by Steve Agbota styvenchy
In 2015, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) charged maritime states to embrace quality education and training for safety and security on board ships as well as the sustenance of the maritime sector. The sector is technical and is run by a lot of international regulations and conventions, so this IMO initiative was crucial.
During this period, quality of education at the once prestigious Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) , Oron, Akwa Ibom State had plummeted and industry operators, particularly the end users of the school’s products had become very disturbed by the falling standards. It soon became the thing to find seafarers and artisans from Ghana, Niger, Ivory Coast, and other African and European countries on vessels in Nigeria.
As the standards keep nose-diving, IMO threatened to remove the Academy from its White List as a training academy established to train shipboard officers and ratings as well as shore-based management personnel due to years of mismanagement.
The Academy, which once contributed greatly to the manpower development in the maritime sector globally, coupled with several cadets trained in the Academy, has made positive impacts in the sector. The quality of training declined over time and manifested in the poor quality of cadets produced in later years. This decline was caused by maladministration arising from deviations from the core mandates of producing seafarers for the maritime industry to concentration on awards of contracts.
Accordingly, cadets’ training between 2010 and 2016 was relegated to the background and the multiplier effects manifested in other problems such as: falling standard of training, over-bloated cadets’ enrolment, demoralised manpower, infrastructural decay, poor maintenance of facilities, unnecessary employments, dearth of teaching aids, inadequate lecturers, deplorable hostels with crowded rooms, makeshift library facility with inadequate current books of reference, poor filing/data management system, decaying state of sporting facilities, abandoned projects, misplacement of priorities in the application of resources, certificate rackets by some staff, huge debt profile, picketing of the Academy by some individuals from the host community, poor salary for academic staff and poor attitude to work by some staff among others.
After the bad signals from IMO, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Transportation intervened by constituting a committee in January 2017 to audit the Academy and make recommendations. On completion of the audit of the Academy, an Interim Management Committee (IMC) was set up on September 6, 2017, to run the Academy. Its mandate was to restructure and reposition the Academy, with a view to bringing the institution at par with its likes globally.
The IMC concluded its assignment in March 2018 and proposed useful recommendations, especially training reforms. These training reforms were to be executed by the incumbent Rector, Commodore Duja Effedua, who was also a member of the IMC. With the IMC gone, the rector set down to work, and in three years, transformed the Academy from a failing institution on the brink of IMO White List delisting to one of the best in West Africa.
However, stakeholders who spoke to Daily Sun commended the Rector of the Academy, Commodore Duja Effedua, for transforming and saving MAN Oron from collapse. They commended him for completing all the abandoned projects and acquired more equipment for the training of cadets and staff, which will eventually put the academy in the first position in West Africa.
Procurement of simulators
The Academy has procured three modern advance simulators from a reputable simulator company, the Applied Research International Simulation, India. The procured simulators are the Full Mission Bridge Simulator, the Full Mission Engine Room Simulator and the Multifunctional Classroom Simulator, which has capacity for 30 students per session with software for other stand-alone simulators. The multifunctional classroom has the ECDIS, GMDSS, APAR RADARM High voltage training software, rules of the road, pilotage and blind pilotage and the DP all integrated into it. The delivery of the simulators has since been done at the Academy and will be commissioned by the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, any time soon. With the procurement of these simulators, a first of its kind in Africa by any training institution, the Academy is currently an institution to beat in terms of equipment,
One of the first tasks carried out by the Duja Effedua-led management was to review the Academy’s curriculum and reduce cadets’ intake. A review of existing curriculum was conducted with inputs from the IMO, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Association of Marine Engineers and Ship Surveyors of Nigeria (AMES), National Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). Consequently, the number of cadets’ intake, which hitherto was about 1,800 , was reduced to 259 in the 2018/2019 academic session and 261 for the 2019/2020 academic session.
The Academy has employed additional 51 professionals, including two captains (Master Mariners); one from India and the other from Nigeria since 2018. The employment of the selected professionals was to fill critical positions that would enhance the quality of training as well as training-related support services. Also, improvements have been made in the welfare of the academic staff unit to encourage them and boost productivity. With more professionals coming onboard, the Academy has opened course files for lecturers in line with global best practices. Hitherto, course files for lecturers were non-existent. The IMO during the last audit of the Academy in December 2017 directed that lecturers should have a course file and this directive has been complied with.
The exact staff strength of the Academy could not be determined when the current management resumed in office. This necessitated an audit exercise using biometrics to capture all staff. The outcome revealed that as of July 2018, the staff strength was 639 as against 804 previously declared; thus, weeding out 165 ghost workers. As part of the exercise, a new smart identity card was issued to the present staff. The card has a microchip that contains all information about each staff and is also configured for access control as well as the biometric staff attendance clock-in/clock-out systems installed to check attendance-related infractions by staff. Furthermore, to consolidate on the gains of the staff audit, an exercise to determine the authenticity of certificates presented by staff (academic and non-academic) at the point of employment and during their service in the Academy was conducted in October 2019. This further exposed some irregularities in employment as about 96 staff were found to have been employed either with fake certificates or without any result at all.
All the cadets in the Academy have been issued with a laptop each and books of reference as well as relevant publications for free as against previous arrangement when cadets were issued with pamphlets only. It is pertinent to state that this measure was a precursor to the online lectures for cadets and has facilitated ease of learning and consolidated on the improved standard of training. In addition, cadets now enjoy free mandatory short courses. This comes as a plus for cadets as they do not need to come back after graduating to pay and do these courses
Existing classrooms and lecture theatres were in deplorable states with very old, broken and unbefitting chairs and desks. These classrooms/lecture theatres have been renovated and remodelled to smart classrooms, furnished and equipped with modern multimedia teaching facilities, including smart interactive whiteboards. Furthermore, abandoned projects for the construction of two additional blocks of classrooms were completed, furnished and commissioned. Similarly, the Academy’s Survival Pool which was constructed over 19 years ago never functioned due to poor construction work. The pool consistently failed to retain water beyond 24 hours after pumping. The same survival pool has been reconstructed and remodelled into two survival training pools and is currently in use.
The Academy’s former library was a makeshift arrangement and unbefitting of a training institution. This was further compounded as a structure initially constructed to serve as the Academy Library and Resource Centre was also never utilised as it was abandoned. The building decayed extensively over the years and equally became unbefitting of a standard library facility for a training institution. However, on assumption of duty by the current management in 2017, the structure was completed and remodeled to the standard befitting of a modern library. The new library facility has since been commissioned and put to effective use. It is stocked with relevant books, furnished and equipped with surveillance systems to prevent stealing of books. Efforts are ongoing to provide more books of reference. The Academy has also made contacts with the IMO, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Defense Attachees to the United Kingdom and India to assist in locating the relevant books and teaching aids for purchase.