Shortage of manpower supply is one challenge that has confronted the Nigerian maritime industry in the last two decades since the demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) in the early 1990s. This major challenge, according to findings, has also stunted the growth of the industry.
Currently, over 50 percent of Nigeria-generated maritime jobs are dominated by foreign maritime professionals and mariners. As a result, the economy loses over N960 billion annually to salaries and remunerations for these foreigners.
It was in a bid to arrest this situation that the Patrick Akpobolokemi-led Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) came up with an agenda that is targeted at building human capacity in order to bridge the manpower supply gap and increase the contribution of Nigerian maritime industry to the national economy in the areas of job and wealth creation among Nigerians.
For this reason, the agency, which recently performed the groundbreaking ceremony of Nigeria’s first maritime university in the Niger Delta region and flagged off the commencement of a maritime-driven science and technical college in Warri, Delta State, also commenced the establishment of institutes for maritime studies in four different universities in Nigeria. The universities include Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai; University of Lagos; University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Niger Delta University.
NIMASA in its 2013 appropriation bill received approval from both the federal executive council (FEC) and the national assembly to establish an institute of maritime studies in each of the four aforementioned tertiary institutions to help create opportunity for students to pursue career in maritime-related studies. The project was estimated to cost a minimum of N5 billion.
Lapai as flagship
In October 2013, the agency in collaboration with IBB University, Lapai, Niger State, commenced a three-semester Professional Post Graduate Diploma in Maritime Studies (PGDMS) in a temporary site that was provided by the school. The institute is aimed at providing professional, academic and research capacity development for the maritime sector in Nigeria.
The programme is designed for graduates whose backgrounds are in any natural/applied sciences, or social sciences, and who intend to further their career in the professional and entrepreneurship opportunities that exist in the maritime sector. It is also designed for candidates intending to specialise in maritime management and administration or maritime environment, health and safety.
At a recent visit of the Senate Committee on Marine Transport led by Zainab Kure, its chairman, our correspondent who was part of the visit discovered that majority of the nine contractors deployed by the agency to execute different legs of the project had recorded tremendous progress. Some of the legs of the project include the administrative block handled by Juninma Engineering Company, the lecture auditorium handled by Yebo Ventures Nigeria Limited, the library and research centre, among others.
The project, which is expected to last for a period of 11 months, would be ready for delivery in November this year. The estimated cost of the project, according to BusinessDay findings, is N1,072,267,437.
Umaru Bahgo, the Emir of Lapai, said the siting of the project in Lapia had reinforced their belief in the Project Nigeria as well as in the unity of the country. He said this when both NIMASA team and members of the Senate Committee on Marine Transport paid him a courtesy visit at his palace, last Thursday.
According to him, the people of Lapai and Niger State in general were grateful to both the Federal Government and NIMASA for initiating the project.
“This is one reason why our people are committed to supporting this present administration of Goodluck Jonathan. We are praying for the survival of this nation considering the security challenge in the country,” he said.
Akpobolokemi, who was represented by Lami Tumaka, said IBBU in Lapai was one of the schools that had been very cooperative with the agency in its determination to establish the institute of maritime studies.
The NIMASA boss, who applauded the community for their support towards the establishment of the institute, also added that the school had become the flagship of the project.
BusinessDay finding reveals that apart from the four aforementioned universities, the agency was also perfecting plans and had been granted approval to include Gombe and Anambra State universities in the institute of maritime studies project.
“As part of our oversight function, we decided to visit the institute in Lapai because it has superseded all other maritime institute projects that are carried out in other tertiary institutions,” said Kure.
It was discovered during the visit that the major challenge confronting the ongoing construction work is poor funding of the project. According to contractors, the project would have gone beyond its present stage if adequate funding was made available to them.
However, the senate committee members expressed appreciation to the contractors on the level of work done so far.
“Certainly, we have shown our displeasure to NIMASA as far as payment is concerned. We are not happy with the fact that contractors, who have taken their projects to this level out of their own volition, are yet to be given 15 percent mobilisation fee given the fact that some of them took loan from the bank,” said Kure.
“I believe the contractors have been patriotic because for someone to have put in his money in a project that he has not being mobilised shows that he is patriotic. It is the confidence that they have in NIMASA that has made them to start and we are going to ensure that at least the contractors are paid their money,” she added.
Kure, who further explained that the committee ensured that money was made available for the approved NIMASA projects in the 2013 and 2014 appropriation bills, urged the agency to live up to its responsibility by ensuring that the contractors were paid. She also blamed the delay on the bureaucratic bottlenecks in the agency.
Responding to this, Isichie Osamgbi, deputy director, public affairs, NIMASA, expressed satisfaction with the oversight visit of the Senate Committee on Marine Transport as well as the commitment of the contractors to the project, noting that work was ongoing at the site beyond the expectations of the senators.
“At every visit, we see progress at the site,” said Isichie, adding that NIMASA was a civil service organisation that did projects according to due process. He also blamed bureaucratic bottleneck for the delay in the project funding.
“Some contractors couldn’t get their mobilisation because they couldn’t meet one or two certifications needed, but they are ready to go ahead and get their money when they have got their certification. So it depends on the individual contractor and the level of the completion documentation,” Isichei said.
He told the senators that some of the contractors had been paid 15 percent mobilisation fee while some were yet to rectify their papers with the bankers for payment to take place, assuring that the agency would fast-track the payment to eliminate the problem of funding.
Despite the funding challenge, the contractors assured that the project would not exceed the November delivery date. Industry close watchers believe that the project would go a long in bridging the manpower supply gap currently experienced in the nation’s maritime industry.