FG, stakeholders disagree on status of Maritime Academy
The cold war between the Presidency and National Assembly appeared to have shifted to the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State, as the bill to upgrade the academy to a Federal University of Maritime Studies (FUMS) suffered a temporary setback last week.
This followed the public hearing of the ad hoc technical committee set up by the House of Representative Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration for its members, Nigerian University Commission (NUC) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Although the House Committee did not invite the Federal Ministry of Transportation to the public hearing, it invited NIMASA, which reportedly opposed the upgrade of MAN into a university.
NIMASA had argued that MAN should maintain its current status as a training institute for maritime manpower, although sources said NIMASA’s real grounds for objecting to the proposed upgrade has to do with its dwindling finances to fund two maritime universities at the moment.
This is even as sources at MAN’s Rector’s office indicated that there was no tension in the Academy and its host communities as widely reported in the media.
It also explained why this year’s admission was suspended, as well as the delay in the resumption of Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) students by the six-Man Committee on MAN’s Restructuring and Repositioning.
Whereas the House Committee and some stakeholders including the government of Akwa Ibom state and various national socio-cultural and political unions expressed support for the upgrade at the public hearing last Tuesday, NIMASA’s objection to it showed lack of interest by the Federal Government to funding two maritime universities under the present administration.
It also considered the ongoing ‘strong reforms agenda’ at the Academy as the first step to repositioning the institution towards achieving a reconnect with its lost mandate.
However, MAN’s Alumni also towed NIMASA’s position, arguing that the Academy’s vision for producing seafarers was not contaminated.
Following the division amongst critical stakeholders, Chairman of the Committee, Mohammed Bago, who was represented by the Chief Whip, Alhasan Adodogwa, promised to convene a technical session to resolve all grey areas.
NIMASA, Oro Union, the Akwa Ibom State Government are among those expected at the five days technical session to find a common ground on MAN’s status.
However, sources at MAN said reports of tension and protests at the Academy were mere rumours and misleading protests with a handful of less than 20 sponsored demonstrators in five autonomous communities of more than one million people.
However, a former rector of MAN, Nseyen Ebong, agreed that quality has become a major challenge in the certification of cadets of the Academy and debunked claims that products of the institution were unmarketable and uncompetitive.
He noted that cadets of the Academy perform well in academic and practical works in most maritime academies across the world.
“I have said it many times before that some of our cadets excel and are leading in both academic and practical training exercises in most maritime academies in Europe, Asia and even America.”