After many years of disappointment and failed promises, the dreams of Cadets of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria having the recommended mandatory sea time experience and other related exposures as part of their statutory training programme will in a matter of months be realized.

This cheering prospect was as good as sealed with the visit of the newly elected President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. MkGeorge Onyung, to the Maritime Academy of Nigeria on a facility tour on Friday, June 5, 2019. This is yet another proof of renewed interest and attraction the Academy has gained in recent times from stakeholders and affiliate organizations on account of the rapid restructuring the Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua-led management has brought about.

Although the Academy has been in existence in the last 42 years, this is the first time a deal of this nature has been secured by the Academy’s Management. Stressing the importance of this, the Rector of the Academy, Commodore Duja Effedua, had in his remarks explained that with this possibility, the benefiting Cadets will become exposed to real and practical life on sea, an experience which they never had but which is primarily designed to boost their competency and make them marketable across the world in line with international best practices for Cadets from maritime Academies.

Commodore Effedua stated that exposure of Cadets to seatime on a vessel has become necessary as part of the current strategic agenda of restructuring and repositioning of the Academy into a world class institution, which comprises launching its Cadets into the competitive global market. The Rector disclosed that the situation he met on ground on resumption of duty was disheartening, considering the years of existence of the Academy. He said they were many abandoned projects and inadequate infrastructure, poor quality of Cadets and lack of teaching staff in professional areas, over-bloated Cadets population, old and insufficient equipment and general low orientation. However, the earnest efforts of his management team have changed all these into positives, because he realized that one of the major problems of the Academy was leadership that has a sense of direction and passion.

“To truly merit the name of seafarers as well as meet their professional expectations, Cadets must be given proper training in line with international standards. This involves undergoing the compulsory seatime training. And because the present Management of the Academy is after excellence and professionalism of Cadets, we went into action to make sure everything possible was done to actualize dreams and ensure that our products can stand any test in any part of the world. That is why we are very grateful to the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria for its consistent support and the current assurances by the new leadership. Let me mention that the Academy has moved from where it was previously and is gaining respect and recognition”.

According to the Rector, practical steps already taken include rapid infrastructural renaissance, employment of core professionals to handle courses, change of mental orientation for cadets; procurement of modern equipment in line with International Maritime Organization (IMO) standards, reduction of Cadets’ population to enhance quality, provision of new hostels, modern and functional survival pool and others as well as robust partnership with affiliate bodies on staff capacity-building, etc. He noted that, like some other projects, the survival pool that has just been remodelled and completed had been abandoned for 19 years. He maintained that his dream is to have foreign Cadets and other maritime professionals in the Academy. The Academy’s Chief Executive who thanked the SOAN president for the visit and support in previous years however sought more of such support especially in the area of seatime for Cadets and engagement in other areas. “The Academy has a great future. We are moving forward. Please help us by making our dreams come true”, the Rector requested.

Earlier in his speech, the SOAN President, Dr. MkGeorge Onyung, emphasized that the decision by the organization to visit and also support the Academy in critical areas of needs was motivated by the commitment of the present Management and the rapid transformation that the Academy has witnessed recently. In his words, “We have heard so much about your unflinching commitment towards the repositioning and restructuring of the Academy. This is my first time in this place since the establishment of this institution more than 40 years ago; but as I arrived here, I was first captured by the ambience of the Academy’s environment that tells the story from the gate.”

As part of the facility tour, the SOAN boss visited the 1000 capacity auditorium complex equipped with sophisticated facilities, Simulation centre, library complex and resource centre all remodelled to modern taste and completed by the Effedua administration. Other places visited include an ICT centre, academic block and computerised lecture theatres, twin survival pool and a medical centre.

Addressing the Management after the facility tour, Dr. MkGeorge Onyung noted that he was highly impressed by what he saw, compared to what he used to hear previously. He said the newly completed structures and ongoing ones were bold signatures of the present management. “Let me first commend the Rector and his management team for their vision, commitment and taste for quality. What I have seen is a sharp contrast to the previous stories of poor management, obsolete or complete lack of quality infrastructure, dearth of modern training equipment, half-baked Cadets and inadequate professionals to handle core maritime courses. I can now say that the Academy has a future. It is on course. I am quite satisfied. This is what gives us the courage and incentive to encourage this institution the more. It all points to the fact that with the right person in the right place, things can work in this country”, the SOAN boss stressed.

With this impression, Dr. Onyung promised on behalf of SOAN that the level of collaboration and support for the Academy will be increased to sustain the tempo of the current transformation and futuristic plans for the Academy, especially in the area of seatime training. He pledged that modalities will quickly be developed to strike a strong partnership with other affiliate groups towards ensuring that qualified Cadets from the Academy have seatime on vessels and exposure to the wider world.

“When I hear you (Rector) speak, I feel like shedding tears for the passion you personally have for the development of the Academy. I feel proud that the Federal Government finally has found a man like you, a seasoned and renowned naval officer, a purpose-driven and core professional in the maritime sector, to man this great institution whose dreams have been stunted over the years. The Cadets are our collective succession plan. There is no moral justification for us not to have them properly trained on board and other areas. Giving them adequate training and exposure will also boost the maritime industry and create more opportunities for exports. We must have competent hands to handle our ships and equipment. This Academy therefore cannot be toyed with. We all must be seen as stakeholders and shareholders. It is therefore our determination to support you, and we sure will, particularly in connection with vessels for seatime. ” Dr. Onyung was accompanied on the visit by the Chairman, Technical Committee of SOAN, Dr. Lucky Akhiwu.

Indeed, what has taken place in the Academy since Commodore Duja Effedua’s arrival has been phenomenal. It has become a centre of attraction for observers near and far in recent times. It would be recalled that two months ago, the immediate past Minister for Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi also visited the Academy for the first time and commissioned more than 10 projects undertaken by the Effedua administration. Like the Rector always says: “I am in the Academy to prove a point. I am here to give hope to the maritime industry in Nigeria. This Academy must launch into the global market”.

Edet Okpo