A frontline advocacy group in the Niger Delta region, the Niger Delta Development Initiative (NDDI) has sent an SOS to President Mohammed Buhari condemning the committee set up recently by the Transportation Minister, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi to restructure the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, describing it as something done in bad faith.
The Group made this known in a press statement released in Rivers State and signed by the President of the Association, Comrade Gabriel Thompson and the Secretary Barrister Ita Umiom.
According to the report, the recommendations of the committee which is chaired by Chief Adebayo Sarunmi, former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should be disregarded as it is capable of igniting fire in the region which has recently become calm.
Highlighting the reasons for condemning the committee’s report, the group said that “the Sarumi- led Committee is made up of men that have lost touch with modern realities in the maritime industry and as such did not interact with professionals in the industry, some of whom are ex-cadets of the institutions which are now master mariners making waves in and out of the country before making recommendations to the minister.
“These professionals include the best sailors and mariners all over Nigeria who have deep knowledge of how maritime institutions are run internationally. The committee was wrongly constituted, because when you put together a committee of such magnitude, you don’t bring people that do not have the knowledge of the requirements of STCW (Manilla Convention of 2010 as amended); the laws that guide international maritime activities currently. To that extent, the committee even criticized the IMO standards adopted by the institution.
“There is no way, a committee can restructure an institution like MAN, Oron without interacting with the critical stakeholders, including the host communities. The committee was skewed to negativity because its attention should have been focused on bringing recommendations that should make the academy world class institution that could compete favourably with countries such as Philippine and Singapore whose mariners occupy nearly all the vessels on the world maritime waters.
Provisions of training vessel is critical to the academy because it will enable the cadets to participate in the mandatory sea time experience as required by the STCW Convention 2010; provision of relevant equipment, infrastructure, proper funding, creating enabling learning environment, with qualified lecturers, are the critical areas that need restructuring and not the human beings in the academy.
“The recommendations that Directors of Oron extraction in the school, who have committed no offence whatsoever should be compulsorily retired is a misnomer. To show that the committee lacks required knowledge, the recommendation that the procurement department of the institution should be merged with works department is against the Procurement Act of 2007 and it also negates the spirit of due process and world best practices.
“The committee’s recommendations to tamper with the original organogram of the school which was approved by the federal government is also a misnomer.
“The membership of the committee is not only lop-sided but is full of those with one grouse or the other against the people of Oron nation. For instance, Dr Olu Akinsoju, a former Rector of the institution, who is also a member of the committee was chased out unceremoniously many years ago by the Oron people for contract mess (swimming pool contract). His contributions in the committee is directly targeted at getting back at the people of Oron nation.
The Committee Chairman, Adebayo Sarumi was also accused of making no contribution to reposition MAN, Oron during his tenure as the Managing Director of NPA, hence the Committe argued that he lacks the requisite knowledge to chair such a committee.
“The problem of MAN, Oron is basically funding which should be properly addressed. Since the demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), no cadet from the institution has had sea time experience because of absence of training vessel. This is an area the committee should have directed its energy for restructuring.
“Presently we commend the current leadership of the academy as it has been able to stabilize and reposition the institution for rebranding.
The Group urged the Minister of Transportation to create an enabling environment that will sustain the present leadership, which the Niger Delta people are quite confident will steer the institution until such a time the institution is fully transformed into a Maritime University.