The Rector of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Dr. Joshua Okpo has denied an involvement in any form of immoral conduct or financial recklessness levelled against him by a group under the aegis of Amalgamated Oron Group Youth Force, a body he described as “faceless”.
The Rector, in a statement signed by the media consultant to the academy, Ovie Edomi, maintained that the story was a media propaganda against him.
According to him, “The story published by Ships and Ports on the Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Dr Joshua Okpo, titled Group Accuses MAN, Oron Rector of Immoral Conduct, Financial Recklessness, is most uncharitable and unprofessional by the publishers of the baseless report.”
He noted that “Apart from the fact that the story is obviously starved of facts, the editors made no efforts whatsoever to verify the issues raised in the purported letter sent by the faceless group called Amalgamated Oron Group Youth Force.
“The truth is that Ships and Ports has only succeeded in allowing its medium to be used by desperate persons who tried in the past to gain cheap publicity with similar stories but failed”.
The Rector revealed that “In the past, the same medium was used by charlatans who equally tried blackmail and other intrigues to rubbish a good man, who was appointed Rector with a mandate to turn around the nation’s premier maritime academy.
“Even the worst of critics agree that since Okpo resumed as Rector, peace and tranquility has returned to the academy and its host community.
“Unfortunately, the issues contained in the group’s letter are issues that Ships and Ports could have verified from the academy or investigated properly, especially now the journalism has been boosted with various communication channels.
“In other words, a call or SMS could have sufficed but rather than toe the professional path, Ships and Ports, as always, chose to mischievously publish what is clearly a hatchet job meant to discredit a man whose achievements speak volumes”, Dr. Okpo observed.
The statement further averred that the Rector operates an open door policy, saying, “Truth be told, Dr Joshua Okpo operates an open door policy. The Public Relations Department of the institution is equally open to inquiry.
“Journalists know this except of course Ships and Ports because we cannot understand why people with “entitlement mentality” and other parasitic tendencies continue to find soft ground or alley in Ships and Ports.
“It is hard to believe that Ships and Ports has abandoned the core ethics of the journalism profession to engage in junk or vulture journalism. This appears the third time that the Rector who stakeholders agree has done so much for the Maritime Academy will be portrayed in bad light by greedy lots using Ships and Ports.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Okpo’s credentials are not in doubt, and anybody can verify this, since his appointment in 2011 with a mandate to turnaround MAN, Oron.
“Okpo has demonstrated that he is patriotic, focused and determined. He has succeeded in weaning “powerful Nigerians” from sucking the academy dry and this group of people are the ones sponsoring falsehood.
“They have failed to understand that the institution is federal government-owned and Okpo has told them that the Academy is not a national cake for those who have entitlement mentality.
“In the last four years, Okpo has changed the landscape of the academy. New classrooms and workshops have been created. More hostels were constructed for male and female cadets.
“For the first time, the president of World Maritime University, Malmo, Sweden, visited the Academy when he got reports that the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron under Okpo leadership was making progress with the upgrading of infrastructure and facilities in line with the upgrading of the Academy to degree- award status.
“When the president of the World Maritime University visited the academy at Oron, he expressed delight with the high level of manpower development, as well as the facilities/infrastructural upgrade and pledged to see that they collaborate with the federal government through the ministry of transport.
“That collaboration is still on and there has been visits by the University team to work with the academy on curriculum development to ensure standard training of seafarers in line with STCW.
“Under the Okpo led-management, the secretary general of International Maritime Organization, IMO, equally visited the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron for the first time.
“Besides, Okpo embarked on the aggressive provision of electricity supply to the Academy by connecting it to the national electricity grid. Water supply to the academy is 24-hour.
“On ground at the Academy are full bridge simulator, liquid cargo handing simulator, and 360-degree simulator, which are needed for simulator training and certification. This is aside from the electrical electronic laboratories, power/electrical machine laboratory, engineering workshop, fluid/strength material lab among others that were equipped and renovated. Okpo also completed blocks of flats for Staff as well as built the regiment/procurement block, etc.
“The Academy is still one of the few institutions where quarantine centres is established. The screening for Ebola is still done till date knowing that cadets come from home and abroad, thus there is need for caution.
“Other milestones which the group fail to realise is that there is a Ministerial Monitoring Committee that handles admission into the Academy. The Rector has no hand in it. He is just a member of the Committee. Ships and Ports can confirm from the ministry of transport especially the Ministerial Monitoring Committee on the admission process.
“The faceless group have been scheming for an Oron person to be the Rector of the Academy in the last five years forgetting that the Academy is a federal government institution recognised by IMO amongst the over 500 Maritime Academies world wide but each time they tried they fail.
“Each time they try to bring up issues that do not hold water and put in the public domain to deceive the public but they end up coming to beg in the end.
“If indeed the editors of Ships and Ports want to be fair to the Academy and the Rector they will be among those that should commend the federal ministry of transport and nay the federal government for appointing Joshua Okpo for a second tenure because everyone who has been to the academy attest to the fact that Okpo has turn around the nation’s premier Maritime Academy.
“Before now, Key stakeholders in the maritime industry have applauded the way and manner the rector has managed the statutory allocations to the Academy in the last four years so for a group to suddenly wake up to accuse the rector of financial recklessness is to say the least most uncharitable for a public servant who everybody knows to be open,transparent and altruistic.
“Okpo’s openness and meritorious service to his fatherland and his vision as well as his leadership qualities led to the various awards that have been bestowed on him. At no time did he pay money to be given such awards or is Amalgamated Oro Youth Force saying that Okpo paid money to become fellow of Nigerian Institute of Management, FNIM; fellow, Chattered Institute of Logistics and Transport, or Paul Harris fellow of Rotary Club International.
“Okpo has been a recipient of Dr Kwame Nkrumah distinguished meritorious award as well as Maritime Man of the Year award for three consecutive times. Traditional rulers as well as National Assembly members have at different times expressed delight with what Okpo has been able to do with the resources at his disposal thus placing the Maritime Academy of Nigeria in good stand just like other world recognised maritime academies by improving the quality of teaching and facilities currently at the academy as well as human capacity development.
“If indeed we want growth, development of government institution and patriotism, people whose bread are not buttered should stop embarrassing public office holders using the online media and media men to fabricate stories.
“The Joshua Okpo that we know is a man of vision who has decided to give his all to his fatherland and humanity. He is a public servant that has been commended for his exemplary leadership by the leadership of NUJ in Akwa lbom state and would certainly not be distracted by the antics of those who want to sell lies to the good people of Nigeria just to serve their selfish interest.
“It is in the interest of the responsible media to play the fourth estate function with all sense of responsibility in order to move the Maritime sector and the nation forward. We must stop this ‘bad belle’ journalism”, the statement read.