THE 11TH NIGERIAN DREDGING
SUMMIT AND EXHIBITION 2017
Venue: Axari Hotel,
Calabar/Obudu Mountain Resort.
Date: Monday-Friday, October 23-27, 2017.
Time: 9am - 3pm daily.
Registration Fee: N100,000.00
Registration Fee plus Obudu Tour:
Group Delegates (5 or more): Discount apply.
Certificates of Attendance Available.
08033378735 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more details: Click Here.
Anatomy of Revenge: How Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron is Getting
Help from Perceived Enemies.
By Dr. Edmund Chilaka.
Critics of the situation at Nigeria’s pioneer nautical institution
see the current slide in the fortunes of Maritime Academy of Nigeria
(MAN) Oron as a misfortune that began with the appointment of Mr. Chibuike
Rotimi Amaechi as the Minister of Transportation by the Buhari government
in September 2015. MAN's rector at the time, the late Mr. Joshua Okpo,
had already entered the bad books of the Ministry's helmsmen for sharp
practices. One of these, from DDH’s findings, was the manipulation
that led to the announcement that his tenure had been renewed by the
Federal Government when, in actual fact, it was not. Not long after
that, his relations with the Minister soured when he reportedly offered
him admission slots in what the latter was said to have promptly rebuked
because of the obvious irregularity in the offer. After that, Okpo goofed
again. At a meeting of agencies and parastatals of the ministry, he
accused NIMASA of withholding some payments (about N2 billion) accrued
from the 5% statutory support which was due to MAN from NIMASA's revenue
stream. Unfortunately for him, the NIMASA officials at the meeting tendered
documents which showed that N19 billion had been remitted to MAN's account
since Okpo's tenure, to which the Minister was said to have demanded
an account of its utilization from the Rector. Some insiders believe
that this was the beginning of Okpo’s eventual undoing, for it
was widely known that corruption and sleaze were the order of the day
with management of MAN's finances, being a man given to profligacy and
wild drinking binges. He couldn't give a good account.
On the day the Minister directed that an official probe be opened on
the Academy, Okpo, who was monitoring the situation from an Abuja hotel
room, reportedly succumbed to his failing health and suffered cardiac
arrest leading to his death on December 8, 2015. However, despite the
short shrift by Okpo's money administration, the Academy had made strident
progress in mounting various nautical and maritime courses, although
the sea time programme for its seafarer graduates was hopelessly in
arrears. Over 5,000 graduates have had their careers stunted on account
of the scarcity of sea time experience. Nevertheless, a pet project
to award degrees by the Academy which had been long in development,
had passed through the National Assembly as a law, awaiting presidential
assent. Thus, stakeholder expectations, including students and especially
the Akwa Ibom community, were rife that, despite its challenges, stability
had been achieved for the academic programmes of Nigeria's pioneer nautical
schools. Unfortunately, after the passing of Mr. Okpo, his successor,
Engr. Anthony Ishiodu, also suffered failing health, and died seven
months after assumption of office in July 2016.
The next most senior officer after these deaths was Mr. Ante Mkpandiok.
He was asked to coordinate the affairs of the school in the capacity
of acting Registrar. According to inside sources, the circumstances
of his appointment to the post later became a subject of argument between
him and the Federal Ministry of Transport top echelon vis-à-vis
the exercise of certain executive powers. The magazine was informed
by insiders that top Ministry officials were not comfortable with the
moves made by Mr. Mkpandiok to seek confirmation to the position of
Rector. Soon after he came into the office, Mkpandiok began to welcome
visitors who reportedly addressed him as Acting Rector and news bulletins
with this detail were widely circulated. The Ministry was said to have
frowned at this development. Furthermore, Mkpandiok's foreign trips
in the presumed capacity of MAN's head and his acceptance of a well-publicized
honorary doctorate degree were all seen as desperate self-help which
fuelled opposition to his ambition in some quarters.
Meanwhile, the Transport Minister had constituted a committee, headed
by Chief Adebayo Sarumi, to look into the running of the Academy and
proffer solutions. When this committee submitted its report in September,
the Minister directed them to transform into an Interim Management Committee
(IMC) for the purpose of implementing their recommendations, with a
time frame of six months. Apparently, an undercurrent of discontent
has been activated by many aspects of this committee's appointment and
work. Although the initial disturbances by the host community has subsided,
the thin veneer of seeming peace might be a prelude to the bursting
of pent-up agitations or anger whose outcome is hard to predict. Firstly,
the constitution of the committee has been faulted on the grounds of
ethnicity, conflict of interest and the pursuit of vendetta. Critics
of the committee have pointed to instances of past unpleasant relationship
between the Academy and the IMC’s Chairman, who stood against
financial support of the school on the one hand. On the other hand,
the Oron community, in 1999, had risen in arms against the rector of
the Academy at the time, Engr. Olu Akinsoji, following the death of
a top Oron indigenous staff of the Academy in controversial circumstances.
