A frontline advocacy group in the Niger Delta region, the Niger Delta Development Initiative (NDDI), has written to President Muhammadu Buhari, criticising the recent committee set up by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, to restructure the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, Akwa Ibom State. The organisation described it as an action done in bad faith.
In a statement issued and signed by the President of the association, Gabriel Thompson, and the Group Secretary, Ita Umiom, NDDI said the recommendations of the committee chaired by Chief Adebayo Sarunmi, a former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), should be disregarded as it is capable of igniting crises in the region which has recently become calm.
Outlining the reasons for condemning the committeeâ€™s report in the statement, the group said: â€œThe Sarunmi-led Committee is made up of men that have lost touch with modern realities in the maritime industry, and as such, did not interact with professionals in the industry, some of whom are ex-cadets of the institutions which are now globally successful master mariners, before making recommendations to the minister.
â€œThese professionals include the best sailors and mariners all over Nigeria who have in-depth knowledge of how maritime institutions are run internationally.
â€œThe committee was wrongly constituted because when you put together a committee of such magnitude, you donâ€™t bring people that do not have the knowledge of the requirements of STCW (Manilla Convention of 2010 as amended) which are the laws that guide international maritime activities currently. To that extent, the committee even criticised the IMO standards adopted by the institution.
â€œThere is no way a committee can restructure an institution like MAN Oron without interacting with the critical stakeholders, including the host communities.
â€œThe committee was skewed to negativity because its attention should have been focused on bringing recommendations that should make the academy a world class institution that could compete favourably with countries such as Philippine and Singapore whose mariners occupy nearly all the vessels on the world maritime waters.â€
According to NDDI, â€œprovisions of training vessel is critical to the academy because it will enable the cadets to participate in the mandatory sea time experience as required by the STCW Convention 2010; provision of relevant equipment, infrastructures, proper funding, creating enabling learning environment with qualified lectures which are among the critical areas that need restructuring and not the human beings in the academy.
â€œThe recommendations that Directors of Oron extraction in the school, who have committed no offence whatsoever, should be compulsorily retired is a misnomer.
â€œTo show that the committee lacks the required knowledge, the recommendation that the procurement department of the institution should be merged with works department is against the Procurement Act of 2007 and also negates the spirit of due process and world best practices.
â€œThe committeeâ€™s recommendation to tamper with the original organogram of the school which was approved by the federal government is also a unfortunate.
Â â€œAlso, the committee chairman, a former NPA managing director, who made no known contribution to reposition MAN Oron during his tenure, lacks the requisite knowledge to chair such a committee.
â€œThe problem of MAN Oron is basically funding which should be properly addressed. Since the demise of the Nigeria National Shipping Line (NNSL), no cadet from the institution has had sea time experience because of absence of training vessel. This is an area the committee should have directed its energy for restructuring.â€
â€œWe therefore commend the current leadership of the academy for stability and for repositioning the institution.
â€œThe minister should create an enabling environment that will sustain the present leadership, which the Niger Delta people are quite confident will steer the institution until such a time the institution is fully transformed into a Maritime University.
Â â€œTherefore, the Sarunmi-led committee should be disbanded and the report totally discredited as it is aimed at causing disharmony within the system.â€