By Edet Okpo
With the deep words of commendation and strong vote of confidence on the Rector of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua, by the National Assembly and Governing Council, there can be no doubt that the Maritime Academy of Nigeria is set for a new dawn.
In the last one week, the Academy has played host to two strategic and supervisory arms of government, each of which came with lofty packages aimed at reinforcing the determination of the Federal Government and fast-tracking processes towards holistically restructuring and repositioning the premier maritime training institution for global competitiveness.
On Wednesday, March 13, 2018, Members of the newly inaugurated Governing Council of the Academy, led by their Chairman, Chief Ademola Seriki, visited the Academy for what the Chairman described as ‘inaugural visit/facility tour and familiarization with Management Staff”. Conversely, the aim of the 5-member Governing Council comprising renowned maritime experts, technocrats and seasoned civil servants of high professional and patriotic pedigree, was to enable members see things by themselves and unveil their template of action in tandem with government’s blueprint.
A day after this, Friday March 16, 2018, the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration also came to the Academy. The House Committee’s visit, on the other hand, could not have been said to be inaugural. According to Hon. Mohammed Bago, who led the Committee, it was its “statutory oversight and supervisory functions over the Academy that falls under its duties”. It is on record that the Committee has been visiting the Academy almost quarterly. But last week’s visit, as Hon. Bago put it was “To ascertain to what extent directives given on previous visits were complied with, what changes or new developments may have occurred since the last visit and to deliberate on prevailing issues with the Rector as well as scrutinize his program of action”.
It is also pertinent at this juncture to say that the volume of generous commendations freely poured on the Rector, Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua, by both visitors were clear indications to how proactive, capable and meticulous the Rector has been in practically interpreting the template of the Federal Government and other stakeholders for making the Academy an attractive global brand. The Rector has not only changed the hitherto dull physical outlook of the Academy but has also utilized his leadership and administrative acumen in either adjusting or overhauling some internal processes that previously hindered productivity directly or indirectly. And this cannot be surprising because Commodore Effedua was a cardinal member of the defunct Interim Management Committee that was commissioned to develop modalities upon which the Academy henceforth shall operate.
The two inspection visits in a period of one week simply conveyed the message on how committed and optimistically determined the Federal Government and Stakeholders are about transforming the Academy into a world class institution. It would be recalled that the Federal Government had last year engaged the services of an Interim Management Committee to fine-tune modalities for the needed changes the Academy required and thereafter made recommendations to the Government. It is therefore gladdening to see how well the Rector understands the recommendations and how soon some of the best results have started to come.
Chief Seriki, from what he saw during the visit, expressed deep satisfaction on the state of some facilities in the Academy and maintained that the institution stands a chance of becoming a global competitor if the needed changes were made in all ramifications and fast enough to let the impact felt. He however stressed that practical attention must be given to obsolete equipment in some highly professional departments like marine engineering workshop, nautical science and others. “We are greatly impressed by what we have seen; but I must also say that there is great need for improvement. Our intention is to leave this place better than we met it because we want to be part of the positive history of this academy. The vision of the Federal Government for this Academy is quite encouraging. However, we have a lot to do and all hand must on deck. Support must be given to all arrangements and modalities put in place to towards the realization of that goal”, the Chairman maintained.
He also stated that considering the level of innovation and sophistication in the global market, it was time Cadets of the Academy be exposed to the latest trends in the global space, “All we do must be in tandem with Federal Government’s template at holistic transformation of the Academy and its products for global competitiveness. It is our resolve to negotiate with the National Assembly on matters of provision of facility, funding and other relevant support for the effective running of the Academy. More really has to be done in terms of upgrading of facilities. We must be seen to be doers not talkers”, the Chairman charged.
Chief Seriki deeply appreciated the Federal Government for the measure of commitment shown to fully translate the vision of the Academy. He therefore unveiled the practical steps to be taken by the Governing Council. These will include effective engagement and functional partnership with maritime-related agencies and organizations in the oil and gas industry, like Mobil, NLNG, IMO, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, NIMASA, etc. Such partnership is to facilitate concrete arrangement for provision of facilities, technical services, capacity-building and engagement of qualified Cadets from the Academy.
