Writtten By Bolaji Akinola
I have fond memories of Captain Solomon Abiodun Omoteso who died at the age of 72 on Monday last week. He was a professional to the core. His total devotion was to the maritime industry. He knew nothing else. We became somewhat close in 2006. He was a Technical Consultant to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and together with a few other experts, we accompanied then Managing Director of NPA (and Omoteso’s bosom friend), Chief Adebayo Sarumi on a working tour to South Africa. We were to attend the graduation ceremony of some cadet pilots trained by NPA and also tour some port locations in the former apartheid enclave. The present Managing Director of NPA, Mallam Habib Abdullahi was the chief coordinator of the trip. He was Assistant General Manager, Human Resources at the time. The port concession exercise was at its peak.
Omoteso was full of humours as he regaled us with stories of his various escapades, adventures and professional voyages around the world. Since that trip, we stayed closely in touch. It was one trip I would never forget as I freely mingled with great minds in the shipping sector across the globe. Nigeria’s immediate past Alternate Permanent Secretary to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Capt. Ibrahim Olugbade was on the trip also. He was Sarumi’s Special Assistant (Marine) at the time. Sadly we returned to Nigeria on the night of the ADC plane crash that claimed the life of the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido and 97 others. Waisu Yaro, then Executive Director Finance and Administration of NPA was on the ill-fated plane that fateful black Sunday October 29, 2006. The news of the tragedy hit us as we alighted from the South Airways plane.
Omoteso was passionate about maritime manpower development. He was instrumental to dragging Tina Woehling from the Global Maritime and Transportation School (GMATS) all the way from New York to Nigeria to convince stakeholders on the need to team up to train young hands to take over from the ageing mariners. Tina I met earlier during my training at GMATS. The result of Tina’s visit was the establishment of Mantral Maritime Training Centre at Tinapa by Omoteso and his bosom friend – Chief Sarumi.
Omoteso incorporated me into the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) Committee set up in 2010 to mark the maiden edition of the United Nations annual Day of the Seafarer. We had a glorious event with a large turnout of seafarers at Onikan Stadium. Omoteso discharged himself from his sick bed to attend the event. He even gave a speech, against my advice.
While I served as President of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN), he was at hand to support. He honoured every invitation we sent to him despite his failing health. And when some of us came together last year to celebrate Chief Sarumi’s 70th birthday, Omoteso rose up to the glorious occasion as a true friend.
Born on the 24th December 1943 in Mopa, Mopamuro Local Government Area of Kogi State, Omoteso attended King Edward VII Nautical School in London for his pre-sea training from 1963 to 1964.
He went through all the relevant maritime courses leading to the issuance of Class I Master Mariner Certificate of Competence in Liverpool and had his practical sea training with Elder Depster Line from 1963 to 1968 and the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) in 1984.
He held a Class 1 (Master Mariner) Certificate of Competence, 1976 and Diploma in International Labour Organization (ILO) Port Workers Development Programme 2003.
He was a facilitator during the International Maritime Organization (IMO) preparatory meetings on the establishment of Port State Control for West and Central African in 1996; facilitator for the establishment of African Maritime Pilots Association in Dakar, Senegal 2010 and Organised African Manning and Training Conference in Abuja 2005 and Ghana 2009. He served as Acting Managing Director of the defunct Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) in 1990.
In 1992, Omoteso voluntarily retired from the NNSL. Between July 1992 and 2001 he was the Managing Director of East West Coast Marine Services Limited – a maritime firm engaged in shipping, agency, consultancy and international ship chandling.
He consulted for several organisations including the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron; Nigerian Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Nigeria Ports Authority and the defunct Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMALIC).
Unfortunately, NAMM is losing quite a number of its members. The death of Capt. Cosmos Niagwan, Capt. Emmanuel Omotayo and Capt. Alaba is a grim reminder that life is ephemeral.
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