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MAN Oron battles shipowners over N27m training backlash

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By Eguono Odjegba

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said 23 ships laden with petroleum products, food items, and other goods had arrived and discharged their contents at the Lagos Port Complex.

MANAGEMENT of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, and the Shipowners Association of Nigeria, SOAN,  are currently at daggers drawn over failed training contract.

Rector of MAN, Commodore Duja Effedua, retired, who is unhappy about the development has threatened to involve the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC,  if the ship owners fail to a make refund.

He disclosed that while some ship owners have made refunds, others have failed to refund monies they collected from the Academy to provide training for cadets on board their vessels.

MAN claimed it entered into the pact with SOAN as part of efforts to secure sea time experience onboard the SOAN vessels for its cadets.

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A letter written by MAN dated January 30th 2020 and addressed to the President of SOAN, MkGeorge Onyung, alleged that some identified members of the association collected money running into millions of naira from the Academy for training of cadets for their Student Industrial Training Experience Scheme, SIWES, programme but failed to engage the students on board their ships.

The letter which was signed by Effedua noted that 13 cadets out of those scheduled for the 2019 SIWES exercise were not deployed and given the required sea exposure because “some SOAN members collected money from the Academy but failed to provide the service for which they were fully paid”.

The academy warned that it would have no option than to invite the anti-graft agency to step in and recover the money if the affected SOAN member companies do not turn up before end of next month.

The letter indicated that the sum of N26.45 million was paid to one of the SOAN member companies by MAN for 27 cadets to undergo four months industrial training but the company only expended N4.2 million on 12 cadets.

It also stated that the sum of N8.4 million was paid to another member company but only N2.8 million was expended while a total of N2.8 million was paid to the third defaulting firm which spent only N1 million.

The letter titled ‘A Post Mortem of the 2019 SIWES Exercise and Request for Refund’ read in part, “The management’s experience was traumatic, as some of your member companies kept requesting cadets to travel to various places to board vessels and these expensive movements yielded nothing.

“The Academy absorbed this additional financial burden, despite the fact that the institution paid SOAN administrative charges.

“The management also observed that there is communication gap between the leadership of SOAN and some of its member companies which left some of the cadets stranded severally. It is believed that if proper liaison was done, the Academy would have been able to put its cadets onboard Starzs owned vessels. It is pertinent to note that Starzs has refunded the sum paid to it by the Academy and the management is grateful.

“In view of the above, while recognising the challenges you faced in facilitating this exercise, you are respectfully requested to direct Oil Flow and a few others to refund all monies collected from the academy for services not rendered before the end of April 2020 or the management may be forced to seek the assistance of the anti graft agencies to recover the money from them.”

When contacted, SOAN’s President, Onyung confirmed the development but said efforts are ongoing to address the matter.

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