As Nigeria contemplates contesting the 2021 Council seat of the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, Rector of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN Oron, Commodore Duja Effedua, declared that Nigeria has met IMO standards.
In this chat with Eguono Odjegba, Effedua also shed more light on other issues in MAN and the maritime sector
WHAT informed the recent MAN Oron repositioning effort?
The vision of the founding fathers of MAN was set aside in pursuit of personal ambition by persons who could have put the Academy on the path of growth and progress but by bowing to pressure from those whose personal interests were foremost in their heart, the Academy suffered, stuttered, staggered and derailed from achieving its mandate. The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi felt the need to arrest the drift and got into action at the right time.
Growth scorecard and current status of MAN
When the minister saw the downward slide of the Academy, he intervened by setting up the IMC to rescue the Academy from total collapse. I was part of that team and the roadmap we agreed on is what is being implemented to actualize the task of restructuring and repositioning the Academy for global recognition which the minister is very passionate about.
Every infrastructure has met the IMO specifications. Our classrooms have been remodeled to smart lecture theatres. All our hostels are now en-suite with two cadets at most to a room. We had to shift emphasis from quantity to quality by reducing the number of students we admit.
Whereas the Academy used to admit up 1800 students yearly, we reduced our intake to 300 to ensure that our cadets get the best in their academics in a conducive, peaceful, and knowledgeable stimulating environment. Sporting and other physical training needs like a basketball court, training swimming pool are now in place. We have not just one swimming pool but two at the moment.
State of academic activity
Physically we are not in session, but we are active and our online lectures are ongoing. Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy configured and gave cadets of the Academy laptops and essential textbooks, free. With the laptops loaded with relevant course materials and vital information, and with the proactive steps we took by upgrading and strengthening our IT unit, online lectures as the lockdown persist was not difficult for us at MAN. We simply deployed existing infrastructure and I am sure we were the first training institution in Nigeria to commence online classes for our cadets as the pandemic lingered. Though we sent our cadets home for their safety and in compliance with the Federal Government directive, we kept them busy and engaged online.
IMO qualified lecturers
MAN is running with a satisfactory number of lecturers, we are making deliberate efforts to raise the pool of qualified teaching staff. Just before the advent of the coronavirus, we engaged one foreign lecturer to swell our pool. As soon as international travels are possible, he will resume. Also, our modern, built-for-purpose simulators are being held down somewhere because of the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Our multi-functional classrooms among other training equipment are expected to arrive at the Academy as soon as global travel restriction eases, so I can say we have met if not surpassed IMO standards but we are not relenting.
Case of de-marketing
That matter is already out of my hand and was looked into by the appropriate department of government. MAN is not in competition with other academies in Nigeria, they are invited to come and carry out training at the Academy for the overall good of the country. MAN has covered more than fifteen years of distance in a very short period of time covering the marching order by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi to restructure and reposition the Academy.
So, in the first place, any attempt to de-market us would have been a wasted effort, because we have scaled the hurdle and currently, we are in sync with IMO in terms of requirements and in terms of standards.
We are good in the academic and teaching content, our curriculum, teaching facilities, infrastructure, learning environment, cadets accommodation and feeding, everything is on target, and there is no possibility to lower this standard any more. We have set the base, we are committed, we are keeping our outreach, the capacity we have achieved in top steam, there will be no reason to go down. So, we are good.
Training ship, sea time
MAN does not have a training ship. Ask ship owners in Nigeria what they are going through; running a ship is very expensive. Fueling alone costs a lot. A ship is capital intensive and the Academy does not have the resources to own and operate a ship on its own. It is an area which investors should look at and commit funds to. The returns are good if it can be sustained long term. Our training window is wide and covers external needs not just our cadets. We are satisfied with the efforts we have so far put in to deepen the growth of the Academy, you also know of the acquisition of critical assets and training infrastructure to raise our external training programs for the maritime, oil and gas industry. The latest are plans to bring in helicopter underwater escape training equipment for the training of offshore personnel for the maritime and oil and gas industry in the academy. This equipment will boost the academy’s chances of getting the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation, OPITO, certification, an international certification for offshore training institutions.
So we have succeeded to a large extent to make the Academy reconnect with its critical vision and mission objectives by way of positively affecting the work performance of middle-level manpower in the maritime and oil and gas industry.
Jobs for cadets
It is the same everywhere, like universities in Nigeria and all over the world, our mandate is to train for employers to employ. Do universities provide jobs for their graduates? These are issues that are not within our purview but we are making efforts in collaboration with other Federal Government agencies to secure the future of our children.
We know what we have done on sea time in conjunction with the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, SOAN. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, is also making efforts, in fact, I know that the entire Federal Ministry of Transportation, FMOT, and it agencies are having sleepless nights on how to resolve the issues affecting the shipping industry and bring back the good old days, so to speak.
NIMASA IMO White List Ambition
It is a legitimate ambition, and it is not about NIMASA as such, it is for Nigeria, NIMASA merely happens to be the appropriate department; and we are also involved. To be a member of the IMO White List is to underscore our existence and importance as a maritime nation, to be abreast of developments in global maritime issues, and to have a voice. I think NIMASA and the Ministry of Transportation are on top of the game.
Our own part in the Academy is to maintain top standards in IMO regulations and standards which we have succeeded in doing over the past two years and more because without putting MAN in its proper place, the whole idea about IMO White List will be a ruse. So we are a strong support base for NIMASA and we are working together in this also.
Corporate social responsibility
The Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN is home to all because the man in Calabar, Yobe, Kano, Jos, Benue, Osun, Ekiti, Enugu, Delta, Imo, and all other states of Nigeria are stakeholders. We will not shy away from our corporate social responsibilities, any time we identify one and we have been doing so.
Nigerian women in seafaring
There is a global drive for increased gender balancing in the maritime industry especially in key shipping operations like seafaring. Shipowners should find a way to arrange for suitable compartments exclusively for females so that the entrance to those areas will be restricted. Most of the ships here are not designed to accommodate females. We should congratulate the Nigerian Navy because they started this over ten years back and we had our first females over ten years, and still today, there has not been any case of sexual harassment.
At the IMO Conference recently, the focal point was females in maritime and I kept wondering what our policy is in Nigeria especially when other countries will stand up and tell you where their women are in the maritime industry, what they are doing and where they hope to go. So, I kept wondering what the general policy is here in supporting women in getting where they should be in the maritime industry. Luckily, the transportation ministry is seriously looking at that, and there are initiatives in the pipeline.
Policy on gender admission
My admission policy now is that if a hundred women come and are eminently qualified, I will take them. For example, last year, twenty-nine came, we took twenty-eight, not because we were trying to encourage them, they achieved that on merit. More importantly, this government has bought into the gender balancing policy and as part of the IMO Convention, it can only get better. I think that what is left is for women and girls to find the encouragement and motivation to show interest.
Gone are the days you say one occupation is reserved of is exclusively male, it may not be too far distant when women will begin to register their presence very strongly in this industry. Parents should encourage their children/wards to develop an interest in seafaring, apply to the Academy for training because it is a thing of joy and pride to have one’s child as a ship captain and or chief engineer onboard a vessel.
Just imagine the young female jet fighter pilot that died a few weeks back, Ariotele, her death is quite unfortunate, but imagine the height she was going at her age. Our girls and women should not restrict themselves base on primitive cultural limitations, the sea is a big industry for everyone.