(Sun, The (Nigeria) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The management of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, the premier maritime institution in Nigeria, has been in the forefront of the struggle over the years, to reposition the academy and make it a globally recognized, degree-awarding institution. Ever since, also, it has been in symbiotic collaborations with similar institutions in Sweden, Turkey, UK and South Africa in both the training of cadets for global competitiveness and the provision of seasoned manpower and Maritime professionals to manage cabotage in the Gulf of Guinea.
In this interview, the current chairman of the Academy's Governing Council, Chief Mike Adiotomre, speaks on the academy's relentless effort to enhance the nation's maritime industry; as well as his achievements and challenges since coming on board about a year ago. He spoke to JOE EFFIONG in Uyo.
As the chairman of the governing council, what visions do you have for the academy?
First of all, let me thank President Goodluck Jonathan for appointing me as chairman of the governing council of the academy. Well, our economy today is being dominated by oil, that is, petroleum. In other words, our economy has been described as a mono-economy, which it is not too good. There is nothing that last forever. We do not know when this oil will be exhausted. So, the attention in Nigeria today is to develop the country without oil. And the maritime sector is a viable industry that can sustain the economy of Nigeria. For now, you can assess the oil industry need as such. But even then, we in the maritime industry need to take a step to assist the economy of Nigeria.
You see, focus was not placed before now on the maritime industry. But you can see from everywhere, that so much interest has now been shown. The maritime sector, when well-developed, will at the end of the day become a big employer of labour. I thank God that so many Nigerians are now showing interest in the Maritime Academy so as to improve the economy of Nigeria.
My vision is to ensure that the academy provides the much-needed manpower for the maritime industry in Nigeria. My vision is to ensure that academy is transformed to rank among the best maritime academies in Africa and top ten in the world. My vision is to ensure that we build a pool of seafarers in order to bridge the short fall in sea farers' supply in the country and also contribute maximally in the supply of seafarers to the world market.
Almost 40 years on, how would you appraise the impact the academy has made in the economy of the nation?
If you see what is happening in this country, the oil sector is still dominant. But, since a greater interest is been shifted to the maritime sector, the oil sector has impacted seriously on the resources of the Academy year after year. During the International Maritime Organization, (IMO), Conference in the United Kingdom, the product of MAN, Oron performed excellently well. You needed to see them, some became overall best, some emerged second, dominating a lot of activities of various countries not only in Nigeria; dominating the petroleum industry you wouldn't realized that they were trained here in Oron. Though I am just one year in the Academy, I felt big to introduce myself at the conference as chairman of the governing council.
In fact, the MAN, Oron has trained several people from other parts of the world already. So, it has impacted positively not only on the economy of Nigeria, but the entire world.
How would you rate management of the academy?
You see, the academy is a special institution. We have the Chief Executive that brings the various arms of administration and units together to work peacefully. In my one year in office, I have experienced peace and growth in the Academy. No serious misunderstanding. Everything is moving on smoothly with the limited resources that are available for the institution. You can see the physical transformation of the Academy. When I came into the Academy recently, I told my council members from the entrance that the management is doing very well. See the structures of the Academy; see the cleanliness of the environment, and see the beauty of the Academy. How many of such institutions in the country can you compare it with? Maybe, very few.
The only thing I see there, which I think the government made a deliberate policy of, is hiding the Academy far away from many people. People may come into Uyo without even knowing that there is such a place in Oron. What I would advise is that the state government in Akwa Ibom should interface frequently with the academy. The government should bring some of their visitors on tour of the place. They would be surprised as I was, that such transformation is taking place there. So, I give credit to the management.
During your inauguration as Chairman of the Governing Council, the Honourable Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar directed the council under your watch to address the challenge of berthing facilities of the Nautical Science and Marine Engineering so as to give them Sea time and certificates of competency. What is your council doing to achieve that?
We have done a lot in that direction. I just mentioned to you about our meeting with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in United Kingdom, which was followed by a visit to Turkey and South Africa where we have made concrete arrangements for the university there to take some of our cadets on Sea Time. About 250 of our cadets will soon start training over there. The Rector has raised a memo to that effect and also secured places for our cadets to have Sea Time experience. This is a worthwhile development. This development will enable cadets from Nautical Science and Marine Engineering to obtain various classes of certificates of competency and enhance their global competitiveness.
So, we are well prepared to help our cadets know what is happening in the training field and have Sea Time experience. We are very prepared to equip them with modern training skills. That again, is in compliance with the directive of the minister during our inauguration.
Training ship should be one of the major challenges that are confronting the academy. Has your council put anything in place to ensure that it gets out of this problem?
Yes, it is also the desire of the academy to have its own training ship. The only point is, you know, what it will cost to have our own training ship. We have made several requests and contacts with the minister and other stakeholders. We have made representations to the presidency to assist us. We have also contacted various organizations such as the Nigerian Ports Authority, NNPC and NIMASA to assist us to see how we can procure our own ship. It will be of great advantage if we can acquire ship for the on-board training. So, we have not abandoned that project. We are still on it. In a short time, in the life of this present board of the academy, we shall have our own ship.
The academy, for years now, has been struggling to achieve its full potentials. This is attributable to poor funding. You have been here for about a year as chairman of the governing council. Are there serious steps taken to improve the funding?
When you say full potentials, it requires some explanations. The academy is already full-blown, awarding HND in various disciplines in maritime studies. It even awards Post Graduate Diploma. We are even prepared and preparing seriously for it to be upgraded to a degree-awarding institution. When we made reference to the number of infrastructure at the academy in terms of hostels, lecture halls etc, you see it deserves to be given the status of a university and I make bold to say that the academy is fully prepared to having a degree-awarding status. We are waiting for the Federal Government's pronouncement on it.
