NSDP: BRIDGING THE HUMAN CAPACITY GAP IN NIGERIA’S MARITIME INDUSTRYLeave a Comment
Daniel Ekeledi Umoke didn’t see the possibility of ever going to a higher institution after graduating from Boys Secondary School, Iboko, Ebonyi State, where he hails from, due to poor financial standing of his parents engaged in petty trading.
But he is now among the 655 young Nigerian cadets who are due to depart for various Maritime Training Institutions in Egypt, India, Philippines, Romania and the United Kingdom under the Nigeria Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) sponsored by the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
At the send forth ceremony held on Monday October 7 in Lagos and attended by the Minister of Transport, Idris Umar, senior special assistant to the president on Maritime matters, Olugbenga Leke Oyewole, the young Umoke told Daily Independent that, “I had never expected this kind of opportunity to study abroad.”
This is because he was almost losing hope of ever going to higher institution after a family friend who promised to help in sponsoring his education at the Federal Polytechnic, Uwanna, Ebonyi State disappointed him. Shortly afterwards, he heard about the NSDP last year, applied and invited to write examination, which he passed including the interview and medical screening. “I am the luckiest person on earth and I am very grateful to the Nigerian government and NIMASA,” Umoke said.
The NSDP is aimed at producing qualified Nigerian seafarers by sponsoring the training of Nigerian students in maritime institutions abroad with a view to addressing the dearth of seafarers in the maritime subsector of the economy.
Over 1,000 cadets are currently studying in reputable international maritime institutions abroad under various schemes of the NSDP, which is co-sponsored by NIMASA, State governments, individuals and corporate organisations. However, the desire to fast-track the creation of a large pool of Nigerian seafarers by the year 2015 to meet local demand and as well contribute to the manpower needs of the international shipping community, is said to have informed NIMASA’s decision to commence a new scheme whereby the agency wholly sponsors qualified students.
In 2012, about 1,500 students were examined and screened under this new scheme for the 2012/2013 academic session. Admissions were secured for the successful students in various maritime training institutions abroad, to be trained up to degree level in the field of Nautical Sciences, Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture.
For the 2013/2014 academic session, the agency says another batch of 1,500 students have been examined and screened. The successful beneficiaries have started departing from October 8, and the send forth ceremony was organised for the first batch of 655 prospective cadets.
While the training project seems laudable, some stakeholders have raised observations about the impact on the economy through huge capital flight, and urged the agency that instead of sending students abroad, the local institutions should be equipped to handle the training.
Nigeria has one internationally recognised maritime training institution – Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron in Akwa Ibom State. But the institution is bedeviled by poor funding and management, which has impacted negatively on its capacity. It is only able to offer admission to about 200 prospective cadets and train up to ordinary national diploma.
However, Director General of NIMASA, Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, said the agency had to sponsor students abroad to quickly address the human capacity gap in Nigeria’s maritime industry, a situation that has resulted in foreigners dominating shipping operations.
He added that NIMASA is supporting the minister of transport to ensure that MAN, Oron gets the full recognition and the entire infrastructure needed to become a world class maritime academy. “But in the interim, it cannot take so many students and we need to fill the gaps in our cabotage trade and our international trade, particularly when eventually, we begin to lift the crude. How are we going to get the seafarers, master mariners etc? Therefore, we have to sponsor people abroad, while developing the Maritime Academy in Oron,” he said.
He added that as they visualise the development of Oron, it is also worthwhile to develop others. Specifically, he said contracts have been awarded to build a full-fledged maritime university in Delta State and academic programmes in the university are expected to start next year.
He added that, “We also felt as an agency that that is not going to be enough. What can we do to practically close the gap in the training of seafarers occasioned by the liquidation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL). We decided to start maritime institutes in four Nigerian universities. We have given them grants to commence academic activities in maritime studies, all geared towards human capacity development.
