Tension is rising at Nigeria’s premier maritime training institution, Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron over alleged disagreement among the management of the Academy on how to manage about N3 billion released to the Academy by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The remittance is arrears of the Academy’s statutory funds (five per cent of NIMASA’s revenue). However, Sunday Telegraph learnt that the money which was released to the Academy in two tranches last week is threatening to cause major conflagration at the institution which had been in the news in recent times for negative reasons.
Two Rectors of the institution recently died in controversial circumstances within a period of six months amid allegations of use of ‘juju’ by the host community. The Federal Government is yet to appoint a Rector for the Academy since the late Acting Rector, Engr. Anthony Ishiodu died in an Abuja hospital about a month ago.
Sunday Telegraph further learnt that top officials of the institution are at daggers drawn over demands for quick disbursement of the money partly for Eid Kabir celebrations when the academy is said to be have a debt burden of about N7.2 billion, arrears of staff emoluments and indebtedness to local contractors.
Sources close to the Academy disclosed that the subdued peace in the institution was reversed by a directive from the Federal Ministry of Transport, which partially embargoed spending from the N3 billion; pending when a new Rector will be appointed by the Federal Government. Only staff salaries, feeding of cadets and purchase of diesel for electricity was exempted from the embargo.
The source added that the Minister, Rotimi Amaechi had viewed these areas as urgent and that every other payment should wait for the yet to be appointed Rector. But there is growing agitation by some groups including contractors who were allegedly informed of the release of the money by some officials of the institution, who allegedly went further to incite them that a certain top official of the institution was the one blocking the disbursement of the funds by the school management.
Barely two weeks after the burial of the late Acting Rector, Anthony Ishiodu, the Registrar, Ante Mkpandiok, who is holding fort as the Rector of the institution, does not have thepower to sign the Academy’s cheques.
Following the death of the acting Rector, the Bursar became the lone signatory to the institution’s account making access to funds solely dependent on his mandate. Sources said a top official of the Academy had requested that monies be made available for staff to share for the Muslim festivities which will start tomorrow, but the Bursar, Folorunso Kayode, reportedly objected to the request insisting that monies for such celebration were not covered in the recent directive from the ministry.
Sunday Telegraph was told that while a section of the management is in support of the request for Sallah payment, another section of the school community insists the Bursar should not compromise by allowing withdrawals of such monies against the government’s directive.
They warned that Kayode may be exposing himself to another round of petition for alleged fraud if he allows the withdrawals as the Academy has become notorious as the agency with the highest frequency of petitions under the Transportation Ministry.
As at the time of writing this report, Kayode and Mkpandiok had travelled to Abuja to seek a further clarification from the ministry and clear direction before the funds are spent. Calls to the telephone line of the Deputy Director, Press of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Mrs. Yetunde Sonaike to get the ministry’s official position on the matter were not answered as at the time of writing this report.
The Academy has lately been accused of ignoring due process with some members of staff directly involved in contracts awards and execution for which they seek to be paid at the expense of many other pressing needs of the institution.
Since the death of the school’s substantive Rector, Joshua Okpo in December 2015, the academy has been through frequent unrest involving stormy management meetings, petitions against the Acting Rector, who also died recently, and a physical attack on the Bursar’s official car resulting to the shattering of the vehicle’s windscreen.
Ishiodu, the late Acting Rector was severally a guest of the police, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) due to several petitions found to be baseless but very distracting to the smooth running of Nigeria’s foremost maritime training school.
The Academy presently has a dearth of halls of residence for its cadets resulting to a good number of them sleeping in mosquito infested classrooms.
Struggle for supremacy has also caused an adverse effect on teaching and learning as there appears to be a general breakdown of regimental discipline, for which the school is known.