BY YUSUF BABALOLA
Inadequate funding and infrastructure deficit have been albatross to the development of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, to a world-class maritime institution
The Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron is the foremost nautical college in Nigeria believed to have been set up to train Nigerian youths to become shipboard officers, ratings and shore-based management personnel.
But, the academy which had trained about 4,300 Nigerian Merchant Navy officers since inception out of 50,000 seafarers that are needed for the Nigerian shipping industry to realise its full potential is living in the shadow of itself due to lack of proper funding.
The academy apart from fee it charges cadets, get funding from 5 per cent of the three per cent freight levy from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) which industry stakeholders said are not enough to fund a nautical college.
However, the absence of proper funding led to arrays of uncompleted buildings, dilapidated hostels doting the landscape of the academy, lack of simulators for training and ocean-going vessels.
To solve most of these aforementioned problems, stakeholders have advocated for improved funding and provision of infrastructure if the academy would compete with contemporaries in Africa.
Speaking on proper funding, the Alumni of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, called on the government to strengthen the academy by providing adequate training facilities, functional simulators and other educational aids.
The group also called on the government to provide access to training vessels for cadets, research and development facilities and experienced lecturers.
In a statement, which was jointly signed by its President, Austin Umezurike, and the General Secretary, Emmanuel Maiguwa, the association noted that upgrading the academy would raise the standard of its training and equip graduates with the necessary qualifications to meet the industry’s requirements and compete internationally.
The group also advise existing funding from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, which constitutes five per cent of the three per cent freight levy, can be modified so that deduction is made at source by the Central Bank of Nigeria and credited to the academy’s account under the Treasury Single Account system.”
Also, a former rector of the academy Nseyen Ekanem Ebong called for deliberate effort on the part of the Federal Government to fund the institution.
According to him, the FG need to increase the funding of the first and only nautical college in the country.
“When I started as Rector of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, we didn’t have any money, we started with nothing. In 2003, N100 Million was allocated to the academy for capital projects. You know what? Of the N100 Million not a dime was released to the academy. Can you believe that? In 2004 another N100 Million was appropriated to MAN Oron for capital projects,again not one kobo was released.
“Government should put in sizable amount in maritime training and a sizable part of it should be given to MAN,Oron.
It is not too much for us as a maritime country to have more than one fully equipped tertiary institutions offering training in maritime.”
Training a Cadet is capital intensive hence, need for government to inject more funds into the Maritime Academy of Nigeria , Oron.
According to industry statistics, it takes about N18million to train cadets abroad and it would be lesser doing that in Nigeria.
For instance, over 3,000 students apply each year for admission to the Oron-based academy but less than 1,000 are accepted. The academy explained that the academy had to restrict the number of students accepted due to shortage of funding in the academy.
A former rector of the academy once said “As Rector I used to wake up thinking about teaching and learning for 1500 cadets, 1000 students.”
The Academy in 2011 receives N1.4billion yearly as appropriated to it by the National Assembly which is still not sufficient for various needs of the academy.
The academy said of the N1.2billion for the appropriated, N900million is meant for capital appropriation while the rest is for overhead.
But, the capacity training institution has said that it found it challenging to attract resource persons tomorrow the academy because it cannot afford to pay them.
Also speaking on inadequate funding, a former rector, Joshua Okpo said lack of funding has stunted the growth of the academy.
“The major challenge confronting this Academy is funding. Our vision and drive for rapid development of this school so as to bring out its best is often slowed by inadequate funding.”
“Helping us to access fund to buy a vessel under the NIMASA can help this Academy. We are calling on the private sector stakeholders like the oil companies, marine surveyors’ outfits, boat yards, seaport terminal operators, shipping lines, crewing agents and many others who operate in Nigeria to contribute to the funding of this Academy.”
Alluding the relevance of the Academy, the late rector had said, continuity, consistency and commitment are the three things propelling the Academy to attain the enviable maritime training institution.
However, with the eulogy that Nigeria is the giant of Africa, the challenge of building its national institutions and assets to commensurate with the status that would ranked MAN, Oron among the two best Maritime Academies in Africa and among the top ten in the world by the year 2020 include adequate funding for infrastructures.
Also, aside funding, the academy did not meet international standards. Problems included lack of teaching facilities adequate to handle the number of students, and unavailability of seafaring vessels on which students could complete their mandatory one-year sea term. Students seeking proper training had to attend the Regional Maritime University in Accra, Ghana.