The MAN Oron primitive funding system
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Until last 2019, spanning two decades, one recurring catchphrase by the presidency, officials of the Federal Transport Ministry and the Nigerian Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, is the agenda to return the academy back to global standard, reckoning and acceptability.
That zeal borne out of lamentation, presuppose admittedly, that MAN has suffered a compass shift from its once renowned position in the global map of maritime education. Whereas, the lamentation have remained consistent in the past fifteen years, one is not quite sure if they were borne out of sincere concerns with the matching will to fix the defaults or they were mere sloganism taken from the rusty files of administration to achieve predetermined political ends.
However, year after year, the politicians, and they are not unknown by Nigerians, not only neglect to deploy the required resources in the identified deficits and missing links as action plans to tide over the gap between MAN Oron and other maritime academies in the global map, our politicians and officials with the exception of very few share the resources necessary to close the gap amongst themselves in the most brazen, criminally incline and collective democratic philandering.
Part of the resources that should be deployed to the development of MAN to bring it at par with Ghana and Egypt Nautical Colleges, as well indeed, other globally recognized maritime academies are steadily and collectively mismanaged and looted by the self same criers since the 1990s.
One of the loopholes which players take advantage of to plunder the academy is its funding system. The academy funding system inherited from the military is believed to be archaic and simplistic in view of the current budgetary system of state institutions; which are open, autonomous and self accounting. This is not the case with MAN which funding is derived from 5% annual earning of the National Maritime Authority (NMA), now Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) annual revenue earnings.
Pinnacle Time can report authoritatively that this third party funding system has generated so much acrimony and misunderstanding between MAN and NIMASA since 2003. In fact in 2009, then NIMASA Director General, Dr. Ade Dosunmu established a second Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Badagry Lagos, latching on to the advantage of the exercise of control of MAN funding domiciled in NIMASA’s internal financial governance.
Analysts believe that the skewed funding system have been responsible to a large extent for the plunge in the status of the academy in comparison with its peers in Africa and beyond, due to MAN’s regime of underdevelopment in the past twenty years, propelled by insider corruption and unspeakable looting by Abuja lawmakers, ministry officials and a tribe of other infamous contractors.
The looting enjoys the same level of squandermania in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which recently blew in the open; as is the same criminal political administration of the budgetary allocations of the Nigerian Military, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Federal Account, and Escrow/Foreign Reserve Account etc.
But let us return to the issue of today’s discussion, the primitive funding system of MAN, and leave the other issues for subsequent attention. One can also call it MAN primitive budgetary system. Established in 1979 by the Military Government, the Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo Military Regime for their purpose, failed to create for the new academy a structured and independent funding system, but tied it to 5% annual earning of the National Maritime Authority (NMA), now Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Whereas this third party arrangement worked under the military dispensation for awhile, it has since
broken down and proven unworkable, amid better budgetary super structure tied to the national budget system. The academy’s otherwise poor allocation system has thus offered the fertile ground for all manners of sharp practices amongst the financial and political managers of the federal ministry of transport, NIMASA and the oversight systems committee of the legislature.
Instructively, the default in the current management of the third party allocation is no more than the prevailing airs of Master’s status exhibited by NIMASA, and the angst servant feeling mood by MAN. They are by no means mere allegations as the facts that accentuate these feelings are both tangible and measurable, but that is matter for another day.
Since 2003, politicians and political appointees have taken advantage of the default in the financial budgeting system of MAN to inflict wholesale injury on the growth of the academy to produce middle level maritime manpower for the nation; a national objective that stagnated until the coming of this government, and the audacious posture of the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi to halt the drift, and for which he is believed to have substantially succeeded.
But there is no indication that the minister has taken any step to correct or seek to review the obnoxious funding system tied to NIMASA. Until the funding arrangement is sanitized and severed from the apron spring of NIMASA, there would be a likely reversal of the gains that have so far been made by the current administration to reconnect the academy with the global compass in seafaring education in line with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
Beyond the official do-good cordial relationship public showmanship, the office of NIMASA DG and MAN Rector have not been as cordial as they want the public to believe, and the issues has to do with the inconceivable master posturing of NIMASA which sees MAN as a subordinate or sort of appendage, and who must thus accept whatever fund that is given to it, irrespective of the statutory ordinance attached to the fund.
This cold war is by no means a personal issues between the incumbent chief executive officers of the two sister agencies, it’s been a regime of rivalry promoted by a democratic system that is unwilling to change and sanitize, lest the default lines that provides politicians and government appointees’ avenue for corruption is closed and eliminated.
The commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to sanitise the financial system makes observers and players believe that this government can also clean up the academy’s budgetary allocation system. There are two dimensions to achieving this, one is to review the entire primitive process by submitting a bill proposal to the National Assembly to cancel the current funding system based on 5% share of NIMASA annual earning, and two, by reviewing the sharing formula based on acceptable accounting procedure.
As of today, there are grounds to suggest that the proper accounting procedures are not been followed, which further suggests to discerning mind that those having the feelings that NIMASA sharing pattern is unjust and unacceptable might just be making sense.
Only the presidency and the legislative arm of government can effectively cause for a change, and the process for this change lie squarely on the shoulders of President Buhari, who incidentally alone, has become the armour bearer of Nigeria’s new financial order; supported by his campaign for a full scale war against corruption and corrupt practices. There is no reason MAN primitive funding system should be excluded from the president’s cobweb cleaning of the financial system.
This is even more so when there are complaints that the sharing formula may not be based on correct disclosure and correct audit nomenclature, which effectively alters the entire sharing fundamentals.
