By Godfrey Bivbere
THERE seem to be no hope in sight for graduate cadets of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Oron, in Akwa Ibom State, as thousands of them appear to be roaming the streets following lack of opportunities for them to embark on sea training programmes.
This is even as the present management of MAN, Oron, and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, have said that it is not their duty to ensure sea time training for these set of cadets.
Speaking with Vanguard Maritime Report on the issue, Rector of MAN, Oron, Comdr. Emmanuel Effedua (rted.), said his management was only responsible for past graduates of the institution.
Similarly, Executive Director of Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, Ahmed Sambo, said though it is not the responsibility of the Agency to provide the graduate cadets with sea time training, the present management has arranged for the training of several hundreds of them.
Commercial bike riding
Vice National President of Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, NMNOWTSSA’s shipping unit, Reginald Onyenobi, told Vanguard Maritime Report that as a result of lack of sea time training for the cadets, most have resorted to doing other menial jobs such as commercial bike riding popularly referred to as “Okoda.”
Investigations by Vanguard Maritime Report showed over 24,000 cadets have so far graduated from the institution in the last 16 years. There were accusations making the rounds recently that most of the pirate attacks on the nation’s waterways were carried out by this category of cadets.
Effedua said the institution has reduced the number of students admitted, adding: “You see, the problem in the past was bad planning. The population of people we have been recruiting 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 we had about 100 cadets in a class which is madness. But when I came, after consulting with the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, the maximum is now 30. So far, we have about 259 cadets now, against 1800 we used to have before.
“Before now, it was about 18 cadets per room in the hostels, but now we have only three to four per room and we are reducing it to two.”
Onyenobi expressed worry about the situation of these cadets, stressing the need for the Federal Government to urgently address their needs. On the part of the association, he said that they have been engaging various stakeholders ranging from shipping companies, ship owners, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, as well as the National Assembly to help give succour to the cadets.
In his words: “We feel so much for them and we have been doing the much we can. We have been engaging stakeholders; we have also been engaging shipping companies, ship owners, NIMASA and also even the National Assembly.
“We have been doing a lot; probably they cannot give what they do not have. If you want to look at the fact and do know that we are forgetting the then Nigerian National Shipping Line, the national carrier that used to have a training vessel, it is when you have a national carrier that you can have the authority to provide the needed sea time for these cadets.”
Immediate past president of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, SOAN, Greg Ogbeifun, had lamented that the country does not have ocean-going vessels to meet the requirements of modern cadet training.
He said though there are modern vessels trading in the Cabotage area in the country NIMASA is refusing to allow the cadets train onboard these ships.