The Upgrade Of Maritime Academy of Nigeria  Oron To University 

After many years of pushing and lobbying, the nation’s oldest nautical institution; the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) in Oron, Akwa Ibom state has moved closer to achieving the aspiration of lobbyists. The Senate penultimate week passed a Bill to upgrade it to the Federal University of Maritime Studies.The Bill was sponsored by Senator Nelson Efiong.Maritime industry stakeholders have over the years called for the upgrading of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron into a university so as to reduce the number of Nigerian cadets travelling outside the country to obtain a degree.Established about 37 years ago, the Oron, Akwa Ibom state- based Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) has been battling to stay afloat.For all its years, MAN, Oron as it is fondly called has been struggling to train would-be marine engineers and master mariners, apart from thousands of other professionals for the maritime industry.Over the years, a lot of people have questioned and lamented the neglect that the Oron institution has suffered. Their worry is justified.It is a fact that, although created at about the same time, the Nigerian academy cannot match its counterparts elsewhere in Africa, such as the one in South Africa, Egypt and the neighbouring; Regional Maritime Academy in Ghana.The sad news is that Nigerian cadets prefer to go to the Regional Maritime Academy 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 employment of fake and half-baked seafarers. The worst effect is that better qualified professionals are often engaged by ship owners instead of Nigerian half-baked professionals.  We are sure that if MAN, Oron had been equipped adequately to offer mandatory training leading to certification to its cadets, perhaps many of them whose only certificate is the Higher National Diploma in Nautical Sciences or in Marine Engineering will not be roaming the streets instead of being on board.Some stakeholders have advocated that establishing more academies is what is required to re-awaken MAN, Oron. Such people have suggested that rival academies should be created in each of the country’s geo-political zones. As a matter of fact, were it not for political intrigues, the academy that was proposed for Badagry in Lagos state was to have come up since 2008.Another school of thought had also argued that all that the Oron Academy required was adequate funding and subsequent upgrading to a University to boost its status. It is instructive that a few weeks ago, the fight over the establishment of Maritime University of Nigeria, Okerenkoko in Delta State also ended, as the Federal Government okayed its reopening in October.Prior to the passage of the Bill, some stakeholders had advocated that establishing more academies is what is required to re-awaken MAN, Oron. Others had argued that all that the Oron Academy requires is adequate funding and subsequent upgrade 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 for post-sea time training. The academy’s handlers did not prioritize the needs of the academy. Is it by transmuting into a University that the problems of MAN Oron will be solved? No. The academy does not have single simulator, it lacks top rate faculties. The buildings (including the cadet hostels, lecture halls and laboratories are inadequate. Are all these facilities to be provided after its upgrade?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 the upgrade of MAN Oron to a University as an ego trip. The post-passage remarks of the Senate representing the zone where the MAN Oron is located made the ‘feat’ to appear like a victory for Akwa Ibom and Oron in particular, rather than a well-thought-out desire.Commenting on the historic passage, Senator Nelson Efiong from Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District said: “It is certainly a great relief for our people that the tumultuous journey of about 40 years, dreaming and hoping for a maritime university on our soil has been finally realized”“It is however a thing of pride to announce to you my constituents that, persistent desire of our people to have a Maritime University in Oron has received today, the highest legislative endorsement courtesy of my bill on the subject”.If seen this way, the University may be run like the Academy which was seen as an asset meant only for Oron people and Akwa Ibom indigenes alone. This is certainly not the way to go.