Nigerian maritime students seemed determined now more than ever to take their destinies into their own hands by planning a cordinated mass protest at the various offices of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to register their greviances over the inability of the agency to tackle the various lingering challenges facing the cadets in their maritime careers.
The students group known as Coalition of Concerned Nigerian Maritime Cadets and Seafarers comprises of young seafarers, maritime students and cadets from various maritime academies in Nigeria said they have waited patiently for NIMASA to address their challenges but to no avail.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the 6th AMSAY Conference held recently in Apapa, Lagos, leader of the Coalition, Cadet Joseph Taiwo said, “You can see that from discussions held in this Conference, all fingers are pointing at NIMASA on many issues.
“On the issue of Cabotage implementation, especially the aspect that requires Nigerians to man vessels trading on Nigerian coastal waters, NIMASA is found wanting in implementing that aspect of Cabotage. So how can Nigerian Seafarers have jobs when NIMASA continue to allow foreigners to man our coastal vessels? And today, we are talking about job creation for Nigerian Youth.
“On the aspect of casualisation of Nigerian Seafarers which Capt Ogunsakin talked about during his panel discussion of which he himself is a victim, NIMASA also is culpable here. By the way, NIMASA representative is supposed to be a panelist to discuss this Lead Paper, but did you see any of them here? Their absence to a crucial gathering like this when duly invited shows nonchalant attitude to issues affecting we cadets.
“Then if you come to the issue of sea-time and job opportunities, the bottom line is vessels. If Nigerian ship owners don’t have ships, we cadets don’t have future in this industry. We have analysed the situation and we have come to the conclusion that Nigerians must own ships for us to have jobs and sea-time opportunities. So we are in support of Nigerian ship owners that the CVFF must be disbursed so Nigerian Ship Owners can acquire ships. There’s no two ways about it.
“Come to think of it, the Cabotage Law meant for the maritime sector came into existence many years before the Local Content Law meant for the Oil & Gas sector was enacted. But the Local Content Law has recorded far more success stories in the oil and gas sector than the Cabotage Law has done for the maritime sector. Why is it so?
“These are the questions we have for NIMASA and relevant authorities in the maritime sector. These are the issues and the reasons why we can no longer keep quiet while our future waste away. For these reasons, we will protest at NIMASA offices nation-wide in the month of June, up till ‘Seafarers Day’ event. We shall engage NIMASA squarely on these issues until our needs are met.
“We shall take our placards and protest to the Minister of Transportation or the Permanent Secretary whenever they come to Lagos for any functions or events. And if the authorities fail to heed to our demands, we shall activate Phase 2 of the protest which is to launch an online campaign aimed at discouraging younger ones from studying maritime related courses in Nigeria because it’s a waste of time and resources. They should not underrate us, else, we will turn out positive energy into a negative vibe which won’t be good for all.
“The Convener of this AMSAY Conference has done very well for us through this great initiative which has been giving we cadets hope. If not for Mr Obasi who has been holding us back, we would have started this protest some years back. But, he can’t hold us back again because he too can see that NIMASA is playing lip service to issues affecting we cadets. And the reason is because the agency is laden with non maritime professionals as employees who don’t really know or care about how their actions and inaction affect shipping development in Nigeria”, the visibly angry cadet Joseph stated.
When contacted, the Convener of AMSAY Conference, Mr Sylvanus Obasi confirmed the existence of the students coalition group which he said was formed after the 2018 edition of the AMSAY Conference.
Obasi noted that the students have genuine reasons to protest because it’s their future that is being jeopardized. According to him, “The students have a lot of unanswered questions. They have a yearning to speak with authorities and have their issues resolved, but the authorities seem not to be interested in giving them attention.
“AMSAY Conference was created to provide a platform where relevant authorities can speak face to face with these cadets and address some of their questions, but it’s unfortunate that the authorities have failed to take the golden opportunity that the AMSAY Conference offers.
“Recall that in 2017, NIMASA was invited to deliver a lead Paper at the Conference, titled, “Solving the Challenges of Nigerian Maritime Students: The NIMASA Game Plan”. Surprisingly, neither the NIMASA DG nor his representative showed up at the Conference.
“In 2018, NIMASA was also invited as a panelist to discuss one of the Paper Presentations that centred on “Repositioning Nigerian Maritime Academies and Institutions for Global Opportunities”, again NIMASA didn’t show up.
“This year, we wrote to NIMASA again, and offered it another golden opportunity to discuss the Lead Paper as a panelist from the Cabotage perspective and to deliver the 2nd Paper Presentation entitled, “Solving the Challenges of Nigerian Maritime Students: The NIMASA Interventions”. The intention was for NIMASA to use that avenue to highlight some of her efforts and achievements towards tackling some of the issues affecting Nigerian cadets and Seafarers.
“Again, NIMASA DG nor his representative showed up at the event even after the Head of NIMASA Public Relations, Mr Osagie Edward made me to write and sign an undertaking that NIMASA participation at the conference as a resource person would be at no cost to the agency, because according to him, NIMASA doesn’t have fund to support the Conference financially, and I signed that undertaking about 10 days to the Conference, yet, no Resource Person eventually came from NIMASA. So who is fooling who?
“It is obvious that NIMASA’s conspicuous absence at the Conference held very close to it’s headquarters in Apapa was an indictment on the agency’s leadership and a sign of its unseriousness and insincerity in tackling the myriads of issues raised over the years against it by Nigerian cadets and seafarers. So if the cadets want to embark on peaceful protest to register their grievances, why stopping them?, Obasi asked.
Meanwhile, a Nigerian Master Mariner and Panelist at the 6th AMSAY Conference, Capt Williams Ogunsakin has called on the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to put a pause on the mandatory certificates of cadets who are yet to get employment and stop it from counting, adding that so many of them are wasting money, renewing their certificates every five years even when there is no job placement.
Capt Ogunsakin lamented that the Nigerian waterways is dominated by foreign seafarers and captains, carrying out Cabotage trade, all due to failure of the waiver clause in the Cabotage Act being implemented by NIMASA.
“I am not telling you that NIMASA is not trying, but today, our coast has been compromised. I am from the sea, my vessel is MT Osichukwu, a 47,000 dwt in the Escravos lifting crude oil, so I know what I am saying. We have nine vessels to enter the Escravos River and I am the only Nigerian captain, all the rest are foreigners.
“Most of the cadets have their mandatories which expires after five years, even when they don’t have anywhere to use it to work.
“If the mandatory keeps expiring in their hands, it means that we the parents are wasting money. What should be done is that, until they get a job before the mandatory starts counting” he said.