By Paul Efiong To Press home their demand on upgrading of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron to a University status, over 15 different Civil Society Groups, Non-Governmental Organizations as well different Socio-Cultural Organizations with high profile traditional rulers Wednesday stormed the National Assembly during a public hearing organized by the House Committee on Maritime Safety. Education and Administration to register their support.
The Public Hearing was declared open by the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Awtallen Angowa who represented the Speaker, Yakubu Dogora at the event.
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Mohammed Bago while chairing the Hearing urged all who could not make presentation during the event to summit their memoranda to the Secretariat promising to invite all critical stakeholders for their impute during technical session..
In their memoranda submitted to the committee, the Oron Council of Traditional Rulers (COTR) in the documents jointly signed by the Ahta of Oron, His Royal Majesty, Ovong Edet Isemain and Offong Etim Oquong as well as Deakon Ulo Uye and Oron Think Tank, maintained that Oron has naturally been endowed with pioneering status of playing host to institutions of higher learning at a time when most parts of the Nigerian federation were yet to embrace western education.
On why Maritime Academy should be upgraded to degree awarding Institution, the elders maintained that the Federal government expectation of the academy as stated in it mission statement and enunciated in its service chater, is to provide the mechants navy, the maritime industry and allied industries qualitative education and training with up-to-date technology, meet national and international standard and satisfy end users expectations.
Leading a powerful delegation from Akwa Ibom state to Abuja,the President General Oron Union, Dr. Efiong Edunam stated during the hearing that upgrade of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron to a Federal University status will enhance the development of the area, boost their economy and give the people of Oron and its environs a sense of belonging as the university would add to federal presence in the oil rich community. .
Though they where many, coupled with the unique traditional attires, they spoke in unison: “The peace loving Oron Community in Akwa Ibom State is a leading oil producing community in the state maintaining that nine out of eleven onshore oil blocs are within Oron community.
“And because Oron Community is where the proposed new University; Federal University of Maritime Studies Oron is to be located it is a major oil producing community in Akwa Ibom state and in the South-south geopolitical zone and therefore a cash cow of one of the hen that lay the golden eggs, we wish to humbly submit that there is enabling environment in Oron for the proposed University and it would also enhance oil production in Oron,”they plead.
Further more, the elders also used the opportunity to express their gratitude to Senator Nelson Effiong representing Akwa Ibom South senatorial zone whom they said initiated the bill for the upgrade of Maritime Academy, Oron and other stakeholders who are working tirelessly for the speedy passage of the bill but lamented his inability to be presence during the public hearing of his bill by the House.
In his own Memorandum, a House of Representatives member representing Oron/Mbo/Urue-Offong/Okuko /Okobo/Udung Uko Federal Constituency, Akwa Ibom state Rt.Hon. Nse Bassey Ekpenyong disclosed that his constituency massively support the bill to upgrade the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron to a University and degree awarding institution.
The lawmaker in a memorandum, informed the committee that through Executive Act No. 172of 1997, the Federal Military Government established the Nautical College of Nigeria, Oron with the primary motive of building the much needed capacity for the growing maritime industry.
According to him; “prior to this time most of the nation’s merchant navy officers were trained mainly in the United Kingdom, India and Ghana among other places at very high cost to the government.
“Following the promulgation of Decree 10 of 1988, the Nautical College, Oron which was officially opened in 1997 had its name changed to Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, with limited assistance from International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“The academy was designed as an integrated institution basically for the education and training of shipboard officers, ratings and shore-based management personnel,” he said.
Hon. Ekpenyong further expressed the hope that the bill would scale through legislative hurdles in the Senate and House of Representatives for speedy passage into law in line with the wishes and aspiration of his constituency.
In another development, the head of the delegation and Persistent General Oron Union while playing host to all Oron Sons and daughters who found time to show during the hearing commended the Akwa Ibom state government for their presence during the event.
He also emplored all oron indegines living in Abuja never to abandon their homes but to always visit and contribute to the development of their various villages.
He also promised to invoke traditional curse against against any oron person who because of politics ambition will sew a seed of discord among brothers.
The traditional father equally promised to commission Oron Union Secretariat in near future saying it was a shame as his Union has existed for over 92 years without the secretariat.
The Host, President of the Union, Chief Sunday Antai also thanked all for supporting Oron cause urging people to be optimistic over their dream of Upgrading MAN to university status as nothing is imposible before God.