The Maritime Academy of Nigeria popularly known as MAN, Oron is one of the least ranking Maritime agencies in Nigeria in terms of revenue generation, as it is only a training institution drawing funds from the government and other agencies. But despite its low rating in funding, it has over the years been riddled with controversies ranging from alleged misappropriation of funds, allegations of corruption, bickering and power tussle among the management cadre of the institution. Top in the arrays of its various sagas is petition writing either perpetuated by the staff of the academy, contractors or the host community and indigenes of the Oron Nation.
At a point , the academy was locked in conflicts against itself, the staff, the Oron Nation and the host communities on who should become the rector. The battle of rectorship of the institution became heightened when in 2007, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) through the Act of the National Assembly accorded to it 5% capacity building as status funding from the NIMASA annual revenue generation as enshrined in its Act 2007. With this Act, the academy became a mini cash cow agency, where politicians, contractors and government loyalists begins to attract themselves like bees does to honey into the academy.
For the purpose of clarity, the academy draws its funding from four sources, 5% from NIMASA revenue being the highest , budget allocation from the Federal Government, support funding for training fromthe 25 nations Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA funds) and Internal Generated Revenue ( IGR) from maritime and other training programmes organized by the institution for professionals in the maritime, Oil and Gas and allied industries. These funding structure has been the attracting financial status
to the academy which put it at an average revenue base of N6billion to N10billion annually.
This huge revenue base in the past ten years has become the ” Honey pot” that attracts both power and political interest. With this huge funds, the academy has long became a contract and construction site, rather than a more prosperous learning environment. The power play has also eroded the institution’s credibility of getting the right Management structure , rather political stooges are assigned not as trained academicians or educational administrators, but candidates for political interest and contract benefits.
The intrigues and power play in appointing competent rectors to the academy was brought to the fore
in 2011, after Mr Nseyen Ekanem Ebong, a World Maritime University, Malmo , Sweden trained maritime administrator/ teacher left the institution as rector after serving his two tenures of eight years. Ebong had risen from the rank of a lecturer in the academy to become the rector. Before him was a Master Mariner, Engr. Olu Akinsoji. Those were the days of competent and professional hands heading the academy.
The end of Ebong’s tenure in 2011, did not only end the years of competent rectorship of the academy, but also usher in political interest and lobbyists who were scampering to position their candidates for the rector’s position, whether qualify or not, so far they can get his appointment letter from the presidency.
Also, the process of selecting a rector
and other principal officers of the academy like, Registrar, Bursar, Librarian, Director of works etc which was often advertised , examinations conducted and selection made based on performance was also push aside. Hence the academy became a battlefield for planting of political Stooges instead of professional Rectors.
To fully ignite the fireworks in the Nigeria’s premier maritime institution , the Federal Ministry of Transportation as the supervising ministry in the imbroglio aborted its own process and procedures of selecting a rector in 2011 , after it conducted examinations and shortlisted three candidates for the job in that year. The FMOT instead of sticking to its process of appointment, postponed the evil day by appointing a Deputy Director from the ministry who knows nothing about the academy nor maritime education to administered the institution. He was later promoted to Director. Late Mr Joshua Enun Okpo was appointed from the FMOT first as an administrator of the academy, acting rector , before he was later confirmed as rector. According to his appointees, he was sent to calm fray nerves. His tenure was to be three months as administrator for the Ministry to look into the issues sorrounding the appointment of a substantive rector. It was alleged then that the late Okpo on meeting over N1.4b in the academy’s account as just been remitted by NIMASA was overwhelmed. He then lobbied to be appointed the substantive rector, the rest they say is history.
For purpose of emphasis, this was the beginning of the heightened tension, frustrations , infighting, bickering and the continuous uneasy calm that has encompasses the academy today.
It is also of note that the same FMOT which suppose to play a supervising role in making the academy a citadel of maritime training in Nigeria and indeed West and Central Africa has turn it to another political gambit for permutation and testing ground of its appointees at management cadres with non professionals.
When Okpo died in controversial circumstances in Abuja on 8th December 2015, there was hope that the President Mohammadu Buhari led Federal Government will restore sanity to the institution in line with his “Change Manstra” . Though moves was made to installed another professional , a long standing staff and Lecturer at the academy Engr. Anthony Ishiodu as acting rector, but he too died barely six months into his reign. The academy became a scary institution to administered. Fear was heightened and at a point the Federal Government and the Rotimi Amaechi’s led FMOT was confuse on what to the with the academy. The, then Registrar, Mr Ante Mkpandiok was being allowed to act as Rector, though he has been confirmed by Amaechi as the substantive registrar of the academy in 2015.
Despite the deaths of two rectors of the academy in quick successions, the power mongers and political gladiators were still at work to install a substantive rector of their choice in the academy. The academy host community became a battle ground, they and the Oron Nation also insisted that they most produce the rector or nothing. That leads to the formation of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) in 2016.
In part two, we will serve you with the battle of the current Rector, the various Police and Court cases instituted against Staff, Journalists and the battle ahead (The Rector who loves Police, Court Cases part 2)