The Maritime Academy of Nigeria was established in 1979 to educate and provide the human capital required for the growth and development of the maritime industry in Nigeria. The academy awards Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) to graduates who have fulfilled requirements of their respective programme of study. In its over 40 years of existence, the institution has commendably trained thousands of professionals for the maritime industry in Nigeria. Sadly, this once glorious institution is now a citadel of hopelessness.
In a nation where it has become a norm for an average university graduate to stay at home for some years before securing a befitting employment, some career advisers would counsel that professionalization is a more assuring path to a befitting employment. Well, being a country where the most unlikely events become likely, professionalization does not guarantee a good employment after education anymore. It is more worrying that the cadets from the Maritime Academy of Nigeria are not immune from this prevailing reality.
A significant number of the graduates of the institution in recent times are constantly thrown into the labour market when they are specifically trained to be employed in the maritime industry, which is in dire need of experts to function optimally. It is appalling that some of the graduates have been subjected to hardship and have resorted to menial jobs in order to survive economic hardship. Some of these cadets have become victims of unemployability that has characterised the Nigerian labour market. This is so because the institution currently suffers from inadequate funding and therefore finds it difficult to give adequate training to the sizable number of students that are admitted.
As a result of inadequate funding and the absence of a training vessel and a national shipping line, the institution is often unable to provide the much-needed sea time for the cadets, which is an essential component of their training at the institution. In the pursuit of their passion, some of the cadets take the pain to attend the Regional Maritime University in Ghana to acquire the training that is not available here. In addition, these cadets spend considerable effort in acquiring the necessary certifications needed to become bonafide practitioners in the maritime industry. Yet at the end of their programme, they are confronted with the reality of unemployment.
This phenomenon has been the lot of the cadets for few years now. In 2015, to express his displeasure, a cadet took to social media to express his displeasure over the government’s decision to send 3000 cadets to foreign universities while the cadets in Nigeria are “struggling to have sea time for cadet-ship placement after spending thousands of Naira to get other certification needed to qualify them for suitable positions. Quacks from different field of expertise now flood the industry and NIMASA has turned a blind to the plight of Cadet who has no uncle as Directors or manning agent in shipping companies… sometimes I wonder what is the hope of this few cadets that I have found myself to be among, those who walk the street of Lagos Nigeria from one shipping company to another without any hope of a call back after leaving there curriculum vitae with the receptionist of this company or most times the G.M (gate man).”
In a rather uncharitable manner, attention is gradually shifting towards the Maritime University scheduled to commence in September, yet the academy in Oron is ill-equipped and underfunded. Having more than one maritime institution in the country would have been a commendable feat if they would be well-managed and equipped to fulfil the mandates for their creation Otherwise, establishing new institutions when existing ones are starved is sheer misdirected adventure. The current cadets at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron are not even certain of the fate that awaits them.
Importantly, the government through the Minister of Transportation needs to pay attention to the plight of the young cadets who have dreams of becoming experts in different areas of the maritime industry but have suddenly become sojourners in a dark world of hopelessness. As a matter of urgency, the government needs to show more interest in the running of the institution. It is obvious that the current funding of the academy is not sufficient to provide the much-needed quality training for these cadets. As a result, it becomes difficult for firms to develop interest in employing graduates from the school. The Minister of Transportation should make this a ministerial priority, as it will go a long way in the development of the maritime industry. To reposition the academy necessarily does not require a ministerial committee.
Currently, the cadets of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria live in a hopeless situation due to the absence of government’s attention. To revive the institution only requires a rearrangement of our priority as a nation. The future of some Nigerian youths is at stake here.
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Poor implementation of the Cabotage Law
When the nation was plunged into recession last year, many wondered how. And even now that the country has been declared to be out of recession, there are still fears that the exit is a fragile one. The reason for our consistent abysmal progress as a nation is closely linked to our inability to implement laudable policies. We expend valuable resources on developing a framework that can spur growth in the economy, look the other way and further leave the country to bleed. This is how we ignore many sectors that possess the potential of becoming our economic mainstay; a typical example is the maritime industry. In spite of the enormous potential of Nigeria to become a maritime nation, we seem to have deliberately disdained that status and continue to disregard every effort to aspire to that recognition.
The Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003 was enacted with the aim of checking the use of foreign vessels in the domestic coastal trade in Nigeria and to promote the development and growth of indigenous tonnage in the country. The law is absolutely in line with practices in other nations worldwide. All over the world, nations enact laws to ensure that domestic shipping activities are purposely reserved for local investors in order to grow local capacity. So when the law was enacted in 2003, practitioners in the industry were excited, hoping for a new vista in the maritime industry in Nigeria. More than 13 years of the enactment of this law, it has practically failed to achieve its intended purpose owing to poor implementation.
At the 2016 Annual Bankers’ Dinner, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele made a startling revelation that aptly describes the poor implementation of the Cabotage Law. “Out of about 600 ships that operate within our waters, only about 60 of them are owned by Nigerians and are mostly idle, in violation of the Act,” he said. In other words, only about ten percent of the ships operating in Nigeria are owned by Nigerians, whilst the Cabotage Law is aimed at ensuring that all the ships in the domestic maritime business in the country are owned and crewed by Nigerians. Even the ten percent owned by Nigerians are largely starved of jobs, because the foreign operators easily obtain waivers to do the jobs that would have been done by Nigerians. What then is the essence of a law if it cannot be implemented to the benefit of the nation? Reports have it that Nigeria loses about two trillion naira annually to this current state of affairs, enough to fund over 30percent of the country’s current national budget. Sadly, there is no respite in sight.
The comprehensive law also provides for the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund to enable indigenous ship owners acquire ship that will put them in good stead to meet the huge local demands. Currently, it appears the fund, which is being managed by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has failed to achieve the intended purpose, as evident in the assertion by the CBN Governor.
This situation has led to huge job loss and stagnation in the Nigerian maritime industry. Little wonder cadets from the Maritime Academy of Nigeria are mostly unemployed. Beyond the increase in unemployment due to the poor implementation of the law, the current situation also encourages repatriation of profit that would have otherwise remained in the local economy to support the growth of local businesses. The security implications of the current situation are also enormous. Without casting a doubt on the procedural provisions to ensure safety and national security on the nation’s waterways, no country can completely leave its waterways in the hands of foreign interests the way Nigeria has done. There is obviously something not right about it. In an attempt to correct the anomaly, NIMASA recently announced some policy measures, which include the creation of the NIMASA Cabotage Compliance Strategy (NCCS) as part of a gradual process to implementing the Cabotage Law. Stakeholders have expressed reservation about the new policy because it does not appropriately address the issues and is somewhat diversionary.
The full implementation of the Cabotage Law is an essential aspect of any strategy to develop the maritime industry in Nigeria. A proper implementation of the law will drastically reduce unemployment, generate more revenue for the government, and contribute to the systematic growth of the nation’s maritime industry. In the same way, it will encourage the technological advancement of the country through technology transfer. The Cabotage Law has been commended by stakeholders for its clarity in addressing many pressing issues in the maritime industry in Nigeria. The law does not need any review at the moment; neither does the country require new policies. The only policy required is the political will to implement the Cabotage Law and this must be driven from the top by the Minister of Transportation.
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