The current massive transformation in the Maritime Academy of Nigeria which has attracted wide attention and commendations from maritime Stakeholders, commentators and the general public must be another textbook proof of why certain initiatives in critical moments of change must be given the benefit of the doubt and be allowed to take its full course in spite of initial criticisms, cynical condemnations, and even pessimism. That the Academy even won the “Best Maritime Training Institution in Nigeria for Year 2019” might be an understatement to the sweeping changes it has witnessed under the present Management, a feat it never came close to in the last 42 years of its existence.
Perhaps for the first time since inauguration of the Governing Council of the Academy in 2017, headed by Chief Ademola Seriki, a press conference was held on Monday, February 3, 2020, on behalf of his team of transformers, at the Eko Hotel , Lagos State. Apart from opening a broader window into the dynamic mind and future plans of the Governing Council for the Maritime Academy, the media chat provided ample opportunities for questions to be asked, and assumptions and misconceptions discarded with logical answers. The interface must also have vindicated the Governing Council for the steps so far taken and provided sound justifications for decisions reached that have culminated in the current happenings and rising status of the Academy under the Rectorship of Commodore Duja Effedua.
Recall that it had taken the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the heart of a lion barely two years ago, without counting the cost, to step into the quagmire that the Academy had found itself for decades and took drastic actions that today is the cause of celebration. It can safely be said that, that resolute call, on behalf of the Federal Government, for immediate alteration of the status quo, backed up even more determinedly by pragmatism and clairvoyant innovations, were the catalyst of today’s salutary symphony.
One of such was the discreet appointment of a seasoned professional as Rector of the Academy, Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua. But Effedua could never have worked alone. So, to reinforce structures and support the new Rector with a dependable fulcrum of ideas, advice and direction was the subsequent constitution of a Governing Council almost immediately, headed by a celebrated administrator and patriotic Nigerian, Chief Ademola Seriki, a utility player par excellence, a visionary leader of no mean repute, and a reliable associate in everything progressive and altruistic. Chief Ademola Seriki has been tested by successive Nigerian government in many crisis situations and he has always emerged triumphant with models that eventually would become adopted standard for others in similar conditions.
That was the template he brought to the Maritime Academy of Nigeria. Holder of a Masters of Science Degree from Herbert Lehman College of New York, Chief Ademola Razaq Seriki, a teacher, politician, administrator, investor, accountant and parliamentarian, has served as Chairman of many Boards and Committees and is a serial Minister of distinction in the Ministry of Agriculture/Water Resources (2007); Defence (2008); Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (2008); Ministry of Interior (2010) and currently Chairman of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). With him on the 4-man Governing Council of MAN are Taiwo Tayo Ibitola (SAN), Hon. Graba Jiji; and Alhaji Sale Kudiwa.
Flanked by the Rector, Chief Seriki therefore used the press conference to give clarifications on issues, make critical statements, and point the way forward. Proud though he necessarily must be but without any attempt to take personal credit or gloat the successes so far recorded, Chief Seriki attributed the current transformation in the Academy to the shared passion and focus that drive the Governing Council and Management of the institution.
“The Academy is driven by a Governing and Management that has Vision, passion and focus. And that has been the inspiration. That is just the secret why we are where we are. Yes, yesterday it wasn’t like this, but we have to change the story. Our main target is the quality and proficiency of the Cadets. It is about making them world-class products and impacting specifically on the Nigerian economy. The credit does not go to one person alone. It goes to the Federal Government; the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi; the Stakeholders and the Management of the Academy ably driven by Commodore Effedua who has not disappointed us”, he told the journalists.
He also gave insight into the simulators that are expected to arrive the Academy soon as well as the Academy having in advance sent 15 lecturers abroad for refresher courses, some of whom are to undergo specific training on the dynamics and operation of the simulators and related components for optimum utility. He explained that although that may have come at a great expense, there was no room for regret since excellence and professionalism were the main objectives. “The Cadets must be trained according to international best standards. It’s not about theories in the classroom; it’s about getting involved in the physical training with ships at sea and getting mastery of the workings of basic equipment. So the lecturers had to be adequately exposed”.
The Chairman of the Governing Council therefore dispelled fears about the maintenance and sustainability of the simulators said to be made up of the latest and highly sophisticated complements. He explained that the overseas training of the first batch of 15 lecturers and many others to follow was a step in providence to making sure maintenance and operations shall present no big challenge. He further revealed that the Governing Council is made up of core professionals in different fields – from the transport sector, education, communication and of course of the Defence that the Rector represents with many years of experience in maritime environment – who freely share ideas.
Apart from aggressive efforts being made for training vessels for the Academy, it was gathered that the Academy is on intense negotiations with partners who are third parties to ensure Cadets have Seatime on vessels and be exposed to the rudiments of relevant maritime training. Such wiling partners located in the oil and gas sector include OPTS, the LNG and the Nigerian Navy and many others on queue to be actively involved both in training and funding. It was disclosed that the last batch of Cadets that had gone on training with the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) returned just last December and the next batch is being mobilized.
The Chairman of the Academy’s Governing Council used the 7th Meeting of the Council to pass a strong vote of Confidence on the Rector, Commodore Duja Effedua , for driving the restructuring agenda of the institution with deep passion, commitment, integrity , transparency and focus . He remarked that if given an opportunity for recommendation at the end of his tenure in the next two years, he will recommend him beyond second term or for higher responsibility.
On issues relating to the funding of the Academy, Chief Seriki expressed gratitude to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for its commitments. He however explained that the Academy cannot depend solely on the 5% of gross income from NIMASA as a regulatory body. “We are not competitors but collaborators. Except things of voluntary desire, NIMASA should not be purchasing things for us. We assist agencies of the same Grade ‘A’ level as enshrined in the categorization. No institution is fully funded anywhere in the world, even in the U.S or Europe. Whatever is due us is what NIMASA should pay us in accordance with extant policies and rules, we are ok. We then determine our destiny”.
The Chairman said reviewing the percentage was strictly out of their control. Of course, in an earlier interview the Rector granted, he told newsmen of how his Management has devised a culture of saving money periodically for big things, the short-term result has been the ease in connection with the procurement of simulators. It is expected that although getting in place basic equipment like simulators and others will greatly boost training and image of the Academy, there were other things that needed to be in place for full accreditation by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). “It is a segment of human capacity development and training. It’s not the entire evaluation of the categories for accreditation by IMO into A, B, OR C. But the truth is we must step up to be able to compete with international counterparts”, Chief Seriki envisaged.
As for the future plans of the Governing Council for the Academy, the Chairman spoke with philosophical optimism based on realistic approach to challenges facing the institution at the moment. He emphasized that much still has to be done to catch up with expectations and objectives. “Our future depends on our aspiration. Our aspiration is limitless, to infinity. But we have to continue to target lofty objectives so that where we are today, by this time next year we should be able to move beyond by God’s grace”.
Although it is still far from reaching the mast of its goals, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Chief Ademola Seriki-led Governing Council and Commodore Emmanuel Effedua-driven Management of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, a premier institution of maritime training in the country established in 1977, is making inroads towards having a permanent place on the world map of maritime institutions.
With the massive transformation already witnessed and that is unfolding, the distance cannot be seen as too far. Like Chief Seriki rightly observed with the regards to the recent excellence award to the Academy, “To whom much is given, much is expected. We will not rest on our oars. The award means more challenges. It means stepping up your act”.
But to achieve this certainly and persistently calls for meaningful and sustainable support from stakeholders in all critical areas of need.