It was certainly a moment of sweet shock and relentless outpouring of commendations by the visiting team of federal law-makers. The situation on ground proved more than enough that with the right and deserved persons in the right place at appropriate time, things can work in the country, contrary to needless criticisms and despondency usually expressed by fifth columnists.
Overwhelmed by the rapid, systematic and unparalleled transformation of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, from a state of decay to an emerging competitive force in global maritime narratives in barely two years, the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, described the Rector of the institution, Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua (rtd.) as “a patriotic Nigerian with the true Nigerian spirit”.
This being the maiden visit since the inauguration of the 9th Assembly, the House Committee which was led by its Chairman, Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu, was on a facility tour of the Academy on Thursday, November 7, 2019 as part of its oversight functions. The commendation of the Rector therefore was in unsentimental response to what the Committee Members were shown in almost an hour-long slide pictures of the exact situation the Rector met on ground at arrival at the Academy and the corresponding determined, progressive and pragmatic modalities he has put in place to bring it to the present state.
Thereafter, as concrete proof to the pictorial presentation, the law-makers who cannot contend their excitement over the great strides by the Effedua-led Management, were engaged on energy-sapping sightseeing of some of the facilities. It was quite encouraging to see the parliamentarians happily walk and sweat for hours in the blistering sun across the length and breadth of the Academy in the joy of seeing what they unanimously described as “the magic hand of a capable and excellent administrator”.
According to the Committee Chairman, Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu, it was amazing that such a level of transformation could take place within a spate of two years of Commodore Effedua’s occupation of office. She expressed delight at the top-class quality and improvement of infrastructure, upgrade of teaching equipment and aids, review of academic programmes, improved training and welfare of Cadets, quality of teaching staff and the sweeping wind of renaissance that characterised the whole Academy.
“The evidence is quite clear. What you have achieved within this short time can simply be described as amazing and highly commendable. It is very obvious for everyone to see. We are very proud of you. I am encouraging you not to drop the steam and standard but to keep on doing it. You deserve to be encouraged to do more not just for the sake of the Academy but in the collective interest of Nigerians and Nigeria. Anytime you have a need, feel free to come to us for help and let me, on behalf of this Committee, assure you that we will always be there for you”.
For obvious reasons, perhaps the happiest and most excited Member was Capt. Ajao Jacob Adejumo, a former Cadet of the Academy who saw his being part of the Committee as a divine coincidence and his visit of the day a homecoming to an Academy that is in sharp positive contrast to what he passed through years ago. Capt. Adejumo said against whatever reservations he may have had in the past, he can now be proud to mention to anybody anywhere in the world that the Maritime Academy of Nigeria is his Alma Mater. The overjoyed marine expert who described the present Academy as an “entirely new place and pride of the nation” said as far as he was concerned, Commodore Duja Effedua has given Nigerians hope and sound reasons to be happy and continue to believe in leadership of the country.
“I am so happy and proud to be here. I now feel truly belonged. Without any fear or reservations, I can tell anybody anywhere now that we have an Academy in Nigeria that I am an alumnus. The Rector has made a strong statement with his ability to bring this institution to where it is today. Indeed, is this the Academy I graduated from? This is wonderful. This is what it should be although we are not there yet”, the retired Captain had exclaimed. He however encouraged the Management to ensure that Cadets were trained to attain the highest level of education instead of the wishy-wishy obsession with overseas.
In his briefs, the Rector was both retrospective and introspective. Resuming office on September 6, 2017, he was part of a stop-gap 7-man Interim Management Committee (IMC) which had metamorphosed from a 6-man Ministerial Committee set up by the Federal Ministry of Transportation with the mandate to first, diagnose the ugly situation in the Academy and second, devise holistic modalities for its restructuring and repositioning. Commodore Effedua confided in the lawmakers that his experience on the Committee and his marine-prone background had equipped him to face the herculean task of administering the Academy with professionalism, patriotism, diligence and personal vision to leave landmarks.