You have just mentioned that the academy is preparing for a university status and the Federal Government recently established what is called Nigeria Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State. Will that not affect the vision of this academy in Oron?
That Maritime University established by the Federal Government and located at Okerenkonko in the coastal part of Delta State will never, in anywhere, affect MAN, Oron. You know that even Akwa Ibom State alone is qualified to have more than one maritime academy. Then, are you telling me that two maritime academies are too much for Nigeria? The answer is, No.
We are talking in terms of funding, and a situation whereby the existing one is not properly funded and we are establishing another one. Will it not be a burden on the Federal Government?
If the government says, look, we are establishing this; it means that government knows the reason for establishing it. Okay, what happened to the University of Ibadan when it was established and later four other universities, including that of Benin, were later established? People from the South-West were opposed to it for fear of funding and lack of lecturers. So many articles were written against it, but the government stood its ground. Today, how many universities do we have in Nigeria? Is it not more than 100? If you look at the population, is it not growing every day? The population is expanding. Who would not want his child to go to the university? The more the demands for education, there is no way the establishment of one university will affect the establishment of another. So, the establishment of Nigeria Maritime University in Delta State cannot affect Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, if given full university status.
Still on education, MAN, Oronrecently opened a study centre in Rivers State, what's the plan of your council to establish same in other states, and how soon?
We have to move very gradually. A study-centre has just been opened in Rivers State. It needs to stabilize. However, we have acquired a place in Calabar to open another one. We are also opening another one in Abuja and then we will take it to Lagos. These centres will organize short courses for us. And as your question goes, it shows how the demands for the maritime knowledge are growing. When you went to school then, did you ever heard of Maritime Academy as it is been publicized today? So, the idea of maritime education is growing everyday and it is expanding. The idea of study centre is to expand it the more, as people are eager to know more about the benefits of maritime training. And the end-users… in the oil industry like Shell, Texaco, Chevron, NPA, are ready to take the advantage of the study centres. They can sponsor their staff for short courses. It is a good idea. It will improve gradually. As soon as Port Harcourt centre stabilizes, we shall move to Calabar, Abuja and then Lagos.
The management of the academy has made several attempts to secure Sea Time for cadets and ensure that products of the academy are accepted in the global market. What is your council doing to ensure this is realized?
The council is making frantic efforts towards that. The council, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport, is working out modalities to ensure that it is realized. The cadets from the academy are accepted in the global market – except you want to, as soon as you step out of the academy premises, just pick an appointment letter. Again, the cadets are well equipped to work anywhere after graduation. If one or two persons are yet to be immediately engaged, that does not mean that they would not be engaged.
The Governing Council under your watch is one year old; can you highlight the achievements and challenges of the year under review?
The council has achieved a lot, from the achievements of the Rector, which I had already enumerated. The Rector does not work in isolation. It is the council that is doing all that in collaboration with the Management. You want to talk about the infrastructural development of the Academy? Or, you want to talk about the training programme? We are achieving a lot. Very soon, we would send 250 of the cadets to South Africa and Turkey for training. We want to recruit a very competent registrar to assist the Rector. Promotion of staff is ongoing. There are also good programmes for the staff of the Academy. Recently, we sent our staff abroad to acquire more knowledge. On staff welfare, council and management of the Academy have worked hard to recently secure a new salary package for the staff, which is believed will enhance productivity and quality service delivery.
How is the relationship of the academy with NIMASA in terms of funding? Is the agency adequately funding it?
Yes, NIMASA is our major source of funding. Government has taken a decision that it should give us five percent of their revenue. So, it is not a matter of being satisfied or not. If the council wants to be satisfied, we would demand for at least 10 per cent of its revenue. But the question is, will the provider of the money be able to provide 10 per cent for us? This is because we do not know how much they generate monthly. So, whenever they give us our five percent, we have no cause to complain.
How is the Governing Council relationship with the management of the Academy like?
Very cordial; we have not gotten any case or cause for any disagreement. From inception, I made it clear to the council members that the council is a policy body. We are not concerned with the day-to-day running of the academy; the day-to-day running of the academy rests squarely on the shoulders of the Rector and his management team. So long as you do not run out of your schedule of engagement to another person's own, there is no problem. The council does its work and the management is running the affairs of the academy.
Sir, what is the council doing to harness the potentials of the host community?
Of course the academy is doing its best. The council is very interested in the welfare of the host community. We do not play with corporate social responsibility to the host community. The traditional rulers of the host community and the youths are very friendly. Since we came on board, we have not experienced any crisis, because we have carried them along. The only area we want government to assist us on, is in the area of rehabilitating once-warring communities. At least, we are doing something. We interact with them and today, the area is peaceful. We can make bold to say that there is no crisis. Everyone is at peace.
Concerning our cadets, we have established some laws to control them. We have streamlined the religious activities in the academy. We do not condone any cultism under any guise. All these are to ensure that we maintain a peaceful community.
What is your message for the maritime community and the council members?
We are very grateful to the management of the academy and the host community, especially for the newly-acquired land. This will help in the expansion of the academy. The host community has not given us trouble at all. It has shown sufficient co-operation. So, I wish that members should continue in that peaceful manner. Let them take the academy as their own.
They are lucky that the maritime academy is located in their territory. It is on their land. They should keep it and maintain it. The council will continue to regard them as an integral part of our existence. We shall continue to co-exist with them. They should not hesitate to come to us whenever they have challenges and should please express their needs through genuine means.
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