It is not really a surprise that, the Senate has passed the bill to upgrade the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) in Oron, Akwa Ibom state to a full-fledged University of Maritime Studies.
The bill was passed after due presentation and consideration by the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND.
In passing the bill, the Senate agreed that upgrading the Academy to a university would help Nigeria to attain the standards of training, certification and watch-keeping (STCW) for seafarers’requirements of the International Maritime Organization, IMO.
Justifying its position, the Senate posited that the university will afford students the opportunity to specialize in international shipping and waterways transportation, port operations, management as well as exploration and exploitation of oil and gas to boost the nation’s economy.
“The maritime environment requires highly trained personnel to manage the county’s enormous natural endowment and resources on our offshore, international shipping, oil and gas and expansion of coastline with waterways for a viable coastal and inland waterway transport industry. Upgrading the Academy to a university would benefit host communities in the South-south geopolitical zone and the country at large”, the Upper Chamber added.
Perhaps, it is apt to recall at this point, that in 2017, a similar decision was taken by the same Senate, when a Bill that was sponsored by Senator Nelson Efiong, was in similar manner passed by the 8th Senate sought to ‘elevate’ MAN Oron to a Federal University of Maritime Studies.
For circumstances that are yet unclear, nothing was heard about the Bill again, until the recent move to once again upgrade the nautical institution to a University.
Majority of 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 41 years ago, the Oron, Akwa Ibom state- based Academy 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 Certificates. The naked reason is that the Oron academy was not fully equipped to offer such training opportunities.
We are sure that if MAN, Oron had been equipped adequately to offer mandatory training leading to certification, 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 years 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.
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.
This brings us to the present. There was a time the academy did not have single simulator, it lacked top-rate faculties. The buildings (including the cadet hostels, lecture halls and laboratories were inadequate and in a terrible shape.
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All that have changed. The status and capability of the Academy to deliver and also churn out good and competitive products have been enhanced since the appointment of Commodore DujaEfedua as the Rector.
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 (called by any name) 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 AkwaIbom and Oron in particular, rather than a well-thought-out desire.
We will like to align with the position of the Alumni of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron (AMANO), whose president; Mr Emmanuel Maiguwa has advised against the ego-tripping name change to a University.
We also do not consider it necessary to convert the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron to a conventional university, that is guided by the directives of the Federal Ministry of Education and the both the National University Commission (NUC) and of course the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
The Academy should rather retain its name, and if need be, upgraded to a University similar to its peers in other parts of the world. Specifically, we are referring to institutions like: Maine Maritime Academy – United States, Philippines Merchant Marine Academy – Philippines; Massachusetts Maritime Academy – United States; Arab Academy of Science, Technology and Maritime Transport – Egypt.
Above all, we foresee that this latest move to upgrade the Academy may go the way of the previous one. The executive may, as usual, not see it the way the National Assembly has seen it.
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