According to the Rector, more than anything else, as the case during the 2016 International Maritime Day, it was frightening and unacceptable to him that a premier institution like the Academy which has been the nursery for several marine professionals and middle-level manpower in the Nigerian Navy and allied sectors, was on the verge on being delisted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other affiliate international regulatory bodies on account of its stunted growth and waning status. Hence, his mission was to change the narratives.
Some other discouraging things he said he inherited on ground were absence of critical infrastructure; abandoned and substandard projects that littered the landscape of the Academy; gross lack of training equipment for Cadets; poor quality and insufficient number of teaching staff; over-bloated staff strength; huge debt profile and poor academic performance by Cadets. Others were poor staff welfare; poor attitude to work; irregular remittances of funds by supervising agencies like NIMASA, undue interference by external elements and contract racketeers as well as frequent protests by some members of the host communities.
In his words, “The Academy was going into possible extinction. It became a house of contracts and the core mandate was abandoned in pursuit of selfish personal and group interests. I observed that nothing worked here. But Because I has an idea of the situation from my membership on the IMC, I knew what to do. It was a matter of time. And I cannot fail the Cadets and Nigerians”.
To change the situation, the Rector said he folded his sleeves, defied all odds and took some practical reform measures. These include renovation, remodelling and completion of abandoned projects like departments, classroom blocks, lecture theatres, hostels and opening up of new intra-campus roads for ease of accessibility. Most memorable and imposing of the lost perhaps are the auditorium/ICT/Library complexes and Survival Pool which were abandoned for 19 years.
Today, the 1000-apacity auditorium which already has held several high profile events boasts of the best cut-cut age technology and sophistications anywhere in the world. The ultra-modern library equipped with latest internet facilities is populated with books from the IMO, while bodies like Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Nigerian Ports Authority (NBA) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) are all on line to stock the library with relevant books.
There has also been a review of curriculum to keep Cadets abreast with time and unfolding necessities; training and retraining of staff through conferences/workshops/seminars at home and abroad; emplacement of conducive learning environment for optimum performance; recruitment of more qualified staff, and improved welfare across board. Other reforms include establishment of directorates and restructuring of departments; creation of office files, rebranding of certificates to checkmate forgery and release of backlog of certificates since 2006, downsizing of admission intake from 1800 to only 256 in line with IMO standard, whereby the next session will have the standard ratio of less than 30 students in a class and only two in each hostel room, against the previous 18 in a given room space; and provision of improved healthcare services and feeding for Cadets, etc.
What is more? The Academy has given free laptops and books to every student of the Academy. The icing on the cake is the registration of Cadets of the Academy with the Nautical Institute in the United Kingdom as well as having them on vessels for the mandatory seatime requirement. Security in the school has also been improved upon drastically and commendably.
In the area of Corporate Citizenship, the Effedua-led administration has donated seats, desks and ICT centres to secondary schools, engaged more than 100 indigenes of host communities in direct labour and other areas, bought 100 JAMB forms for indigenes and also sponsored seminars for students. It also runs a weekly programme of supplying drums of diesel to the General Hospital Iquita, Oron; sponsor sporting and cultural festivals for host communities and above all, operates an open-door policy that promotes diplomacy within and outside.
Some future plans according to Commodore Effedua include acquisition of more training aids; invitation for personnel audit of the Academy, more overseas training for Cadets and teaching staff, admission for foreign students and teaching of French; new lecturers, more infrastructure upgrade, construction of a befitting gate for the Academy (which is ongoing), and stiffer enforcement of discipline to produce those who are worthy in character in learning.
While thanking President Buhari and the Honourable Minister for Transportation, MR. Rotimi Amaechi for the confidence they freely reposed in him, he also identified NIMASA as a reliable partner in the changing story of the Academy but wished that the statutory 5% funds due the Academy were regular. He equally urged opinions leaders in Nigeria to always endeavour to inform people in their respective zones of their quota of admission and employment at the right time. The Rector summarily hinted that the Academy had perfected plans to have a the latest spec of simulator in the Academy soon.
Today, as all who have visited the Academy in recent times have freely observed, the discreet choice of Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua as Rector of the Academy by the Federal Government is hugely vindicated. And he promises to do more and all within his powers to engrave his name on marble.