Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Hope rises for MAN Oron ... As Ministerial Committee commences work on overhauling, restructuring and repositioning... (Part I)

Hope rises for MAN Oron  ... As Ministerial Committee commences work on overhauling, restructuring and repositioning... (Part I)


Envisioned and established approximately 40 years ago in 1977 as a pioneer institution of its kind in a nascent Nigeria still grappling with the fresh waves and ripples of a hard-earned Independence in 1960, the Premier Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron had come as a conscious attempt to fill the country’s specific and diverse maritime needs. Hence, the vision of the Academy was (and still is) to provide the merchant Navy and the maritime industry and allied industries qualitative education and training that accords with up-to-date technology, meets national and international standards, and satisfies end-user expectations. 

A cursory brush of history shows that the institution was first known as the Nautical College of Nigeria, with the cardinal aim of educating and training shipboard officers, ratings and shore-based management personnel. 

However, by the promulgation of Decree No. 16 of 1988, the scope and mandate of the institution was expanded to encapsulate the training of all levels and categories of personnel for all facets of the widely untapped and ever expanding Nigerian maritime industry. Principally designed as an integrated institution to solve these diverse needs, the Academy was established under the Federal Executive Council No. EC (77) 172. A peep into the curriculum shows that it is skilled-based and professionally inclined to engender a training matrix and paradigm that are participatory, collaborative, and self-experienced to enhance innovative and creative expertise. The academy is ethnic group-friendly!

The choice of Oron, Akwa Ibom State, for this novel, rare and great institution was a matter of discreet choice anchored on the bewitching hospitality and accommodatedness of the Oro people, natural endowments including a deep sea and expanded harbour, and a rich scholastic ancestry. There can be no earnest argument to the contrary that the Oron community has been at the forefront of educational advancement in Nigeria. To wit, it was the earliest discovered and most fertile soil for the potent seeds of intellectualism as self-evident in the earlier establishment of the first Girls’ Institution in Nigeria – the Mary Hanney Secondary School (1896); first Boys’ Institution – the Methodist Boys High School (1905), all as pace-setting projects in Nigeria that came with no regrets whatsoever. The institution sits on a massive expanse of land freely donated by the progressive people of the communities, with a rich water front that is fitting for any kind of training for carrier seafarers.

The establishment in 1977 of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, was a resilient lesson and textbook experiment on sustenance and progression of necessity. These testimonies must never be undermined. That is why, for the sake of history and exactitude, it may be pertinent to quickly correct the mistaken and erroneous notion in many misinformed and gullible quarters that Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, was established in 1979. This, in our attempt at being exact was rather the year the first set of lectures actually began, the preceded active two years having perhaps been utilized for erection of physical structures to enhance a smooth take-off of this pioneer institution. 

But what has time shown? Has the establishment of the academy forty years ago yielded any tangible results by way of justification of the primal intention? The simple and bold answer is yes. The first batch of cadets of the institution graduated in 1983. Plausible estimates suggest that, although the Academy by 2008 had trained about 4, 300 Nigerian Merchant Navy officers and more than 65, 000 workers in associated fields, the current statistics is that of hundreds of thousands of professionals across composite disciplines who had come to the institution as possibly raw or empty as they were, but who today are competitive and enviable world-class products in high demands. 

Nevertheless, over the years, even as it is at present, in spite of its immense contributions to individual capacity empowerment and the socio-economic growth of Nigeria and the wider world, the academy has remained a pitiable subject of excruciating criticisms arising from poor neglect, inter-tribal and segregationist politics, poor funding, poor welfare package for staff,  inadequate personnel when compared to the population of cadets, lack of modern sophisticated equipment or teaching facilities, and unavailability of seafaring vessels. The ultimate or aggregate consequence of these, as the arguments go, has been the stunted or snail-pace growth patterns that persistently seem to be militating against the cherished vision of the founding fathers of this great institution. Tangentially, this has resulted in students of first class status and targets helplessly becoming emissaries or victims of brain-drain and capital flight as they choose to migrate towards Ghana, Egypt, India, Philippines, etc. 

Nonetheless, the astonishing story is that the Academy despite these infirmities is still judged one of the best around us, with potentials to even become second to none if the needful were done. 

The host communities near and far, like other Nigerians, are therefore grateful to the federal government of Nigeria for her farsightedness, unpretentious concerns and commitments over the years in sustaining this institution till this moment for the undeniable cyclical benefits. To attempt to enumerate such advantages will be a deliberate waste of time within this space. Yet the questions keep begging: Forty years down the line, have the grand objectives and goals of the founding fathers of the Academy been met? If not, what really are the bottlenecks? it becomes necessary and inescapable for the stakeholders of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, to stand in the present and look at the past and future and respond to these questions with the frankness and action they deserve. 

