…AMID AGITATION FOR UPGRADE INTO VARSITY
…Source says reports of tension misleading, claims mandate is to restore vision of producing quality seafaring manpower
Reports of tension and protests at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Oron, Akwa Ibom State have been described as misleading.
A source in the institution wondered how a crowd of about 20 demonstrators, who he called sponsored, in a clan of five autonomous communities of more than a million citizens, could be tagged as causing tension.
The source, who declined to have his name in print, said, “There is no tension at the Academy. At least you are here and you can see things for yourself. You certainly passed through the town on your way here, did you see signs of tension?”, he stated.
Referring to the ministerial committee set up to improve the institution on the heels of the House of Representatives public hearing to upgrade MAN to a maritime university, he pointed out, “There is a committee working on the restructuring and repositioning of MAN.
The committee has been able to identify a number of concerns, one of which is the poor accommodation of cadets and students. For goodness sake, these students are our children; they are Nigerians and human beings.
The boys’ hostel is in poor shape and overcrowded. Each room that should take 10 students was housing 18. That is unacceptable. There are also issues with the canteen. But we are working on putting on redressing the situation. And as soon as the situation is corrected, students will resume. What government is doing is to guarantee them the right atmosphere to study and to be competitive, globally.
“It is for this reason that the committee felt there was need to put the basic necessities in place ahead of students’ resumption. Even then, OND 1 and HND 1students have resumed; it is only those in the process of getting admission that are on hold pending when the lapses are addressed. JAMB is going to be asked to give admission to only a number of students that can be catered for”.
On the alleged lop-sidedness in the staffing of MAN, the source said, “We have a situation where out of over 700 people on the staff list of the institution, those in the junior cadre are only 100. How do you explain that? It is not true the committee raised the alarm about ghost workers; that is part of the lies being peddled around. In the course of auditing the personnel, forms were given out to staff members to fill. Only 600 filled and returned the forms?
But the deadline for the submission of the screening form is still October ending…the committee could recommend the stoppage of the salary of any staff member whose form is not seen as part of the repositioning. There are other issues the committee is looking at such as unqualified teaching personnel, staff with fake degrees, abandoned projects, streamlining of departments, compliance and the rest.
“The committee’s mandate is to restructure and reposition. Emphasis is on optimizing institution’s core vision of producing seafaring manpower. The committee is taking that very seriously, so the present effort is to re-invent that vision and drive a compliance model, to ensure that the committee focuses on the basic essentials in the short term…which will gradually lead to the building of other components. Training ship is not ruled out, but I think that will also come in the short, medium, long term plan. Training ship needs crew to handle it, maintenance and services and fuelling. The ship must be constantly on move to keep in shape, nothing stops the academy from partnering with stakeholders with investments in ship transportation as a short term means to achieve set objectives.
“Once the emphasis is to get it right, the process can be gradual. If the focus is to build nautical science or seafaring manpower, there is no need to aspire to become a polytechnic. The focus must be clearly identified and efforts concentrated at achieving it. It is not true that we refused to attend the House of Reps public hearing on the bill to upgrade MAN into a university. The federal ministry of transport was not invited, and there was no reason to storm the place uninvited”.
The source explained that the MAN personnel, particularly at the management level, prior to the setting up of the committee, was supportive of the reform agenda, assuring that the committee was made up of professionals who were beyond witch-hunt or petty agenda.
Meanwhile, investigations indicated that ship owners have for some time now stopped recruiting MAN graduates of nautical science, based on curriculum reservations and perceived poor teaching quality. Ship owner and veteran sailor, Captain Emmanuel Iheanachor, recently expressed such reservation while praising current efforts by government to reposition the academy.
However, one-time Rector of MAN, Chief Nseyen Ebong, while agreeing that quality had become a major challenge in the certification of cadets of the academy, debunked the claim that products of the institution were unmarketable and uncompetitive. The former rector noted that MAN cadets had been coming up tops in academic and practical endeavours in many maritime academies across the world.