At the time Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua was appointed Rector of Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron (MAN-Oron), the institution had severally been written off as a no-hoper. Not even government organs or the wider stakeholders in the private sector had anything complimentary to say about the academy.
In May 2009 MAN-Oron was subject to severe criticism by the director of Lagos Channel Management. He said that even the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had found that the academy did not meet international standards. Problems included lack of adequate teaching facilities to handle the number of students, and unavailability of seafaring vessels on which students could complete their mandatory one-year sea term. Students seeking proper training had to attend the Regional Maritime University in Accra, Ghana.
In an interview that year by a national newspaper, a graduate of Oron, Captain Thomas Kemewerighe, lamented that Nigeria did not have people qualified to provide proper training. He said most of the graduates ended up as motorbike taxi operators, popularly called “okada riders”.
In September of the same year, the federal government announced that a project launched by the Federal Ministry of Transport, the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme, would send a first batch of 27 students to the Academy of Maritime Education and Training in India to study for Bachelor in Science and Bachelor in engineering degrees in marine-related subjects. MAN-Oron was not considered for this programme.
Earlier in April 2008, a delegation from the Norwegian Ship Owners Association visited the academy and discussed a collaborative training programme with the academy. The proposition did nothing to change the course of the academy. In February of the following year the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) said it had donated N30 millions of safety training equipment to the academy. The equipment included a totally enclosed 50-person lifeboat, a davit-launched rescue boat and a twelve-person life-raft. NLNG had previously donated equipment worth over N100 million, and had been using Nigerians from the academy for 60 percent of its crew. However graduates of the maritime academy were not having access to oceangoing vessels for them to earn hours at sea, a requirement for their professional qualification.
All this was happening at a time NIMASA was saying that 50,000 seafarers were needed for the Nigerian shipping industry to realise its full potential. As of 2009, Nigeria had fewer than 3,000 seafarers. About 2,000 vessels were engaged in cabotage – that is local trade between Nigerian ports with mostly foreign crews. More than 3,000 students applied each year for admission to Oron but fewer than 1,000 were accepted. The academy said it had to restrict the number of students admitted due to shortage of classrooms and accommodations.
As the woes became unending, three human rights groups in August 2009 petitioned President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to investigate alleged cases of corruption and financial malpractices at the academy. They also claimed that 43 students had died in avoidable circumstances in the past year.
The group, a coalition of watchdog organisations, was comprised of Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER), Centre for Media Advocacy and Research Network (CEMARN) and the Green Peoples Environmental Network (GREPNET) had call on the President and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to probe a Simulator Project which they said had gulped over N100 million without seeing the light of day.
In the petition the three watchdog NGOs said they had received series of petitions from the academy’s teachers and students which laid claim to gross abuse of office, corruption and maladministration at the maritime academy. Addressing newsmen in Lagos, the coalition alleged that “for the past years, students and teachers of the school have been exposed to the most dehumanising conditions in the midst of gross abuse of office and corruption which have resulted into a state of stagnancy and underdevelopment at the academy.
Plugging the holes for corruption
Corruption was the major plaque at Oron and that was what Commodore Effedua saw on ground when he assumed office as Rector. Abandoned projects littered everywhere he looked. Shoddy construction was equally a common sight. An academy founded with the vision “to provide the Merchant Navy, the Maritime Industry and Allied Industries, qualitative education and training that accords with up-to-date technology, meets national and international standards and satisfies end-user expectation” was no more than a glorified secondary school.
Photos of abandoned projects and the general state of decline before September 2017 when Commodore Effedua took over include those of the Nautical building, medical centre, auditorium, library complex, a makeshift library, abandoned classroom blocks, Marine Engineering Workshop, abandoned sports complex, abandoned Cadets Hostel, a decrepit female hostel, decrepit Marine Engineering Office, an unbefitting Research & Development Office, abandoned staff quarters, abandoned Road 8 project, and a swimming pool project that remained uncompleted after 17 years.
After four years on the saddle with sterling achievements that earned him a second tenure, Commodore Effedua today occupies a pride of place in the history of Nigeria’s maritime industry.
He said the major upgrades in academic and physical infrastructures that have taken place in the academy since 2017 were achieved through strict fiscal discipline.
“What I have done with my team; we have done significant things in significant times. When we came, the academy was in a near-collapse state. We are here to add value, not to steal money
“I didn’t get extra funding to do what the whole world can see, it is just that I blocked leakages, and when you block leakages corruption will fight back. The corrupt people, the staff from within and those from the outside, are cabals who had benefited from the academy and milked the academy dry.”
He concluded by saying: “I am here to reposition the academy and the International Maritime Organisation was at the verge of shutting down this institution. And if they had done it, imagine the rate of unemployment.”
History of MAN-Oron
The Maritime Academy of Nigeria, formerly known and address as the Nautical College of Nigeria was established in 1977 by the Federal Executive Conclusion No. EC 172 with assistance from the International Maritime Organisation
It was established as a training institution under the Research and Statistic Department of the Federal Ministry of Transport. It was declared open for classes on the 6th of October 1979. The Academy was originally designed as an integrated institution for the education and training of shipboard officers and ratings and shore-based management personnel.
At inception, the Nautical College was made up of three Academic Department, namely, the Nautical Science, Marine Engineering and General Studies. Following the ratification of the STCW 1978 Convention by Nigeria in 1986, the status of the Nautical College of Nigeria was upgraded by Decree No 16 of 1988 (now Cap M3 LFN 20), its responsibilities enlarged and its name changed to Maritime Academy of Nigeria .
The academy occupies a large area of land on the waterfront in Oron, close to the Cross River approaches of the Port of Calabar in Cross River State and about 200 kilometres from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.