The institution was established in 1979 with a mandate to produce high-level manpower to man the nation’s maritime industry which holds the key to meeting the aspiration of Nigerians.
More than three decades later, it is still grappling with issues that have fractured its mandate: neglect, succession crisis, in-house politics, intrigues, acrimony among staff and low morale occasioned by lack of promotion and training.
Not only was the morale of workers at its lowest ebb, there was constant conflict of interest between host communities, each of them claiming ownership of the land which houses the school.
“We met an institution where there was high level of acrimony among staff, where the morale of workers was at its lowest ebb, where students were using fingers to feed,” NMA rector Joshua Okpo said during a visit by National Association of Nigeria Students in 2011.
“We met an institution where there was constant friction between host communities and where classrooms were grossly inadequate to meet the burgeoning increase in admission in-take every year.”
Daily Trust learnt that the institution was being led for a long time by a certain clique whose domineering influence held sway for a long time.
As a result personal interest of members of the clique was placed higher and above that of the institution.
Promotion, appointment and recruitment of personnel, it was gathered, were unduly politicised and skewed against sections challenging entrenched interests.
This resulted in poor attitude to work, weak work force which invariably rubbed off on the quality of cadets the academy churned out.
There was also the big one: infrastructure neglect and poor training facilities. The school could not boast of facilities to meet its dream of turning the institution into a degree awarding institution.
Investigation revealed that large number of students had left the school for Ghana, and other African countries to complete their course of study as a result of lack of training facilities such as the world class simulators GMDSS, APAR, RADAR which should have made NMA stand out as a maritime training academy.
A lingering crisis between host communities, Iduak and Iyor-Abasi, has also prolonged the academy’s stay in limbo—and is blamed for many deaths including those of cadets.
It is also blamed for a sense of insecurity which has made cadets and instructors unable to discharge the best.
But new hope is now felt in the NMA as it is prepared to take on challenges in its industry.
Correspondents visiting the school speak of uncompleted buildings that once littered the school grounds now completed and dripping fresh paint, as well as ongoing expansion of its hostel.
At an international maritime summit in London, Okpo, in a paper noted NMA besieged by lacks—adequate funding, ship berths, difficulties in attracting and retaining qualified instructors.
Despite the challenges, fresh federal funding and support through Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) are helping NMA expand facilities. Water and power problems were resolved after NMA installed a 24hour electricity plant, Okpo said.
And new partnerships are helping it enhance standards and upgrade its curriculum to what befits a degree-awarding school, along with regular national and international training for junior and senior staff, and regular promotion to enhance their productivity.
But the National Seafarers’ Development Programme (NSDP), which allows trainees get international training to beef up their industry knowledge is yet to take off.
As the Academy looks set to gain world-class status in the nearest future, it awaits the country to tap into maritime industry to meet the aspirations of its citizens.