The state of affairs at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Oron, Akwa Ibom State divides opinion among many stakeholders in the maritime industry. The institution has been undergoing infrastructural development for ages, yet it is characterized by several unfinished structures. The Academy was once notable for producing veterans as Marine Engineers, Sailors, etc, however, today it is noted for churning out substandard, or to put succinctly unemployable cadets.
The issues that have seen the academy retrogress over the years are many and they vary depending on whose side of the prism you are looking from. The Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi has frequently pointed accusing finger at the late MAN Oron rector, Amb Joshua Okpo, meanwhile some marine engineers especially those who attended the Academy during its ‘hey day’ have noted that the absence of a national carrier was the problem. Others have also cited that moral decadence and indiscipline has overtaken the institution, they argue that the Academy has dropped in this regard.
According to the Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, since the former MAN Oron rector was allowed to carry out projects below N250million, Okpo was bent on embezzling funds as he ensured the institution had only small structure below the #250million to allow him circumvent funds without needing the consent of minister.
A trip to MAN Oron would convince anyone that funds at the Academy had been poorly managed. But there are bigger challenges facing the Academy such as the lack of sea time training which has seen the cadets from the Academy rated poorly when compared to their counterparts abroad.
This problem is one that can be attributed to the absence of a national carrier or a national shipping line. Capt. Joseph Awodeha pointed this out while speaking in a recent maritime summit organized by the Association of Marine Engineers and Surveyors (AMES).
Capt. Awodeha noted that in the past, students of the Academy has the privilege of moving from school to go onboard vessels and return back to school because there was a Nigeria National Shipping Line (NNSL). He stressed that the short coming wasn’t only as a result of MAN Oron, but the vacuum created by the absence of ships for seatime training.
Meanwhile, Engr. Adeoye Ojo lamented that the integrity of Cadets, discipline and pride of the profession which was seen in the past, is not common today. Although he expressed hope that the Academy could reach the altitude, he claimed that there was a need to instill such values in order for the Academy to thrive.
The Academy remains the only maritime institute in the nation, it is a nation shame that the Academy cannot churn out Cadets that can compete favourably with their counterparts across frontiers. Perhaps it is time to shelve the complaints and address the problem. The nation’s maritime industry cannot develop beyond the available human capacity.