Addressing Pitfalls in Maritime Education in Nigeria 

Officially, there are only two government–owned maritime training institutions in Nigeria, namely: Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron in Akwa Ibom State and the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology, Lagos.  These are the two that are owned by the Federal Government and ‘recognised’ and as maritime training institutions in Nigeria. Outside of these, there are scores of accredited maritime training institutions, many of which have been tagged ‘mushroom’ by some stakeholders.However, in contrast to what is obtainable in Nigeria, Philippines has 66 functional maritime training institutions, all of them of international standard, churning out world-recognised professionals in  nautical sciences, marine engineering, marine transportation and a lot of other maritime courses. With their population, Philippines is the largest supplier of ship crews in the world as the country’s cadets work on board ships all over the world.From available statistics, there more than 5,000 cadets of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria(MAN), Oron who, although completed their National Diploma programme for many years, but who have not been unable to proceed for the Higher National Diploma (HND) programme because they are unable to acquire sea-time experience. Worse still, most of them are unemployable, because they cannot be issued Certificate of Competency (CoC) - a mandatory requirement for placement on board ships.NIMASA initiated the NSDP scheme in 2008, with the aim of producing qualified Nigerian merchant Navy officers and ratings, by sponsoring their training programmes abroad for courses in nautical science, marine engineering and marine transportation as well as naval architecture, amongst others.There are about 2, 500 beneficiaries of NSDP in academic institutions in Egypt, India, Philippines, Romania and the United Kingdom. Some of them have since graduated.It is in some of the maritime institutions in Philippines that Nigerian cadets are distributed under the National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP).Hundreds of Nigerian youths are currently schooling at: University of Perpetual Help System, Lyceum of the Philippines University, (Lyceum International Maritime Academy (LIMA) in Batangas Province and University of Cebu. The good thing is that these institutions are equipped with state- of- the- art facilities for maritime education.Apparently realizing the need to improve on the level of maritime training in Nigeria, NIMASA has also established maritime faculties in some Universities; this is in addition to the National Seafarers Development Programme.While we agree that government alone (through MAN, Oron and the College of Fisheries and Marine Technology) cannot meet the need of the nation in the area of maritime education, we are not in support of the predominance of dignified secondary schools that are currently bestriding our landscape in the name of offering maritime education.Certainly, even the few that have been accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) only offers management courses. There is none that offers nautical or marine engineering studies sufficient to offer top rate job. With the type of curriculum these academies offer, their products can certainly not pass for seafarers. What Nigeria needs at this period is a deliberate policy on maritime education that is tailored towards churning out qualified seafarers, who can advance from such nautical schools to commence sea time and from there, become qualified professionals. We commend the determination of some privately-run maritime institutions that are offering opportunities for Nigerian youths to acquire maritime education, we put it on record that some of them are actually up to the standard prescribed for them by the NBTE, which is the accrediting authority.But, without denigrating some of the very few maritime schools that have been accredited by NBTE, products of these schools are not what will fill the vacuum that currently exists in the seafaring profession.What Nigeria needs is a crop of young cadets being groomed in well-structured and equipped nautical colleges, and who after graduation will acquire sea time experience and from there, commence seafaring all over the world. But, there is a disturbing dimension to the whole issue of training of seafarers in Nigeria. Recently, the Nigeria Navy has been arresting what it called illegal training schools.Not too long ago and within a spate of to weeks, the Navy raided two of such in Lagos and Rivers states, arresting cadets and fake naval officers and fake merchant. In response, some stakeholders have also kicked against what the Navy is doing, while many expressed total support. In one of such arrests, the Navy invaded an illegal Nigerian Merchant Navy Coastal Defence Force training camp at Ijanikin area on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, arresting four of its staff and 12 trainees. In yet another raid, an illegal naval training school, bearing the same name as the one in Lagos; the Nigerian Merchant Navy Coastal Defence Force was uncovered in Rivers state. According to the Navy it is being used by suspected criminals to defraud members of the public.The Commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship Jubilee, Calabar, Commodore Saidu Garba told journalists that the school operated from an illegal school in Wiiyaakara community, Khana local government area of Rivers State. “This illegal organisation specialises in recruitment and training after collecting huge sums of money from unsuspecting members of the public through sale of forms and registration. “They conduct training for youths and at the end of the training send them out in the name of industrial attachment to so called naval organisations”. These words from the navy commander underscore the level of abuse that seafarers’ training has gone. There is a thin line between mushroom training schools and illegal training schools as uncovered by the Navy.  There are many questionable schools that masquerade as nautical school and maritime colleges.There are as many of them in Lagos as they are in almost all coastal towns.  Painfully, they gave bad names to genuine maritime training institutions, most of which are certificated by appropriate government agencies. There is need for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety to work more closely with appropriate agencies at the Federal Ministry of Education to harmonise all requirements for qualification as maritime training institutions. A situation where Ministry of Education certifies nautical and maritime training schools that will still need NIMASA to legitimise its existence is to say the least, confusing. Finally, we are on the same page with the Nigerian Merchant Navy and Water Transport Senior Staff Association on the raid of illegal maritime schools. The Navy cannot determine where and how prospective students can pursue their ambition. It is wrong on the part of the Navy to direct students to either the Nigerian Defence Academy or the Maritime Academy of Nigeria.