It is almost a general consensus that the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, Akwa Ibom State, has underperformed in its thirty five years chequered history.
Mr. Joshua Okpo was transferred from the Federal Ministry of Transport, Abuja to head MAN Oron with a view to reviving its fortunes. Only time can tell if he is able to deliver on this mandate.
He was a Director in the Federal Ministry of Transport prior to his appointment as Rector of MAN Oron in July 2011.
On the eve of the new year, Okpo rubbed mind with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY among other media groups on his activities at the foremost maritime training institution.
Task of repositioning the academy
When this assignment was given to me; there were several opinions as to why I should not be allowed to go run an academy. There were arguments that it should be given to a master mariner or a civil engineer or an angel. I went to an environment that suffered distrust, suffered hostility and suffered mischief but through the support of government, the staff and the community, we have been able to catapult the academy to an enviable height that not only affected our admission policy, it also attracted willing Nigerians and non-Nigerians to come and support the professional process and made us to actualize the reason we were sent to the academy for.
We are happy that the academy is stabilizing and it is now being programmed on the path of growth. When I went to the academy it wasn’t stabilized, the structures were non functional, there was anarchy and hostility. There was disorder and the options available was to close down the academy and move it to some other place or use force and keep everybody in check and allow the academy to grow as a military barrack. But well, we did not use any of the options; we rather committed ourselves to your counselling and to commit ourselves to God’s direction.
So God gave us the wisdom to apply diplomacy and peace to make sure that we calm frayed nerves to clean up the place and the place has been cleaned up and we have positioned the academy on the path of growth; which we were asked to do.
Memorandum of Understanding with IMO
Today the academy has gone to conclude signing of a Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) at the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) under the watchful eyes of Secretary- General with Turkey, Georgia, and Philippines with arrangement to get sea time for our cadets who have being finishing from the academy in the past few years. Hopefully we should be able to put 250 cadets; 100 deck officers and 150 engineers; to have their sea time. It will cost us of 100 euros per cadet; per day, which will amount to 8.6 million euros per year.
The academy is grateful to you because without your input; the issue of sea time will be seen as a secondary issue as far as maritime education is concerned.
Sea-time for cadets
The academy has not benefited from the seafarers development programme. Our graduates need a robust programme that will solve the backlog of all the cadets that are yet to have their sea time. By the grace of God and with your support and the intervention of government, this problem will be solved and when it is solved, the glory goes to God but the credit to you, my brothers and sisters who have made it possible for the world to know the essence of providing sea time for the cadets. On the 23rd of January, 2014, the World Maritime University (WMU) will come for their final evaluation report under which the issue in the areas that are necessary will be put in place and they will sign an MOU with us.
The good thing is that because you have projected the academy in good light and we are still on the White List, the IMO Secretary-General has visited Oron through his representative and for that reason he has agreed to support maritime development to encourage all other nations that have similar problems.
The WMU has visited MAN Oron, as well, and visited the Federal Government in Abuja and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). Those of you that where there you heard the assignment is to ensure that they help these institutions to grow. MAN Oron will grow, NIMASA will grow; so that by the time we have the capacity to certify cadets for their Certificate of Competency (CoC), the certificates will be recognized worldwide and therefore IMO is playing a dual role not only on sea time but on the affiliation to the WMU.
And apart from that, they are coming to audit NIMASA ensuring that they will have competency in certifying cadets for the required CoC. All these are what we have been able to do by helping us to have a good outing out there.
Affiliation with professional bodies
The Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, needs to compete and place itself on the world map. We have been able to sign agreement with the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMAREST). Majority of the engineering and nautical science cadets of our academy have been accredited for the year 2014. The benefit of the accreditation is that they will have access to journals and other materials that will enhance their studies in that profession. We also have collaboration with the organizations to enable us to have programme for simulator training and other marine engineering issues. Aside from that; in January, we will also have collaboration with a South African university on sea time.
Transformation to a university
Apart from the structural changes we are trying to undergo, we have touched the issue of curriculum. A curriculum committee has been set up to rectify the curriculum and as I earlier said; MAN Oron is transforming into a degree awarding institution such that it will not ignore the STCW requirement of maintaining those other diploma courses that is recognized by the convention.
The IMO Secretary-General has directed that we should limit the review of syllabus to only degree courses and ensure that the National and Higher National Diploma courses are allowed to remain. Otherwise it will defeat the essence of the STCW. Therefore you can see why we are taking time to do this accreditation in such a manner that we don’t rush to the National University Commission (NUC) and ask them to come and declare us a university and after that, create a problem that we will not be able to solve because we are handling an international organization that has similar members with their own regulations that we are signatory to.
So we are glad to inform you that we are carrying this upgrading in such a manner that we will not offend either the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) or IMO as far as the STCW documents are concerned.
However the curriculum has been developed and new courses too have been developed. We have opened the Department of Petroleum Research, Hydrology and Underwater Welding and we shall also open other such courses that have been identified by virtue of their emphasis on STCW. All these have made us to open study centres in Port Harcourt and Calabar.