In February this year, Chairman Governing Council of MAN, Prince Demola Seriki, an astute administrator said that the 5% NIMASA yearly revenue due to the academy should be calculated based on NIMASA’s gross earnings as against the use of net earning denominator, as has hitherto been the practice.
The board chairman who made his position known to journalists after MAN 7thCouncil Meeting held in Lagos, called for an audit of NIMASA’s earnings over the years, with a further call that the result of the audit should be used to calculate what is due to MAN. He frowned at a situation where NIMASA will be giving the academy what he called “peanuts”, adding that the institution cannot survive on the what it is currently getting from NIMASA.
His words: “I have issue with NIMASA’s five percent that is due to us. The said 5% is supposed to be calculated on the gross revenue and not net revenue.
“In its gross revenue, NIMASA cannot just claim it made so, so amount of money and so, so amount is 5%. In other words, an audit must be carried out to ensure that these monies are reported sufficiently and accurately, and then we can have our 5%.
“Again, the academy cannot survive on the 5% it is getting from NIMASA; that is why we are looking at other sources of funding from institutions like Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas Company, NLNG, and the International Oil Companies, OICs, under the aegis of Oil Producers Trade Sector, OPTS, to augment what we are getting from NIMASA.
“If we are able to get assistance from the OPTS and achieve our objective of putting the Academy on the international maritime map, it will be well reputed to compete with any world acclaimed maritime training institution. We cannot oversight NIMASA; the National Assembly is the only window to do that and tell us what we are due and let five percent be five percent.”
Over the years, MAN is not only made to accept peanut, but has also suffered the indignity of having to go cap-in-hand to beg for this peanut, which again reportedly were not coming as at when due. It must however be stated, without any contradictions, that the current transport minister ensured that NIMASA under his political protégé, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, promoted improved relationship with MAN. Those whose business it is to know say whereas there were some modest adjustment, it was however adjudged not too satisfactory, since the peanut, carrot and stick pattern held sway.
It was not until the end of May 2019 that MAN received a part of its budget allocation for the fiscal year. Rector of the Academy, Commodore Duja Effedua (retired) who was believed to have disclosed the backlog during a parliamentary business session with the Senate Committee of Marine Transport, reportedly lamented the undue negative impact the development was having on the institution.
For a critical resource institution like MAN to be receiving its funds piece meal, is as intolerable as it is objectionable to be paid under unclear sharing formula; since above conditions can only promote a system collapse.
Whereas the absence of a deliberate action to clearly enumerate NIMASA’s earning under full reporting disclosure that promotes transparency, there is no way MAN will even know for certain, how much is due to it. That is a bane. This sort of accounting secrecy can only promote suspicion and promote corruption, and hence the presidency and NASS must show more than a passing interest, and cause for proper and timely review.
While it is necessary that this funding system by derivation for an institution as critical as MAN should be overhauled and adapted to better budget system, while that is ongoing, which cannot subtract from full scale legislative processes, in the interim, Nigerians should know the budget size of MAN and what constitutes 5% of NIMASA’s total earning, as espoused in official gazette.
It is also strange that this information were not captured in the MAN Oron/NIMASA Acts. In the past fifteen years, the academy has suffered consistent delay in the release of its allocation, creating unnecessary distortions in the quarterly flow chart.
It will be recalled that the Senate Committee of Marine Transport last year set up a probe machinery to look into issues of sharing discrepancy and delay in the releases of the academy’s quarterly allocation.
Then Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Ahmed Yerima was quoted as having advised NIMASA to embrace transparency and improve on its releases of funds due to the academy, and said nothing about a holistic approach to getting the system upgraded.
On its part, the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration also reportedly pledged to liaise with NIMASA to address all the contentious issues.
Then Chairman of the Committee and member representing Onitsha North and South Constituency at the National Assembly, Mrs Lynda Ikpeazu, also saw nothing wrong in the funding system despite the obvious constitutional challenges inherent in the inter-agency derivative system.
During her committees oversight visit to the academy, she said: “ When we look at the budget , we have not seen a lot of money coming in and so we are determined as a committee to look into the percentage it gets from NIMASA , and to ensure such releases are done as and when due.”
Sadly, lawmakers’ series of interventions can be classified as mere political shenanigans or political patronages at best, and therefore, exercise in futility, bereft of proactive legislation.
Beyond being complicit in the failure to drive a new order, it has been found that lawmakers constitute the bulk of the academy’s projector contractors that arm twists the rectorate for upfront mobilization or full payments of contract sums, and thereafter abscond.
The Academy is believed to have one of the largest records of abandoned projects, with over 92% of total project costs already paid to contractors. Some of these contractors are serving and former lawmakers, some have moved up to become state governors, and the list also includes some past transport ministers. They brow beat every sitting Rector, collects mobilization, returns to demand the balance in two to three tranches, and then walk away.
It is also not a secret that NIMASA has for a long time already, perfected the act of burrowing into the Academy’s statutory allocation, through threats of delay and blackmail, for which quite a number of Effedua’s predecessors fell victim. Late Mr. Joshua Okpo the Academy Rector that died December 2015 at Abuja was a victim, by his own admission.
Before his sudden death, he once challenged NIMASA during a ministerial briefing, in which he denied receiving N19million NIMASA claimed to have paid the academy.
These were the contractual scenario when the present administration of MAN resumed duty in 2017. There is a consensus of opinion that the MAN/NIMASA revenue sharing question has become a matter of national dimension that should be resolved under a presidential review panel.