‘Benefits of maritime varsity to Nigeria’
WITH last week’s approval by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU), the first of its kind not only in Nigeria, but in the sub-Saharan Africa, is expected to commence academic activities sooner than later.
When operational, the institution will offer specialised maritime-related courses like Maritime Engineering, Naval Architecture, Nautical Science, Transport Technology and other courses relevant in the marine industry.
Located in Okerenkoko in Gbaramatu Kingdom of Warri South West council area of Delta State, the institution is an initiative of the National Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). And it is part of its efforts to boost the production of high-level manpower development in the country’s maritime sector.
The FEC approval came barely one year after the outgoing President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, performed the groundbreaking ceremony of the university and the NIMASA Shipyard in May last year in the area.
Ahead of the completion of the projects, Jonathan had inspected the facilities on ground at Kurutie, preparatory for the immediate take-off of academic activities at the university.
The significance of the developments is viewed against the backdrop of the fact that the area symbolises the struggle of the people of the Niger Delta. In addition to this, it would also help in empowering youths from the Ijaw nation to have a say in how the resources from the oil and gas (which are sourced from their soil) are utilised in the country.
President Jonathan as vice president to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, at the height of militancy in the area, was directly saddled with the responsibility of convincing his “brothers” to drop their arms against the state, a development that placed him in a historically vantage position.
Jonathan, had also during the groundbreaking ceremonies last year expressed the belief that Nigeria would reap bountifully from the projects in terms of building the required human capacity to man her oil and gas sectors, which have largely been dominated by foreigners.
According to the President, the dearth of capable Nigerians to man strategic positions in the sector had stagnated the country’s growth in the sector, which is a huge money-spinner.
His words, “Of course we know the importance of these projects, the Nigerian Maritime University, the Shipyard and the Dockyard. From the beginning, this country started quite well in the maritime sector, but just like in the industrial sector, we laid back and so many countries that Nigeria was ahead of them overtook us. Because we had shipping lines that were going all over the world, we couldn’t follow up.”
Corroborating the President’s position, the Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Ziadeke Patrick Akpobolokemi, in a chat with State House correspondents in Abuja, shortly after the FEC decision described the university as a dream come true, noting that it was part of the commitment his management made to the stakeholders.
He stressed that the formal approval of the licence will signify a major milestone in NIMASA’s capacity building initiative, as it would guarantee sustainable training of qualified manpower for the maritime industry at international standards.
He noted while massive construction work on infrastructure was on-going at the university’s permanent site, “We have got a robust temporary site, which ultimately will become a campus of the university because it has the best of structures good enough for the university to proceed to the next level.”
Besides, he said that in order to enhance intakes into the institution, NIMASA established a science and technical college that took off two years ago at a temporary site, noting that construction work was also going on at the permanent site of the school.
He expressed the hope that some time this year, the college would relocate to its permanent site.
“The structures are fantastic in that work is going on and some level of progress has been made. The essence of that school is to bridge the gap between the lower level and the upper level so that we can use that as a feeder to the maritime university. This will stop people that have background in science, technology or maritime from coming here,” he said.
He said apart from the university, NIMASA management still remained committed and focused on building human capacity for the Nigerian maritime sector, through strengthening the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), noting that the programme was designed to train young Nigerians in various maritime professions at degree level.
So far, he said, NSDP has over 2, 500 beneficiaries in academic institutions in Egypt, India, Philippines, Romania and the United Kingdom; a number of whom have since graduated.
To complement the new institution, Akpobelekemi said that NIMASA under his administration had successfully established Institutes of Maritime Studies in six Nigerian universities, including University of Lagos and University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Others are sited at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai Niger State, Niger Delta University Amasoma, Bayelsa State, Anambra State University Uli and Federal University Kashere, Gombe State.
Speaking on the long time economic benefits that Nigeria stands to gain from its establishment, the NIMASA boss noted that being a specialised university, it would save Nigeria billions on dollars in foreign exchange as the country would no longer send her citizens abroad for training in maritime-related education.
He cited Philippines as an example of a country that earns over $6 billion from selling seafarers across the globe, adding that the new university is intended to supply seafarers to needy nations across the globe too, and not only our local industry.
He also expressed hope that Nigeria would be in a better position to export the outcome of researches and other expertise to the outside world in the area of marine studies.
He said, “Youths moving aimlessly on the streets should come and study. Upon graduation, give them the necessary system experience and expose them anywhere in the world, and let us get remittances to the government. We have a population that is youthful in characteristics, so we can do far better than the Philippines in the area of revenue.
“We are also going to sell expertise and research outcomes. Students are going to come from all over the world for studies, and we are going to develop the maritime sector in terms of infrastructure and in terms of equipment. There should be certain things that we can do within ourselves here and not always go to Europe or the Americas, Asia for such little solutions. We should encourage science. We should encourage research, so that some of the things that are manufactured or invented elsewhere can also be done here, and once that happens, we are going to get the market.”
The NIMASA declined putting an exact figure on the cost of establishing the institution, saying, “University development is a process, and so there is no exact amount of money that you can say it requires. Every year, new projects will come up, novel ideas will come up, current infrastructures have to be upgraded whenever they are built, and the human personnel will continue to increase.
“So, I can’t precisely tell you that, this is the exact amount of money that is needed for the take-off of this university. But one thing is for sure, maritime business requires a lot of resources, it requires billions of naira, and you need to commit these resources if the desired impact is to be created. Just think about the NSDP programme that we are sponsoring a lot of students outside the country. What it takes to sponsor one NSDP student is much more than what you use on training in other fields.
“The sea time exposure alone costs so much money, but the danger of not spending that money is that the sector is going to go comatose. So a line of argument is open. It is either you spend this money to bring the development tomorrow or you stay idle and keep these monies in the banks or wherever and nothing happens, and the sector is taken over by foreigners or people you don’t want.”