Adiotomre: Establishment of Maritime University Would Not Diminish the Maritime Academy

 The Chairman of the Governing Council, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, Chief Mike Adiotomre, bares his mind to journalists on his one year anniversary and the various efforts to enhance manpower development in the nation’s maritime industry. Excerpts by Okon Bassey

How far have you gone in realising the dreams of the founding fathers of the MAN, Oron since you came on board?

The management of Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State is on course in the struggle to reposition the institution to place it on the global map of reckoning and boost the nation’s economy.

The Governing Council of the academy in collaboration with the Rector, Mr. Joshua Okpo is religiously pursuing the lofty dreams of the founding fathers who envisaged a maritime academy of international repute.

We have in recent times engaged in a fruitful collaborative discussions with renowned maritime institutions in Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom and South Africa to explore possible areas of collaboration in the training of cadets for global competitiveness; provide for Nigeria seasoned manpower and maritime professionals to manage cabotage in the Gulf of Guinea; fast track the transformation of the academy into a degree-awarding institution.

What specific vision do you have for MAN, Oron as the chairman of the Governing Council?

First of all, let me thank President Goodluck Jonathan for appointing me as the Chairman of the Governing Council of the academy. Well, our economy today is being dominated by oil, that is petroleum.

In other words, our economy has been described as a mono-economy which it is not too good. There is nothing that last forever. We do not know when this oil will be exhausted. So, the attention in Nigeria today is to develop the country plan without oil. And the maritime sector is a viable industry that can sustain the economy of Nigeria.

For now, you can assess the oil industry need as such. But even then, we in the maritime industry need to take a step to assist the economy of Nigeria. Focus was not placed before now on the maritime industry. But you can see from everywhere that so much interest has now been shown.

The maritime sector when well-developed will at the end of the day become a big employer of labour. I thank God that so many Nigerians are now showing interest in the MAN, Oron so as to improve the economy of Nigeria.

My vision is to ensure that the academy provides the much needed manpower for the maritime industry in Nigeria. My vision is to ensure that the academy is transformed to rank among the best maritime academies in Africa and top ten in the world.

My vision is to ensure that we build a pool of seafarers in order to bridge the short fall in sea farers’ supply in the country and also contribute maximally in the supply of sea farers to the world market.

Will you say that MAN, Oron has impacted positively on the nation's economy, judging from your explanation?

It has. If you see what is happening in this country, the oil and gas industry is still dominating. But, since a greater interest has been shifted to the maritime sector, the oil sector has impacted seriously on the resources of the academy year after year.

During the International Maritime Organization, (IMO) General Assembly in the United Kingdom last November, the products of MAN, Oron performed excellently well. You needed to see them. Some became overall best, some became second, dominating a lot of activities of various countries not only in Nigeria but elsewhere.

They dominated the oil and industry. You would not realize that they were trained here in MAN, Oron. Though I am just one year in the academy, I felt big to introduce myself as the Chairman of the Governing Council.
In fact, the MAN, Oron has trained several people from other parts of the world. So, it has impacted positively not only on the economy of Nigeria, but the entire world.

MAN, Oron is about 35 years old. How would you rate Mr. Joshua Okpo led administration in the academy?

Well, if I want to tell you my rating, it will look as if am over praising him. Even before my appointment as the Chairman of Council, I did not know him from Adam.

From what I have seen in him, he is a hard working gentleman. He is a tireless and an astute administrator. He has achieved a lot for the academy. You will notice the transformation that has taken place in the last one or two years. And, I credit it to the efforts of Joshua Okpo, the Rector of the academy.

The academy is a special institution. We have the Chief Executive that brings the various arms of administration and units together to work peacefully. In my one year in office, I have experienced peace and growth in the academy. No serious misunderstanding.

Everything is moving on smoothly with the limited resources that are available for the institution. You can see the physical transformation of the academy. When I came into the academy recently, I told my council members from the entrance that the management is doing very well. See the structures of the academy, see the cleanliness of the environment, and see the beauty of the academy. How many of such institutions in the country can you compare with MAN, Oron?