Akinsoji is now a member of the IMC. DDH was informed that many believe
that he has revenge up his sleeves.
Even the halt to the admissions into some National Diploma courses
is being viewed suspiciously as a move that will benefit a rival Port
Harcourt-based maritime training school believed to be partly-owned
by one of the IMC members. Disaffection of the academic staff to these
developments has led to various fallouts, including the search for alternative
lecturing appointments in other institutions and general demoralization.
Against the welter of allegations and accusations, the magazine contacted
Engr. Akinsoji who, however, declined to comment for this story, citing
the fact that he is not the Chairman of the Committee. Nevertheless,
one of the strong feelings to the situation has been expressed by Capt.
Ime Ntiaindiem, the first Nigerian Rector of the Academy, who faulted
the Minister’s appointment of a retired navy officer as rector
for a merchant marine institution. According to him, the Federal Government
had tried this method at first and rejected it based on advice from
the Nigerian Navy. Excerpts of his interview are reproduced below:
DDH: How do you feel generally about the state of affairs
with Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron.
Capt Ntiandem: I was very surprised, yesterday I went
for my pension and the boys that attended to me were my former students,
Batch 10, Batch 11. When my mother died and I summoned them, they were
very happy. I was asking them, what have you people done in NIMASA?
Nothing, they just do routine jobs because they are afraid to make decision
and if that is the attitude, shipping is gone forever.
DDH: However, for Nigeria to revive shipping, Maritime Academy
of Nigeria Oron is very important…
Capt Ntiandem: Yes. But it’s not Maritime Academy
per se. When I finished at the place [as Rector], I got the first batch
of cadets ready for exams. The GIS (Government Inspector of Shipping)
Office which was in place at the time was not able to set the exams
and to avoid crisis, Capt Agbakoba, who was the GIS ran to the IMO (International
Maritime Organisation). And the crisis developed and the burden fell
on me and they tried to lean on the maritime academy in Egypt. Since
then, we have not been able to organize First Class exams in Nigeria.
I came from Oron to become the GIS. I was organizing that when they
retired me. When I asked why files have not gone passed the level, they
just laughed at me. They said there was nobody interested in that job.
At least I was there as a captain, right at the top. But if there is
no captain as executive director, there is no real captain in Oron,
nothing will work. So, the real impetus is not Oron itself, Oron can
do what it likes. Nobody can do without NIMASA now because the certificate
is issued by NIMASA. It’s not Oron that conducts the exams. Oron
prepares students for exams but certificates are issued by government.
DDH: Are you talking about the certificate of competency
Capt Ntiandem: Yes. That’s the key.
DDH: However, stopping the internal management of the Academy
and instituting an Interim Management Committee, is that the best way
Capt Ntiandem: No, if in 1978, the government wanted
a qualified person to head the place, they sent for me. I was not available
in Nigeria, they called me from Switzerland to head Oron in 1978, a
competent captain; there were other captains. I was the most qualified
in Africa at the time and they sent for me. How come that they could
not find one captain, a master mariner, such that they went to bring
a retired navy captain? Navy and merchant navy are very different. In
fact, what happened was that [former President] Obasanjo was the military
head of state when the issue went to [Federal Executive] Council. He
asked the Nigerian Navy to husband the development of the Maritime Academy
Oron, the Nautical School. They took it for six months and came back
with the response that they can run a naval college but they have no
idea what nautical college is all about. Then, Obasanjo gave it to the
Federal Ministry of Education. Ministry of Education said if the Navy
cannot run, they too cannot run it. Then, in anger, they sent it back
to the Federal Ministry of Transport which sought for the late …
because there wasn’t a Nigerian to head it. That’s how they
found me. The question is if they could find a man in 1978, a Nigerian,
who was qualified to head it, why can’t they find one now? Why
do they have to go for a retired navy man? There are so many qualified
Nigerian master mariners, even though they don’t hold Nigerian
certificates. There are so many holding British certificates, Australian
certificates, Malaysian certificates, Singaporean certificates, why
can’t they find one of them?
DDH: So, the Interim Management Committee is not a well-thought
Capt Ntiandem: No, they are not competent, there’s
no qualified person in the team, not one.
