A brainchild of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) is designed as an interventionist initiative to ensure uninterrupted manpower supply in the country’s shipping sector. With a new government in place, OLUSEGUN DADA takes a fresh look at the implementation of the programme so far and underlines the potential benefits if some grey areas could be corrected.
The initiative by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to embark on a human capacity development for the shipping sector led to the birth of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme, NSDP.
The NSDP was established in 2009 by the NIMASA Act with the aim to bridge the indigenous manpower deficit arising from the ageing set of seafarers in the shipping sector. When operational, the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) was a platform for the training of indigenous seafarers for the shipping sector. Following the liquidation, however, there arose a dearth of trained indigenous seafarers to man the shipping sector. With time, the situation became so alarming that the lacuna created encouraged foreigners to take over completely. The capital flight through funds repatriation to their home countries impacted negatively on the national economy.
The NSDP has so far been adjudged by its sponsors, promoters and beneficiaries as Nigeria’s most successful outing in her long and chequered history of seafarers’ education.
Under the NSDP, over 2,500 out of the projected 5,000 seafarers have so far been trained at both degree levels and high professional standards in various countries like Romania, The Philippines, United Kingdom, United States of America, India, Egypt, and other countries.
It is gathered that out of over N30 billion budgeted to execute the NSDP scheme, NIMASA has spent N20 billion.
MAN, ORON EXEMPTED
Incredible as this may sound, many stakeholders have never stopped wondering why NIMASA has not yet deemed it fit to include the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, the nation’s 35-year old premier seafarers’ development academy in the list of institutions to handle the NSDP. As her cadets are not included in the plan, does it imply that seafarer education can succeed anywhere but Nigeria? Stakeholders believe that this impression is somewhat deceptive. Among ship owners in Nigeria, the quality of training offered by MAN leaves much to be desired in a situation the school does not have access to a training vessel on which cadets can gain sea time experience.
Reliable records from NIMASA show that the last time the academy enrolled cadets for mandatory sea time training was some 20 years ago – about the same time the Nigerian National shipping Line (NNSL) collapsed. Since then, series of proposals for the procurement of a training vessel for the academy have been swept under the carpet.
In an interview, the late Rector of the Academy, Joshua Okpo revealed that NIMASA is making a huge budget for the aspect of sea time training for Nigerian cadets abroad under the NSDP while the Academy remains cap-in-hand begging for a training vessel for her cadets.
Findings show that a new cargo ship sells for between $5 million and $10 million, approximating to between N750 and N1.5 billion. Experts say that the training of a seafarer is incomplete without the mandatory hours at sea which qualifies him for the Seaman’s Certificate of Competence (COC). The Certificate of Competence is issued to Masters, Officers, Radio Operators and Ratings forming part of a watch, who meet the standards of competence relevant to their particular functions and level of responsibility on- board.
Considering the international and dynamic nature of the business of shipping, the absence of a training vessel for a training institution like MAN and consequently the lack of sea time training for her cadets is a serious defect on her reputation and integrity. This rubs off on the National Diploma certificate the school offers to hundreds of graduates each year.
According to a recent publication by Chigozie Chikere, a maritime expert, contempt for MAN has spread beyond the ship owners as government, the owner of the academy, through the agency of NIMASA has continued to declare her products as unemployable. In fact, the sad news making the rounds is that most of the graduates of MAN end up as commercial motorcycle (okada) riders while Nigerian vessels engaged in cabotage, which practically should have been an avenue for their sea service as deck or engineer cadets, are manned by Philippinos and other foreign crew. Beside the absence of a training vessel and other infrastructural problems confronting the academy, findings show that the government would rather politicize issues of seafarer development for the interest of their cronies than doing the needful. Otherwise, why is NIMASA spending so much in foreign universities training green horns selected by politicians at the states when thousands of graduates from MAN are roaming the streets simply because they could not access a sea-going vessel where they would complete their training and qualify for NIMASA’s certification as officers?
According to Chikere, seafarers across the country want the government to stop paying lip service to the affairs of MAN, Oron. Anyone who has been to the academy and has seen the level of uncompleted and seemingly abandoned projects on ground would wonder why NIMASA is even embarking on proliferation of maritime training centres all over the country.
As it stands today, stakeholders agree that government’s NSDP being executed by NIMASA needs to be reviewed to give priority attention to completing the training for the thousands of cadets from MAN who are summarily abandoned. The issue of facilitating sea time experience for cadets should no longer be a concern of just the rector and the alumni of MAN.
Dakuku Peterside, NIMASA DG
In a recent interview, NIMASA director general, Dakuku Peterside stated that the Act which set up his agency also bestowed on it the task of human capacity development which involves the seafarers programme. He had earlier charged youths to take a keener interest in the opportunities in the maritime industry which provide great prospects for employment generation and wealth creation. He called on relevant stakeholders to collaborate with NIMASA by putting these young NSDP cadets on- board their vessels so they can to gain the requisite sea time experience.
Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, owner of Starz Shipyard, Onne
Speaking on the same issue recently, President of the Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr. Greg Ogbeifun commended the management of NIMASA for painstaking commitment in encouraging youths who are the future of the Nigerian maritime industry.
NIMASA’s NSDP had received accolades from former President Goodluck Jonathan at a reception hosted in their honour by the Nigerian Young Professionals Forum. The President had emphasized that human capacity development for young Nigerians was critical to the growth and development of the country and as such no effort should be spared at making sure the NSDP and similar programmes were sustained. “As a nation, if you must prepare for the future of the country you must invest in the young people in the country; as a nation, you don’t go back but move forward,” he concluded.
Some Graduating Beneficiaries of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme with Former NIMASA DDPR
For the success of the NSDP, the current director general, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, has not failed to task ship-owners especially, indigenous operators to accept and place maritime cadets on- board their vessels in order to aid human capacity development in the maritime sector. Once the issue of sea time training is addressed, the NSDP would yield the desired result and bridge the gap in the nation’s maritime labour.