By Chukwuma Awaziema
Whatever his ultimate intention may have been, the recent statements in the media credited to the President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Captain Tajudeen Alao, calling on the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to conduct an audit exercise on the academic staff of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron can best be described as hollow,preemptive, presumptuous, and therefore baseless because he grossly lacked the facts and knowledge of what presently is going on in the Academy to have reached such hasty conclusions.
Speaking to maritime journalists in Lagos over the weekend, Capt, Alao became a cheap victim of assumption as he went beyond his safe limits by making insinuations about how a graduate of geography is teaching Nautical Science in the Academy; the reason he perhaps recommended that an audit exercise be conducted. In that unnecessary interview entitled, “Master Mariners Seek Audit of Maritime Academy”, Captain Alao is quoted to have said: “You cannot be a referee in a game you know nothing about. Whoever must teach Nautical Science, that person must be a Master Mariner. There are courses you must score 60 and sometimes 80 percent before you are considered to have passed. As a Director of Nautical Science, you must be able to know about the challenges that come with such responsibility”.
By any consideration, Capt. Tajudeen Alao’s comments were clearly based on hearsay that lacked the slightest possible iota of substance and his unguarded choice of the media platform to air his views was a grandstand display of hypocrisy. As requisite as the academic qualifications of someone who handles Nautical Science in a professional institution like the Academy must be, it is tantamount to playing the blind to the ongoing structural and organizational overhaul and showing disdain to the leadership of the Academy for any cynicism to have come from the person of Captain Alao in the manner he did.
However, for the avoidance of doubt, it is necessary that the Captain and the public be adequately updated with authentic and verifiable facts with regards to the issues raised in the said predisposed interview.
First and foremost, it would benefit Capt, Alao to know that the Academy had long begun the process of staff audit using both local and international consulting firms including the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).The Rector discovered that over 90 percent of the Lecturers were not well adjusted for the functions they carry out and only a few have servedon board ships. That unpleasant situation is being tackled as we speak. There are 5 Master Mariners contract staff currently in the employment of the Academy on contract bases. Interestingly, the youngest of them is 70 years of age and the rector considers them as too old to be effective or keep pace with the current drive in the Academy. Funny enough these gentlemen of over 70 years are hustling for the Directorship of the School and heads of Department. Some of them in the department have health inhibiting issues already affecting their productivity. These are the same people Capt Alao is running errands for. They have done their best for now and should give way for younger Master Mariners.
It was the reality of this situation that necessitated the employment of Captain Alimi Certified Master Mariner was recently employed by the current Management of the Academy. Although out of expediency, Dr. John Remi Adeyanju who happens to be the most senior permanent staff, was appointed last year to temporarily cover the duties of Director of the School of Nautical Science till a substantive director is appointed. He does not teach nautical sciences as falsely alleged by Capt Alao and his cohorts. And his appointment is for administrative purposes only. It was a stop-gap arrangement to allow time for the proper grooming of Captain Alimi for seamless take-over from him as soon as possible. The DG NIMASA was briefed on this when he raised concerns when the same information reached him. We explained the situation to him and he understood as stressed that we resolve it and we working tirelessly to resolve that issue. Of course, Dr. Adeyanju is not teaching Navigation and Seamanship which are the core subjects in nautical studies as alleged. He teaches meteorology, a subject he had taught for quite a number of years in the Academy. His heading the department is administrative and not technical and only temporary.
Part of the modalities for rijiging the Academy’s technical departments with highly qualified professional lecturers is ongoing
Incidentally, the Rector revealed that the Academy last month approached a Maritime Consultancy firm in Apapa Lagos out of frustration, as the same Capt Alao did not respond to two letters from the Academy requesting for Master Mariners as lecturers. Surprisingly, it was later discovered that Captain Alao was one of the Directors of a firm the Academy decided to source Master Mariners from as nothing was coming from NAMM. Imagine him driving the same process for a private firm that he has vested interest to the detriment of a union he leads. Where is integrity and honour here?
Capt. Aloa cannot confidently be said to be fully dedicated in supporting the Academy’s efforts to rebrand, yet he is scarcely pinched by conscience in making insinuations or criticizing the genuine practical efforts of Management. Alao has every right to visit the Academy than degrade himself and Office by misinformation. He should not be among those compounding problems of the Academy but should be adding value to it.
Is Alao claiming to be more concerned than the Rector of the Academy, Commodore Duja Effedua, who is directly answerable to what goes on in the Academy and upon whose head the task of restructuring and repositioning the almost abandoned 41-year-old premier maritime institution in the country squarely rests? Even if Capt. Alao had observed certain development in the Academy that can affect the Maritime Industry negatively, as a Maritime Stakeholder, courtesy, diplomacy, responsibility and necessity would still have demanded that he first reached out to appropriate quarters for the necessary information than carelessly arrogate duties to himself in a bid to satisfy his wishes.
The cordial relationship that the Academy has been enjoying with AMES and NAMM should not be made to suffer any friction or suspicion on account of Capt. Alao’s latter-day idiosyncrasy. It would be advisable that issues be always verified to ensure that the Academy is not presented in bad light in this new era of fresh thinking for collective interest of the nation’s maritime industry.
It must be appreciated that every building or rebuilding undertaking is a gradual process that needs time and efforts. What appears to be a stereotype mindset among many who once saw the Academy as a goldmine or jackpot is the fear that should the Academy stand or progress beyond where it once was made to be, so many businesses will collapse and the insatiable profiteers will not be smiling to the banks with their loot. But that is not how Commodore Effedua thinks and acts. Just in a short while, he has proven to convince the whole world that he came to the Academy conscious of the core mandate and his personal commitment to leave a legacy in the corporate interest of Nigerians.
Commodore Effedua inherited a beleaguered and crisis-prone Maritime Academy which he has put his life on line, his time and energy to make a difference. His record of performance which has attracted commendations from the Ministry of Transportation, NIMASA, Maritime stakeholders, the National Assembly, individuals and corporate organizations far and wide already have marked him out as the man with the will-power to restructure and reposition the Academy for global competitiveness and change the narrative of the Institution. Captain Tajudeen Alao should not, for whatever reason be the cog in the wheel of progress. And time shall honour him when the Academy finally becomes the bride of suitors’ delight in the global community!
Excerpts from the Interview of Commodore Duja Effedua, Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria at Arc Victor Attah's International Airport, Uyo on Sunday, January 13, 2019, as Compiled by Chukwuma Awaziema, an Uyo-based Journalist.