Maybe, very few, the only thing I see there which I think the government made a deliberate policy of hiding the academy far away from many people. People may come into the Akwa Ibom State capital, Uyo without even knowing that there is such an institution in Oron. What I would advise is that the Akwa Ibom State Government should interface frequently with MAN, Oron.

The state government should bring some of their visitors to tour the academy. These visitors would be surprised at the level of transformation that is taking place there. So, I give credit to Mr. Joshua Okpo.

During your inauguration as the Chairman of the Governing Council, the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar directed the council under your watch to address the challenge of berthing facilities for Nautical Science and Marine Engineering so as to give them sea time and certificates of competency. What is your council doing to achieve that?

We have done a lot in that direction. I just mentioned to you about our meeting with IMO in London, United Kingdom which was followed by a visit to Turkey and South Africa where we have made concrete arrangements for some universities there to take some of our cadets on sea time.

About 250 of our cadets will soon start training over there. The Rector has raised a memo to that effect and also secured places for our cadets to have sea time experience.

This is a worthwhile development. This development will enable cadets from Nautical Science and Marine Engineering to obtain various classes of certificates of competency and enhance their global competitiveness.
So, we are well prepared to help our cadets know what is happening in the training field and have sea time experience.

We are very prepared to equip them with modern training skills. That again is in compliance with the directive of the Minister during our inauguration.

Training ship should be one of the major challenges that is confronting academy. Has your council put anything in place to ensure that the academy gets out of this problem?

Yes. It is also the desire of the academy to have it own training ship. The only point there is, you know, what it will cost to have our own training ship. We have made several requests to the Minister and contacts with other stakeholders.

We have made representations to the Presidency to assist us. We have also contacted various organizations such as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian and the National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to assist us to see how we can procure our own ship.

It will be of great advantage if we can acquire ship for the on board training, so, we have not abandoned that project. We are still on it. In a short time, in the life of this present board of the academy, we shall have our own training ship.

MAN, Oron has for years now been struggling to achieve its full potential and this has been attributed to poor funding. Is there any serious step taken to improve its funding?

When you say full potentials, it requires some explanations. The academy is already full blown. We award Higher National Diploma (HND) in various sectors of maritime. We award Ordinary National Diploma (OND). The academy even awards Post Graduate Diploma (PGD).

We are even prepared and preparing seriously for the academy to be upgraded to a degree awarding institution. When we made reference to the number of infrastructure at the academy in terms of hostels, lecture halls and so on, you will agree with me that it deserves to be given the status of a university and I make bold to say that the academy is fully prepared to having a degree awarding status. We are waiting for the Federal Government pronouncement very soon.

You have just mentioned that the academy is preparing for a university status and the federal government recently established what is called Nigeria Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State. Will that not affect the vision of MAN, Oron?

The Nigerian Maritime University established by the federal government and located at Okerenkonko in the coastal part of Delta State will never in anyway affect MAN, Oron. You know that even Akwa Ibom State alone is qualified to have more than one maritime academy. Then, are you telling me that two maritime institutions are too much for Nigeria? The answer is No.

We are talking in terms of funding and a situation whereby the existing one is not properly funded and we are establishing another one. Will it not be a burden on the Federal Government?

If the government says, look, we are establishing this; it means that government knows the reason for establishing it. Okay, what happened to the University of Ibadan when it was established and later four universities including that of Benin were later established? People from the South-West were opposed to it for fear of funding and lack of lecturers.

So many articles were written against it but the government stood its ground. Today, how many universities do we have in Nigeria? Is it not more than 100? If you look at the population, is it not growing day by day? The population is expanding. Whose child would not want go to the university?

The more the demands for the education, there is no way the establishment of one university will affect the establishment of another university. So, the establishment of Nigeria Maritime University in Delta State cannot affect Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron if given full university status.

MAN, Oron recently opened a study centre in Rivers State, how soon is the Governing Council planning to establish same in other states?

We have to move very gradually. A study centre has just been opened in Rivers State. It needs to stabilize. However, we have acquired a place in Calabar to open another one. We are also opening another one in Abuja and then we will take it to Lagos.

