Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Despite opposition from the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, two bills seeking to establish Maritime Universities in Oron, Akwa Ibom State, and Okerenkoko in Delta State passed second reading on the floor of the Senate wednesday.
Sponsored by Senators Nelson Effiong (Akwa Ibom South) and James Manager (Delta South) respectively, Effiong’s bill seeks to upgrade the existing Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron to a university while that of Manager seeks to establish a maritime university in Okerenkoko.
By reading the bills for a second time, the Senate defied the earlier opposition to the establishment of maritime universities in the Niger Delta by Amaechi.
Amaechi and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had openly disagreed recently on the agitation for the creation of maritime universities in the region.
While Ameachi had insisted that there was no money to fund such universities, Kachikwu disagreed, saying he would not mind funding them from his ministry’s allocations if Amaechi refused to do so.
Leading the debate on his bill yesterday, Effiong said what is now known as Maritime Academy in Oron was created in 1977 through an Executive Act by the then federal military government which he said named it Nautical College of Nigeria, Oron, with the intention to build capacity for the growing maritime industry in Nigeria.
According to him, most of the nation’s merchant naval officers before then were trained mainly in the United Kingdom, India and Ghana, among others, at a very high cost to the government.
He further disclosed that following the promulgation of Decree 16 of 1988, the name of the college was changed from Nautical College, Oron to MAN with limited assistance from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
He added that the mandate of the academy was to provide qualitative education for merchant Navy, maritime industry and allied industries and as well train them with modern technology in line with national and international standards.
Effiong said the plan to upgrade the institution to a university had been conceived in the past one decade, recalling that “following IMO approval for the transformation of the academy to a university status, the federal government in 2013, ordered NIMASA to release the sum of N2 billion intervention fund to the academy for it to commence arrangements for the actual transformation.”
In his own lead debate, Manager said the bill would not only address “the educational backwardness of the people of the difficult Niger Delta terrain” but would also bring Nigeria into the Ieague of countries operating maritime universities.
The lawmaker listed such universities as the United States, South Korea, India, China, Britain, Azerbaijan, Panama, Canada, the Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina and Ghana, noting that these countries use maritime universities “as platforms for the training of top class manpower for the maritime industry.” He observed that in the entire West Africa, only Ghana runs a maritime university.
He further said the bill only sought to provide a legal framework for the institution which he said had once commenced operations until January, 2016 when it was closed down.
“The objectives for which the university is established are inter alia to encourage the advancement of learning and to hold out to all persons without distinction of race, creed, sex or political conviction, the opportunity of acquiring a higher education in maritime technology,” Manager added.