Places visited by the Governing Council members during the inspection included Marine Engineering Department; Medical Centre; Jetty and classroom blocks. Others also visited were Academic Block; Mechatronics and Autotronics Laboratory; Strength of Material Laboratory; Thermodynamics Air-conditioning/Refrigeration Laboratory; Maritime Safety Department; Basic Course Centre; Auditorium and E- library/ICT Recourse Centre. The Governing Council also inspected on-going projects in Phase 3 of the on-going projects, comprising staff quarters and hostel blocks.
Members of the House of Representatives’ Committee were also full of commendations for the Rector for the marked difference they noticed between their last visit and the current one.According to the Chairman, Mohammed Bago, it was obvious that Commodore Effedua understood the history and recurrent circumstances in the Academy and has responded to them with practical steps that pointed to a greater future. “Let me say that what we have seen today is a complete deviation from what it used to be. It is clear that deliberate steps have been taken to comply with earlier directives. On that note, I must on behalf of my Committee commend the Rector for the strides he has recorded in so short a time and to encourage him not to rest on his oars until the battle is won. We are very impressed with the progress so far recorded.”
Assuring the Academy’s Management of swift attention to critical matters any time it calls, Hon. Bago however made some recommendations for smooth running of the Academy. One was that the staff strength of the Academy may have to be downsized or some redeployed to where they are more relevant and productive than bloating up the system with people who had nothing useful to offer the Academy. The Chairman’s further clarifications were that those due for promotion must necessarily be promoted; those due for retirement should be retried, and those found to be redundant should be amicably disengaged with due entitlements paid.
In that vein, according to Hon. Bago, “Attention should be given to uncompleted and abandoned projects in the Academy. Those built years ago and left halfway can be remodeled according to modern needs and necessities. It doesn’t make sense to have projects scattered all over the place yet none is functioning. That is why I insist that priority be paid to settling contractors as soon as they have delivered. There must also be a system of quality assurance and control so that projects can last for the purpose they were meant. The cardinal aim is the training of Cadets for regional and global competitiveness; giving them all the leverage they need to excel; otherwise, we have failed and posterity shall not forgive us in that regards.” Some projects recommended by the House Committee for remodeling included survival Swimming pool, lecture theatre, E-library and Resource Centre and auditorium, and convert the abandoned Nautical Science block. Further reason given for the directive was that some of them had remained in that state for too long or were not of expected quality. To boost the IGR profile of the Academy, the chairman also directed the Rector to convert some buildings for commercial purposes.
Hon. Bago saw the Academy as thriving on a triangle of gossip; bad people, and the progressives all of whom he said should be identified accordingly in the management of the Academy. It was therefore the Committee’s strong promise that it will use its office to create new windows for the rapid transformation of the Academy and remove all financial roadblocks that can hinder speedy attention to issues. The Rector was equally mandated to develop a concrete plan of action and forward same to the Committee for close monitoring towards ensuring that all needed support was given. Other House Committee Members on the visit were Hon. Solomon Adaelu, Hon. Mauzu Lawal, Hon. Kabiru M, Achida and Hon. Fago.
In his response, the Rector expressed immense gratitude to the House Committee members for their passion and patriotic devotion to matters affecting the Academy and promised to do all within his powers and capacity to make the needed difference in the Academy. He said he was happy that the House Committee could bear the pains to come down for sight-seeing.
From the Academy Management were the Regimental Unit Commander, Capt. A. I. Yakubu, Deputy Registrar/Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Peter Netson, Acting Head of Bursary/Director Finance and Account, Mr. Okon Bassey Okon, Director of Works and Services, Engr. Jide Kupoluyi, Procurement Officer/Director of Audit, Pastor Sunday Udoh, Chief lecturer/SA to the Director, Mr. John Adeyanju, Capt. Kponu among others. At the end of the two high profile visits, the commonplace conclusion was that the Academy is indeed on its path to greatness, especially with the excellent vision and demonstrable capacity of the Rector, Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua.
Edet Okpo is an Uyo-based Journalist and Public Affairs Commentator