A former director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Ade Dosunmu, has said that Nigeria has tapped less than 50 percent of her maritime potential more than 53 years after political independence to the advantage of her people.
Nigeria is blessed with a vast coastline of about 850 kilometers andan exclusive zone of well over 300,000 square kilometers with navigable inland waterways of 3000 kilometres, eight major seaports, 11 oil terminals, over 170 private jetties and five major Inland Container Depots (ICDs). Out of the eight seaports, four of them are located in Lagos, one in Sapele, Koko and Warri, while the rest are located in Calabar, Port Harcourt and Onne, respectively.
Similarly, in terms of coastal and inland shipping, the River Niger in Nigeria is the third longest river in Africa with over 1,271 kilometres of navigable waterways, while Nigeria’s inland water ways stretch over 3,000 kilometres of watercourse, thus making it one ofthe largest in the world.
With a population in excess of 160 million people, she accounts for over 75 per cent of the entire goods consumed in the West African sub-region. Dosunmu, who spoke at a recent award night organised by the Maritime Reporters Association (MARAN) as of activities marking its 25th anniversary, noted that Nigeria has not been able to tap her maritime combinations due to the dearth of the required capacity.
According to him, the country has not been able to build the required human capacity that would drive her rich maritime resources, which he noted informed the decision of the agency to begin the Nigeria Seafarer Development Programme (NSDP), which is designed to train the much needed manpower.
He also disclosed that in addition to human capacity, the country needed to develop the right infrastructure and institutions that would facilitate the development of the industry, which he argued has all it take to compete with the oil and gas sector in terms of foreign exchange earnings.
He particularly took a swipe at the Federal Government over the politicization of the establishment of maritime training institutionsion the country, arguing that Maritime “Academy of Nigeria (MAN), located in Oron, Akwa Ibom State is grossly inadequate to build the much needed capacity for the industry.
The Republic o Philippines with a population of less than 50 million people has over 30 maritime training institutions while Nigeria with a population of over 160 million has only one training institute”, he said.
It was probably in realization of this that the current management of NIMASA redoubled its efforts towards achieving the goals and objectives of the NSDP, especially following the apathy showed by some state governments.
Currently statistics show that there are over 2, 500 Nigerian cadets are undergoing seafarer training several institutions all over the world such as India, Sweden and the Philippines, among several others. In addition to the 21 cadets that graduated in Marine Engineering from the South Shields Marine School, New Castle, United Kingdom, The agency also projects to train 5,000 Nigerian seafarers by 2015 and 10,000 by 2020.
The NSDP to a very large extent could be described as a child of circumstance and Nigeria’s response to the dwindling supply ofseafarers both in the local and global maritime arena.
The agency also established Maritime In titutes in five universities in Nigeria with a demonstration school at Warri, Delta as part of measures to build capacity both locally and abroad, On port reform, Dosunmu expressed doubts over Nigeria’s ability to achieve the hub seaport status for the West and Central African sub-region, arguing that the nation has not shown enough seriousness towards achieving that.