Overseas training for more Nigerian seafarers

27 March 2015, Lagos – Nigeria is yet to meet the human capacity needs in the maritime industry due to  the neglect of the shipping sector of the economy. Experts have opined that Nigeria’s shipping sector is capable of generating N7 trillion annually.

NIMASA-Logo-612x300However, in order to tap the huge revenue from this sector, a Lagos base legal practitioner, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, had late last year called for an overhaul of policy, institutional, regulatory and legal framework for the maritime industry.

In a position paper to the Co-ordinating Minister for  the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Agbakoba who was the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) argued that the maritime industry remained a veritable alternative source of income into the federation account if it is fully harnessed. He maintained that the call has become imperative as a result of the dwindling price of crude oil in the international market.

“We need to develop a new national shipping policy. Nigeria’s shipping policy dates back to 1987 when the Nigerian Shipping Policy Act, number 10 of 1987 was enacted following Nigeria’s ratification of the United Nations Code on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). UNCTAD was to adopt the 40: 40: 20 code which covers ship acquisition, cargo sharing and shipping activities. Under the code 40 percent of the total volume of cargo traffic and revenue was reserved for indigenous Nigerian carriers, 40 percent was reserved for carriers of cargo originating in destination countries and 20 percent for recognized third flag carriers. If implemented this would have gone a long way to correct the imbalance in shipping trade as it affected Nigeria. The purport behind the Nigerian shipping policy was to develop a vibrant shipping industry that would generate revenue for Nigeria and Nigerians,” Agbakoba said.

Seafarers Development Programme

In a bid to ensure that many Nigerians are adequately trained as seafarers, the Federal Government of Nigeria has continued to aggressively pursue the implementation of the National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP). The programme is seen by stakeholders as one of the veritable ways to harness the huge potential in the maritime industry. With a population of over 170 million, the utilisation  of her human resources cannot be overstressed. In fact, within and outside the maritime industry, not a few have seen Nigeria as a very attractive investment destination. Nevertheless, a population that does not have a significant segment exposes to the requisite skills and experience cannot be in a position to attract the desired benefits for themselves and fatherland.

Many players in the maritime industry and beyond have seen NSDP as an initiative to ensure many Nigerians, particularly the youths are trained as seafarers. The programme, which was initiated by the former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Ade Shamsudeen Dosumu, has served as a platform for the human capacity building in the maritime industry. Since the exit of Dosumu who has gone into full time politics since he was removed from office, his successors have not relented in their efforts to ensure that the programme achieve its set goals and objectives. In the pursuit of NSDP, however, one of Dosumu’s successors, Mr. Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, has continued to pursue the implementation of the programme  with vigour.

Akpobolokemi’s dedication to the implementation of NSDP is seen as  rare in this clime. The norm in this part of the world is to abandon any project, policy or programme initiated by one’s predecessor no matter how laudable they are or important to the generality of the citizenry. In other words, no matter the impact of any programme, policy or project on Nigerians, as soon as the initiator is no longer in office, it begins to suffer neglect or poor execution. This is one of the reasons why NSDP stands out since the appointment of Akpobolokemi as the helmsman of NIMASA over four years ago. The programme has continued to expand.

Strides in Foreign Land

Besides The Philippines, the beneficiaries of the NSDP are in the Arab Academy of Science, Technology and Maritime Transport, Alexandria, Egypt and the South Tyneside College, New Castle, United Kingdom. They are also studying various courses such as Marine Engineering, Nautical Science, Naval Architecture, Maritime Transport, amongst others.

In all, over 2,500 beneficiaries of the programme are also undergoing maritime related courses in the Philippines, India and Romania.

Since the initiation of NSDP nearly a decade ago, it has not stopped in making the desired impact in the maritime industry. Apart from the involvement of more states across the country, sea time experience which was not originally incorporated into it has been included. Nigerian cadets in selected maritime training tertiary institutions overseas have continued to make strides. They are not only academically sound as many of them are doing better than the cadets of the home countries, they have also become cultural ambassadors with the way and manner they dressed in traditional attires during cultural days in their campuses and Nigeria’s independence. The Nigerian Ambassador to The Philippines, Ambassador Akinyemi Farounbi said the Nigerian cadets in the country had done well.

According to him,  the strides of the Nigerian cadets in the Asian country which depends largely on the huge revenue accruing from her seafarers across the globe to sustain her economy have made his job easier. He maintained that the roles and responsibilities of the Nigerian Embassy in the capital of The Philippines, Manila have been enhanced by the achievements of the Nigerian cadets in the three universities they attend in the country. He enjoined them to always remember who they are in whatever they do in and outside the classsrooms.

Farounbi said the achievements of the Nigerian cadets in the various universities in The Philippines had boosted bilateral relations between Nigeria and the Asian country. Many Filipinos have indicated keen interest to invest in Nigeria. They have not only visited Nigeria but they have also selected some states in the country to set up shop. The number of Filipinos visiting Nigeria and Nigerians visiting The Philippines has also increased tremendously in the last four years.

The ambassador,  who is a former  Managing Director of Daily Times of Nigeria, charged the Nigerian cadets to be patriotic in all their endeavours so that they do not become a nuisance in a foreign land. He lauded the management of NIMASA for the successful implementation of NSDP in the country, even as he specifically hailed Akpobolokemi for not relenting in his drive to ensure that the programme attains its set goals and objectives since it was initiated.

