Stakeholders in the maritime industry have expressed divergent views in reaction to the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to decline assent to the bill seeking the establishment of the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU), Okerenkoko in Delta State.
President Buhari had in a letter conveyed to the Senate last week cited funding provision for the institution, which he said are grossly excessive as the major reason for his refusal to sign the bill passed by the National Assembly. He also said the proposed funding of the university will disrupt the operations of a number of government agencies and institutions.
Speaking in a chat with SHIPS & PORTS, former Director-General of the defunct National Maritime Authority (NMA), Patrick Egesi lauded President Buhari for withholding assent to the bill, saying that the maritime sector currently did not have the capacity to absorb the large number of graduates that the proposed Nigeria Maritime University would churn out.
“Sincerely I do not see the need of having a maritime university for a country I do not think is a maritime nation per se. If, for example, we build ships, we can have an engineering department for maritime. If they throw maritime university to you and you get people trained, where will they work? You churn out students from the university, where will they work? Will they be heading to (Nigerian) Ports Authority, NIMASA or a ship that does not exist that is International ship?
“When you are doing training, it has to be for a purpose. It must fit into a job point.
“You just throw people into maritime university, they qualify and they go to work as policemen because they have a degree, it does not make sense. Trainings are made for people to work in what they are trained for. When they train you and you are not working in your field, it’s a loss to the economy.
“I cried for the students because they are led into the university to study what they will never use and at the end they are frustrated,” he said.
Egesi said the focus of government should be to develop the economy, which in turn would give rise to the development of the maritime sector.
“What we should worry about is the expansion of the economy, when the economy is expanded, then there will be need to train for whatever the expansion brings with it.
“It is the economy that gives rise to maritime. When the economy improves, maritime sector will take care of itself. But to simply develop the derived products is just like building a railway line where there is no commercial value.
“The reason why the President did not assent to the bill is not good enough for me, which means if there is fund, he would build a university for maritime. If there were fund, I wouldn’t have built one because there is more maritime institutions for what we have as a country.
In this reaction, former President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Capt. Adewale Ishola, however urged President Buhari to consider signing the bill into law, arguing that Nigeria needs more maritime institutions to encourage competition.
According to him, “The President can look at streamlining the sources of fund. The provision for funding the university caught across many agencies and it may end up putting money in some people’s hand. If they drop out the funding issue, I don’t think there will be any problem signing the bill.
“I am not saying they shouldn’t build up Maritime Academy, Oron. It was even good they ask NIMASA to stop sending cadets abroad but they can’t stop Okerenkoko because we need more than one maritime university because the more competition, the better. Mind you, Oron is basically doing professional courses to train mariners whereas Okerenkoko is just purely a maritime university.”