Daily Champion (Lagos)

25 December 2009

Nigeria: Dearth of Human Capital in the Maritime Industry

The issue of dearth of human capital in the transport sector, particularly the maritime subsector has reached alarming stage it has and would continue to be discussed in different fora. The purpose of the continued discussion is to find a lasting solution to these nagging issues which has become a national problem.

Ordinarily, one would have allowed the matter to be confined trashcan of history but for the fact that somebody made news out of manpower development in the maritime industry.

Mr. Temi Omatseye, director general of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has told the world that the agency will be training about 50,000 Nigerians in the art of seafaring to enable them work on board vessels as professional seamen.

At that occasion, he disclosed that some states, among them; Ekiti, Benue and Ebonyi have indicated interest to pay for their indigenes while others had already have their indigenes already in India undergoing training.

Omatseye made the gathering to know that the project will be carried out with a counterpart funds by the agency and the participating states, saying that the state are to make some monetary contributions on behalf of those they are sending for the programme. But the major question that calls for urgent answer is; Who will the beneficiaries of the programme be?

The answer the ever smiling and vibrant NIMASA helmsman will readily give is,-the poor. But I beg to disagree. It is debate-able if 200 out of 5,000 to be trained could be traced to poor homes. It becomes worst when the state is meant to make a monetary contribution in the whole exercise .Is it possible that a poor man on the street of Nigeria can just be in his house and a call will come from state house asking him to release his son or daughter for training abroad without a connection to the Governor's office.

This is the point, the frustration of the poor peasant farmer starts certainly, that is the edge the so called rich men and politically connected people have over them.

Considering the pictures above, it becomes almost impossible to believe Mr. DG when he told his audience that the training would be for all, looking at the situation which could be said to be real, it becomes very important to, as a matter of urgent important review the system of determining and admitting candidates for such training. While doing that, it will also be wise to really drill the prospective candidates to understand what they are going in for. This is because forcing the candidates to take to job or profession which the person never really liked does not make both economic social sense it could be embarrassing to send for such programmes only to hear later that such student(s) absconded his programme for what he or she may consider as greener pastures.

It is recommended at this point that the apex Maritime regulatory authority should go to grassroots to sensitize people the youths in the villages through their village heads who will also vouch for them and stand as their guarantors. Such drive for prospective candidates should start early before the time for admission every year. It will enable the agency get the real Nigerian youths to benefit from such scheme.

It is equally recommended and strongly so that the issues of counterpart funding be erased from the process. Some states are naturally richer than others. And the priorities of the states differ hence the needs of Ondo and Ebonyi may not be necessary for kogi and Imo states. Afterall, if Federal Government through NIMASA truly intends to rebuild human capital in the Nigerian maritime sector, there are a lot of other areas that should equally be re-galvanized for such purposes.

For instance, it is not difficult to say we will train 50,000 Nigerians but what should count most to the trainees is job placement on graduation Believed that Nigerians government is synonymous with abandoning her scholars abroad , lets explain regard that as one of such vices past governments did not take serious. With the thinking of a new Nigeria, it could be assumed that the students would not be abandoned midway while the programme lasts.

From hindsight and available records, most of the cadets trained by maritime agency of Nigeria-MAN, Oron , are lying idle on the streets of Nigeria .while efforts are being made towards more people , something serious had to be done to ensure job is secured for those already trained A situation where a graduate of such a specialized and very important institution could roam the street on graduation for many years , it is a sign that those being conscripted for the Indian programme now may not have hope .The hope one believes could only come if those in the labour market are completely absorbed.

It is ridiculous that in Nigeria ,a cadet from MAN oron now drives 'okada' because their was no job for him after spending many years and monetary resources to get himself such training. The poor situation the only maritime academy in Nigeria find itself makes things very uncomfortable .That has made it pretty discouraging Nigerians accepting to school at MAN, Oron than any other regional academics.

Speaking recently, captain Thomas Kemewerighe , a graduate of the academy said that the greatest problem with MAN, Oron is that it is being run like family institutions. "This is why the academy is not making good progress ". He noted that the cadets seen at the academy does not reflect Nigeria, there is no federal character at all" concluding that Nigeria does not have the caliber of people that could run such specialized institutions ,hence most of the products of the Academy end up as "okada" riders. Taking it from that point of view, it is a food for thought for NIMASA to look at the administrative set up the nation's maritime academy and other such academics that are being planned.

Without doubt, the volume of trade that go across Nigeria international waters, when put side by side with Nigeria's participation in international maritime labour scale puts Nigeria at a very shameful position . even when human resources are surplus in the country ,the skilled manpower in the maritime industry is almost hundred percent lacking . while also talk of human resources or man power development institution (s) that train them especially in Nigeria, should be well developed and equipped to international and acceptable standard. The instructors must be well rated while every other teaching aid including training vassels must be available and of standard.

Considering the huge revenue deriveable from supplying maritime labour both locally and internationally, Nigeria stands a good chance of even sustaining her economy using the accruables from that subsectors of the economy .If the Philippines are surviving become of the revenue returns they make from supplying maritime labour to most part of the world even when they are sparsely populated in comparism with Nigeria, one believes that Nigeria will do better if the potentials in that regard are harnessed to the benefit of the nation.

If what the standard practice of crewing seafarers and Able seamen are still what it used to be, every seafarer crewed or engaged has a royalty paid to his country for that singular person aside from his conventional salary, allowances and other legitimate benefits attached to the contract of engagement. when such is considered in line with what Nigerian ship owners and operators pay either to foreign seamen or domestic seamen, the whole boils down at the need for concerted efforts aimed at building a pool of global standard where those who need seafarers or related maritime laborers.

Building a virile and human capacity in the nation's maritime subsector has a lot of advantages attached to it. aside from reducing the pressures on the on the federal government, a lot of youths would be meaningfully engaged thereby diverting their attention from vices that work contrary to the whims of the government. When greater member of youths are meaningfully engaged, it also reduces unemployment in the society.

Indeed, the benefits are much high when compared with the investment s that the government may put in such venture, which more reason the issue of counterpart funding should be out of it. The whole training from the take-off should fully be borne by the federal government .it is part of its responsibility to the populace. The irony of the whole issues of human capacity development is that almost all the directors general that have headed NIMASA in the recent past do talk about it with emphasis.

But what has been the practice is that the agency has always focused on its staffers for training abroad. Facts had it that during the immediate past administration, such opportunities was made like market. If you go to the websites and see any foreign training , you apply for it even when it will not directly impact on the individual's labour at home in NIMASA .it is hoped that Mr. Omatseye will not thread that unholy part of the past administration.

Training should be strictly on the job so that when one is trained, the impact will enhance his or her overall output for the general growth and development of the sector. Those who are not career officers should not be dashed such opportunities because it is a mere waste of resources. We will continue to watch Mr. Omatseye and his five point's agenda even as time flies. Those things he said he will do as 'quick fix', those he regarded as long term projects are very fresh in our memory. As we watch the young lawyers face, we look at his programmes on our laptops to ensure he is running according to schedule.

Yes, he may sound very proactive,but the saying that the taste of any meal is in the pudding is still relevant even now .whether Omatseye will deliver accordingly or otherwise especially in the issue of human capacity building another programmes he lined up for a positively changing maritime industry lies in the future as we wait eagerly to write the history.

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