By Izuchukwu Ozoemena
Members of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) say they have been suffering tremendous neglect in the hands of the Transportation Ministry and maritime agencies.Whereas NAMM members have all it takes to train and provide consultancy services that could fill the knowledge gap in the industry, the Nigerian government prefers to deal with foreigners with less qualification. NAMM President, Capt. Tajudeen Alao brought this to light recently while decrying the situation which, he said, is not encouraging indigenous expertise.
According to Alao, most NAMM members, in the past, went through some professional training which are no longer available for today’s cadets in Nigeria and given the opportunity, they could transfer such knowledge to the Nigerian cadets to qualify them for any job at sea.
He said,” We went through these; we had international exposure. So, it baffles me when some people in Nigeria say Nigerians cannot advise them on training of cadets and they go out to go and take Indian consultants who are not even qualified. We have inland waterways qualification, we have coastal experience. Some of these people that parade themselves in Nigeria, they were not trained to our level but these are the people that our government patronizes and they mislead them because they are here to make money.
“To me, we should equip the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron instead of sending people all over the world. Today, we should train people like us who will now train the people; we should train people like us as examiners who will now examine these people. If facilities are there, the empowerment is not there. After so many years, we are still saying the same thing. Today, Nigeria tells you that Nigerians cannot train; it is a misnomer. We want you people to go out there and tell them that the Master Mariners, they say they can train, they are empowered, they are equipped to train other cadets, to train officers and to examine them because we went through that tutelage.
“Here we give mentorship to new cadets. When they come we advise them, give them career counseling and others because when you are trained as a Master Mariner, you are versatile, you can be a lecturer, you can be a surveyor in maritime administration. You can be a board captain with shipping companies, cargo handling. Capt. Osah, for example, was in Flour Mills. He started Golden Shipping in Flour Mills; he was the pioneer up to the position of MD. Captain Olugbode was a Pilot, Harbour Master, GM, Marine in NPA. So, Master Mariners are versatile in all areas of shipping”.
The NAMM boss revealed that a look at the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) would reveal that there is no single Master Mariner in its employ saying that all that interests NIWA today was going after issuing operational permits even as he noted that the work of NIWA was more than just issuing operational permits to include safe navigation.
In his words, “The other day, I learnt that NIWA boat went on a wreck; we call this Floater Majeser on water. Who was driving the boat that they entered? How qualified is that person? So, you must save lives. The other day at Liverpool, three or four days ago, in the night, a boat capsized; accident everywhere but we are here to give guidance.
“The chart across there is all about the inland waters in Nigeria. A high powered committee of which Capt. Olugbode was part produced charts on navigable waters - Baro, Numan to Lokoja- those are the charts there. We have everything but they don’t consult us; they don’t deal with us.” He stated that as far as water is concerned, the government should make use of the Master Mariners. “We shall offer our services gratis. Even to lecture at Oron, we have written to them, we have offered our members, they block them. That is why we are insisting on the interim management report for MAN Oron.
“We have written to the Minister, we congratulated him and we told him what the outcome of this thing must be but there was no acknowledgement of our letter; there was no reply. We have written to MAN, Oron. Up till today, the DG NIMASA has refused to see us to give us audience three years down the line, yet all over the world, they recognize us”.