These must have been some of the questions that prompted the Federal Government’s recent decision, under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport, to set up a ministerial committee to overhaul and reposition the academy in line with global best practice. Making his remarks for the necessity of the Committee and its terms of preference, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi said there was need to have a holistic examination of the present situation in the institution with a view to repositioning it to fully catch up with world standard and expectations. According to the minister, “The situation in MAN, Oron will need a technical committee, or a consultancy firm to evaluate what the situation is on ground, agree on what to do with money coming from NIMASA, and agree on what to do about the institution”. The Transport minister further added that, “We need to carry out a surgery of that institution. We don’t need God in this one. God has given the enablement; so what is left is to go and do the work. Once we can turn MAN Oron around, we can start training our cadets locally”, he stressed.

The 7–man Committee which some have described as “strong powered”, but which some hard-line analysts have chosen to embrace with reservations, is made up of former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), High Chief Adebayo Babatunde Sarumi (Chairman); former Executive of Nigerian Shippers Council, Capt. Adamu Biu; former Sole Administrator of Maritime Academy, Oron, Engr. Olu Akinsoji; President of Shippers Owners Association of Nigeria, Engr, Greg Ogbeifun; Director, Maritime Safety and Security, Federal Ministry of Transport, Mr. D. M. Dauda; and Dr.. Kelvin Okonna. The Secretary to the Committee is Mr. Sani Umar. The Committee which started its work on Wednesday, 25th January, 2017 with a facility tour of MAN, followed up the next day by separate meetings with management staff, academic staff, non-academic staff, cadets and host community/other groups, a visit to the Paramount Ruler of Oron, was given one month to submit its report. Some principal groups in the host communities that made their presentations on Thursday 26/01/17 were the Council of Oro Traditional Rulers (COTR); Oro Youth Movement (OYOM); Akpakip Eyoabasi Group of Villages; and Maritime Academy of Nigeria Host Community Relations Committee.

A generous synopsis of the requests made by the bodies include the following:
1. Upgrade of Maritime Academy, Oron to a Degree-awarding institution.
2. Provision of training facilities for cadets
3. Appointment of an Oro indigene as substantive Rector of MAN, Oron; and by this request, pleading that the current Registrar/Acting Rector be so considered since he has demonstrated such administrative and leadership acumen for the period he has served so far. 
4. According a 75% to Oro indigenes in the employment and placement of junior staff of the Academy in line with Local Content Act of the Federal Government.
5. Respect to and compliance with Federal Character Principle in students’ enrolment
6. Consideration of indigenes in contract awards
7. Increased funding and redemption of promises by NIMASA

The people thanked the federal government, reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate with the committee, support the Academy in all ways possible, and always identify with the interest of the federal government in driving the Academy forward to its apogee of greatness. The Chairman of the Ministerial Committee, Chief Adebayo Sarumi, had in his response to the various groups disclosed that he and his Committee were strictly on a fact-finding mission, and shall accordingly submit all requests and observations in the Committee’s recommendations to the Hon Minister for subsequent actions. Whereas considerable part of the gratitude goes to the proactive, introspective and introspective Nigeria’s Minister of Transport, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, His Excellency, Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, must take the lion share of the appreciation for holding high the torch of justice. 

- MAN, ORON was established in 1977, not in 1979 as erroneously believed by some
-  The academy is approximately 40 years old
- The Academy has had 11 Rectors/Acting Rectors, out of which only two have been  indigenous Rectors
-  There are 5 Schools and 39 Management in the Academy 
-  No substantive Rector of Oro extraction has ever administered the Academy
- The plea/request for upgrading of the Academy to a degree-awarding institution has been on since 1988, and the Jonathan government is said to have given approval for same
- The location of the academy provides excellent facility for seafaring vessels and open field for cadets’ training.

The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel had during ministerial committee’s visit to him in his office added voice to the need for the academy to be upgraded to the University.

The facts on ground, coupled with public opinion, appear to be specious yet strong enough for MAN, Oron to be upgraded to a university; maybe that is why there is the aside that the federal government’s attention might be diverted from the point of necessity and priority to that of experiment if she is bent on building new maritime academies at the expense or tacit neglect of MAN, Oron, that would have been upgraded with comparative less expenses and stress. Only time and events shall tell...

No comments:

Post a Comment