“Contracts have also been awarded for construction of ship yards to in addition to addressing capital flight occasioned by ship repairs abroad, aid Nigerian cadets being trained in Naval Architecture. This is also in anticipation to achieving the spirit of cabotage law, which seeks to make vessels used for coastal trade to be built in Nigeria.”
He said the NSDP programme has so far recorded a huge milestone, noting that the departure of the 655 qualified young Nigerians brings to 2,505 trainee cadets expected to undergo academic, technical and sea time training under the programme. “It is also encouraging to state that 15 State Governments have shown faith in this programme till date.”
The Director General stressed that the agency is also encouraged by heart-warming academic standing of these young Nigerians in their various institutions of study.
“In the estimation of the Agency, the NSDP guarantees that in the nearest future, Nigeria will be Africa’s hub for the supply of skilled maritime human capital. This will justify the resources and support received from the President and Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, The Honorable Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, the Distinguished and Honorable Members of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Marine Transport, State Governments and Parents of these young Nigerians who entrusted us with their wards.
“The pragmatic expectation of the Nigerian maritime industry is that the NSDP holds the future for the development of future Nautical Scientists, Naval Architects and Marine Engineers who will close capacity gaps in Nigeria’s ship building value chain, ship manning and contemporary elements of ships’ operation and navigation. We will like to put on record that the Nigerian oil and gas sector is also in a desperate waiting game to enjoy the fruits of the NSDP. As the oil and gas sector gravitates towards the maximisation of the Nigerian content in the fabrication of oil and gas platforms and sundry marine engineering activities, we assure that products of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme will provide requisite skill for present and future companies in this regard.”
He said that the NSDP is a demonstration of the agency’s clear understanding, that investment in the development of maritime human capacity is Nigeria’s surest path to its maritime sector growth. “Without isolating same from our strategic efforts to enhance the capacity of Nigerian ship-operators to acquire more vessels, we shall not be distracted in our attempt to turn the attention of the global maritime business community to Nigeria for the employment of qualified mariners by the year 2020.”
He urged the prospective cadets to exhibit a high sense of Nigerian citizenship. “Let me emphasise that this programme has become a reference point in the development of youth empowerment intervention programmes in Nigeria. We shall not relent in the continuous improvement of the NSDP initiative, as consciously, we humbly seek our deserved space in Nigeria’s maritime history.”
Minister of Transport, Idris Umar, urged other States and corporate bodies to take advantage of the NSDP capacity development initiative that is capable of reducing youth restiveness and poverty. “Currently, only about 15 States including the Federal Capital Territory are participating in the programme,” he said.
He noted that when the NSDP was initiated by NIMASA in 2008, it was packaged under the 40:60 per cent arrangement where the States of origin of the trainees bore 60 percent of the total cost of the training while NIMASA bore 40 percent. “The need for full sponsorship of these seafarers by NIMASA became necessary as a result of the slow response of the States to key into the programme,” he said.
He added that, “To further enhance capacity building, the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron has been strengthened with infrastructural and technical capacity to make it more responsive to human capacity development. Efforts are currently at an advanced stage to make the Academy a degree awarding Institution by affiliating it to the World Maritime University, Malmo, Sweden.
“In addition, the Federal Government has commenced the processes for the establishment of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko in Delta State. In the same vein, NIMASA has established Institutes of Maritime Studies in four Nigerian Universities – University of Lagos, University of Nigeria, Nsukka; IbrahimBadamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State and Niger Delta University, Bayelsa. The objective of these Institutes is to contribute to the production of high quality future global maritime Leaders and professionals through quality maritime education, training and research. Also the Institutes will create opportunities for mutual exchange of knowledge and best practices with stakeholders to address the yawning capacity in the Maritime Industry.”
He said that the development of a corps of young and quality seafarers is a direct response to the dearth of seafarers globally, and particularly in Nigeria. With the liquidation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), the number and quality of seafarers in Nigeria have dwindled significantly.
The average age of the Nigerian Seafarer today is put at 60 compared to the global average of 35, which underscores the need for the urgent intervention of government.