Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron has not ceased to be in the news for the wrong reasons since the inception of the current administration.
President Mohammed Buhari came into power in 2015 and was confronted with a lot of gory tales about the academy.
The tales range from rectorship tussle, low quality of staff, abuse of federal character in the recruitment of workers, paucity of funds to run the school, lack of vessels for sea time training, quality of students, hostile community and corruption.
Above all, the Federal Government, National Assembly and all other relevant authorities were daily bombarded with a litany of petitions, which at the last count, was put at 6,000.
To this extent, on September 6, 2017, Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, set up an interim management committee to unravel the immediate and remote causes of these rumblings.
He also appointed a substantive rector, Commodore Deju Effedua. This ended the acting rectorship of Dr Mkpandiok Ante Mkpandiok, who took over from the late Ambassador Joshua Enun Okpo.
After a thorough examination of the issues, the committee recommended a total overhaul of the system. It also picked holes in the manner the staff of the academy were recruited.
Again, in March, this year, House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration visited the institute following an avalanche of petitions it received from the aggrieved staff, host communities and stakeholders. After a thorough examination of the situations, it ordered the revocation of all contracts which are yet to be completed in the school.
The committee also gave the contractors a 30-day ultimatum to vacate the sites.
The committee revealed that more than 6000 petitions from the academy were currently before it.
The chairman of the committee, Mohammed Umaru Bago, urged the management of the academy to pay all outstanding debts to contractors, and demanded that contractors be asked to return to site in 30 days, failing which such contract should be revoked.
“I will encourage you to call all contractors of abandoned projects for an interaction. Pay all outstanding debts to contractors and ask them to return to site. Any contractor that refuses to return to site after 30 days, revoke such contracts.
“Then, any work that is done without drawing, delegate your works department to get drawings on such jobs so that they can be maintained and refurbished, because some of the buildings that you have cannot be used.
“When I went to NIMASA, I told them that if I receive any petition from anybody, I will come to the agency and announce the name of the petitioner, the same thing will apply here. If anybody writes a petition here, I will come and call the person to come and defend his or her petition.
“I have more than 6,000 petitions from this academy alone on my desk. And most of the petitions are unfounded. I don’t have time for your petitions. People must change” he warned.
But every attempt to implement this charge was met with stiff resistance by the staff, the host community and other stakeholders who were used to the status quo.
So, on Friday March 23, 2018, the rector ordered the arrest of six members of the academic staff over an alleged document falsification. This generated another round of pandemonium in the institute leading to violent protests and disruptions of academic work.
In a statement, the management said that in the event of implementing the directive handed down to the new management by the House of Representatives Committee on Federal Character it was discovered that there were some irregularities in the staff recruitment.
“The House of Representatives Committee on Federal Character invited the academy, due to irregularities noticed in its employment processes of 2016.
“The irregularities included the employment of 83 persons illegally into the academy by the registrar of the academy who was acting then as a rector after the demise of the former rector of the academy.
“Many people were not happy about that employment because 90 per cent of those employed were members of Mkpandiok’s church (former acting rector) and 80 per cent were from Oron in Akwa Ibom State.
“The House Committee on Federal Character now asked the academy to go back and represent some documents.
But what some workers who are still loyal to Mkpandiok did was to smuggle in some documents to embarrass the rector, Commodore Emma Duja Effedua. They then covered the smuggled documents with a cover letter and brought it to the rector’s table for signing.
“The rector insisted on going through the documents, oblivious of what they had done, but was shocked to discover documents defending the illegal employment with most of the facts distorted.
“Out of rage, the rector walked them out of his office and decided to compile the documents requested by the House Committee on Federal Character, himself” the management, said.
Reacting to the uneasy calm in the institute, president, Merchant Navy Engineers, Matthew Alalade, said that the new management should be allowed to implement federal character in the institute which was absent there before now.
“The indigenes should allow the new management to implement the federal character policy. Before now there was no federal character. So, let us support the new rector. He has been there for more than three months. So, let us support him.
The staff must have done something wrong to resist the change. Why did the rector not punish every other person? Why should he arrest only six of them? Those people must have done something wrong. The rector cannot wake up one morning and begin to arrest people. The rector will institute federal character in the institute. So, let them allow him to work” he said.
Co-ordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Dr Osita Chukwu aligned himself with the indigenes and staff, saying that there is no need to arrest anybody. He, however, condemned forgery of documents.
“It is a terrible issue that no one can identify the causes. Must everybody have a representative in Oron? There is no need of arresting anybody. They (management) should do their homework very well. The arrest is uncalled for. However, it is wrong for somebody to forge a certificate to work. Before getting employed employers should be able to scan and investigate the people they are employing,” he posited.
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