DDH: Critics are also insinuating that revenge is the motive
for putting Engr. Akinsoji in the team in view of his stormy exit from
the Academy in 1999? What do you feel about it?
Capt Ntiandem: Yes, that may be right. He insults me personally;
insults the whole shipping community. Why should he go back?
DDH: How do the host community and others like you from Akwa
Ibom State feel about the situation?
Capt Ntiandem: They are not happy with the situation, I am
not with them. When I advised them [MAN management] exactly what to
do, they were planning for the university [status]. I told them Maritime
Academy Oron is far higher than a university because they can award
degrees. All maritime academies of repute can award degrees today. So,
you do not have to go to a full-blown university, all you have to do
is to get the right person to head it and get a competent faculty. At
the time I headed it, I had Americans in my faculty as lecturers, I
had Pakistanis, Indians, British and four from Accra Ghana in the place.
I paid some in dollars, some in Naira. So nobody told me that by the
time they took over from me, there was no --- to take employ people
and pay them in dollars. I only got approval from the federal government,
I was paying. In fact, when I got Nigerian captains, three of them,
I was not paying them sea salaries, that is what they were getting at
DDH: Are you available to do the job now, do you think?
Capt Ntiandem: (Laughs) If they ask me to do the job, it would
not be the first time. There was a time Dr. Babangida Aliyu, when he
was the Permanent Secretary in Federal Ministry of Transport, asked
me to do the job. But I said no, I can advise, at my age.
DDH: That is another accusation being leveled against the
members of the IMC, that they are too old for the job…?
Capt Ntiandem: They are too old, they are just selfish. When
I was the head at Oron, I had a chief technical adviser, he was Captain
Philip Alexander, an Indian, who was the first Managing Director of
the Shipping Corporation of India and also the first Principal of their
maritime school, I was paying him in dollars.
DDH: Are you using to say to that they haven’t got
the right complement of staff to run the place?
Capt Ntiandem: Yes, they haven’t. The way they are, if
they want to appoint a Nigerian for that position, they have to appoint
a young Nigerian master mariner, who has interest in maritime education.
I am available as a technical adviser to him. I will guide him but I
don’t want to take day-to-day decision.
DDH: From the foregoing, it seems that the Minister of Transportation
needs better advice than he is getting at the moment on the subject
of MAN Oron, do you agree?
Capt Ntiandem: That is true. Immediately he came in, I sent
him a letter of invitation, something I have never done before. In that
letter, I asked him to give me the opportunity of advising him, briefing
him of what happened and the best way forward for shipping. He acknowledged
the letter and said he will keep it in view. He never asked me to come
DDH: What is your overall assessment of the entire situation
of Nigerian maritime training and capacity building?
Capt Ntiandem: To me, looking at Oron alone is not enough.
In this country, the position of the number one seaman is there. He
was called the Government Inspector of Shipping. In other countries,
in Britain, there is the number one merchant seaman and there is the
number one naval seaman, the Chief of Naval Staff. It was during the
Obasanjo administration that the office of the Government Inspector
of Shipping was merged completely into NIMASA. Once you don’t
have that man, a seaman, heading merchant marine, you will have problems,
because right from the beginning the Navy has two roles. One, to fight
the pirates at sea to make sure that they protect your trade. The most
important role for the merchant navy is to trade, to carry your imports
and exports to the world market. So, the merchant marine in Nigeria
has been destroyed once you destroy the regulatory body, the head of
merchant marine. That was why when I was in NIMASA, I carried on the
responsibility of the headship of the merchant navy. If that is not
done, we can never have merchant navy. The Government has to make up
its mind either to unbundle NIMASA and release one office to take care
of shipping. Some of the things happening today such as piracy would
have been taken care of by the Government Inspector of Shipping. You
may not realize that it was the Government Inspector of Shipping that
created the Nigerian Navy, the Inland Waterways, the Nigerian Ports
Authority because of the office it subsumed under the system. Most of
the offices that would have been established to take care of piracy
have not been established. If anything, NIMASA swallowed everything.
Electronic Navigation System should have been established. Anti-Piracy
Systems should have been established. And Lighthouse Authority should
have been established. All these things should have been established,
instead the few that were established were subsumed under NIMASA. So,
the number one merchant seaman office has to be re-established so that
he could look at the issues of shipping: What do the ship owners want?
What do the Government want? And what do the private people want? And
what do Nigerians who want to be seamen want? All these things have
been destroyed. If you make Oron a first-class merchant navy school,
where are the ships? So, we have to make sure that not just the officers
are available but also the seamen. These are very vital issues here.