By virtue of his stellar performance and prospects, which have made him a jinx-breaker in the history of the institution, it arguably can be said that the Rector of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron in Akwa Ibom State, Commodore Emmanuel Duja Effedua (Rtd), is exactly the golden key government and Stakeholders have been searching for to restructure and reposition the institution towards becoming a global player.
Imagine that after six years since a sitting minister last visited the Academy in 2012, approximately four years since assumption of office as incumbent Minister of Transport, Honourable Chibuike Amaechi, has stated that his final decision to personally visit the Academy on Monday, May 6, 2019, was motivated by the massive and rapid transformation that the new Management under Commodore Emmanuel Duja Effedua has brought to the 41-year-old institution.
The Minister in his remarks after Commissioning and inspecting some projects undertaken by the present Management said he was very impressed and now vindicated that his earlier discretion to set up an Interim Management Committee (IMC) in 2017 to study the true situation in the Academy and come out with sound recommendations towards its holistic restructuring and repositioning as well as his subsequent appointment of Commodore Emmanuel Effedua as Rector was done in the best interest of Nigerians.
He further added, “The IMC had recommended that the bane of the Academy were poor academic environment, numerous abandoned projects and poor application of resources that they got from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). So to get what we are looking for, we have to reverse those three things identified. We have been able to complete those projects that have been abandoned”.
The Minister’s strong words of commendation especially after commissioning four classroom blocks with offices; sports stadium, ICT Centre, an Auditorium; Simulator Centre and Library Complex and inspecting the on-going survival pool were eloquent testimony to the purpose-driven leadership of Commodore Effedua.
It could be recalled that on noticing these abandoned structures during his inaugural facility tour of the Academy, the Rector was highly provoked and today, in just a matter of months, he has remodelled and completed the buildings to suit the purpose and the status of the Academy.
The creatively designed spacious Auditorium which has become a cynosure of all eyes, for instance, houses a gallery, cutting-age multi-media facilities including a giant LCD, CCTV, cinema, internet, controlled media room, boardroom with immovable executive conference table and seat, etc. It also has outdoor space for events and relaxation, a perimeter fence, and two well-laid interlocking entrances.
Prior to this thoughtful intervention by the Rector, this massive and abandoned project which some observers had given funny names such as “white elephant”, “monument” and “money-miss-road” had been a source of constant mockery and criticism on the leadership of the Academy.
The 3-in-1 Library Complex/Resource Centre is also a textbook proof of what accountable leadership and focus can do for any organization.
Having originally been conceived about nine years ago in the days of Dr. Nseyen Ebong as Rector of the Academy, the project had witnessed three other Rectors either in substantive or acting capacities come and gone while it still remained at the experimental state that it had been since 2010.
Today, Commodore Effedua has not only remodelled the complex but has also completed it with the best quality materials and necessary modern sophistications. Now the library shall not only meet the academic needs of Cadets, but shall serve as a one-spot solution centre for research for lecturers and other maritime professionals. The stadium also is an architectural masterful designed to serve multiple physical needs of Cadets and others.
The minister’s deep appreciation of the practical steps so far taken by the Rector also came with observations and recommendations.
Encouraging the Rector to continue to keep focus and also stretch the present tempo into other areas, the minister argued that a lot still has to be done to bring the Academy to where it must be in line with the vision of founding fathers and global realities.
“The Academy has improved greatly in terms of infrastructure, but it takes more than building to deal with academy. We need to deal with equipment, lecturers because there are no lecturers, generate ideas and collaborations on how to secure sea time for Cadets, do away with unproductive staff because they are enemies of progress, create conducive environment for both teachers and Cadets, and ensure discipline is maintained at all times”, he stressed.
The Minister who promised to see to the prompt releases of statutory due the Academy by NIMASA also advised the Rector to improve to make the welfare of teaching staff attractive and woo professionals to the institution.
The response by the Rector clearly revealed how grateful he was to the Federal Government and the Minister for their concentrated interest in the Academy and his being appointed to spearhead the process of comprehensive transformation, the challenges he inherited and his determination to drive the current revolution to all aspects of the Academy’s existence.
Some of the challenges include undue interference by members of host communities, over-bloated staff strength, admission of too many Cadets for a given academic year; obsolete and insufficient equipment and insufficient number of qualified teaching staff and lack of sea-time for Cadets.
He however stated that, although there is still a long way to go, his Management has implemented 100 per cent of the recommendations of the Chief Adebayo Sarunmi Interim Committee, slashed down students’ intake to a minimal and manageable number, entered into collaborations with affiliate bodies home and abroad for capacity building of lecturers, etc. But the Rector hinted that there are emerging newer challenges that the IMC did not capture, although most of them are being tackled.
In his words, “Concerning abandoned projects, 80 per cent of them have been completed and remodelled. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been attracted here, alongside the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. We are going to meet with them in Lagos next month against because they have promised to add more value to us. Last year we focussed on infrastructure. This year we are focusing on equipment and training. Tomorrow, the Indian engineers who are partnering with us to ensure we have the necessary equipment will arrive Abuja, and within the week, they should be in Oron to visit the simulation centre to take the necessary measurement. Hopefully, by November 2019, the multi-functional classrooms should be in place”.
All said, not to be taken for granted is the Transportation Minister’s teaser that the country’s maritime industry is weak and grossly untapped and that the easiest and most reliable way to reverse the ugly and ironic situation lies in the development of man power through the Maritime Academy.
Commodore Duja Effedua assumed full duty as substantive Rector of the Academy on 6th September, 2017 with a clearly defined scope to transform the Academy based on his personal vision and sound professional background as well as translate into concrete realities the recommendations of the defunct Interim Management Committee set up by the Federal Government to set up modalities for holistic restructuring and repositioning of the Academy into a world-class institution for global competitiveness.
On resumption of duty, Commodore had promised: “I am in this Academy not to intermeddle with what does not concern me but with a vision and determination to make the Academy a competitive global brand and thereby leave a legacy that all Cadets and Nigerians will be proud of”.
With what Commodore Effedua has achieved to date, there can be no doubt that he knows his onions and he is on course, provided stakeholders continue to give him the desired support!
*EDET OKPO IS A JOURNALIST, PUBLIC AFFAIRS ANALYST AND MARITIME COMMENTATOR*