its problem started after the death of the institute’s rector, Dr Joshua Okpo, in December 2015, in Abuja which seriously affected teaching and learning at the nation’s foremost maritime training institute.
The succession struggles that followed, led to a plethora of petitions which exposed the rot in the administration of the academy. The development, according to sources, greatly impinged on the certificates issued by the institute and seen by the international community as low in quality.
It is against this backdrop that the Federal Government set up a ministerial committee to audit the staff of the academy. The committee led by Chief Adebayo Sarumi commenced work last week.
The committee issued an inquiry document in the form of a questionnaire with over 40 questions seeking to know details about the over 1,300 employees of the school.
The employees of the academy were given a two-day ultimatum to turn in their answers to the questions raised.
The committee asked the staff to submit answers with supporting documents through a designated electronic mail address.
The questionnaire sought to know when members of staff were engaged, their academic qualifications, courses they attended and their due retirement dates among others.
Sources close to the academy disclosed that the recent visit by members of the committee to the school’s campus in Oron, expanded their knowledge about the workings there.
The questionnaire may seek to address the challenges of non- academic staff being more in number than academic staff in the institute as well as solve the issue of qualification among the staffers.
The questionnaire which has been described as a dossier has thrown the academic staff into confusion because many of them may not have attended a qualifying courses to justify their stay in the academy. Some of them have complained that the internet connection within the Oron community is not fast and reliable enough to meet the two days deadline given them to fill and return the forms.
It was also gathered that the school academic community frowns at a situation where scarce funds were expended on courses for non-academic staff members while many academic staffers never went on courses to improve themselves.
Recall that the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi inaugurated the committee last month to look into and recommend ways through which the academy could be reformed for efficiency and productivity.
Other members of the committee include a former administrator of the academy, Engineer Olu Akinsoji; former Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, Captain Adamu Biu; President, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engineer Greg Ogbeifun, and the ministry’s Director in charge of Maritime Safety and Security.
“Our people have been given the forms to fill and I can confirm to you that they are complying with the directive. We are all committed to cooperating with the ministerial audit committee to achieve its objectives for the good of the institution,” spokesman for the academy, Mr. Siddi Mkpandiok said.
It is instructive to note that the institute has posed a serious concern to the Federal Government and the Minister of Tranportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, has vowed to restore sanity in MAN. The rowdy situation in the institute has led to writing of various petitions by some interest groups to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
A cadet of the academy who spoke on condition of anonymity said: ‘’There is confusion on campus. We really need a sense of direction to achieve our goals after studies. A situation where those that should add value to our being here are busy lobbying Abuja is bad. Hundreds of those who graduated three years before us are yet to get jobs on vessels because the academy has failed to secure mandatory sea time experience for them,’’ he cried.
One of the lecturers also decried what he called deep decay in the institution, lamenting that the development is affecting recognition of the Certificate of Competency issued by Nigeria to seafarers as those training cadets themselves are far from being updated.
The Maritime Academy of Nigeria is a Federal Government-owned educational institute in Oron, Akwa Ibom State. Originally called the Nautical College of Nigeria, it was established in 1979 to educate and train shipboard officers, ratings and shore-based management personnel. The first batch of cadets graduated in 1983. In 1988 the college’s mandate was expanded to training all levels and categories of personnel for all facets of the Nigerian maritime industry.
By the end of 2008, the academy had trained about 4,300 Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and more than 65,000 other workers in marine operations. But the quality of the cadets suddenly began to dwindle following in-house squabbles for positions to the extent that in May 2009 the academy was subject to severe criticism by the director of Lagos Channel Management. He said that even the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had found that the academy did not meet international standards.
Its problems included lack of teaching facilities adequate to handle the number of students, and unavailability of seafaring vessels on which students could complete their mandatory one-year sea term. Students seeking proper training had to attend the Regional Maritime University in Accra, Ghana. A graduate of the academy, said Nigeria does not have people qualified to provide proper training. He said most of the graduates ended up as “okada riders” (motorbike taxi operators).
In September 2009, the government announced that a project launched by the Federal Ministry of Transport, the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme, would send a first batch of 27 students to the Academy of Maritime Education and Training in India to study for Bachelor in Science and Bachelor in Engineering degrees in marine-related subjects. The academy was not considered for this programme.