Press Release: HOPE RISES FOR MAN, ORON AS AUDIT COMMITTEE PLEDGES SUPPORT

There seem to be a ray of hope for the nation’s premier maritime training institution, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron as The visiting Presidential Audit Committee, PAC, pledges unflinching support to fast track the transformation of the Academy to a world-class Degree-awarding maritime institution.

Situated on a vast stretch of land with a waterfront in Oron Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, on Latitude 4.47'N and Longitude 8.15'E, the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron in her late 30s (36) has been through the advent and exodus of different administrations at different times and seasons. However, the last four years in the life of the institution showcases a drastic twirl from what obtained over the last three decades of her establishment.

Being the sole, government-approved trainer of Seafarers in the Country, MAN, Oron, which enables Nigeria to be put on the White List of the world’s apex maritime regulatory body, International Maritime Organisation (IMO), could best be likened to the metaphorical goose that lays the golden eggs, hence, its significance to nation building.

The White List is a list of countries assessed by the IMO as properly implementing the Standard of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping 95 Convention (STCW-95). A country that is on the White List is deemed by the IMO to be in full and complete compliance with the STCW 95 for seafarers. By this, it means Mariners holding certificates or endorsements issued by White List countries would find it easier to get jobs on foreign-going ships and get endorsements from other countries than seafarers whose countries are not on the list.

In the last four years of Dr. Joshua Okpo’s administration, different groups - governmental and socio-political on a visit to the Academy have continued to express their utmost contentment at both the resourcefulness of the Rector at administering the affairs of the Academy and the escalating pace at which the developmental processes in the Academy is being driven.

The recent visit by the Presidential Audit Committee, which could be termed very crucial, saw the committee members joining a host of others before them in commending the Rector over his infrastructural renaissance and human capital development in the institution even in the face of inadequate funding.

The Committe Chairman and representative of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Shehu Musa made this known with a solemn promise that the Committee will do everything within its power to ensure Academy’s challenges are addressed urgently.

Shehu Musa assured the Rector and Management that President Mohammadu Buhari will be properly briefed on the developmental strides of the Academy’s Management towards transforming the institution to a degree awarding one as well as the challenges hindering its development. “We assure you that the challenges you mentioned here will be brought to the notice of the President”, he reiterated.

The Committee Chairman who said that the committee members were quite impressed with the Rector’s judicious use of the funds made available to the Academy, promised that action will be taken to address the challenges bedevilling the development of the Academy. “Your case is a known one, we want to assure you that before the end of this assignment you will see the impact of our mission, we will do our best to make sure all the issues discussed here are resolved”, He promised.

Earlier, an elated Rector, Dr. Okpo who had welcomed the team to the Academy extended his appreciation to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari for reappointing him as Rector of the Academy for a second term of four years.

He hinted them that the major challenges facing the Academy are inadequate funding and lack of a training vessel to give Cadets Sea Time Experience, which he rightly put as one of the basic requirements for acquiring Certificate of Competence (COC) from the International Maritime Organisation, IMO.

Dr. Okpo further informed the committee members that the Academy is being sandwiched by two (once) warring communities and that the Management in the bid to sustain a peaceful academic environment for the thousands of Nigerians who patronise the Academy for both Regular and Short Courses, is doing a lot in the area of its Corporate Social Responsibility to the Host Communities. He said, “In other to enable the ousted people of Udung Okung return to their ancestral community, we have created a Police Post between the two communities. We intend to also intervene in these communities in the area of road construction and renovation or building of Schools, Health Centres, Town Halls and Markets”.

Recounting some of the milestones his administration has reached in the last four years, he noted, “On my arrival the thrust of my administration was radical infrastructural repositioning:- lighting has improved from 5 hour daily to 24 hours everyday service. The same for water supply. The once warring communities of Ukpata- Idua and Udung Okung- Eyo Abasi now worship God in one accord during the Academy’s Monthly Solemn Assembly. Besides, the massive infrastructural rebirth of Staff Quarters, Academic Laboratory, and Classroom Blocks all dotting the landscape of the Academy, are available for all.

Concerning the specialised nature of the Academy, the Rector explained that there is need for urgent fund intervention so that the Management would be able not only to attract the required and right calibre of manpower who will impart the needed skills into the cadets but to also provide a well secured and conducive environment for them to work in.

“All the facilities, manpower and infrastructure must be in place. The International Maritime Organisation as repeatedly urged the Academy to be properly upgraded and updated to avoid Nigeria from being removed from the White List”, he urged.

Dr. Okpo urged the committee to prevail on the relevant statutory body to release Academy’s funds properly and on time, noting that the institution has not been able to execute and complete a lot of projects including organising her Passing out Parade for cadets because of insufficient funds. It is also observed that paucity of funds may delay Cadets resumption for the new academic year.

He suggested that government could make a policy thrust where every shipping company operating in the territorial waters of Nigeria would take at least 2 cadets for practical Sea Time Experience, which according to him will solve the problem of having a back log of cadets waiting for the mandatory Sea Time Experience, to become real professionals.

“Training these cadets without giving them Sea Time is like training a soldier without giving him a gun. With the kind of regimentation they receive they may constitute nuisance to the society if they are not gainfully engaged”, he stressed.

The Rector who distinguishes himself as an Ambassador of Peace, has been described at several fora as a leader with a large heart that contains progress, development and prosperity. As he pursues persistently the standardisation of the Academy’s programmes, with unrelenting vigour, the Team assured him and all other hardworking and dedicated leaders and workers of the staunch support of Nigerians.

Undoubtedly, the role of MAN, Oron in nation building cannot be underestimated, for as long as the Academy continues to perform its training role creditably, meeting international standards, Nigeria will continue to remain on the White List.

Furthermore, there is need for special funding by the government and stakeholders over its standardisation programme to ensure that the Academy continues to function optimally for the good of the country and the benefit of all Nigerians

Finally, available records of the Rector’s performance in the last four years are a pointer to the fact that he leads with the fear of God and the determination to make a significant Change. Therefore, the focus is now on the government to adopt a pragmatic approach in making policies favourable to the development of the nation’s premier maritime training institution and to ensure adequate and timely release of funds that will drive the transformation process in the Academy, now and in the future.

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