Fervent prayers may have begun in earnest to forestall the sack of the Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Oron, Mr. Joshua Okpo, as the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, has ordered for the probe of the academy’s accounts.
A full-blown audit of the academy’s finances followed allegations of fraud leveled against the management, particularly on improper management of about N13 billion.
Okpo stirred the hornet’s nest when he consistently accused the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, of starving the school of funds through its flagrant refusal to release its statutory five percent subvention fund.
It was gathered that the rector had earlier told the minister, a fellow South-South indigene, of NIMASA’s recalcitrant attitude towards the release of the statutory funds, allegedly describing the action as deliberate.
Amaechi was said to have summoned the management of NIMASA to his office and asked why it was sitting on MAN’s subvention.
However, the bubble burst when the minister was told by the acting Director-General of NIMASA, Haruna Jauro, that the agency has remitted over N18 billion to the academy since 2009.
On inquiry, the rector said he assumed office in 2011 to which NIMASA declared that N13 billion was remitted to the institution since he took over.
Alarmed by the quantum of funds, the minister became livid with Okpo whom he said had told him ‘a different story about the true situation of the disbursement.’
When urged to explain what he had done with the huge sum against the backdrop of poor infrastructure, especially lack of relevant training equipment at the institution, the rector offered a not so coherent answer.
‘’I could have sacked you and your finance director straight away,’’ the minister was said to have threatened, before ordering an immediate audit of all the funds said to have been remitted to the institution since 2009.
In addition, Amaechi decided alongside NIMASA’s management staff and relevant ministry officials to commence on-the–spot assessment of facilities at the academy in a bid to ascertain what the enormous amount received by the rector was used for.
‘’We could have gone last week Tuesday but the chief executive of the agency and the minister went to London to attend IMO meeting. When they come back this week, we shall carry out the directive,’’ a source said.
It was discovered that the minister had asked for the model of a similar institution in Egypt to compare with what is on ground in MAN.
It was also alleged that Okpo gave out a commercial bank account details to receive the N1 billion last quarter subvention, contrary to the Treasury Single Account, TSA, policy.
‘‘Just like all government agencies, MAN, Oron, has its TSA number yet the rector decided to use unauthorised bank details to receive the last quarter subvention. This was responsible for the delay in the release of the last quarter remittance which we have now released after he provided the necessary and legally recognised bank details,’’ another source disclosed.
Okpo was also accused of spending over N10 million to organise Christmas jamboree last year immediately NIMASA released over N700 million to the academy, as part of its statutory quarterly allocation.
Aside this, sources from the academy also revealed that the rector is always on a spending spree whenever the institution gets money from NIMASA.
It revealed that he also favours some contractors when it comes to payment.
“When he has finished the money from NIMASA, he will start running to the agency for allocation. Even the short courses that the academy is expected to make money from, nobody is asking them what they are doing with the money. He equally established centres in Calabar and Port Harcourt where so much money is spent to run them, yet no money is being made there. We are wasting government money in this academy,” the source revealed.
Consequently, in view of the current development, the agency might start an oversight on MAN.
Efforts to reach the rector proved abortive as calls and text messages sent to his phone were not replied.
When contacted on the status of the academy’s finances, the Bursar of the maritime institution, Folorunsho Kayode, noted that as a public servant, he was not in a position to speak and redirected us to the rector.
“Presently, I just finished the marriage ceremony of my younger brother in the village and I am tired. Also, I am an employee of the institution and it is only the rector who can talk about it.’’
Public Relations Officer of the academy, Sidi Mpadiok, however, waved the allegations aside, stressing that accusations of financial recklessness against the rector did not just start today.
According to him, he had been accused of series of financial recklessness by people he described as disgruntled elements.
“Well, I can’t answer for that, I can’t answer on the financial status of the academy. NIMASA and the rector are the ones that can say things about the finances. Financial recklessness is nothing new and this has been addressed. Agitators have nothing new to say, most of them are disgruntled and until we get the details, there is nothing I can say,” the institution’s image maker concluded.
Meanwhile, a boat carrying 222 refugees headed for the Greek island of Lesbos capsized off the Turkish coast in the Aegean Sea. The Turkish Coast Guard launched a rescue mission off the coast of Ayvalik in the country’s western Balikesir province to save the refugees, who were in four boats, Turkish press reported.
One of the four boats made it to the Turkish Maden Island near Balikesir just before it capsized because of overloading. The Coast Guard pulled the refugees from the water. There were no reports of casualties.
It was not immediately clear how many refugees were on the boats, but Daily Sabah reported that there were 65 children and 41 women aboard and the refugees were of Syrian, Palestinian, Tibetan and Indian nationalities. The Turkish Coast Guard brought the refugees to Cunda Island near Balikesir.
The rescue operation is just one of hundreds that have taken place in the last eight months to rescue refugees fleeing to Europe. The International Organisation on Migration estimates that more than 220,000 migrants arrived Greece by sea in October alone and more than 220 died in the waters between Turkey and Greece in the same month.
The Turkish Coast Guard made another big rescue in October when it pulled more than 240 refugees out of the water after their boats capsized.
Refugees that cross the sea from Turkey to Greece are part of an expanding network of people crossing into Europe from the Middle-East and are trying to escape the war in Iraq and Syria, and the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.
Refugees can travel by land too, but it has become increasingly difficult for them to enter Europe by land because many countries, including Poland and Hungary, have closed their borders and built barbed wire fences to keep them out. Officials in the countries are not only overwhelmed by the sheer number of people passing through their borders, but they are also afraid that foreign militants working with ISIS will cross into their country and carry out an attack like the one in Paris that killed 131 people.
Now, refugees that try to cross into these countries are arrested and detained indefinitely. Around 700 people have so far been processed for deportation from Hungary after a court decided they had crossed the border illegally, but many are still in detention. Almost all of them have no idea when they will be released, Babar Baloch, a spokesman for the UN Refugee Agency in Central Europe said, adding that they have been stripped of their belongings including any form of communication with the outside world.

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