When it was conceived by the then- Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Dr Ade Dosunmu, the National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) was designed as an interventionist programme for youths to take interest in shipping and also to provide a pool of seafarers that will fill emerging vacuum.
It was designed to be funded partly by the state governments of the prospective seafarer and NIMASA. But current statistics show that only few states are participating, by providing counterpart funding.
About nine years after its conceptualisation, the NSDP story is not a pleasant one. There are stories of cadets being abandoned without funding and upkeep. Even those who have graduated are yet to either secure sea time, while those who have managed to secure sea time could not find a job.
The NSDP initiative was conceived in 2008 to bridge the gap observed in the dearth of seafarers in the country and as at 2017, about 2,259 young Nigerians have been trained in various fields of maritime studies in the United Kingdom, Egypt, Romania, India and the Philippines.
At a recent forum in Lagos, Dakuku Peterside, the DG of NIMASA also confirmed that the NSDP is an interventionist programme designed for human capacity development.
He said that the offshore seafarers training programme was meant to assist indigent Nigerian youths in terms of job opportunity and to contribute to the development of the nation’s maritime sector.
Peterside said so far, 2,000 officers have been trained abroad by the agency under the programme.
Sadly, in a direct inference that the programme has failed to achieve its primary objective, the DG added that “most of them are university graduates without jobs”.Also inadvertently admitting the incompetence of the graduates, he added that, it will be difficult for the maritime industry to employ persons without the requisite skills.He advised industry players to assist the government in making the NSDP a worthwhile venture by absorbing the cadets.
The question is: How do these graduates get employment without the mandatory sea time? There is no doubt that there is glaring lack of sea time opportunities for the cadets and seamen trained under NSDP.
Also, a master mariner and managing director of Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited; Capt Mohammed Bashir had sometime ago said of the NSDP: “Those boys who are coming back are not earning any money, they are frustrated, I have met quite a number of them, I have so many CVs in my office now, they are looking for job and they don’t even have any experience. The 2 years is nothing, it is equivalent to ND. You need to get your practical experience and then go and do your HND and then you start doing your certification. It is totally wasting of government fund”.
Capt Bashir put it more succinctly when he said, “Cadetship is a long term project, just two years in classroom to learn the terminologies, theories, it is not enough for an officer to be onboard a ship, you need a vessel to actually do the practical and if you don’t have that, then, you are in a major mess”.
If the ultimate objective of the NSDP is to make Nigeria an ‘exporter’ of sea farers, then, it is not being met. The reason is that they can not be employable until they undergo theoretical training and pass sea time training. They must be qualified to be employed. And when they are qualified, there must be jobs for them. The objectives of the NSDP are not being met.
From all available facts, the NSDP is a drain pipe and a failure for the simple fact that there is no result for the huge investments. It is only those who use it as a political tool that would canvass its continuity. While we call for the scrapping of the programme, we equally advise that attention should be given to the Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron, Akwa Ibom state, by upgrading it and funding it adequately.
Good enough, the Federal Government has given approval for the Nigerian Maritime University in Delta state to take-off. These two institutions can provide the needed training for desirous youths.