Considering the number of calls and text messages that followed it, the first part of this interview certainly angered some people to the point of calling the rector of MAN, Oron names. His offence was that he accused Nigerians of putting estacodes above nationalism. Recall that in the interview, he accused those who prefer the Regional Maritime Academy (now a University) in Ghana to our own Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron of being driven by the lure of estacode. Obviously, he was misunderstood, because going by the interview; he did not mean to spite anyone, but to draw attention to the fact that the Nigerian institution offers better packages than the one in Ghana. Let us not crucify him, please, but let us learn at least a lesson from it. Thank you.
What do you think is responsible for all these?
Well, some people feel that that have lost out, they think we are sharing something here and what I tell them is that I have only about 18 months to go, when I finish you can come and do it and see how easy it is. When the former rector (Engr. Olu Akinsoji) was running around trying to bring money into the academy, I used to think as a lecturer that it was easy, but now I am sweating like a pig even inside this air conditioned office. So, those who think that it is a tea party and those who think that there is something that Nsenyen Ebong has not done, I am leaving, so let them come and do it. In a few months when I am leaving and even if they call me and say that the salary is now N1.2 million, I won’t stay. I think after 25 years in one place, I should move on, I have spent a quarter of a century in this place, so I should go somewhere and do something else. There is no money in my pocket; can I compare myself with my colleague who is now a politician in the National Assembly? I have my colleagues there. the other day somebody called me names when I was trying to explain to him that we don’t issue certificate of competency, I said no maritime training institution issues certificate of competency, certificates of competency are issued by maritime administrations like the MCA in the United kingdom, like MARAD in the U.S, like NIMASA in Nigeria, that what we do is issue academy certificate, and I gave an example that if you want to learn driving, you go to a driving school and when you are through, they issue you a certificate that you have graduated and that you know how to drive. To get your driving license, you go to the Federal Road Safety Corps, it is the same process. The man told me on the floor of the National Assembly that I was talking nonsense, he didn’t even have the humility and patience to listen to me,, he said “what you are saying Mr. Ebong does not make sense”, so that is the problem. I am very happy that God has sustained me to this point in this job when I can begin to pack my bags so that another person can come and do it, so when Ebong was responsible for non- placement of cadets on ships, you come and facilitate it, since I am the one responsible for cadets not finding ships, then you should come and find the ships where they are, everything you think could not be done by Ebong, you come and do it.
You once told me that you ran the academy on several generators, have things changed?
I have shown you two 500KVA generators, one is under maintenance, there is also a brand new 800KVA that our engineers are just trying to install, I have shown you one 60KVA which we use for the refectory, I have shown you one 40KVA, which take care of some quarters. We have reduced the number to less than 10, but I have good news for you, NIMASA has been supplying us diesel for the past five months. I want to say a big thank you to my colleague; the DG of NIMASA, Dr. Ade Dosunmu and I want this than you to be conveyed because the other day, somebody in NIMASA walked up to me and said Ebong gave a passing out parade speech for 2008 passing out parade and there was no where he said thank you to NIMASA. So, I said how many times can I thank NIMASA, I don’t see NIMASA as a stranger to the academy, I see NIMASA as part of the academy, its like me now trying to thank myself, I see NIMASA as part of us, as far as I am concerned, NIMASA is part of MAN, Oron and we are part of NIMASA, as long as it is the agency that is in charge of maritime administration in Nigeria. MAN, Oron is part of NIMASA and NIMASA is part of us, so I can’t begin to thank myself. That is the way I see NIMASA unless they don’t see themselves like that.
Do you enjoy any form of support form the host state; the Akwa Ibom state government
Yes indeed. I have just been told that the government is about to sign 49 hectares of land for us. What we have now is 69.1 hectares, so for the governor to sign another 49 hectares for us, you can see the level of support. Akwa Ibom is one of the states encouraging its indigenes in the field of maritime training,
What challenges do you face at the moment?
Chronic inadequacy of funding, distractions by petitions contracted from the pit of hell, inadequacy of facilities, lack of training ship and the fact that my cadets do not find ships on which to serve out the mandatory sea time, those are my challenges. I don’t have challenges from any human being and I don’t loose sleep over what I see written about me.
Apart from the death of NNSL, what other reason do you think is responsible for non- availability of opportunity for sea time experience for cadets?
We don’t have the ships and that is why we are in the forefront of supporting the quest for government support for indigenous ship owners to get more tonnage. There is no way these people will be doing well and they won’t be taking cadets from us. But when it is when they are having problems or struggling to survive that you will ask them to carry cadets and they will say no, but if they are doing well, then you can walk up to them and say take three MAN cadets on board and they will do it voluntarily, that is the solution. So I strongly support that government should assist the indigenous ship owners, there are various ways of doing that, tax rebate, tax holidays, incentives, allowing those that are competent to carry Nigerian crude oil, establish a fund for them. Shipping business is a capital investment venture and if you say that the private entrepreneurs should on their own, be doing it, we may not succeed; let us see what others are doing and how they are succeeding. The banks should come together and form consortiums to lend money to these shipping companies, I don’t know of any bank in Nigeria that has funded the procurement of ships, they have to form consortium, let four or five of them come together and say okay we put aside N50billion or N100billion and say two or three of you come forward how many ships do you want to acquire, that is the process of solving the problem.
Is it that easy to solve?
This problem can not be solved by Ebong sitting down here, this problem is beyond the academy, it’s that of the government and all the stakeholders, because Ebong can not buy ships or is it the academy that will buy ship on which to put cadets to serve out their sea time, it is the government assisting the private ship owners. Assuming that Nigeria has 50 good ships, the problem of cadets’ placement would have been far solved, that’s the problem, where are the ships? In 2005, I had to take 25 cadets to Malaysia to sail on a Malaysian vessel, now we facilitated the Malaysian government because they wanted to do business with Nigeria and they did in the spirit of south- south cooperation, and it was a very successful exercise. One newspaper took half a page and lampooned the rector of MAN Oron for taking Nigerian cadets to Malaysia, my response was very simple: you said what somebody has done is not good and you are sitting down in your house and playing, what is your solution?