Seven years after conception, the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU), Okerenkoko finally matriculates cadets for maritime studies. YUSUF BABALOLA writes.
Shipping is a global business and money spinner for countries who set its priorities right and take advantage of the opportunities in the sector.
In Nigeria, stakeholders have argued that the nation’s maritime industry including shipping can generate over N7 trillion yearly while it can create several thousand jobs for country’s teeming unemployed youths.
But, the potentials have remained untapped. The reason for this may not be far fetch especially as the area of manpower and capacity building has hitherto remained undeveloped unlike the Asian tigers of the world who deliberately harnessed such potentials and consequently changed their economic destiny.
Having developed their manpower capacity in the sector, the Asian tigers currently generate several millions of dollars from outsourcing manpower to other maritime nations yearly and that has become the main stay of generating foreign exchange to their countries.
However, the federal government has shown that its not leaving any stone unturn to also make seafaring a source of generating scarce foreign exchange for the country.
And, to acheive this, the government through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had created a program Nigeria Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) as a stop gap measure to position the country to in the near future export manpower to other countries around the world.
In the recent time, in order to actualise this dream of maritime manpower development, NIMASA is reported to have spent over N20 billion to train 2500 cadets abroad to bridge the gap in the sector.
Training them according to the agency was to tap into the huge opportunities inherent in the seafaring arm of the maritime sector.
Like Philippine, Singapore and other Asian countries that are generating huge foreign exchange from exporting seafarers, Nigeria is dreaming of doing the same and had began laying the foundation.
For instance, the government has reformed the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron to meet global standard and the cadets to be competitive among their peers in the world.
In addition, government has established the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU) with temporary site at Kurutie while the permanent site is under construction at Okerenkoko, Delta state.
The Maritime university was conceived by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan administration along with eight other universities including the Federal Universities in Oye Ekiti, Dutse, Otuoke, Lokoja, Wukari, Dutsin-Ma, Kasere and Ndufu-Alike.
But, unlike the other conventional universities, the NMU is a professional university established to bridge the manpower gap in the maritime industry and cut down on scarce foreign exchange which is use to train Nigerians abroad.
To announce its readiness for the task ahead – building capacity and manpower development in the maritime industry – the NMU held its first ever matriculation at its temporary site, Kurutie, Delta State recently.
NMU, which is solely owned by the Federal Government, started academic activities in April 2017 and held its matriculation ceremony early April, combining the program for the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 students.
Speaking at the matriculation ceremony, the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said the coming of the Nigeria Maritime University (NMU), Okerenkoko, marks the launch of an institution of critical importance to the economic development of the country.
He said the school is expected to fulfilled for Nigeria a major economic dream of having an institution that would produce high-end manpower for its growing maritime industry, while helping to develop the locals and build lasting peace in the Niger Delta.
“This is the fulfillment of a dream. Recall that many years ago, precisely in 2013, NIMASA initiated the idea of a Nigerian maritime university to fill a gap. We identified that if you want to grow your maritime industry, there are three important elements.
“One, is the asset, the vessel itself; the second one is the human capacity; the third is the supporting infrastructure. For all these three, the most important is the human element. And we clearly identified that fact that we are lagging behind in the human element and we needed to build capacity.
“To build high-end capacity, we need our own maritime university. We were among the leading maritime nations without a maritime university. So today is the fulfillment of that great dream,” the NIMASA boss stated.
While commending the Federal Government’s financial commitments to the university, Dakuku noted that more needed to be done. “We appreciate the grant by the Federal Government to support the numerous grants given by NIMASA, acting also on behalf of the Federal Government. But, without a doubt, we need to put more money here because we need a lot of infrastructure apart from the human resource. We have a good number of professors. We need to put a lot of infrastructure in place,” he stated.
He explained that NIMASA would intensify engagements with the Budget Office, Office of the Vice President, and other stakeholders on how to collaboratively fund the NMU.
The DG added, “We are gradually repositioning this country to become a major hub for maritime activities. And when we say major hub for maritime activities, it is not just about trans-shipment or about shipment itself. It could be a hub just supplying manpower, supplying seafarers, doing insurance business or being in the business of ship finance. We are gradually becoming a hub, we are putting the right building blocks in place to make this country a hub for maritime activities and we would reap the benefits in a few years’ time.”
The Vice President, who was represented by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Edobor Iyamu, said the commencement of academic activities at the premier maritime university in Nigeria was another example of how the President Muhammadu Buhari government was “walking the talk in the Niger Delta region, which is not being viewed in terms of its past, but in terms of its potential. And this is a potential that is not limited to oil and gas, but is actually focused on the development of the human capital. We are confident that the Niger Delta, sooner than later, would come to be defined not by crude oil, but by the quantum of its human resource.”
In his own remarks, the Pro-Chancellor of the University and Chairman, Governing Council, Chief Timipre Sylva, commended NIMASA’s vision and support for the university, saying the institution has demonstrated capacity to play a key role in the global maritime industry.
Sylva said, “NMU had shown great capacity for rapid growth and development, a defining characteristic of upward mobile organisations the world over.” He added, “We are fully persuaded that it is only a matter of time before this premier maritime university in Nigeria will play significant national, regional and global roles.”
The Vice Chancellor of NMU, Professor Ongoebi Maureen Etebu, disclosed that the Federal Government had fully implemented the N3.4 billion takeoff grant for NMU in 2018 budget. Etebu, who appreciated NIMASA for initiating and encouraging the university, and the DG, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, added, “A maritime university is of strategic importance to the socio-economic growth of this country. Considering the enormous waterways of Nigeria, and the geographic, economic and security importance attached to these waterways, it is a wonder that our country waited for 58 years before birthing this institution.”
Among dignitaries that attended the matriculation ceremony were Acting Governor of Delta State, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro; senator for Delta South, Senator James Manager; House of Representatives member for Eseodo/Ilaje Federal Constituency, Ondo State, Hon. Akinjo Kolade Victor; House of Representatives member, Burutu Federal Constituency, Delta State, Hon. Julius Gbabojor Pondi; representative of the National Universities Commission (NUC); and traditional rulers from Gbaramatu Kingdom.
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