On the sidelines of the just concluded four-day Performance Management workshop for newly appointed Directors of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, staff of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, and the maritime media, the Rector of the Academy, Commodoore Duja Emmanuel Effedua (Rtd) spoke to journalists on the rationale behind the training as well as the new found focus of Nigeria’s premier Academy. Enjoy it.
TNMN: Sir, what is the rationale behind the just concluded Performance Management workshop which you put together for your staff and others?
I am coming from a different background, the military. These are mandatory programmes you must continuously go through at every level, and the goal is attitudinal change to improve efficiency. In my younger years, I knew the Civil service as a highly organised sector. Highly organised, lots of discipline, you even see it in the higher grade of civil servants we still have now. They earned their respect because of the way they conduct themselves, the way they did their jobs, meticulously organised. But over the years, that efficiency disappeared because other considerations were put first. But then, people have to eminently qualify for the jobs they are given, when a Head of Department (HOD) talks, you know an HOD is speaking. If a Director is speaking, you know. If a Permanent Secretary is talking, you know. But these days, apart from the ‘old school’, I mean those who are Permanent Secretaries and senior directors, the younger ones don’t seem to have it. So, I noticed operational gaps and spoke to the Permanent Secretary, who is very articulate and organised, and she said there was something coming up at Uyo. They brought this same company to run the programme for all MDA’s under the Ministry and it was fantastic. I knew this is what I had been searching for and so, I asked them to come to the Academy. We just had 80 of our staff including those in the Lagos, Abuja and zonal offices participate. I was sure that if they go through the programme, they would be better adjusted. We also suggested to the Ministry to send some of their staff and luckily, new directors were just appointed so, the Perm. Sec decided to push them to join us.
This is phase one, we are also going to have a phase two so, all those left out now would be brought in and also journalists who we couldn’t be absolved in this first wave. There is going to be another one on the Law of the Sea. Like I said at the last graduation, I think my job here is done. We don’t need to look for equipment anymore, we also have qualified lecturers. Don’t listen to the politics of the industry, most people don’t even know that this Academy has evolved. We have broken out of the challenges of the past and so, we want to focus on capacity building, we have the infrastructure required. What we do now is maintenance. Maintenance culture is what is lacking in the country. If an HOD is well adjusted for his job, you would see that he would come out with fantastic ideas, he would know how to manage men. A boss who does all the jobs himself is not the boss. That’s some of the areas this training would help us improve, it would help the future people.
TNMN: This training has been described as global quality meeting local quality demand. Do you foresee a time when the Academy would no longer need foreign training to develop human capital?
We would always have foreign training because the global industry keeps evolving. There will always be innovations in the maritime industry, something new, and you must go and train for it before you acquire it. Even pilots they go for courses to become current, divers too and so for those in the nautical engineering. Something new may come up. 20 years ago, there was nothing like Dynamic Positioning really and 40 years ago, there was no GPS. It was just magnetic and giant compass then; satellite navigation came but now there are other new things coming up and people have to train for them. So, new things would always come, new concepts would always come. If not for the COVID perhaps, there would have been an update Manila Convention in 2020. The industry evolves, so does navigation, seamanship and so forth so, training would continue.
TNMN: How do you hope to measure the success of the programme and also transfer the knowledge acquired through this workshop to junior officers?
This training is for all. We are a school, we can’t shut down. We have about 500 cadets here. The environment is disciplined that’s why you don’t see cadets loitering but they are in their class rooms so, the junior staff will have their turn next quarter. I want to make that happen by God’s grace in the last week of July or first week of August. Another 100 persons will be launched into this training. So, for those who have already learnt now, mentorship should be the order of the day, I always encourage that. For my directors, we have been interacting for long and a lot of them have changed even before this training. Every department has a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and even if you don’t know what to do, the SOP would tell you your responsibilities.
When I first came the Academy, it was like a market place people loitering everywhere. People from outside would come in and hawk all kinds of nonsense here but it doesn’t happen anymore. To come in here, you must have an invite and a valid reason. People now know they responsibilities even the staff. They understand that they have to work and that we have evaluate everybody. Promotion is no more free-for-all like before. You must earn your promotion. The last promotion, I made sure I wasn’t involved. I went to the Ministry and told them to handle it, then I walked away. When the result was out, a lot of people I am familiar with failed, that was when people believed I was neutral. Everyone must put their best foot forward if things must to move on.
TNMN: The workshop emphasised that Annual Performance Audit (APA) as a tool for measuring staff performance has become limiting and obsolete, hence the introduction of Performance Management as a HR tool. In your work as Rector, have you found that assertion to be true?
APA is limiting and its obsolete I agree. I don’t look at that, I usually challenge the person. I give you specific task, something the staff is supposed to do. The use of the SMART acronym helps. So, APA is beyond that. It is just a template. it’s just a piece of paper with which the boss assesses staff performance. But then, you can go outside the books. I know when someone is not dependable or unreliable. For example, a man who was supposed to attend this management course with you guys enjoys malingering. He is always absent from work but he does it cleverly, he is usually back after three or four days and unfortunately, he is a senior staff. I have to give him a letter of severe displeasure. That letter has very serious implications even though it’s not in his APA. The content of the letter tells who he is, It’s like another report but APA is absolutely obsolete and there is need for review.
TNMN: Throughout the training, Mentorship of subordinates was pinpointed as importance to achieving Organisational goal. How would you be fostering this?
I had a boss who would first look at your English no matter the document you took to him. He would use a red ink on it, he would read everything, in between the lines as if he were marking exams. Most people stopped going to him and felt humiliated but I kept going. One day, he asked why I kept coming to him and if I was not afraid of him? I told him I was not afraid as he was only mentoring us. Gradually, he stopped picking on me. He stopped correcting my papers too. Something interesting happened 20 years later, he called me to write something on the Gulf of Guinea for him. I just did something and I sent it back to him, he called me when he received it and said I had completely evolved. He was pleased. It was almost as though I was correcting his perspective. So, mentorship is something you should take delight in.
When I came in here, I insisted that the middle management be included in meetings, conferences etc. Like this workshop, they gave me only 10 names, and I said, “add 70 more names.” That’s how we got here.