Academic activities at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, have been grounded following the freezing of the accounts of the institution on the orders of Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi.
Expectedly, maritime stakeholders have reacted angrily to the development, insisting the minister lacked the constitutional powers to freeze the institution’s accounts.
The academy has been without a substantive rector since the former rector, Dr Joshua Okpo, died December 9 last year.
Ironically, another rector, Dr Anthony Asiodu who was appointed after Okpo’s death died in mysterious circumstances seven months after in July this year.
Investigations have revealed that Amaechi’s action may have been prompted by a petition allegedly authored by the bursar of the institution, Mr Folorunsho Kayode, forwarded to the minister.
Sources at the academy revealed that Kayode had been at daggers drawn with the registrar of the academy Mr Mkpadiok N. Mkpadiok, who the late acting rector handed over to shortly before he proceeded on sick leave in June last year.
Both men, it was learnt, have commenced intense lobbying to be appointed rector.
Kayode is relying on his contacts at the ministry while Mkpadiok is an indigene of Oron, the seat of the academy.
There are, however, discordant notes from stakeholders who insist Amaechi should be held responsible should there be a break down of law and order due to poor response in handling the myriad of problems facing the academy.
A former rector of the academy, Mr Ebong Nseyen is said to be heading to Abuja this week armed with a letter of appeal for immediate intervention.
“I’m going to urge him specifically to freeze the accounts of the academy immediately,” he was quoted to have told a confidant in Uyo.
Mkpadiok was said to have visited the former rector to solicit his assistance in resolving the impasse.
In his reaction, an Abuja-based rights activist and lawyer, Patrice Okwarra said “MAN Oron is a self-accounting institution and to that extent, Amaechi lacks the powers to freeze her accounts. We should be careful what we do as public officers. We can recall that one of the first decisions he took on assumption of office was the shutdown of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko; now he wants to kill MAN, Oron,” Okwarra averred.
Another legal practitioner, Peter Egbegih advised Amaechi to stop making hasty decisions that were detrimental to law and order and likely to cause a breach of public peace.
“If his action is not backed by any known law of the land, then it remains an illegality.”
But in a quick reaction, Kayode, the bursar of the academy, denied any hand in the said petition, adding that he was neither interested in the position of rector.
When our correspondent visited the academy, the entire premises were overgrown with weeds and rubbish, which had remained uncleared for long, posing serious health hazard. Our correspondent added that the academy has become a ghost town as academic and non-academic activities had been brought to a complete halt