MAN needs a training vessel to compete favourably — Akinsoji
Today, we serve you the concluding part of the interview with the former Nigeria’s Alternate Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), who had also been Director General, now defunct Office of Government Inspector of Shipping (GIS), Engr. Olu Akinosoji. He has suggestions on how to reposition the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa- Ibom, where he served as Administrator and Chief Executive Office for eight years, for greater efficiency.
So what are you recommending, Nigeria should own training vessels?
Tell me which country does not have a training vessel at the stage of their development? There is no country in this world that does not have a training vessel at the stage of their development. We cannot erase that in our lives, we had but we did not understand, we dispose of the training ship before we got to the level where the private sector can handle and provide enough vessels for training. We have not got to that stage, the private shipping companies are struggling to survive because the policies are not supporting them and the training cannot complete because the policy does not provide enough facilities for completion of training. It is not academy that will provide ships, it is not academy that will certificate, it is government. Certificate that is held by a seafarer is like a driving license that is issued by the government. So if government does not provide facilities for school to have practical training, from practical training to examine and issue the certificates, is it the academy problem? How do you intend to solve that problem even if you close down the academy? The problem will still be there because it is not academy problem, academy cannot be given money to buy ship and run ship because it is not a commercial entity, it is an impossible thing; the only way academy can get involve is to encourage the industry that needs to have vessels to carry cargoes because of the interest of putting their cadets on board, that is the best they can do. It is the system that must try to ensure that they provide opportunities for interested people to be able to own their ships and carry Nigerian cargo within the interest of assisting in capacity building, there are so many ways we can do this but not finger academy. Academy has no fault in this problem. I am sorry that Omotosho made that statement but he does not know what he is talking about, he is not very sure, I wish I can have a one-on-one discussion with him and I will want him to tell me how he got that kind of feeling that the academy should be shutdown. What is the substitute for academy? Wherever you have an academy or wherever you have any training and you do not have facilities to have an approved sea experience the government cannot issue you certificate and even if the government issues you the certificate, you cannot sail that ship into another port because port state control will arrest you.
I understand also that part of the problem of the academy is the community itself, I don’t know if you share this opinion from your own experience?
I know it is a community problem, its major problem, it is political and political problems have to be solved politically, there is nowhere in the world where political problem is solved technically. We were able to manage the academy for eight years that I was there because we were addressing the issue. I left the place in a hurry, now you are talking to me probably you may not have the opportunity to talk to me if I didn’t leave but at the time I was leaving I thank God because I was satisfied that a thing like Omotosho said would never be said about that place because there is nothing you can use that place for except for training, we have established it to the extent that you must resolve all the other problems that are barriers to the success of the academy but I personally still think that the success of the academy can be measurable. Most of the top people in the maritime industry are products of the academy, don’t forget, LNG Shipping Manager is a product of academy. Probably some of the top people in Mobil that are in marine are products of academy. The thing is that the industry does not understand, how do you take people to deal in marine industry without maritime knowledge? They are clog in the wheel of progress. So the problem of the academy with the community is not unusual because when academy was sited in Oron it was political, they felt they were putting the academy there for the benefit of people in that locality, catchment area, because at that time we used to have rolling plans in Nigeria, developmental rolling plans and they were strictly obeying these plans and putting them in place. So they were distributing government capital projects and I think one of the prominent people from that area at that time chose the academy to be placed there. So they thought it was supposed to be for their own benefit.
There was a misunderstanding sort of?
Yes, but if we understand that, we should be able to manage the place. We don’t kick against fundamental issues if you have a focus.
The man who took over from you Nseyen Ebong, was he able to build from your assessment, was he able to build on what you established or was there retrogression?
There was somebody in between him and myself. There were people who rioted and made me leave the place and those people were out to just make money because they thought I have got enough money in the field whereas the money was supposed to be for Polish counterparts. The maritime academy of Poland was supposed to have cooperation with us and send professors to join Nigerian and Nigerian lecturers should go to Poland and also for cadets to exchange and we were already resolved. We were building the accommodation, we got cars for them and we had about one hundred something million ready to take off that project. So they thought that money was good for them and within three or five months they finished that money and somewhere along the line the man was removed and then Ebong canme.
So that project failed?
It failed, even it failed till today and Ebong came. So why I mentioned that is that there was no continuity, the system was already gone even this university level thing we were already done with the preliminary work on it. There was a report in the academy about it so there was no continuity and when Ebong came in I expected him to continue with what I did because he worked with me, he was head of department and I expected him to refer back to where we were and continue on the track. Unfortunately when he was and all the time he stayed there they didn’t revive the corporation. All the MoUs we signed with Romanian, with Poland, with India for exchange of cadets and cadets on board and things like that they just went in oblivion. So I cannot precisely say in details whether his achievements were measurable or not but what I know is that they gone off the track we laid down at that time. You know MV Trainer, we bought it back but when they bought it back but because of lack of understanding also, the MV Trainer never succeeded in discharging the function for which it was bought, it was an opportunity for some people to make money. So academy issue cannot be isolated from the whole society itself because the society itself is going from one kind of problem to another and academy is part of that system, so it is difficult to put our thumbs down on what the problems are but technically I know that is we all understand, if the Ministry of Transport, NIMASA in particular and NPA, if we all understand that we need one another for this country to grow then we will be able to solve our problems but presently everybody in that industry is like an island and in marine there is no island. Everybody must work together, must have a common focus and that is when it will work.
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