His words: “You must always remember the primary purpose of your being here. Remain focus so that your fatherland and parents would be proud of you on the completion of your studies. You are the great youths of Nigeria. Your roles are to excel in your chosen area of discipline and the country that believe in you. You are here to distinguish yourself. We will be proud of you. Equally, your parents will be proud of you. The university that produce you will proud of you and lastly but not least, the Nigerian Embassy will be proud of you. I encourage you all not to let us down”.

While expressing his appreciation for the efforts put in by NIMASA to ensure that the execution of NSDP is not hindered in any way, he expressed hope that Nigeria, nay Nigerians will in many years to come enjoy the numerous benefits of having a large number of youths trained as seafarers as The Philippines is already doing in their own country.
Presidential Approval

The NIMASA helmsman stated that the agency aggressive push for the implementation of NSDP was in line with the directive of President Goodluck Jonathan.

According to him, the president has made it clear about his intentions to take Nigeria to the desired height in the maritime industry. He explained that the agency which is the designated authority (DA) in for the implementation of ISPS Code as stipulated by the global maritime watchdog, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will not relent in carrying out the  directive in building human capacity for the maritime industry.

“We have a presidential approval and backing to do what we are doing in NSDP as an agency. We also have his support and co-operation,” he said.

He enjoined the Nigerian cadets to always remain focus on the primary reason of their sojourn in a foreign by shunning anything that will not allow them to complete their studies and graduate at the stipulated time,

Akpobolokemi charged them to be of good conduct and behaviour as a lot is expected from them from various quarters, especially the Federal Government, NIMASA, parents, and the school authorities as they would not want to be associated with any bad cadet.

He said: “To whom much is given to whom much is expected. The only way this programme can be continued by the federal government is for you the beneficiaries to do well. This is because if you do not do well by adhering strictly to the primary purpose of your being in this foreign country, then you are indirectly saying that the programme should be discontinued. This is due to the fact that the federal government is making a lot sacrifice in the execution of NSDP as a result of dwindling income accruing into the federation account because of the poor price of crude oil in the international market. Therefore, there is no money to spend carelessly anywhere.

“Make discipline your watchword. Remember, anywhere you commit crime, you go in for it. In a foreign land, the stakes are higher. Certain things that may be overlooked back home may not be overlooked in a foreign land. This is due to the fact that the foreign authorities in the foreign land may not treat you with kids’ gloves if you violate the laws of the land. They may not overlook certain things as the case may be if it involves their own national. Do not be carried away by social life. Face your studies. Work hard so that you can come out in flying colours. This should always be at the back of your mind within and outside the school premises”.

Akpobolokemi’s charge to the Nigerian cadets is imperative as they have already received accolades for the strides they are making in the various universities they are undergoing studies across the globe.

Jonathan had in a reception hosted in their honour by the Nigerian Young Professionals Forum which took place last week in Lagos given kudos to the cadets.

While acknowledging the vision of NIMASA at ensuring the placement of these young Nigerians in reputable maritime institutions across the globe, he admonished the beneficiaries of the programme to exhibit great professionalism when they take on the global challenges in the maritime sector after the completion of the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) which they are currently undertaking.

The president emphasised that human capacity development for young Nigerians was critical to the growth and development of the country and as such no effort will be spared at making sure the NSDP and similar programmes are sustained.

“As a nation, if you must prepare for the future of the country you must invest in the young people in the country, and as a nation you don’t go back but move forward”, he said.

Akpobolokemi on his part said the graduates had made him proud as scores of them made top grades at the final examinations in Egypt and the United Kingdom. “This is a motivation and will aid continuation of the scheme. We thank Mr. President for his support in seeing to the success of this programme and for keeping us on our toes in the discharge of our duties in NIMASA to realize the objective”, he said.

He expressed appreciation to the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar for his support in the agency human capacity development drive.

The graduates were full of appreciation to NIMASA for the rare opportunity accorded them to meet and interact with the president, even as they individually and as a group promised that the enormous resources expended by government towards the successful completion of their programmes in Egypt and the United Kingdom did not turn out to be a wasted.

According to them, they will not fail the President and the nation when they eventually commence their chosen careers.

Speaking on behalf of the NSDP graduates, Raphael Oluwafemi Faboro said: “I will like to appreciate the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for making it possible for us to have a good life and good future. Sir, I will like to say you have given us a good opportunity and as professionals in the maritime sector. We are ready to go to the world and to also take charge of the Nigerian Cabotage trade. Indeed, you are our hero.”

However, going forward,  the government needs to consolidate on the gains already recorded in the execution of NSDP. The implementing authority, NIMASA should not rest on its oars. It should ensure that areas that need amendments to ensure that NSDP attain the desired height are carried out periodically. Enlightenment campaign to ensure that states that are yet to key into the programme come on board  should carried out across the country. This is vital due to the fact many states, including those close to the sea, are yet to get their youth into the programme. In fact, a lot need to be done to ensure that the purpose for which NSDP was initiated are not rubbished by bureaucracy and other ills associated with anything government is involved.

– This Day

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