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‘Okerenkoko Maritime University: not a true reflection of what a Maritime University should be’

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By Shina Badmus

Members of the House of Representatives in the committee of Maritime Administration, Education and Safety paid an oversight visit to the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, on Tuesday, December 3.

The visit was to evaluate the structures of the University in its permanent sight in Okerenkoko, and also the current state of the temporary site in Kurutia.

The committee which was led by Hon. Kolade Akinjo,representing Ilaje/Ese Odo Constituency in Ondo State, constituted a six team rep member which included: Hon. Julius Pondi, representing Burutu Constituency in Delta State; Hon. Chike Okafor, representing Ehime Mbano/Ihitte Uboma-Obowo constituency in Imo State; Hon. Efe Afe, Rep Okpe-Sapele-Uvwie Federal Constituency in Delta State; Hon. Preye Oseko, representing Southern Ijaw Constituency of Bayelsa State; and Hon. Dennis Idahosa, representing Ovia Federal Constituency in Edo State.

The team was also accompanied by the Vice Chancellor of the Maritime University; Engr. Prof. Maureen Etebu, The Registrar of the University; Dr. Alfred Mulade and other head members of the University.

The team took off their journey from Warri and headed for the permanent site of the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, where they observed the level of progress so far. According to them it was not a true reflection of what a Maritime University should be.

From there they left for Oporoza to have a one-on-one discussion with the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom. At the palace, Akinjo expressed his gratitude over the level of peace the Pere has been able to maintain in his Kingdom. 

Having stated the reason for their visit to the Maritime University, he said that the committee was going to do everything possible to ensure that the bill guarding the operations of the Maritime University is fast-tracked and eventually signed.

While responding on behalf of the Pere, the Spokesman of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama pleaded that the signing process of the bill for the Maritime University should not be delayed.

He said since the Maritime University took off, there have been no incident of community harassment to lecturers and students, adding that Gbaramatu Kingdom was a peaceful environment.

While speaking on the dockyard which was supposedly to be located close to the Maritime University, he said, “The dockyard that was sighted just opposite the take-off site of the Maritime University, the floating dockyard came into Nigeria over a year ago and as I speak, we don’t know where it is. During the Maritime University matriculation I asked the NIMASA Director, though he had left to tell us where the dockyard is?

He pleaded with the committee and National Assembly to help talk to the powers that be to bring back the dockyard to its origin location, which is at the Maritime University Okerenkoko.

“Even if the bill is signed today, that dockyard is supposed to be a workshop for the University but today if students have to learn something about the dockyard, where will they go? They may have to travel to Lagos.”

He also pleaded that more opportunities be created for locals in the Maritime University. “Carve out very good number of employment for our people, the indigenes, so that we too can really feel the impact of the institution.” 

The Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Oboro Gbaraun 11 also appreciated the committee and by extension the house of rep thus far, for their steadfast commitment that brought about the Maritime University.

He said, “The permanent site to be built and the dockyard should be done effectively. We know the process is a gradual one but it has been over two years that the school have been on and within this time interval, we ought to have seen the permanent site kick off.

“We want to appeal to the Federal government that they should turn back and focus well in our region. The University is not for Gbaramatu Kingdom alone but for the whole Niger Delta. So our plea is that, the needed things should be done.” 

From the palace, the team moved to the temporary site of the Maritime University in Kurutia, where they were given a military welcome as cadets engaged in match pass display. The VC of the Maritime, Mrs. Etebu took them on a tour to envisage the serene environment of the University as well as its structures which they described as spectacular.

While engaging Hon. Akinjo in an Interview, he said they made up the committee on Maritime Administration, Education and Safety of the House of Reps. And that it is a committee that is constituted pursuant to the rules of the house and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

According to him, “Our purpose of coming to Okerenkoko, Kurutie and extension Gbaramatu Kingdom is pursuant to section 88, section 89 and section 80 sub 4 of the constitution, that place an oversight responsibility on the committee of the house of representative. 

“Very particularly this time around on the committee on Maritime Administration, Education and Safety of the House of Reps and our responsibility is to check the books in the records of this institution vis-à-vis the 2018, 2019 and 2020 budget. What has the institution done? what are they looking up to? And what are their plans and proposals.

“So we came, we went to the permanent site, which of course is a site been propelled, sponsored and contracted by the NIMASA. Currently this institution is housing about 900-1000 cadets and expected that it is a growing concern, they should be forward looking. We want to believe that such a permanent site should have received the necessary financial gravitas to support and to allow it to start running, to allow the contractors to return to site.

“So one take-off from there is that nothing has happened. The place is as green, overtaken by bush. All the contractors have left site. So if government has invested one naira, there should be value for such money.

“Our recommendation to the house of reps will be to immediately start and proceed with very thorough investigation of what contractors are supposed to do and what they have not done and the money already spent in that level and how we can move forward to ensure we get value for our money and the project there can immediately start.

“One of the things we also noted from our movement is that the bill powering the this institution, the Maritime Academy because the Maritime Academy is expected to be the man power gateway into the Maritime economy of this great nation. And so if there is a Maritime University it ought to be backed up by law. And the law will look at what will sustain the functionality of the institution vis-à-vis the future.

“And so we are concerned that the bill that went to Mr. President that he declined signing, we have to immediately looked at it, look at the issues that Mr. President raised and ensure we fine tune the bill, to silt the expected deliverable of this institution.

“We want to believe that nothing should be left undone to ensure we get this institution running,” he said.

Hon Julius Pondi who also spoke to GbaramatuVoice said, “As a committee, I have been here before and this is the third time am coming here and the stories are almost the same, when it has to do with funding and unless that funding is looked into, you cannot bring to life the permanent site.

“So as a committee when we go back, we will give our report, then we look at it and see how we could be of assistance because this institution is very important. It Is the first of its kind in West Africa; so we should be grateful that we have this institution in our country.

“Seafarers are lacked all over the world, so if we put into this and produce quality graduates from this, we would be adding to that employment increase in the world. We will do all that is possible to ensure that this school gets to that full capacity it is meant for.”