By Godfrey Bivbere
After years of hopelessness for the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Oron, there seems to be a revolution take place at the academy since the assumption of office of the new management team led by Comdr. Emmanuel Effedua. In this interview Effedua spoke of the challenges of providing the needed infrastructure, achievements so far, provision of technical infrastructure, training needs for cadets to make them globally accepted and many more.
Do you seem to have made so much effort to ensure that infrastructures in the academy meet the acceptable standard in line with the minister comment?
Yes, we have put in so much work. Like I said earlier, the minister has been briefed already on what we have done. We are waiting to commission these facilities because without commissioning them you cannot deploy them to use. If you do not have classrooms where do you put the equipment when you bring them in? If you do not have a library where will you keep the books you are bringing in? So that is what we have done. So all the minister have said is not wrong, if he had not intervened when he did, the academy would have collapsed about one year ago.
But because of what he said, this is the first time he is coming here. A lot of things had happened which he may not know currently. He has been briefed; it is not everything you expect him to remember. There are so many government agencies under him, all he has said is true and there are all in the works. All the projects you see today have been completed some months back. Like I said; without them being commissioned they cannot be deployed.
We have also been in touch with our foreign partners, International Maritime Organisation, IMO has been here, and so many other stakeholders, Exxon Mobil was here two weeks ago and the Oil Producers Trade Section, OPTS of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, was to come this week but we asked them to come next week.
Our plan for this year 2019/2020 is no longer going to be in infrastructure, it will be training.
You talked about the Indians coming to the academy, what is the reason for their coming?
The Indians coming to take measurements of the simulator hall to know how to position the equipment we are trying to procure. We also have plans to send our people down as soon as we finished signing the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU with them and probably getting a letter of credit from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
Yes, our people will be sent to India for training at their factory where they produce these simulators and at the same time train them on how to use them and also some other group who are engineers and electronic experts will be trained on how to maintain them. In about three or four months, the equipment will be back in Nigeria and as it is coming to our own boys are ready and well trained and equipped. They will be no need for foreigners to come and help us. Consumables too will be bought, we are saying the same thing but in different ways.
The academy recently engaged 15 lecturers, what areas are they expected to cover?
Mostly navigation, seamanship, radial plotting and the use of navigational equipment, most of them are seamen, so are marine engineers that have been employed. They are just part of the first wave; we are even searching far and wide. The Association of Master Mariners was supposed to be with us recently but I have to ask them to shelve. Part of the reason for their coming is for support by helping us the source for experts.
These people are not people you get off the shelf, you have to poach them. I am expecting four lecturers to join us very soon in the school of maritime transport. We have all these plans, everything in the works.
What about the number of cadets admitted in the academy? You said earlier that the number has reduced drastically?
You see the problem in the past was bad planning. The population of people we been recruited as cadets are enormous and outrageous. We have a backlog in the field already and they are admitting more. Before, the academy used to admit 1800 students, when I came, in classes we have about 100 people in a class which is madness. But when I came, after consulting with the IMO, maximum 30, so far, we have about 259 cadets now; against 1800 we used to have before. Before in the hostel, it was about 18 cadets per room but now we have only 3 to 4 per room and we are reducing it to 2.
Those hostels, the contract to renovate and remodel them has been done but because of this visit, we have stop work. The hostel we went to is not in use by the cadets present. When work on that hostel is completed, cadets would be moved there for work to be done on the others.
There is one challenge the minister gave to you when he talked about you to put the right facilities in place because of the maritime university that is coming up in Daura, that if you don’t put the right facilities they will not bring forms here anymore. You responded little to it earlier, what do you intend to do to meet the challenges of the minister?
Well, we already have our plans and the management is capable. The plans we have cannot manifest immediately, like what you are seeing now, which should have been here 12 months ago you will think that you are in a different place entirely. We have all the plans to bring in the simulator and it is not going to be immediately. They are not like cars that you will go and buy immediately, you must discuss what you want to do and sit down to plan it and these talks have been on for almost six months now.
So, it takes some time, the ships or the specialized equipment, come December, let us see who our challengers will be. The moment we start getting what we want, everything will be over.
The minister is right. He is just wishing us to work harder and we shall go on the background.
One of the issues raised was the host community, the challenges, the hostility; you made mention of dialogue and resolution, but so far what CSR has the academy entered? Do we have outstanding students of the community awarded a scholarship or how did you go about it?
The academy belongs to Nigeria. Where are you from?
You have a stake there and those from Lagos and those from Brono have a stake there. It is not the Maritime Academy of Akwa Ibom state; it is Maritime Academy of Nigeria.
The host community, they were quite hostile. It was in the news. You read it but I’ve called them one after the other, tell me your annoyance, they couldn’t say anything but they were sponsored, some of them even confessed to that. The issue is that when you do not have a stake what claims do you have?
What they want actually is to share money as it has been given before, and my challenge says not true and I will prove it again.
They will blackmail people, hold you, hostage, ordinarily, this event of the day, you would have given them some money before they allow you to pass but I dared them because it becomes criminality, anything you see you just takes.
If you choose to leave your house to come and ambush a minister of the federal republic, do not expect us to keep quiet, we will resist you. If you are armed you will be brought down, if you are not armed you will be arrested.
The host community, we are doing our best. They have two secondary schools here, Mary Hanny and Methodist Boys High School, just three weeks back, you know the ICT centre we have at the academy? We have replicated it in those two schools. We have also got in touch with a consultant who will bring lecturers for them for one year, internet services in one full year. They can use that place for their CBT exams like Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, it is something nobody has ever done for them and we bought a 100 JAMB form for them. Who has done that for them, I challenge them, you are a son of the soil, what have you done for the society? Their union, how many people did they buy forms for. I have grated four roads here for them, even chairs and desks; we have donated a 100 each to two schools there and there are still more than we shall refurbish and donate. Some of these children come from a home with their own chairs.
When pregnant women go to their hospital for surgery, they asked them to come with 50 litres of diesel; if not they are on their own. When I heard that I said no, my CSR team met, now we supply them diesel. We give the diesel on a weekly basis to make sure that the women, children and even the men do not have to come with their generator to the hospital when they are sick. We have done a lot for them that is why I can confidently move around and if you talk rubbish that you are from the host community I will ask you what have you done for people. You are only looking for cheap money; the era of sharing money is over.
We will not share money with anybody but we shall let any money we spend impact on the end users.