The Needless Fight Over Maritime Universities

The National Assembly is currently pushing for regularisation of two maritime universities in Nigeria. Recently, the Senate Committee on Tertiary Education conducted public hearing on a bill for an Act to establish the Maritime University of Nigeria, Okerenkoko and a bill for an Act to establish the Maritime University of Nigeria, Oron in Akwa Ibom State.When passed into law, the fight over the establishment of Maritime University of Nigeria, Okerenkoko in Delta State will end and the Maritime Academy of Nigeria will transform to Maritime University Oron.While the consideration of the Oron University passed legislative hurdles seamlessly, that of the Maritime University in Okerenkoko is still highly controversial.Even though, the law makers are pushing for it, two Delta State ethnic nationalities- Ijaw and Itsekiri, are still at each other’s’ throat over the rightful name of the location of the institution. Although the bill clearly identified the location of the institution as “Okerenkoko” in Gbaramatu community, the Itsekiris are fiercely opposed to this and named the location of the institution as Okerenghigho.A lot of Nigerians may not be comfortable with the location and the tribal cum political rationale behind the Okerenkoko University. The funding is also a source of worry and controversy. We all remember quite clearly the allegations that trailed the funding and allocation of funds to individuals for development of temporary site.The simple fact is: Maritime University of Nigeria in Okerenkoko is perceived by most Nigerians as an institution created to assuage a tribe for perceived injustice. Its promoters were not altruistic, nationalistic nor financially prudent.For those who are pushing for the upgrade of MAN, Oron into a University, this may be their response to the current state of decay of infrastructure in the almost 40-year old academy.Most stakeholders are united in the assessment that, the academy has not been able to meet the objectives for which it was established. Even though created at about the same time, the Nigerian academy cannot match its counterparts elsewhere in Africa, such as the ones in South Africa, Egypt and the neighbouring; Regional Maritime Academy in Ghana(now a University).The sad news is that Nigerian cadets prefer to go to the Regional Maritime University in Ghana for their mandatory post or pre- sea going training. The naked reason is that the Oron academy is not fully equipped to offer such training opportunities.The neglect that the Academy has suffered is partly responsible for the high rate of unemployment and the embarrassing employment of fake and half-baked seafarers.Some stakeholders have advocated that, establishing more academies is what is required to re-awaken MAN, Oron. Another school of thought had also argued that all that the Oron Academy requires is adequate funding and subsequent upgrading to a University to boost its status.All said, perhaps one should ask: Is there really need for Maritime Universities. We don’t think there is any compelling need. The MAN Oron was established to train seafarers. Yes it did, but there was no plan for post-qualification advancement for the cadets.It is sad that as soon as its first set of cadets started graduating, they moved to academies in other parts of Africa, United Kingdom and Europe to post-sea time training. The academy’s handlers did not prioritize the needs of the academy.We support all those who have said that the Oron Academy should not be upgraded, but should be equipped well enough. A seafarer is not particularly expected to attend a University, but a Nautical College where knowledge is impacted.We see the craze for University status as an ego trip.