These centres will organize short courses for us. And as your question goes, it shows how the demands for the maritime knowledge are growing. When you went to school then, did you ever heard of Maritime Academy as it is been publicized today? So, the idea of maritime education is growing everyday and it is expanding.

The idea of a study centre is to expand it. This is because more people are eager to know more about the benefits of maritime training. And the end-users, the oil industries like Shell, Texaco, Chevron, NPA, are ready to take the advantage of the study centres.

They can sponsor their staff for short courses. It is a good idea. It will grow gradually. As soon as Port Harcourt centre stabilizes, we shall move to Calabar, Abuja and then Lagos.

The management of the academy has made several attempts to secure sea time for cadets and ensure that products of the academy are accepted in the global market. What is your council doing to ensure the realization of this dream?

The council is making frantic efforts on that. The council in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport is working out modalities to ensure that it is realized. The cadets from MAN, Oron are already being accepted in the global market.

Except you want to be sure that as soon as you step out of the academy premises, you just pick an appointment letter. Again, the cadets are well equipped to work anywhere after graduation.

If one or two persons are yet to be immediately engaged, that does not mean that other cadets would not be engaged.

The Governing Council under your watch is one year old. Can you highlight the achievements and challenges so far?

The council has achieved a lot from the achievements of the Rector which I had already enumerated. The Rector does not work in isolation. It is the council that is doing all that in collaboration with the management. You want to talk about the infrastructural development of the academy?

Or, you want to talk about the training programme? We are achieving a lot. Very soon, we would send 250 of the cadets to South Africa and Turkey for training. We want to recruit a very competent registrar to assist the Rector. Promotion of staff is ongoing.

There are also good programmes for the staff of the academy. Recently, we sent our staff abroad to acquire more knowledge. On staff welfare, council and management of the academy have worked hard to recently secure a new salary package for the staff which is believed will enhance productivity and quality service delivery.

How is the relationship of the academy with NIMASA in terms of funding? Is NIMASA funding the academy properly?

Yes, NIMASA is our major source of funding. Government had taken a decision that they should give us five percent of their revenue. So, it is not a matter of being satisfied or not. If the council wants to be satisfied, we will demand for at least 10 percent of their revenue.

But the question is, will the provider of the money be able to provide 10 percent for us? This is because we do not know how much they generate monthly. So, whenever they give us our five percent we have no cause to complain.

How is the Governing Council relationship with the management of the academy like?

Our relationship is very cordial. We have not gotten any case or cause for any disagreement. From the inception, I made it clear to the council members that the council is a policy body.

We are not concerned with the day-to-day running of the academy. As far as I am concerned, the day-to-day running of the academy rest squarely on the shoulders of the Rector and his management team.

So long as you do not run out of your schedule of engagement to another person’s own, there is no problem. The council does their work and the management is running the affairs of the academy.

Sir, what is the council doing to enhance the potentials of the host community?

Of course the academy is doing its best. The council is very interested in the welfare of the host community. We do not play with our corporate social responsibility to the host community.

The traditional rulers of the host community and the youths are very friendly. Since we came on board, we have not experienced any crisis because we have carried them along.

The only area we want government to assist us is the area of rehabilitating one warring communities. At least, we are doing something. We interact with them and today the area is peaceful. We can make bold to say that there is no crisis. Everyone is at peace.

Concerning our cadets, we have established some laws to control them. We have streamlined the religious activities in the academy. We do not condone any cultism under any guise.

All these are to ensure that we maintain a peaceful community relationship so that there will be a peaceful and conducive environment for effective academic activities.

What is your message for the maritime community and the council members?

We are very grateful to the management of the academy and the host community. For example, the newly acquired land. This will help in the expansion of the academy.

The host community has not given us trouble at all. They have shown sufficient co-operation. So, I wish that they continue in that peaceful manner. Let them take the academy as their own. They are lucky that the academy is located in their territory.

It is in their own land. They should keep it and maintain it. The council will continue to regard them as an integral part of our existence. We shall continue to coexist with them. They should not hesitate to come to us whenever they have challenges or express their needs in a genuine means.

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