The Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron is a foremost higher institution of knowledge dedicated to preparing the manpower for the maritime industry. The academy was founded in 1979 to train shipboard officers, ratings and shore-based management personnel. At the beginning, the academy was described as one of the best in West Africa with a promising future. Sadly, the situation of the school has been that of neglect and abandonment. It is just like many other educational institutions in Nigeria that have been neglected by the government. It is no longer the trainer of the manpower needed in the maritime industry in Nigeria. A citadel of knowledge has now become a sanctuary of dilapidated buildings and outdated equipment. The institution has been castigated at different times for not meeting up with international best practices in its curriculum development; facilities, tutors, and training standards, which is responsible for the unemployability of its graduates. However, many seem to be paying less attention to the enablers of a public educational institution in Nigeria. The MAN has become what it is right now as a result of continual neglect by the Federal Government.
Stakeholders have continuously decried lack of funding for the institution, with a call on the government to change its disposition towards the school by considering it as a strategic component to the economic development of the country. In spite of unending clamour for government’s attention to the academy, the powers that be appear unperturbed and clearly indifferent about equipping the manpower required for the advancement of the maritime industry in Nigeria. The situation is not getting any better and government’s disposition to the institution is not about to change as evident in the 2018 budget proposal that was recently submitted to the national assembly. The allocation to the academy has again fallen short of stakeholders’ expectation. The government only allocated a paltry N2 billion to the school with only N31 million dedicated to research and development. An institution can only offer advanced education when it is constantly engaged in research and development. How can the government allocate N31 million for research and development to a major institution that is in the forefront of equipping maritime workers and expect the best from it? Every higher institution is meant to thrive on research because it is the hallmark of education. The level of funding a nation dedicates to its academic institutions determines the level of advancement such nation will accomplish.
Our priorities have not been set right. A thorough assessment of the line by line items shows that there are more allocations to capital projects that do not directly advance the intellectual pursuit of the school than there are for items that will enable the institution attain international standard. Why would an institution spend more money on erecting new structures when the old ones have not renovated? Why build new structures when the institution lacks sufficiency in the major equipment and facilities such as ships and boats that will boost the training of its cadets? There is clearly need for reorientation and reorganisation of priorities.
As the national assembly reviews the 2018 budget, the House Committee on Maritime Safety and Education and its counterpart in the Senate should pay attention to the plight of cadets in MAN, who have been condemned to bear the consequences of the current state of affairs in the institution. With the continuous abysmal allocation to the school, it is safe to say that the students have only gone there to waste their time if they are not adequately equipped to actualise their individual vision. The current national assembly should see the 2018 budget proposal as an opportunity to change the old approach to managing the Maritime Academy. They should review the paltry sum proposed by the executive arm of government and ensure that enough resources are allocated to the institution to lift it out of the doldrums.
Other countries are beginning to embrace new technology to tap into the abundant opportunities in ocean economy. To secure the future of our maritime industry, we need to provide adequate funding for research in our institutes. If the government cannot fund MAN Oron to a level that will ensure its sustainability and reliability for new ideas, concepts and discoveries, we can as well just scrap the school and face the reality that we do not have a functional maritime academy.
The irony is that the Nigeria maritime industry is still growing and requires the contribution of skilled manpower. We still have the opportunity now to tap into the fledging ocean economy and the best way to begin is research. MAN Oron seems to be in a good stead to advance that research if adequately funded.
Copyright 2017 Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.